Butterflyfish in New England

What's unusual about these juvenile butterflyfish is that they were found by Alison Johnson and our REEF Cape Cod Field Survey Team this past September in Woods Hole.  Many of you may not know that many tropical fish species' larvae are carried by the Gulf Stream eddies and whirls along inshore areas of New England, especially Rhode Island and southern Massachusetts and Cape Cod.  The larvae then settle onto boulders, dock areas and survive through the early autumn, when the water temperature eventually, well, you know, extirpates the little buggers.  Actually, many local collectors and dive clubs such as the New England Aquarium Dive Club get out to collect the fish for home and commerical aquariums. I once did a doubletake underwater off Cape Cod when I saw a school of lookdowns swimming with a school of Atlantic menhaden.  All 3 pics were taken by REEF member Alison Johnson and are of a juv. Spotfin butterflyfish and a juv. Foureye as well as the ubiquitous temperate wrasse, Cunner.

tropical fish

  What is the water temperature?  Rhoda Green

Tropicals in Woods Hole

I'm from Woods Hole and have collected there often.  I moved to Denmark 18 months ago for this position.  Water temperatures get into the mid-70s in August and stay above 60 through October at least.  Over the years I've seen many southern species.  I collected a Sargassum frogfish from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Pier some years back and kept it for a year.  I've seen cobia, goatfish, sennet, grouper, butterflyfish, chromis, several species of filefish, seahorses, and many others.  In late September I found a juvenile ghost crab (Ocypode) on Buzzards Bay facing beach in Woods Hole.  It's always a treat to see them when diving and a bit sad to realize that with the cooling weather will knock them all off.

David Remsen

Global Biodiversity Information Facility

Copenhagen, Denmark


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