Hatching Jawfish!

Yellowhead Jawfish releases hatching eggs ©2012 Ned DeLoach

Yellowhead jawfish eggs hatching

Bonaire, 2009 – A jawfish releasing its eggs – we finally got the shot – and it only took fifteen years! We fell in love with jawfish back in 1995 when we were working on the Reef Fish Behavior book. In fact, the first magazine article that Ned and I wrote together for Ocean Realm magazine was about Yellowhead Jawfish, Opistognathus aurifrons (a scanned copy of the 1995 article is available here.)  We wrote an article about jawfishes in the Gulf of California for the January 2000 issue of Ocean Realm and another Yellowhead Jawfish article in the April 2007 Scuba Diving. Over the years, we captured images of courting jawfish, fighting jawfish and male jawfish churning a mouthfuls of eggs, but try as we did, we could never catch one in the act of releasing its hatching eggs. About ten years ago, we saw a photo of a Pacific species releasing its eggs and were told it happened just before sunrise.  We were told by someone else that it was the same for the Caribbean species. This led to many unsuccessful pre-dawn dives.

Yellowhead Jawfish churning eggs ©2012 Ned DeLoach

Yellowhead Jawfish churns its eggs to aerate them

During our September 2009 stay in Bonaire, Ned called our friend Ellen Muller to ask if she could offer any clues. “Thirty minutes after sunset,” was her reply. Ned chronicles his mission and explains how to get the shot in “Bonaire: A Naturalist’s Dream”, published in the Winter 2010 issue of Alert Diver, available here.

I was not with Ned the evening he got the shot – I was sitting in the traffic circle with friends, waiting for him to return from what was supposed to be a quick check on a jawfish, so we could make a night dive at the Salt Pier…. It took me three more weeks to get the video. We had to find jawfish with eggs, mark the holes, make a best guess on which would likely release eggs that night, fight off nosy Tarpons and foraging snake eels … I was obsessed and starting to get a little crazy when it finally all came together one night:

2 comments to Hatching Jawfish!

  • Bonnie Watson

    Hello
    I live here on Bonaire, I too, am a jawfish junky, I actually spent 52 minutes in one position when I found a jawfish with eggs, mostly the female came out of the adjacent hole to spit at me (I have a fair picture of that) but I did get the jawfish egg pic as well. I think the eggs occur mostly with new moon, and I have found that the same jawfish ( or at least a jawfish in the same hole) can produce multiple times. Also, as it gets closer to hatching the eggs seem to be aerated more often.I have not witnessed the release, but would love to.. does this occur at a certain time (such as evening, ) or is it random? Your video was amazing-thanks for sharing!

  • Greetings Bonnie!
    Thanks for sharing your observations. The jawfish we witnessed released their eggs just after sunset. They would not start if there was any light shining on or near them. Hope you have luck in seeing them!

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