TRUMPETFISH (Aulostomus chinensis)
Also known as Trumpet, Atlantic Trumpetfish, Caribbean Trumpetfish, Trumpeter and Painted Flutemouth. You can find them everywhere around the Gili Islands when you are snorkeling or divinvg.
The Trumpetfish can be recognised by its long body, tubular snout with minute teeth, its chin barbel and the series of short dorsal spines.Their bodies are inflexible, supported by interwoven struts of bone. The colouration of this species is variable. It is often brown or green with pale stripes and bars, and white spots posteriorly. A yellow colour variety is common in some areas. Individual fish have the ability to change their colours very quickly. Trumpetfish have the capability to rapidly expand their jaws into a circular gaping hole almost the diameter of their body when feeding.
The trumpetfish is the true master-hunter on the coral reef. Yes, this fish looks rather benign and yes it is a relative of the passive sea horses, but it is truly a fish-killing machine! The trumpetfish employ a variety of strategies to capture their fish neighbors. One of the most spectacular is referred to by fish behaviorists as “hunting by riding” (a.k.a. shadow stalking). This is where the trumpetfish uses another fish as a blind to sneak-up on its unsuspecting quarry. The hunter-extraordinaire will lie along the back of the larger fish as the latter swims over the reef. The species that the trumpetfish uses as a blind are usually large herbivores (e.g., parrotfishes) or omnivores (e.g., angelfishes). Because these species don’t cause small fish to flee (because they do not feed on them), the trumpetfish can hide behind them to get close. Once the distance between predator and its prey reaches a critical point, the trumpetfish will dart out from its living blind like an amphibious arrow! While it may look like the trumpetfish has a relatively small mouth, the floor of the narrow snout is very expandable, which enables it to distend so larger prey can pass into the stomach. If you see a trumpetfish while diving, stay back and watch it for a while. There is a good chance you will see it engage in this fascinating hunting behavior.