Meet the Barracuda Fish


Barracudas are scary nocturnal gnawing fish; they attack their prey and tear them apart with their dagger-like teeth. The barracuda lives in tropical and subtropical waters around the world, including the western and eastern Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea, and the Red Sea; it prefers to live in coastal marshes and coral reefs.

The barracuda fish is characterized by its bright silver color with some black spots; some types of this fish, such as the giant barracuda, may reach about two meters in length. It has a thin body, which is pointed at both ends and thicker in the middle; its head is flat at the top and pointed at the front. Its lower jaw is slightly protruding, and it has two rows of small sharp teeth; one tilted forward and the other backward, making it impossible for small creatures to escape from inside its mouth.

The barracuda fish is a good swimmer due to its thin body that allows it to move across the water quickly and smoothly within the narrow spaces between the coral reefs and seaweeds, with a speed that reaches 58 kilometers per hour.

The barracuda belongs to the family of Sphyraenidae, the row of ray-finned fish; at least 26 species of them roam the oceans. Some types of this fish acquired their names from their physical features; the most famous of which is the giant barracuda, but there are also the yellow-tailed barracuda, the sawtooth barracuda, and the sharp finned barracuda. There are also other types that are named after the regions where they live, such as the Guinean barracuda, the Japanese barracuda, the European barracuda, and the Mediterranean barracuda.

Barracuda is a spawning fish; its female lays approximately 5,000 eggs at once. The average lifespan of the barracuda fish is 14 years, and they reach puberty at the age of two. While most barracudas prefer to live in flocks during their youth to protect themselves from large predators, such as sharks and orca whales, others prefer to live alone after puberty.

The barracuda feeds on small tuna fish, mullet, and anchovies. It is also considered a litter fish, which feeds on the remnants of the preys of other marine creatures, and this has an important impact on the marine ecosystem since it helps in cleaning the water from those wastes.

Regarding its relationship with humans, there are high chances that divers can encounter a barracuda; however, it rarely attacks or injures humans. Some rare accidents may be attributed to the barracuda mistaking the reflection on the metallic objects the divers might be carrying for fish, so it tries to attack them. However, a barracuda's bite will usually require stitches due to its sharp teeth, so always be vigilant while diving.

Last but not least, many people around the world eat young barracudas without any problem, but it is not safe to eat larger types of more than a meter in length. The reason behind this is that the small fish the barracuda feeds on consume a lot of algae that contain toxic plankton. Thus, eating them can expose us to these algal toxins as well, which can lead to a type of food poisoning known as tropical fish poisoning or ciguatera poisoning. Ciguatera poisoning causes attacks of fever, severe diarrhea, nervous reactions, and muscle and joint pain that may end in death in some cases.


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SCIplanet is a bilingual edutainment science magazine published by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Planetarium Science Center and developed by the Cultural Outreach Publications Unit ...
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