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Smart grouper finds soft bed overlooking 6,000 foot abyss

Nassau groupers are exceptionally smart fish. They can grow to more than three feet in length and over 55 pounds. They are one of the top predators on the reef, afraid of only large sharks. This one lives in a marine park off Little Cayman Island, where the animals are protected. He doesn’t even need to fear humans. The islands have been formed by volcanic activity and pressure from the shifting of tectonic plates, creating extreme vertical walls on which the islands sit. The reef surrounding the island overlooks an abyss that is 6,000 feet deep. It’s a beautiful expanse of blue ocean with nothing below. It is also an occasional source of food as smaller fish exploring the wall will appear over the edge of the coral, emerging into the shallows. This clever grouper has found a very unusual resting place. He’s nestled into a soft coral, called a gorgonian, that sits within a few feet of the edge. At first, it appears that he’s found a soft bed and is ready for a little sleep. And while this may be at least partly true, he’s more likely waiting to ambush a meal as it swims past. The Nassau grouper is capable of changing the color of its skin from dark to light to blend in with its surroundings. This helps with camouflage from predators and also helps them hide while they wait for prey to come close. The olive and brown stripes on this one help it blend in perfectly with the feathery gorgonian coral. Groupers often hide under coral ledges, behind sea fans and even inside barrel sponges. They are curious and playful animals and seeing them on a dive is a delight for scuba divers. Seeing one tucked in among the soft coral was especially amusing for this group.

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