Barracuda is a whole genus of 29 species. All of them are similar and are predators. Sometimes they are called sea tigers for their speed and strength. Indeed, a barracuda fish with its sharp teeth in two rows is a thunderstorm of the seas, terrifying smaller fish, and even larger ones too. She is able to severely injure even sharks, which discourages them from attacking.
Origin of the species and description
Barracudas are ray-finned along with many other genera – accordingly, their primary evolution proceeded in the same way. The first fossil remains of ray-finned fish date back to the Middle Devonian – about 390 million years ago. After another 50 million years, they spread throughout the planet, and then subclasses emerged – including new feathers, which include barracudas. Already in the Triassic period, a clade of bony fish stood out from them – it is to it that most of the fish that have survived to this day, including barracudas, belong.
In the course of further evolution, a detachment of mackerels was formed, which includes the family of barracudas , and already in it the genus barracuda. However, the order of evolution and chronology has not yet been studied enough. Several extinct species of barracuda are known, but, according to scientists, most of them have successfully survived to this day.
Video: Barracuda fish
The name in Latin – Sphyraena, the sort received together with the scientific description made in 1778 by the German botanist Jakob Klein. In subsequent years, more and more individual species were described, for example, Sphyraena barracuda in 1781, Sphyraena jello in 1829 – and so on. The last two species were described more recently: in 2005 and 2015.
In total, 29 of them are currently distinguished, but it is possible that there is another species or several, just waiting for a scientific description to be given to them. After all, the family is very abundant, and some representatives are difficult to distinguish from each other, moreover, they live, including in little-studied corners of the planet.
Some modern species:
- large barracuda – usually the length of this fish is 70-90 centimeters, and the weight is 3-8 kg. In some cases, it can grow much larger and weigh up to 50 kg. Found predominantly in the Caribbean;
- guancho – inferior to the previous one in length and much slimmer, and therefore weighs much less (often within 1-1.5 kg). It is distinguished by the fact that its meat cannot be poisoned – therefore it is actively caught and consumed in fried and smoked form;
- silver barracuda – its length is 1.1-1.5 meters, and its weight is 5-10 kg. Found off the west coast of the Americas, usually in small flocks.
Interesting fact: The very word “barracuda” is believed to have been formed from the Spanish barraco, which refers to improperly growing teeth. It was given by the Spaniards after they first encountered this fish when they arrived in the Caribbean.
Appearance and features
The most important characteristic feature of barracudas is the protruding lower jaw, which gives them an aggressive look. In this they have a noticeable resemblance to pikes, although genetically they are quite far apart. The teeth in the mouth of the barracuda are arranged in two rows: small on the outside, and larger behind them. The body is elongated and thin enough – this shape is needed to make it easier to cut through the water flow. The lateral line clearly stands out on it. The dorsal fins are widely spaced and distinctly different from each other.
Due to the powerful tail fin, the barracuda develops high speed – it can exceed 40 km/h when the fish makes a jerk during the hunt. As a result, the barracuda is one of the fastest fish, so it is very difficult to hide from it. Another interesting feature: with the help of the swim bladder, the barracuda can not only regulate the depth of the dive, but also, if necessary, swim in very narrow places, such as crevices between rocks – for this it needs to deflate the bladder. A useful feature when hunting.
The color of the upper part varies depending on the species: from white to black, including bright colors such as green. But the belly is always white, and the adjacent sides are silvery. The size and weight depends on the species to which the barracuda belongs, and can fluctuate quite a lot – nevertheless, almost all members of the genus can be classified as large fish.
An interesting fact: Record holders among them are the Guinean barracuda (afra) – they can grow up to 210 centimeters, and their weight reaches 60 kilograms. And even European ones – the smallest of all, grow up to 50-60 centimeters, and weigh 4-6 kilograms (and in some cases turn out to be many times more).
Where does the barracuda fish live?
This fish lives in the warm waters of the subtropics and tropics, in three oceans – you cannot meet it only in the Arctic. It keeps near the surface, does not swim to the depths, while it can live both in the open sea and near the coast, in shallow water.
Large species mainly live in the open sea, but small ones prefer calmer and more muddy water. They love places with a lot of shelters: rocks, reefs, thickets, because you can hide in them while hunting. Therefore, they are especially common in shallow bays that abound in prey.
8 species can be found in the Red Sea. They are also distributed in the Mediterranean Sea, but not so widely, and there are fewer species of them in this sea – only 4, and half of them sailed from the Red Sea after they began to communicate.
Also, this fish loves the Caribbean Sea, because it has a lot of living creatures and a scattering of islands, which means there are a lot of crossed shallow waters nearby, and this is a real paradise for barracudas. They are also found off the Russian coast in the Sea of Japan.
Interesting fact: Evolution has endowed the barracuda with everything a good hunter needs. These are sharp teeth deeply piercing the victim, and excellent vision, which allows her to see much better than other inhabitants of the sea in bad weather, her mouth slamming shut in a matter of milliseconds, developed speed.
The speed is especially interesting: the barracuda can reach 50 km/h and, in addition to strong fins and a body adapted to cut through the water, this can be achieved by the special mucus it produces, which reduces water resistance – enveloping the body of the barracuda, it allows you to overcome it almost twice as easily.
What does a barracuda fish eat?
The menu of this predator consists of :
- other smaller fish like tuna or sardine;
This is a very voracious fish, and every day she needs several kilograms of food, as a result of which she is almost constantly busy hunting. Barracuda can hunt alone, waiting for prey in ambush, hiding in stones or thickets, or in a group. In the second case, they attack the shoals and, attacking from all sides, create a panic in which some kind of fish will fall into the teeth of the hunters. Smaller fish hunt in packs, while the largest ones prefer solitary hunting. Able to pursue the victim for a long time.
Do not avoid the attention of barracudas and their fellow tribesmen of smaller sizes – first of all, only growing up. The predator is quite capable of catching and eating them too if they lose their vigilance, and therefore a lone hunting barracuda often needs to make sure that it is not attacked by another. Yes, and there is a danger in the flock: if the barracuda is injured during the hunt and weakens, fellow tribesmen can also tear it to pieces and eat it. In terms of bloodthirstiness and ruthlessness, they are quite comparable to sharks, and do not have such a formidable reputation only because of their smaller size.
They are even capable of attacking even fish larger than themselves – in this case they attack in a flock and cruelly bite live prey until it dies. Most often, massive fish that have already been injured and weakened by it are subjected to such attacks.
Peculiarities of character and lifestyle
Most of the time, the barracuda simply swims or lurks in ambush, waiting for prey. It can be active both during the day and at night – it depends not on the time of day, but on the weather. In bad weather, when the sea is worried, it becomes more aggressive, her appetite grows. If the storm is strong, it goes to shallow water and hides from the waves in the vegetation. It is more difficult to hunt in a calm sea, since it is easier for the prey to notice it in advance. Therefore, when the day is clear and the sea is calm, the barracuda prefers to rest, and goes hunting only if this period drags on and it begins to feel hungry.
For humans, these fish usually do not pose a danger – although their flock may look menacingly, because large fish are the length of a person, but they do not hunt people. True, sometimes attacks still occur: the cause may be muddy water, because of which the barracuda confuses a person with other inhabitants of the seas.
She can also attack a person if he behaves aggressively: he corners or injures her. In such cases, it bites for protection, and is usually limited to one bite – if it manages to escape, then it runs away. The injuries left by this fish are very dangerous because of their sharp teeth – they leave lacerations and damage blood vessels.
At the same time, if a person does not show aggression and the barracuda sees him well, it can be safely removed from close range, she herself approaches people and examines them with curiosity. But the behavior also depends on the species – for example, the yellow-tailed barracuda is timid.
Social Structure and Reproduction
Usually barracudas are kept in packs, but they do not have any hierarchy and complex social structure, and this is mainly necessary for joint hunting. Larger fish are solitary. But even solitary fish gather in flocks for breeding. It has not yet been studied in what period of the year it occurs and what becomes the prerequisite for the beginning of this time.
Fertilization is external, eggs can be from 5,000 in young females to 300,000 in the largest and most mature. After the fertilization of the parents, the fate of the caviar is no longer interested, it sets off for free swimming. The fry at first stay close to the shore, and begin to hunt very soon, being still very small in size.
At first they stay in shallow water, but already growing to 8-10 centimeters they move away. As they grow, they move further and further away from the coast, and after reaching half a meter in size they can already swim in the open ocean and become formidable predators. In total, barracuda lives 8-14 years.
An interesting fact: From the very first expeditions of Europeans to the New World, barracuda acquired a bad reputation among them. Lord de Rochefort in 1665 described her as one of the most terrible monsters of the seas, furiously throwing herself at people in the water and loving to feast on human flesh.
This idea of a barracuda, which arose primarily because of its formidable appearance, and supported by individual cases of attacks on people, lasted until the 20th century. To a certain extent it is true, but still, stories about her bad temper and special attacks on people are a gross exaggeration.
Natural enemies of barracuda fish
Barracuda has practically no opponents in nature that would purposefully hunt them – it is not found in the stomachs of even sharks and killer whales, so researchers believe that barracudas are not included in their diet. This is most likely due to the fact that they are very fast, and it is much more difficult to catch them than other fish. Where greater danger threatens caviar and young fish – there are a lot of people who want to feast on them in the sea, as a result of which a small part of already born barracudas survive to maturity. Most marine predators are able to feast on both caviar and barracuda fry.
But the latter quickly cease to be defenseless: already at the age of several weeks they are able to defend themselves against some predatory fish. In such a situation, only large predators remain a threat to them, and as they grow, fewer and fewer of them are able to threaten a young barracuda. When she becomes an adult, then only two misfortunes remain – a man and other barracudas. The latter show aggression mainly if they see a wounded fish that can become easy prey, in other cases they do not enter into fights even if they are larger. hundredths of a second, and in this she relies on her eyesight, and therefore shiny objects can provoke her attack. If you remove all of them before diving into the water, it is unlikely that she will show aggression.
You can completely avoid the risk if the water is clear – clearly seeing that a person is in front of them, the barracudas do not seek to attack him, and often at the same time do not show any fear, allowing themselves to be examined from a close distance. Only an awakened barracuda can show hostility – and it is understandable.
Population and species status
Nothing threatens the number of barracudas – these strong predators are able to take care of themselves, and most of them are not objects of active fishing. Barracudas are in a very convenient position: in their habitats they are among the dominant species due to their size and strength, but at the same time they are not so large as to be rare.
After all, the largest predators usually require a considerable territory and a lot of food, as a result there are quite a few of them, but there is nothing like that with barracudas: there can be many of them in marine areas of a small area. An accurate count of the population of barracuda and even its individual species is impossible, but in any case, not a single species is listed as threatened – this fish breeds quickly and efficiently, and many millions of barracudas probably swim across the expanses of the world's oceans.
Interesting fact: Some types of barracuda are undesirable to eat, because their liver and caviar are poisonous. This applies to those species whose representatives eat pufferfish poisonous to humans and accumulate ciguatoxins. Because of their poisoning, colic, nausea and vomiting can occur, in some cases even death is possible.
But other types of barracuda are edible, and their meat is tender and tasty, so that in the cuisines of many peoples of the world living near the sea coast, they are given an important place. There are a variety of dishes with barracuda that you should definitely try: it is good both fried and stewed, with mushrooms, in a creamy pasta sauce.
Terrible sea predators, barracudas require some caution – if you know that they found in swimming areas, it is better to clarify how aggressive this species can be, and follow safety requirements. But intentional hostility to humans is usually not shown, which cannot be said about other inhabitants of the seas, who often suffer from them. The barracuda fish is a very efficient predator and is interesting for everyone to study without exception.