window spacer


Surgeon fishes are medium-sized tropical fishes and common, easily recognized inhabitants of Galapagos reefs. There are three species in the islands, the yellow-tailed (Prionurus laticlavius, see below), which is the commonest, the purple (Acanthurus xanthopterus) and the goldrimmed (A. nigricans). In some places they are very abundant, with schools comprising hundreds. They are called surgeon fish on account of sharp spines protruding just in front of the tail, which are a defense against predators. These are as sharp as a surgeon's scalpel and they can cut through skin. Surgeon fish eat algae and small organisms growing on reefs. They move en masse, overwhelming smaller, less numerous inhabitants such as damselfish that guard small gardens of algae.

Click below to see the photos and information on surgeon fish:

yellow-tailed surgeon fish


Photo of surgeon fish underwater

Click image to return to gallery

During tours to the Galapagos Islands, snorkelers would always ask how this fish got its name! Look closely just in front the tail and you can see three silvery spots—these are the 'scalpels', hence 'surgeonfish'. This picture was taken at the invertebrate wall just off Red Beach on Rabida Island.

Top of page

Learn about surgeon fish natural history

next photo

burr fish photo

burr fish

Back to Galapagos sealife

© Jungle Photos 2000-2014

window spacer