The barracuda is known around coastal waters as a dominant predator. Alongside sharks, sting rays, and grouper, the barracuda is out for prey. There are more than 20 species of this fish known today that can grow up to two meters long. This carnivorous group is generally found in coastal waters along the continental shelf or coral reefs. Although they have been seen in deeper waters, they tend to prefer the warmer tropical regions.
Barracuda are a stream-line fish. This feature makes them exceptional swimmers and allows for surprise attacks. It has been recorded that this fish can swim up to 40 km/h in short bursts. This speed allows the predator to overtake its prey and catch the ones that try to flee. They have an elongated skull, pointed jaws, and sharp teeth. Another attribute that makes the barracuda such a stand out predator in coastal waters is its diverse diet. Not only do they feed on smaller fish, but also invertebrates, crustaceans, and even squid. The barracuda is a very aggressive species and has been known to attack humans if bothered. Since this is a top of the food chain species, the only major killer to the barracuda is humans.
There is not much known about barracuda reproduction, however it is known that females release their eggs into the water to be fertilized outside the body. From there, the mother flees and the babies are left to fend for themselves.
Before this trip down to the Florida Keys, I have never come face to face with a barracuda. As we were snorkeling through a mangrove island, named Koch Key, I saw my first one. It was merely a juvenile, however very quick. Before I could get a picture, it was already gone. From first hand, I could tell why these creatures were such amazing predators. You cannot see them coming. All you can do is simply turn your head one way and it just there. By the time you are done with a mini panic attack, it is already gone, disappearing back into the turbid waters. As we continued to snorkel different sites throughout the week, I got rather used to seeing barracudas all around me. When we reached the ocean side of the Keys, they were seen all over, and not just juveniles. The biggest one I saw had to be at least 6 feet long!
Top photo credits: Corey Corrick
Bottom photo credits: Gage Wilson