The amazing Tile Fish Piles
By Simon Morley
One of my main jobs this year is to finish the assessment of the animals that live within the tile fish piles. There is a fish at Ascension, called the sand tile fish that builds mounds out of rubble and lumps of calcified algae. They live off the end of the larva flows on fairly flat gravel bottoms. So, to attract their females, the males pile up the pebbles and cobbles to form a mound. This mound has a tunnel underneath which acts as a nest hole for fish that successfully attract a female. On a flat fairly featureless seabed the piles are an oasis of living space for many small marine invertebrates and therefore provide an important boost to the local diversity. We are investigating what lives in these piles and finding some really neat crabs, shrimps and even a few sea slugs that we rarely see elsewhere.