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Hawaii's Reef Fishes
Damselfishes (or demoiselles) are among the most abundant of reef fishes. They are small, moderately deep-bodied, with a small mouth and conical or incisiform teeth. There is a continuous dorsal fin of 10-14 spines, the base of the spinous portion longer than the soft, and 2 anal spines; the caudal fin varies from truncate to lunate (but usually forked). The lateral-line is interrupted, the anterior part ending below the dorsal fin.
The coloration is highly variable from species to species; some are drab, others brilliantly hued. The juveniles of many are very different in color and more brightly colored than adults. Males generally show a different color pattern at spawning time. Most damselfishes occur in shallow water on coral reefs or rocky substrata.
Many, particularly those that feed heavily on benthic algae, such as the species of Stegastes, are territorial and pugnacious (hence not good aquarium fishes). The algal feeders are kown to "weed their territories of undesirable algae. The species of Chromis and Dascyllus feed primarily on zooplankton, often in small aggregations. Plectroglyphidodon johnstonianus is among the few that feed on coral polyps.
The eggs of damselfishes are elliptical and demersal; the male parent guards the patch of eggs until hatching. If the guarding male is frightened away, as by a diver, other fishes (usually wrasses and butterflyfishes) quickly seize the opportunity to feed on the eggs.
Seventeen species of pomacentrid fishes are known from Hawaii. Not included below are the deepwater Chromis struhsakeri and the inshore pink-barred Plectroglyphidodon phoenixensis, recorded only from one small colony at Maui. The latter lives in the surge zone of exposed rocky shores.
Chromis hanui (Randall & Swerdloff, 1973)
Dark yellowish-brown, the caudal peduncle and fin abruptly white slightly posterior to rear base of dorsal and anal fins; no pink or lavender on lower head and chest, but snout and jaws often tinged with blue; a large black spot at base of pectoral fins; dorsal spines 12, soft rays 13. Attains 3.5 inches (9 cm). Hawaiian Islands; known from the depth range of 6-165 feet (1.8-50 m).
Chromis acares (Randall & Swerdloff, 1973)
Blue-gray with a small light yellow spot at rear base of dorsal fin; front half of anal fin black except for blue leading edge; upper and lower edges of caudal fin broadly yellow; dorsal spines 12, soft rays 11. Attains 2.2 inches (5.5 cm). Central and western Pacific; rare in Hawai'i, but common at Johnston Island.
Plectroglyphidodon imparipennis (Vaillant & Sauvage, 1875)
Yellowish-gray, shading to white ventrally and light yellow posteriorly; eye white with a black bar through pupil; dorsal spines 12, soft rays 14-16. Attains 2.5 inches (6.5 cm). Indo-Pacific; occurs inshore on exposed reefs or rocky bottom; quick to take shelter in small holes. Feeds on a variety of small invertebrates, especially crustaceans and polychaete worms.
Dascyllus albisella(Gill, 1862) Alo'ilo'i
Dascyllus albisella(Gill, 1862) Alo'ilo'i (Juvenile)
Dark gray to nearly black, centers of scales on body broadly white to bluish white; small juveniles blacker with a vertically elongate white spot on side and median blue spot on forehead; body deep. To 5 inches (12.5 cm). Hawaiian Islands; young usually hide among branching corals in quiet shallow water; adults range into deeper water. Close to the Indo-Pacific D. trimaculatus. Feeds on the small animals of the zooplankton such as mysids, crab and shrimp larvae, and copepods. Spawns mainly May to August; eggs demersal, almost colorless, and tiny (0.85 mm); newly transformed juveniles average 0.6 inches (15 mm).
All information and pictures in this section are from John E. Randall's Shore Fishes of Hawai'i by permission of the author.
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