Pilot fish

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Pilot Fish
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Carangidae
Genus: Naucrates
Rafinesque, 1810
Species: N. ductor
Binomial name
Naucrates ductor
(Linnaeus, 1758)

The pilot fish (Naucrates ductor) is a fish that lives in many places of the world. It lives in warm water. It is a carnivore (meaning that it eats other creatures).

Pilot fish usually gather around sharks (as well as rays and sea turtles). They eat parasites (very small creatures which feed off other animals) on their host, as well as small pieces of food that their host does not eat (leftovers). When pilot fish are young, they gather around jellyfish and drifting seaweeds.

Pilot fish follow sharks because other animals which might eat the pilot fish will not come near a shark. In return, sharks do not eat pilot fish because pilot fish eat the parasites which feed off sharks. This is called a "mutualist" relationship. Small pilot fish are often seen swimming into the mouth of a sharks to eat small pieces of food from the shark's teeth. Sailors even said that sharks and pilot fish act like close friends. When a ship would capture the shark the pilot fish followed, some people reported that the pilot fish would appear upset and follow the ship for up to six weeks.

They will follow ships in other circumstances, sometimes for very long distances; many pilot fish have been seen on the shores of England, which is a long way from where they usually live.

The pilot fish is of a dark blue to blackish-silver colour, and are slightly lighter in colour underneath. They have between 5 and 7 dark stripes going from top to bottom. When the fish is excited, these stripes disappear, and three large blue patches appear on its back. The pilot fish is usually about 30 cm long, but sometimes they can be as big as 70cm.

The pilot fish will not hurt people, and they are said to be good to eat. They are very difficult to catch, though.

Pilot fish gather around many different kinds of sharks, but they prefer the "Oceanic Whitetip".

There are many explanations for the name "pilot fish". It could be because sailors people believed that pilot fish were leading (piloting) them back to port, or even leading swimmers and whales to safety. It could also be because people used to think pilot fish would lead sharks to food (but they do not really do this).

References[change | change source]

  • "ITIS Standard Report Page: Naucrates ductor". ITIS. http://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=168742. Retrieved 2007-09-26.
  • "The Sargasso Sea". The Geographical Journal 66 (5): 440. November 1925.
  • "The Deep-Sea Fishes Collected by the Talisman". Science 23 (68): 624. May 23, 1884.
  • Orr, William Somerville (1865). Orr's Circle of the Sciences: A Series of Treatises on the Principles of Science, with their Application to Practical Pursuits, Volume III. Houlston & Stoneman. pp. p. 50-51..
  • Randall, John; Allen, Gerald; Steen, Roger (1997). Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. University of Hawaii Press. pp. p. 164. ISBN 0824818954.
  • Andrews, Roy Chapman (1940). This Amazing Planet. G.P. Putnam's Sons. pp. p. 88.
  • Webster, Stephen (2003). Thinking about Biology. Cambridge University Press. pp. p. 24. ISBN 0521590590.
  • Eschmeyer, William N.; Herald, Earl Stannard (1999). A Field Guide to Pacific Coast Fishes. Houghton Mifflin Books. pp. pp. 208-209. ISBN 0395268737.
  • Stedman, John Gabriel (1813). Narrative of a Five Years' Expedition against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam in Guiana on the Wild Coast of South America from the Years 1772-1777. pp. p. 400.
  • Goldsmith, Oliver (1810). A History of the Earth and Animated Nature, Volume II. pp. p. 159.
  • McEachran, John D.; Fechhelm, Janice D. (1998). Fishes of the Gulf of Mexico: Myxiniformes to Gasterosteiformes. University of Texas Press. pp. p. 287. ISBN 0292706340.
  • Couch, Jonathan (1863). A History of the Fishes of the British Islands, Volume II. Groombridge & Sons. pp. p. 109-111.
  • Schomburgk, Robert Hermann (1848). History of Barbados: Comprising a Geographical and Statistical Description of the Island. pp. p. 669.
  • Murray, Hugh; Wilson, James; Greville, R. K.; Jameson, Robert; Ainslie, Whitelaw; Rhind, William; Wallace, Prof.; Dalrymble, Clarence (1832). Historical and Descriptive Account of British India, from the Most Remote Period to the Present Time, Volume III. J. & J. Harper. pp. p. 337.
  • Thompson, William (1856). The Natural History of Ireland. Reeve, Benham and Reeve. pp. p. 95.
  • Jennings, Gerald (1997). The Sea and Freshwater Fishes of Australia and New Guinea. Calypso Publications. pp. p. 163. ISBN 0906301629.
  • Yarrell, William (1841). A History of British Fishes (2nd. ed. ed.). John van Voorst. pp. p. 170, 172. "The pilot-fish has been so often seen, and occasionally taken on our southern coast, as to be entitled to a place among British Fishes[.]"
  • Patterson, Robert (1849). First Steps to Zoology. Simms and McIntyre. pp. p. 149. "[The pilot fish is] supposed by the ancients to have pointed out to navigators their desired course, and borne them company during their voyage."
  • "Pilot Fish". The London Encyclopædia, or, Universal Dictionary of Science, Art, Literature, and Practical Mechanics XVII. (1839). 
  • Stafford-Deitsch, Jeremy (2000). Sharks of Florida, the Bahamas, the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. Trident Press. pp. p. 32. ISBN 1900724456.
  • Gudger, E. W. (March 1929). "Some Instances of Supposed Sympathy Among Fishes". The Scientific Monthly 28 (3): 267.
  • "Naucrates ductor, Pilotfish". FishBase. http://www.fishbase.org/Summary/SpeciesSummary.php?id=998. Retrieved 2007-09-26.
  • NOAA Library Image: http://www.photolib.noaa.gov/historic/nmfs/figb0368.htm

Other websites[change | change source]