Fish

Fish are aquatic vertebrates that breathe by filtering oxygen from the water through gills.

Animals such as shellfish and crayfish, although sometimes termed fish, are not true fish as they do not have a backbone. Whereas whales and dolphins which do have a backbone are mammals, breathing through lungs and suckling their young.

There are several different groups of fish: jawless fish, bony fish, cartilaginous fish such as sharks & rays and the most common group known as teleosts. Fish have adapted to living in every possible niche in the marine environment, from the open ocean to the rockpool, from the surface waters to the abyss. In this section you will find a small selection of the huge variety of species that can be encountered on the rocky shores and shallow seas around Lundy.

Ballan Wrasse - Labrus bergylta

This is the largest of the wrasses found in British waters. They can reach up to 60 cm in length and live to be several years old. These pretty fish have a variety of colours, usually green, but also an orange-tan and sometimes a grey-blue. They are very curious fish and will often ‘watch’ and follow divers. This curiosity is probably due to the fish snapping up small startled prey that may be disturbed by divers as they ‘fin’ around. The Ballan wrasse is most often found in the kelp forests where it hunts for crabs and prawns. Like all wrasses they are territorial with a dominant male and a group of females. Wrasses have the peculiar habit of laying their eggs in nests which both the male and female help to build. Ballan wrasse nests are usually constructed from seaweeds which are torn from the rocks and packed loosely into a crack or crevice in the seabed. The eggs are scattered throughout the mass, especially near the centre. The male is very attentive whilst the young larvae are present in the nest and will chase away other large animals such as other fish and even divers.

 

Basking Shark - Cetorhinus maximus

The basking shark is a gentle giant of the sea, and is the second largest fish in our oceans. They can grow up to a staggering 10m in length and weigh as much as 5-7 tonnes. They get their name from apparently ‘basking’ at the surface of the water. In fact, they swim very slowly feeding on microscopic animals and plants called plankton. They are most likely to be seen around Lundy in July & August. Females can live for up to 60 years and give birth to live young (pups) which are 1.5-2m long! The gestation period is believed to be up to one year in length for the female. The basking shark now has a fully protected status in British waters and is included on international endangered species lists.

 

Cuckoo Wrasse - Labrus mixtus

These fish live in deeper water than ballan wrasse, usually from 10 metres downwards to 30 m below sea level. They are commonly found amongst sea fans and branching sponges. The males and females are very different in colouring. The female is bright orange with black and white stripes above the tail. The males are bright blue with long patches of orange and yellow along the body. Wrasses are highly territorial fish with a single male courting several females. When the male dies the dominant female changes sex and becomes the next male! As the female changes sex she also changes colour and patterning to that of the male.

 

Pollack - Pollachius pollachius

This fish belongs to the same family as cod. It is very similar in appearance but lacks the barbel (whisker) on the chin. These sleek green-silver fish can be encountered around all of the coasts of Lundy, usually within the kelp forests. Most are 30-70 cm long, but on the west side some very old and large specimens can still be found, with some fish being recorded as up to 1.5 m in length! These fish form loose shoals when younger and can be observed darting out of the kelp to snap up tiny animals (plankton) in the water column.

 

Red Band-Fish - Cepola macrophthalma

These mysterious ribbon-shaped fish are most often found in deep water such as Scottish sealochs. At Lundy they occur in much shallower water (about 30 m below sea level) in a tiny area of sandy seabed around the Knoll Pins. Marine biologists are not sure why this population exists at Lundy. Because the water is so shallow the fish are best spotted when diving at night-time. Red-band fish’s almost eel-like body is a very bright orange-red body colour with the long fins running along the top and bottom of the body an almost neon blue in colour. These funny looking fish actually dig deep burrows in the sandy seabed. They spend most of the day hiding inside their burrows but can sometimes be found with their heads poking out, snapping at small prey in the water.

 

Sunfish - Mola mola

Sunfish are the largest bony fish and can grow to just over 3 metres long and 4 metres tall, and can weigh over 2 tonnes. Although it is very rare to see them so large in UK waters, smaller individuals can be seen at Lundy throughout the summer. They can appear to be clumsy swimmers with their dorsal fin flopping side to side above the water.