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Among the conspicuous tropical marine fish, the butterflyfish of the family Chaetodontidae is known for its thin, disk-shaped bodies, sporting vivid colorations and striking patterns. One of the most widely recognized coral reef fishes, the butterflyfish is listed as vulnerable to extinction.
See the fact file below for more information on the butterflyfish or alternatively, you can download our 21-page Butterflyfish worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- Butterflyfishes are widespread, and their vibrant and striking colors make them famous in the aquarium trade.
- The Chaetodontidae family has 10 genera containing 114 species, most under the genus Chaetodon. They are found mostly in tropical waters, most densely scattered in the Indo-West Pacific, but some stay in warm temperate waters.
- Members of this family differ in terms of color, but all Chaetodontidae share unique morphological traits, like a deep, laterally compressed body, ctenoid scales that reach onto the soft-rayed regions of the dorsal and anal fins, and jaws that may be partially or extremely stretched. Jaw shape and size is linked to the type of prey eaten; some butterflyfishes prey on small invertebrates or algae, others exclusively on coral polyps, also called obligate corallivores, and still others on zooplankton.
- The majority of these fish are pair-forming pelagic spawners, and are distinct among reef fishes. Their larvae pass through a phase known as thorichthys during which a bony sheath covers the head.
- Since 1994, five chaetodontid species have been categorized as vulnerable to extinction.
- Butterflyfishes sport vibrant colors, often yellow or white, with darker contrasting markings that may hide the eye. Just like other reef fishes, they are often referred to as “poster-colored” because of their bright colors.
- Butterflyfishes usually have a false eye spot close to the back of their body, which may be used as an anti-predator adaptation.
- Although deep-bodied, butterflyfishes look very thin from the front but almost circular from the side. Strongly sheathed dorsal, pelvic, and anal fin spines protrude from their disk-like bodies covered with small ctenoid scales.
- They are primarily sexually monomorphic; both sexes resemble each other, although there are instances when males have been found to be larger than females. Depending on the species, they reach nine to 30 cm in length.
GEOGRAPHICAL RANGE AND HABITAT
- Butterflyfishes are generally tropical, though some of them live in temperate zones. Most of them swim in the Indo- West Pacific, from Australia to Taiwan. Only four species are found in the eastern Pacific, and 13 of them are in the Atlantic.
- Some butterflyfishes are commonly found in shallow waters near coral reefs, while others can be seen in seagrass ecosystems, deep mudflats, or shallow lagoons.
- Young butterflyfishes live in more various areas than adults, such as tidal pools, boulder reefs, and shallow regions without coral.
- Marine butterflyfish live among shallow reefs close to their homes. They are mostly diurnal, wandering and feeding during the daytime.
- They are usually spotted in stable heterosexual pairs, although there are some species that wander in schools or foraging groups.
- Juveniles are solitary, and some act as cleaner fishes.
- They are most active during the day and move noticeably around the reef.
- Butterfly fishes are daytime feeders; they use their sight to forage. Pairs also communicate visually, so if a pair becomes separated, one may swim upwards in order to find the other.
- They are generally benthic feeders, feeding on small invertebrates, sponges, or polychaete worms.
- Their dark band near the eye and a false eye spot in contrasting colors close to the tail are two attributes that confuse their predators.
DEVELOPMENT AND REPRODUCTION
- According to studies, butterflyfishes are monogamous and pair-forming. Pairs are seen to be accompanied by a juvenile, which determines the possibility of a juvenile to be ambisexual, or having the ability to mature into male or female depending on which sexually mature fish in a couple dies and has to be replaced. However, there is no concrete research yet which proves if this occurs or not.
- Their reproductive behavior has been restricted to a few species, but available data seems to show that tropical spawning activity is at its peak in winter and early spring, while butterflyfishes in more temperate regions spawn in midsummer, and other groups spawn throughout the year.
- Female butterflyfishes are sometimes seen to have swollen bellies with eggs when they are ready to spawn. The male swims behind and below the female, and he makes use of his snout to poke her abdomen.
- A common feature among species is to perform this ascent into the water column to release eggs and sperms. After a few “false starts” the couple climbs up into the water, with the male’s snout against the female’s abdomen.
- Their eggs are circular, buoyant, and transparent, and, for those species studied in laboratories, hatch in 28 to 30 hours. A drop of oil at the back of the yolk lifts the newly-hatched buttferflyfish upside down just beneath the surface.
- Just like most reef fishes, butterflyfishes have coevolved with other organisms in their habitats. Benthic invertebrates on the reef have grown heavy, armor, spines, toxins, and adherence to the substrate, and they have developed a number of jaw forms that let them penetrate narrow openings, reach exposed parts of invertebrates, or swallow coral polyps.
- Herbivorous butterflyfishes’ grazing of algae is vital for the well-being of the reef, cropping the algae that might block the corals.
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the butterflyfish across 21 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Butterflyfish worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the butterflyfish of the family Chaetodontidae which is known for its thin, disk-shaped bodies, sporting vivid colorations and striking patterns. One of the most widely recognized coral reef fishes, the butterflyfish is listed as vulnerable to extinction.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Butterflyfish Facts
- Meeting a Butterflyfish
- Butterflyfish Anatomy
- Fishing Facts
- Butterflyfish Wiki
- Other Members of the Family
- Fish As Pets
- Pairs With Juveniles
- Biodiversity in Danger
- Darlings of the Reef
- The More You Know
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Link will appear as Butterflyfish Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, January 3, 2021
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.