With their large fangs, scaly bodies, and big beady eyes, some might consider barracudas one of the scariest marine animals. But are they really as scary as they are perceived?
Human attacks are extremely rare, despite their intimidating appearance and predatory success. In fact, barracudas are better known as photo models than as dangerous predators. It is said that one of a diver's most unforgettable moments is to be in the middle of a whirlpool surrounded by barracudas as they circle around.
The barracuda is a big fish that can be found in the world's oceans' warmer coastal areas, where there is plenty of food. More than 26 different species of barracuda exist, with sizes ranging from less than 20 inches to nearly 6 1/2 feet. Although they can be found in the deep ocean, they prefer to live along the continental shelves and coral reefs on the coast.
Barracudas in coral reefs
Despite some size and color differences, barracuda species share many characteristics. They have a long body with a pointed head. Their jaws are extremely strong and they have rows of sharp teeth. Barracudas have separated dorsal fins on their sides along with a small forked tail fin. Their color fades from greyish silver to white on the belly, with whitish tips on their dark violet caudal fins and black spots on the lower sides of its body. They have inherited the name, ‘Tiger of the Sea’, from their lower jaw jutting out slightly and their unequally sized fang-like teeth. Just like many other fish, barracudas do not have eyelids. Sometimes when they are slowly moving, it is possible they are asleep. However, that does not mean they won’t attack something that disturbs it! Barracudas can grow to be about 5 – 6 feet long and weigh around 110 pounds. The number of rings produced each year in a barracuda's scales can be used to determine its age. Barracudas have a lifespan of up to 14 years.
This is what the barracuda looks like.
The barracuda is known for being an aggressive, dominant predator that uses the tactic of surprise to catch its prey. They can swim at speeds of up to 25 miles per hour in short bursts, allowing them to catch up to prey that is attempting to swim away. They can easily creep through the reefs while hunting because their bodies are long and slender. The barracuda is an opportunistic predator, meaning it only eats other animals in the water around it. Apart from sharks, killer whales, larger barracudas, giant tuna, and dolphins, barracudas have few natural predators due to their large size. They camouflage themselves near sea grass and they move quickly to find food in coral reefs. Their diet consists of snapper, grunts, mullets, bream and other smaller fish.
Although there is not a boatload of information regarding the reproduction of barracudas, it is a known fact that females spawn in the spring. Her eggs will be released into the water, where they will be fertilized externally. Barracuda spawning is thought to take place between April and September. Females spawn a few times during the breeding season, releasing 5,000 to 300,000 eggs each time. Barracuda, like most other fish, lays fertilized eggs in open waters until they hatch. The larvae will settle in shallow waters shortly after hatching, where vegetation will provide both protection and food until they mature into juveniles. They move to deeper waters with reefs when they reach maturity and stay there for the rest of their lives. Males reach sexual maturity within the first three years of life, while females take about four years.
Baby barracudas swimming in a group