With the Royal Wedding grabbing headlines across Europe it seems only appropriate that this month’s creature feature stars one of our few Red Sea inhabitants which mate for life; the masked butterfly fish or Chaetodon semilarvatus.
Identified easily by its distinctive disc like shape plus its unique colour and markings this fish is found between 3 and 20 metres in the Red Sea, although there have been a couple of know sightings in Southern Oman and Gulf of Aden. Its body is bright yellow with 13 darker yellow (almost orange) vertical stripes. Around the eye area is a triangular dark blue patch which gives the fish the appearance of being masked and of course the logic behind its common name.
Fully grown adults can reach 23cm but most reach a maximum of 14cm and there is nothing in either size or colour to help make a distinction between the males and the females.
Their diet is carnivorous consisting of coral polyps, zooplankton and invertebrates. In the jellyfish season they will often be seen snacking on the translucent pink jellyfish which flood the seas. For photography enthusiasts this makes an ideal photo opportunity as the contrast of bright yellow fish, blue sea and pink jelly creates a beautiful picture.
When diving take a look underneath coral outcroppings and especially under table corals where happy couples of masked butterfly fish seem to go for romantic solitude. Who needs William and Kate when we have our own love story here in the sunshine?