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34. Juvenile Lyretail Hawkfish (Cyprinocirrhites polyactis)


Juvenile Lyretail Hawkfish (Cyprinocirrhites polyactis) fight the current as they swim, picking out bits of zooplankton. Lyretail Hawkfish, also known as Swallowtail Hawkfish, are quite distinct from other hawkfish species (Cirrhitidae). They are the only species within the Hawkfish family that venture into open water to catch their food, which consists of copepods and small crustaceans.

All other hawkfish are demersal feeders, living and feeding on or near the bottom and are lie-in-wait predators, targeting small fish and crustaceans.

Just like all other hawkfish species, these juveniles lack a swim bladder. Consequently, most Hawkfish prefer to rest on objects such as coral branches, rocks, and sponges. The absence of a swim bladder makes it challenging for them to swim against the current, often resulting in an inability to maintain neutral buoyancy. Additionally, it requires significant effort for these fish to control their height, depth, and speed within the water column. Since these hawkfish rely on the current to capture their food, they are commonly found on steep slopes and small coral heads exposed to the current in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

They are found from the warm waters of the East African shores to the colder reefs of New Zealand.

The beautiful, brightly coloured juveniles lose their blueish-pink colouration upon reaching adulthood. Adults display a more orange, salmon, or peach coloration, often with yellowish tail base and red to brownish blotches. Like many fish species, they undergo significant colour transformations from their juvenile to adult stages.

These small fish typically grow to a size of around 15cm/6inch and live in small groups. These aggregations frequently settle on by current exposed rocks covered with soft corals or sponges.

It is believed that Lyretail Hawkfish are protogynous hermaphrodites, starting their lives as females and later transitioning to males. Therefore, it can be assumed that the juveniles captured in this underwater video footage are likely female.

Similar to all species of hawkfish, they have cirri (slender or hairlike filaments) attached to the tips of their dorsal fin spines. Lyretail Hawkfish stand out from their relatives due to their lunate caudal fin (tail) with elongated lobes resembling a lyre or swallow's tail.

Due to their resemblance to many anthias species (Anthiinae) in terms of size and colouration, they are often overlooked by scuba divers, underwater photographers, and videographers.


Filming these juveniles proved to be quite a challenge. Given their size of only about 4cm/1.6 inches and their constant changes in height and speed, it was nearly impossible to keep a single individual perfectly centred in my viewfinder. I spent more than 20 minutes attempting to capture good footage of these beautifully coloured juveniles.

In general, it is advisable to position oneself at a right angle to the current when filming fish facing that particular direction. A perpendicular shot, as shown in this video clip, allows for the capture of more details. However, positioning oneself at a 45° angle would provide better depth perception. Unfortunately, it was impossible to obtain footage of these juveniles from that angle as with each attempt they darted away toward the safety of their soft coral bush, which they called home.

Thanks to the use of keyframes while editing the recorded footage I was able to keep the fish in the middle of the image.

Filming location:

This short underwater videoclip has been filmed in Mauritius 🇲🇺

More on this topic:

For another in-depth description about hawkfish please go to our vlog post 163 or click on this link: https://www.beyondscuba.com/post/pixy-hawkfish-cirrhitichtchys-oxycephalus

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