Spotted Drums are on of the most iconic reef fishes in the Caribbean, and they are a favorite for underwater photographers. They always stay on the same small patch of the reef, using their elongated dorsal fins to sweep themselves back and forth continuously across their small territory. As juveniles these long dorsal fins will be even longer than their tails. They can be usually be found in groups of two, three or even more individuals. Despite their name, the spotted drum only gets it's spots late in life, starting at the tail and slowly up to the back. The dorsal fins shorten to small, pointed spines as they grow older. The Spotted Drum belongs to the Croaker family, because of the sounds they can sometimes make.
How to tell them apart:
Other members of the Croaker family, such as the Highhat and the Jackknifefish, look almost identical when they are young, and it can be difficult to tell the species apart. The easiest way is to look closely at their snouts (if they will keep still long enough to let you!) The Spotted Drum has a single black spot on it's snout. The Highhat will have a black bar running between it's eyes, and the Jackknife Fish has a black line running down it's nose. The Jackknife can also have a more yellowish tint than it's cousins. Happy hunting!
Every year in the late summer, lucky divers can be treated to an explosion of these tiny fishes. Silverside schools consist of tiny herrings, anchovies and others, all hatching onto the reef at the same time in a process called“broadcast spawning”. They can be found in their millions, inside caves and canyons in shallow water. By hatching onto the reef at the same time, their natural predators are overwhelmed, becoming literally sated on fish, and so some will survive to carry on the process the following year.
Silversides try to stay as close to each other and to the walls of the reef as possible, moving in unison to confuse predators, such as groupers, jacks and barracudas. It is a time of plenty for these carnivores, with a seemingly endless supply of prey available. Even humans will cash in on this annual event; the commercial name for this catch is“whitebait”. For divers, it is an unforgettable experience.
Is a Canadian-born South African living in Honduras, who no longer knows where his accent is from. He has been diving all over the world, but has chosen Roatan as his home because of it's incredible underwater biodiversity. He has spent many thousands of hours underwater, and he is still finding something new on every dive.