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Discussion in 'California' started by drbill, May 7, 2019.

  1. drbill

    drbill The Lorax for the Kelp Forest Scuba Legend

    # of Dives: 2,500 - 4,999
    Location: Santa Catalina Island, CA

    Due to our arid climate here on Catalina, I only take short, Navy showers even though I have a bathtub with a jacuzzi. And due to the neuropathy from my chemo, I all too frequently drop the soap. But where am I going with this? Certainly my readers have no interest in this old geezer's bathing protocols!

    No, today's column will focus on a member of the sea bass family, the Atlantic or greater soapfish (Rypticus saponaceus). There are about two dozen species of soapfish. I've filmed a few of them in my dive travels such as the six-lined soapfish in the Philippines and the Red Sea soapfish in... why, the Egyptian Red Sea of course! Today's victim of my writing was encountered off the island of Bonaire in the Dutch Antilles. Soapfish are found in the Atlantic and the eastern Pacific Oceans in warm temperate to tropical waters.

    So what does a soapfish have in common with a bar of soap. Why, a nice sudsy lather of course! When a soapfish is faced with a potential predator, it releases a toxic mucus (grammistin or rhyptisin) that mixes with the surrounding water. A wise predator will think twice about attacking this fish if it values its life. Despite this, soapfish are eaten by humans in some areas.

    How does this group (called a tribe) differ from other family members such as bass and groupers? Its anal fins are spineless (like you're going to check that on a dive) and its dorsal fin has only two to four spines. So, in essence, soapfish are "spineless" which may be the reason they need that toxic mucus! The greater soapfish is fairly small, reaching a maximum length of about 13 inches. The forehead is sloped and the lower jaw projects past the upper one.

    Munchies include fish, crustaceans and molluscs. Hmmm, I wouldn't mind a dinner of salmon, lobster and clam chowder myself! I guess they only eat one meal a day, dinner, since they feed mostly at night. During the day they generally hide in the reef. I guess they must have a little vampire "blood" in them.

    Knowing how much my readers love the sexy details, I should mention the rather unique reproduction of the soapfish genus Rypticus. First, members of this genus have both male and female tissues in its body. Imagine how difficult the choice of a bathroom would be for them. Both tissues are contained within the gonad. On top of that, the "ladies" may change into "gentlemen" during their lifetime. Most of the time they are solitary but obviously meet up when "it's time."

    © 2019 Dr. Bill Bushing. For the entire archived set of over 800 "Dive Dry" columns, visit my website Star Thrower Educational Multimedia (S.T.E.M.) Home Page

    Image caption: The greater soapfish taken in the Dutch Antilles

    View attachment 518273

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