Sunday, July 27, 2014
Orangeband Surgeonfish or unicornfish - Acanthurus olivaceus
It took me some time and effort with books and the internet to find a name for my most recent favorite snorkel buddy.
I'd followed a triggerfish several yards/meters off to the side from where I'd been snorkeling recently. There I saw a fish I hadn't seen before darting around on the sandy bottom and around the coral. I later learned that what I saw is its typical behavior which I've seen several times now.
I loved its bright colors and seeming smiley face, a feature seen on several of the surgeonfishes.
Actually the descriptions I've seen say the Orangeband has a white front and the back goes gradually from gray at mid-body to a black tail. That is the description of the ones in Hawaii and obviously the local one is different. Its front is more of a tannish yellow and the back section goes from black to a gray tail. But in both cases they have the bright orange band in the front section for which they are named.
The Northern Mariana Islands are listed as one of its native habitats. It is seen alone, in pairs or in small groups feeding on the sandy bottom or coral which is where I’ve seen it here in shallow water at Kammer Beach. It also may be seen near other fish.
From what I've read it seems juveniles are all yellow so I 'think' the following are juvenile Acanthurus olivaceus or Orangebands.
At any rate I always love seeing my smiley finned friend when I snorkel. Now that I know where it hangs out I expect to see Orangeband often.
BTW - the Surgeonfishes get their name from two sharp spines they have at the base of their tail. When feeling threatened it can pop them out to use. Those scalpel sharp weapons gives them their name. So I won't be attempting to pat my buddy or 'shake hands'! A smile will suffice. :>)