The Fish That Ate Nemo’s Mum!
The Barracuda, famously known as the fish that ate Nemo’s mum, have inhabited our planet’s oceans for the last 50 million years as deep-water hunters with lightning speed and incredible accuracy.
Over 20 Species (from a few inches to several feet long!)
The barracuda is snake like in appearance, its body long, muscular and covered in small smooth scales. They have large pointed heads with an under-bite in many species showing off their many sharp, fang like teeth of all different sizes. The smaller species can be just a few inches in length, the larger can reach up to 10 feet!
Characteristically the Barracuda is silver in colour, although this varies in the 20 or so different species. For the most part they are different shades of silver, grey and blue; some even have a splash of colour on their fins or tails. Typically they are found in tropical and subtropical oceans worldwide, near coral reefs and underwater pinnacles.
This fearsome predator’s diet consists of fish, fish and more fish. The larger species, swim solo; a cunning hunter that will sit and wait for his opportunity to arrive before a flash ambush. A barracuda can reach speeds of up to 36 miles per hour when attacking its prey, but are also know to sit very still in mid water so that when an unsuspecting little fish swims past…. Chomp!
Dinner is served.
The barracuda has very keen eyesight, and relies on this while hunting, unlike other fish that rely on their sense of smell to find food. They are especially attracted to shiny swimmers, like quick silver or white fish that reflect the light. The smaller species school together, sometimes in their thousands and hunt together darting between schools of smaller fish that they prey on, herding them into shallow waters where they can feast.
Barracudas don’t have many natural predators besides sharks and orca whales and they tend to live in much deeper water. The main threat to the Barracuda is the sports fisherman. If they can avoid this barracudas can live anywhere between 10 – 15 years.
Koh Tao’s Barracudas
Here in the waters off Koh Tao we see a few different types of Barracuda; the Yellow Tail, the Chevron and the magnificent Great Barracuda. The Yellow tail can be seen quite commonly at some of the shallower dive sites around the island such as Twins and Green Rock. These little guys hang out together in big schools, circling around, and between the pinnacles.
Chevron Barracuda can be found most commonly at Chumphon pinnacle. These middle size (1-2 feet in length) fish school together just off the pinnacle waiting patiently for prey to come into its midst. The Great Barracuda is a little more elusive and swims solo out in the deep blue. They are seen at deeper dive sites such as Chumphon and Southwest, as well as around the wreck dive at HTMS Sattakut and White Rock.
One of the best opportunities to see Great Barracuda is during Night dives at White Rock. They will swim, almost alongside the dive group, using the diver’s torch lights to hunt. One minute you are observing a small white or silver coloured fish and the next…. Chomp!
Divers watch in awe as this splendid predator strikes, hard and fast.
Whatever species of these torpedo like fish you see, you will always be impressed. I can tell you from personal experience the first time you see a Great Barracuda swim right next to you, and you look into his eye is an awesome, and unforgettable experience. It’s hard to say whether it was more intimidation or I was just awestruck. I always keep one eye on the abyss when I visit the wreck now in hopes that I’ll see him again.
Author: Nina Horne (PADI DM #355693)