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If you think a barracuda is fishy looking, you're right.
It's a fish. A barracuda shares several traits with most other fish, in addition
to being cold-blooded. It is a vertebrate — it has a spine. It has scales
covering its body. It breathes using its gills rather than its lungs. It lays
eggs rather than giving birth to live young.
barracuda is any of about 20 species of predatory fishes of the family
Sphyraenidae (order Perciformes). Barracudas are usually found in
warm, tropical regions; some also in more temperate areas. Nocturnal creatures,
they are swift and powerful, small scaled, slender in form, with two
well-separated dorsal fins, a jutting lower jaw, and a large mouth with many
sharp large teeth. Size varies from rather small to as large as 4-6 feet
(1.2-1.8 meters) in the great barracuda (Sphyraena barracuda) of the
Atlantic, Caribbean, and the Pacific.
Barracuda are better adapted to hunting in the coral reefs than, say, a tuna
because their bodies,
though long, are flexible enough to move through the twists and turns of a reef.
With its sleek, torpedo-like body, dagger-like teeth, and ferocious appetite,
the barracuda is built to hunt in the ocean. And that's exactly what it has been
doing for the last 50 million years. Any diver who's seen a barracuda attack
another fish can tell you that it happens faster than you can say "anchovy." One
moment, a barracuda will be drifting lazily among the coral reefs. The next,
it's rocketing toward a fish and snapping it up in its jaws.
If it's such a great hunter, does this make the
barracuda the most successful animal in the ocean? That's hard to measure. It
hasn't been around for 50 million years just because it's lucky. But fish in
general are an extremely successful class of animals. There are more than 25,000
different species of fish. This makes them, by far, the largest group of
vertebrates. And there are millions, if not billions, of them. The oldest kinds
of fish swam the seas more than 400 million years before the first dinosaur
roamed the earth. So the next time you see a fish, show it a little respect,
especially if it's a 'cuda.
Barracudas are bold
and inquisitive, and fearsome fishes, that may be dangerous to humans. The
great barracuda is known to have been involved in attacks on swimmers. In
Hawaii's, they have been known to inhabit open waters and bay areas in the
shadows, under floating objects. To avoid them, don't wear shiny objects. They
are attracted to shiny, reflective things that look like dinner. They cause harm
with their sharp jagged teeth and strong tearing jaws; slashing and creating
jagged tears in your skin. The overall picture is
that our knowledge of this facet of barracuda life is astoundingly incomplete
and we can only speculate as to its true nature until someone is lucky enough to
be in the right place at the right time to witness barracudas spawning. Another
possibility that should be kept in mind is that great barracuda may well show
quite different spawning patterns in different parts of the world, or perhaps
even in different locations within an island chain.