In a one-off exclusive, with the kind permission of National Geographic and wildlife photographer Paul Nicklen, Environmental Graffiti present incredible images of the majestic sailfish.
All images: Paul Nicklen ©2008 National Geographic
Photographed fifty miles northeast of Isla Mujeres in the Gulf of Mexico, the sailfish prowl for sardines; a favorite morsel of theirs. Slicing through the blue open ocean, the sailfish work together to capture their next meal.
Silvery-blue finned fencers swirl and eddy in ever-decreasing circles, packing their terrified prey into a bait ball, fresh for the killing. The sailfish, using superbly-organised tactics normally reserved for undercover commandos, carry out their planned approach with unbelievable speed and uncanny precision, communicating in a way only they know.
The agitated mass of sardines twist and turn as one in an attempt to escape their tormentors. Only the very clever – or the previously bullied – know to seek protection in the center of the mass, increasing their chances of survival, or prolonging the inevitable.
Jennifer S Holland, of National Geographic, writes:
“An iridescent flash along the body, often in silvery blue stripes, adds to the effect. Darkly pigmented cells called melanophores are “like venetian blinds,” says neurobiologist Kerstin Fritsches of the University of Queensland, in Australia. Ordinarily the animal appears dull, but “during stress or excitement, the cells contract their pigment to expose gorgeous metallic colors in the skin below.”
Color bursts may serve not only to unsettle prey but also to warn other sailfish to stay back, helping avoid collisions.”Given their pointy noses and swimming speed, this would be important,” Fritsches says.
“The hunt seems almost mammalian. Sailfish – which often travel in loose groups – clearly join forces. Males and females alike circle the prey, pushing the school into tighter formation, and taking a few bites in turn. Each forward rush is punctuated by a startling flare of the dorsal fin, which more than doubles the hunter’s profile.”
- Special thanks to Paul Nicklen, whose amazing images allow us to experience an underwater world we so rarely visit.
We’ll even throw in a free album.