Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

Atlantic Needlefish, STRONGYLURA MARINA, immature

from the October 16, 2011 Newsletter issued from Mayan Beach Garden Inn 20 kms north of Mahahual, Quintana Roo, México

Along the beach beside Turtlegrass shallows with calm water, often less than ten feet out very slender, pale, foot-long fish with long, needlelike snouts swim alongside me as I walk. They accompany me too often for it to be coincidental; I'm convinced that they're curious about me, or at least somehow think it's a good idea to tag along next to me. Maybe, like Cattle Egrets hanging around livestock that stir up insects as they walk, these fish hope to catch smaller fish my passage scares into deeper water.

I'm figuring that these super-slender fish are Atlantic Needlefish, STRONGYLURA MARINA. Several needlefish species exist, but they mostly keep to deeper water near the reefs, plus, pictures of them on the Internet show slightly different fin shapes and dispositions. Atlantic Needlefish are fairly common in Western Atlantic coastal waters from Maine to southern Brazil, and that includes the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean. A fish holding something dark in his mouth is shown above.

Apparently the foot-long individuals who swim beside me are small, immature ones, for adults can reach at least 44 inches (111cm). I read that the diet of juveniles is heavy on small crustaceans and other non- fish animals, but adults are exclusively fish-eaters. In turn, Atlantic Needlefish are eaten by fish larger than themselves, plus, since they are surface swimmers, certain birds prey on them.