When talking about the best ocean predators, we could not miss talking about the barracudas. Barracudas are relatively large species of fish that live in warm coastal ocean regions. There are 26 known barracudas species ranging from the smaller size to the larger ones. Despite the difference in size and color, all barracudas have an elongated feature, pointed head, and white belly. Interestingly, they are probably the most misunderstood fish species out there. With its fierce looking features, they may be frightening to those who don’t spend so much time in water. However, to those who actually spend quite some time in the water, you will know how charming barracudas are. You will actually want an encounter with them and here is why.
1. Tiger of The Sea
As a predator, Barracuda have unique jaw and teeth features which give them the title “Tiger of the Sea”. They have two rows of teeth and a total of 200 teeth. The lower jaw has small serrated teeth on the side and larger canines at the center.
These teeth are arranged in a certain way so that the teeth on the lower jaw will perfectly fit in between them when the Barracuda closes its mouth. Some of their teeth are also pointing backwards in order to keep the slippery fish from escaping. Known to be as sharp as scissors, their teeth could cut through prey that are even bigger than the Barracuda itself.
2. Magpie Syndrome
Someone who has magpie syndrome has an irrational love for shiny things. This is the case with the barracudas. They are attracted to shiny things so that they will prey on shiny silver fishes. The barracudas hunt for their prey relying on their sight more than other senses which is why they are attracted to shiny things.
This is why it is important to not wear any jewelry or watches when you are about to swim near the barracudas. They might mistakenly see you as their prey and start attacking you instead. You won’t want to get those knife-like teeth near you.
3. Barracuda Personality
Barracudas are called “Tiger of The Sea” for a reason. Other than their fierce looking and sharp teeth, the barracudas are very aggressive and competitive creatures. When they are eyeing a prey, they don’t shy away from a fight with other predators.
With their speed and sleek body, they are confident in getting their prey successfully even when it involves fighting with other sea creatures. They are also scavengers, meaning that they feed on any parts of the prey left by other sea creatures.
4. Survival Rate of Barracudas
In order to reproduce, barracudas do external fertilization where the egg and sperm meet in the ocean. The fertilized eggs will be floating on the sea until it hatches. The female barracudas usually release 5,000 to 30,000 eggs.
Their lifespan is about 14 years. Since adult barracudas are relatively on the larger side, they don’t have that much of a predator. Their ability to swim deep and fast also helps them survive being caught by humans. Overall, barracudas have a really high chance of surviving for a long time.
5. Poisonous To Human
Barracudas are not suitable for human consumption because they could cause ciguatera poisoning. The barracudas themselves don’t naturally produce their toxin, but they get them from the food they consume. This toxin will be concentrated on their liver, intestines, head, or roe.
Ciguatoxin is commonly found in the dinoflagellates, which is a marine plankton at the bottom of the food web. Since the marine creatures who prey on these dinoflagellates are also being preyed upon, there is a dangerous amount of the toxin build up on top predators like the barracudas. While the toxin has no effect on the fish itself, it may cause 100 different gastrointestinal and neurological symptoms, such as overwhelming fatigue, severe itching, and tingling lips, to humans when they eat their flesh. The toxin has been seen to affect other animals such as cats. While the effect of the toxin will usually die down after a few days, the effect could last for up to four weeks. To avoid getting the ciguatoxin, you need to limit your consumption of reef fishes.
6. Swimming Tornado
Being one of the best predators in the ocean does not save the barracudas from being preyed upon themselves. Their major threat is from the bigger fishes such as sharks, tuna, killer whales, etc.
When they are younger and still relatively small in size, they would use their color to blend in with the rocks and sand. They will also stay in a group. These schools of fish will move in a tornado shape to confuse their predators. A school of barracudas could consist of up to 100 young barracudas.
7. Attack Strategy
People called barracudas’ attack strategy the “surprise tactic”. They will use their swimming speed of 25mph to overtake their prey. Their slender and long body allows them to hide in sea grass as they are waiting to attack their prey. Finally, they will seal the attack with their strong jaws and sharp teeth to cut through their prey.
Barracuda sometimes choose to attack on their own. Other times they will be in a group of five to six fully grown adult barracudas circling their prey. During both times, their strategy is always the same: fast speed followed by snapping of their jaws.Naturally, the barracudas are nocturnal animals. Thus, they hunt and feed at night while they are most active.
8. Mutual Relationship
Just like athletes treasured their body parts, the barracudas treasure their teeth and body so much. Their teeth and sleek body are their most valuable assets to survive. Thus, they have a mutual relationship with the cleaner wrasse.
Barracudas will slightly open their mouth and gills as these cleaners wrasse their teeth and body. The cleaner wrasse will eat the dead skin and parasites which usually stay in their gills and on their mouth, which could eventually cause discomfort to the barracudas.
9. Photogenic Models
Aside from its scary, fierce, and dangerous image, barracudas are surprisingly photogenic models. While reports on barracuda’s attack on humans are quite rare, divers have gotten chances to take great photographs of them.
If you are lucky enough, you can see these barracudas keep circling around and put you in the middle of the barracudas whirlpool. It will definitely be a great scene that is worthy of a photograph. The classy and graceful side of the barracudas that we all need to know.
10. Economy Contribution
Not being a generally consumed fish, the barracudas contribute to the economy in their own way. Due to their aggressive and competitive personality and their speed, many people find them the perfect species for sport fishing. It brings people a great sense of achievement to be able to catch this predator.
For example, saltwater fishing contributes about $9.2 billion annually for Florida with barracuda being one of the top species most people try to catch. It also has provided around 120.000 jobs. This also includes the amount the state gets from fishing licenses made each year. Recreational fishing is included in the tourism section which is the state’s main money maker.
Also, barracudas contribute largely to the research of ciguatoxins that they may carry. There are about 50,000 cases of Ciguatera Fish Poisoning in a year. While the toxin is not actually deady, the effect on your neurological system might last longer. Thus, scientists have been using the barracudas to further understand the nature of the toxin and find ways to manage and treat it well.
11. Acting Like A Puppy
A unique habit of the barracuda that some of us might not be familiar with is they like to follow human snorkels around like a puppy. Even though barracudas are not particularly interested in human beings, there are several scenes where we can see them following human snorkels around. The most obvious reason is because you have something shiny on you.
Barracudas just can’t miss out on the blings. The second reason is they might think you are just some other big predators. They will wait on you to feed on the small fishes to get the remaining parts of it. A very similar behavior to a puppy who eagerly waits near your dining table so they can feed on crumbs or food fallen down from your dining table. Little did they know that snorkelers are not there to eat small fishes but to observe them.
12. Barracuda Myth
You might think that barracudas frequently attack humans. However, it is only a myth. Despite its aggressive and competitive nature, barracudas are passive toward humans and do not even bother to stalk the divers they find. In comparison with other big ocean predators, there are only 25 reported cases of barracuda attacking humans in the last century. That is only about one reported attack for every 4 years which makes it a negligible number.
Most of the attacks resulted only in laceration which indicates that the attack might be due to provocation or mistaking divers-for-prey cases. This usually happens with divers who are spearfishing. The barracuda naturally will not shy away from fights when catching prey and this includes fighting with the spearfishing divers. This is especially true if the divers start to provoke them after losing their target to these barracudas.
13. Attack on Cayman Island
Cayman Island is home to many barracudas. There have been several occurrences where they found visitors being attacked by barracudas. The most recent attack was done to an elder woman who got her right arm bitten by barracudas while she was swimming.
The attack resulted in some wounds. It happened to be that she was swimming while there were feeding activities near her, as seen from small fishes jumping out of the water. Thus, the barracudas must have mistaken her arm as those small fishes. In other cases, their attack causes significant nerve and muscle damage. Even though barracudas don’t naturally attack humans, accidents similar to this could happen anytime. It is common for the barracudas to mistakenly take human beings as their prey or feel threatened by their existence which results in them attacking humans. On the other hand, barracudas are also territorial creatures, thus we need to make sure we don’t get to their territory irresponsibly and end up provoking them to attack.
14. Greatest Barracuda
There are several different kinds of barracuda we can find today. The biggest one of all is the great barracuda. The largest great barracuda ever caught is about 2 meters long with a weight of 50kg by an US angler named Thomas Gibson in 2013.
Any barracudas that has a length of more than 1.5 meter long is considered to be huge. This huge size allows them to not have so many other sea creatures preying on them.
15. Don’t Disturb Their Sleep
Most sea creatures are afraid of them, but the barracudas will always be alert of their surroundings even when they are asleep. Barracudas, just like most other fish, don’t have eyelids which cause them to sleep with their eyes wide open. You can only figure out whether they are sleeping by seeing how fast they are moving. Sleeping barracudas will move super slowly.
However, sleeping barracudas do not make them less of the predator they are. They will stay alert to their surroundings even when they sleep and would be ready to take charge if they sense danger. So, don’t ever think about disturbing them in their sleep.
After knowing all of these facts, are you ready to meet the barracudas up close?