top of page

166. Atlantic Tarpon (Megolops atlanticus)


The Atlantic Tarpon (Megolops atlanticus) is a large fish (on average, it measures approximately 1.3m/4ft, but I may be encountered in a much larger size) that inhabits coastal waters, bays, estuaries, lagoons, and river mouths of the tropical and subtropical regions of the Atlantic Ocean.

The Atlantic Tarpon first appeared on our planet about 18 million years ago, making it one of the oldest living fish species. Often swimming near the water's surface, the Atlantic Tarpon is capable of filling its swim bladder directly with air from the surface, allowing its bladder to function like a primitive lung. This adaptation assists the Atlantic Tarpon's survival during periods of low oxygen levels in the sea.

Due to its large, polished, metal-like scales, it is sometimes referred to as the “Silver King.” These "iridescent" and highly refective scales have been used as nail files and for decorative purposes since prehistory. When pulverised, the scales are also utilised in traditional Brazilian medicine. The iridescence of this fish, with its large silvery highly polished scales is what makes this fish so easy identifiable.

The Atlantic Tarpon employs a form of camouflage known as countershading, a strategy to deter predators. Its dorsal surface generally exhibits a darker coloration. This darker dorsal colour helps the fish blend in more effectively with the dark, deep waters when viewed from above by predators. Conversely, the underside or ventral surface of the Tarpon fish is highly reflective and silver, giving it a much lighter appearance akin to the sunlit water's surface. This form of camouflage enables the Tarpon to assimilate with its surroundings—light like the water's surface when seen from below, and dark like the deep ocean when observed from above. Unfortunately for the Atlantic Tarpon, certain predators like Bull Sharks (Carcharhinus leucas), Great Hammerhead Sharks (Sphyrna mokarran), and various dolphin and porpoise species possess adept hunting skills against this large, silvery fish.


More 20 years ago, during a shallow dive in Bonaire, the sudden appearance of an Atlantic Tarpon just an arm's length away from me caused a jump scare. This initial encounter with an Atlantic Tarpon was an unforgettable memory. Encountering such a large fish resembling a huge sardine in such shallow water was wholly unexpected. After the dive, I was informed that these fish were quite common near Bonaire's coastline. The fish's size and appearance left me astounded; its shine reminded me of a highly polished stainless tube.

Filming highly reflective fish is not overly challenging, provided the animal isn't overexposed due to the use of underwater video lights. The Tarpon featured in this underwater videoclip was filmed in Saba, Netherlands Antilles. Filming near the water's surface is more challenging due to increased turbidity compared to filming at depth. Even on a nearly calm ocean, the movement of small surface waves affects stability in this part of the water column. Keeping this large individual within my viewfinder's centre proved to be more challenging than anticipated. Stabilising the Tarpon in this underwater videoclip was achieved using keyframes.

Filming location:

This short underwater videoclip has been filmed in Saba, Netherland Antilles 🇳🇱

More on this topic:

For a more in-depth description about iridescence (the highly reflective shine of certain fish species) please go to our vlog post 150 or click on this link:

Join us on a journey of discovery and entertainment as we explore fascinating marine wildlife topics and explore the many exciting underwater adventures on our YouTube channel and our Facebook page!

Dive into the world of underwater videography with our online Marine Wildlife Videography course!


bottom of page