Plierfish Chomping Jigsaw Coral

Plierfish Chomping Jigsaw Coral, rickzimmerman 2010
Plierfish Chomping Jigsaw Coral, rickzimmerman 2010

No deep sea fisherman’s toolbox is complete without a sawfish, some pipefish, a hammerhead, a few crab claws, some large and small filefish, and various diameter needlefish. Now the able angle can add to his array of aids the recently discovered plierfish of the Tropics.

Here we spy a feeding plierfish, casually chomping some jigsaw coral, along the great Barrier Reef off the eastern coast of Andros Island in the Bahamas. As is often the case with tropical fish in reef habitats, the plierfish species prefers feeding on just this one type of coral. The jigsaw coral — a seriously convoluted cousin of the staghorn coral — seems to offer the plierfish both substantial opportunity for strengthening its jaws, and a tremendous variety of shapes, twists and turns to suit any plierfish palate or posture.

Though appearing here to be quite calm, plierfish can often be quite skittish and seemingly neurotic. (This is understandable, since many plierfish throughout adolescence are considered my most other tropical residents to be real ‘tools’.)

But don’t let the relatively small and handy size of the plierfish, nor its skittishness, lull you into complacency. When angered or excited, the jaws of the plierfish can exert a bite force of over 60 pounds — roughly double that of the most hard-biting sharks! And divers beware if you should ever encounter one of the rare subspecies of vise-grip plierfish, for its bite force easily exceeds 95 pounds!

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