Moorish idol

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Moorish idol
Zanclus cornutus in Kona.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Zanclidae
Genus: Zanclus
Cuvier in Cuvier and Valenciennes, 1831
Species: Z. cornutus
Binomial name
Zanclus cornutus
(Linnaeus, 1758)

The Moorish idol, Zanclus cornutus ("crowned scythe"), is a marine fish species, the sole extant representative of the family Zanclidae (from the Greek ζαγκίος, zagkios, "oblique") in order Perciformes. A common inhabitant of tropical to subtropical reefs and lagoons, the Moorish idol is notable for its wide distribution throughout the Indo-Pacific. A number of butterflyfishes (genus Heniochus) closely resemble the Moorish idol. It is closely related to, if not a direct descendant of, the extinct Eozanclus brevirhostris, from the Middle Eocene of Monte Bolca.

The Moorish idol got its name from the Moors of Africa, who purportedly believed the fish to be a bringer of happiness. Moorish idols are also popular aquarium fish, but despite their popularity, they are notorious for short aquarium lifespans and sensitivity.[citation needed]

Physical description[edit]

ZanclusCornutus.png

With distinctively compressed and disk-like bodies, Moorish idols stand out in contrasting bands of black, white, and yellow, which makes them attractive to aquarium keepers. The fish have relatively small fins, except for the dorsal fin, whose six or seven spines are dramatically elongated to form a trailing, sickle-shaped crest called the philomantis extension. Moorish idols have small terminal mouths at the end of long, tubular snouts; many long bristle-like teeth line the mouth. The Moorish idol differs from butterflyfish in having a prominent black, triangular anal fin.

The eyes are set high on the fish's deeply keeled body; in adults, perceptible bumps are located above each. The anal fin may have two or three spines. Moorish idols reach a maximum length of 23 cm (9.1 in). The sickle-like dorsal spines shorten with age.[citation needed]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Generally denizens of shallow waters, Moorish idols prefer flat reefs. The fish may be found at depths from 3 to 180 m (9.8 to 590.6 ft), in both murky and clear conditions.[citation needed] Their range includes East Africa, the Indian Ocean and the Ducie Islands; Hawaii, southern Japan, and all of Micronesia; they are also found from the southern Gulf of California south to Peru.

Feeding[edit]

Sponges, coral polyps, tunicates, and other benthic invertebrates constitute the bulk of the Moorish idol's diet.[citation needed]

Behavior[edit]

Often seen alone, Moorish idols also form pairs or occasionally small schools, especially as juveniles. They are diurnal fish, sticking to the bottom of the reef at night, adopting a drab coloration. Like butterfly fish, they mate for life. Adult males display aggression toward one another.

Reproduction[edit]

Moorish idols are pelagic spawners; that is, they release eggs and sperm in the water column, leaving fertilized eggs to drift away with the currents. The range of these fish may be explained by the unusually long larval stage.[citation needed] The fish reach a length of 7.5 cm (3.0 in) before becoming free-swimming juveniles. Captive

In the aquarium[edit]

A comparison of the three remarkably similar fish: the Moorish idol (left), schooling bannerfish (top), and pennant coralfish(bottom)

Moorish idols are notoriously difficult to maintain in captivity. They require large tanks, often exceeding 100 US gal (380 l; 83 imp gal),[1] are voracious eaters, and can become destructive.[1]

Some aquarists prefer to keep substitute species that look very similar to the Moorish idol. These substitutes are all butterflyfishes of the genus Heniochus, and include the pennant coralfish, H. acuminatus; threeband pennantfish, H. chrysostomus; and the false Moorish idol, H. diphreutes.[citation needed]

Moorish idols typically are very picky eaters. They will either eat nothing (common) and perish or eat everything (uncommon).[citation needed]

Timeline[edit]

Synonyms[edit]

  • Zanclus cornutus (Linnaeus, 1758) accepted senior, new combination[2]
  • Chaetodon cornutus Linnaeus, 1758 synonym, original[2]" />
  • Chaetodon canescens Linnaeus, 1758 junior synonym, original[2]
  • Zanclus canescens (Linnaeus, 1758) junior synonym, new combination[2]

Cultural references[edit]

  • In the 2003 Pixar film Finding Nemo, a Moorish idol named Gill (voiced by Willem Dafoe) was one of Nemo's tank inhabitants. Gill was depicted having a very strong desire for freedom outside of the aquarium and was constantly scheming to achieve this, possibly referencing real-life Moorish idols' difficulties keeping in captivity. He will also appear in the sequel, Finding Dory.[3]
  • Moorish idols have long been among the most iconic of coral reef fauna. They have graced all types of products, such as shower curtains, blankets, towels, and wallpaper made with an ocean or underwater theme.[citation needed]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b http://saltaquarium.about.com/od/tangsurgeonfishprofiles/p/p_moorishidol.htm
  2. ^ a b c d Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2014). "Zanclus cornutus" in FishBase. November 2014 version.
  3. ^ "Willem Dafoe Returns For ‘Finding Dory’: ‘It’s Even Better Than The First’". The Inquisitr. October 6, 2013. Retrieved October 6, 2013. 

External links[edit]