Expedition blogs and news from the Shallow Marine Surveys Group

Ascension Island fish record

During the 3 week survey of Ascension, the Shallow Marine Surveys Group took thousands of images of the marine life around the island. This page represents a photographic record of Ascension Island fish species seen by team members. The images in this post are being added to as the back-catalogue is processed and, when finished, should provide a useful and accurate guide to almost any species of fish life a skin-diver or scuba diver may see during a visit to Ascension Island.


Acanthuridae (surgeonfishes, tangs, and unicornfishes)

[caption id="attachment_1011" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Acanthurus bahianus (ocean surgeonfish) Acanthurus bahianus (ocean surgeonfish)

[caption id="attachment_1012" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Acanthurus bahianus (ocean surgeonfish) Acanthurus bahianus (ocean surgeonfish)

[caption id="attachment_1013" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Acanthurus coeruleus (blue tang) Acanthurus coeruleus (blue tang) - juvenile

[caption id="attachment_1014" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Acanthurus coeruleus (blue tang) Acanthurus coeruleus (blue tang)


Apogonidae (cardinalfishes)

[caption id="attachment_802" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Apogon axillaris (axillary spot cardinalfish)-1621 Apogon axillaris (axillary spot cardinalfish)

[caption id="attachment_801" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Apogon axillaris (axillary spot cardinalfish)-0243 Apogon axillaris (axillary spot cardinalfish)

[caption id="attachment_803" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Apogon pseudomaculatus (twospot cardinalfish)-9074 Apogon pseudomaculatus (twospot cardinalfish) - Image: Peter Wirtz

Aulostomidae (trumpet fish)

[caption id="attachment_804" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Aulostomus strigosus (Atlantic trumpetfish)-1159 Aulostomus strigosus (Atlantic trumpetfish)

[caption id="attachment_805" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Aulostomus strigosus (Atlantic trumpetfish) Aulostomus strigosus (Atlantic trumpetfish) - Image: Peter Wirtz

Balistidae (triggerfish)

[caption id="attachment_1037" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Melichthys niger (black triggerfish) Melichthys niger (black triggerfish)

[caption id="attachment_1038" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Melichthys niger (black triggerfish) Melichthys niger (black triggerfish)

[caption id="attachment_1039" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Balistes vetula (queen triggerfish) Balistes vetula (queen triggerfish)

[caption id="attachment_1040" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Canthidermis maculata (ocean triggerfish) Canthidermis maculata (ocean triggerfish)

Belonidae (needlefish)

[caption id="attachment_806" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Platybelone trachura (needlefish) Platybelone trachura (needlefish)

Bothidae (flounder)

[caption id="attachment_1019" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Bothus lunatus (peacock flounder) Bothus lunatus (peacock flounder)

[caption id="attachment_1020" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Bothus mellissi (St Helena flounder) Bothus mellissi (St Helena flounder)

Chaetodontidae (butterfly fish)

[caption id="attachment_840" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Chaetodon sanctaehelenae (St Helena butterflyfish)-1565 Chaetodon sanctaehelenae (St Helena butterflyfish)

[caption id="attachment_841" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Prognathodes dichrous (hedgehog butterflyfish)-2332 Prognathodes dichrous (hedgehog butterflyfish)

Cirrhitidae (hawkfish)

[caption id="attachment_843" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Amblycirrhitus earnshawi (white hawkfish)-1574 Amblycirrhitus earnshawi (white hawkfish)

[caption id="attachment_844" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Amblycirrhitus earnshawi (white hawkfish)-2590 Amblycirrhitus earnshawi (white hawkfish)

Diodontidae (porcupine fish)

[caption id="attachment_1016" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Diodon holocanthus (porcupine pufferfish) Diodon holocanthus (porcupine pufferfish)

[caption id="attachment_1017" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Diodon hystrix (spotted porcupinefish) Diodon hystrix (spotted porcupinefish)

Gobiidae (gobies)

[caption id="attachment_864" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Gnatholepis thompsoni (Thompsons goby)-1233 Gnatholepis thompsoni (Thompsons goby)

[caption id="attachment_1033" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Priolepis ascensionis (Ascension goby) Priolepis ascensionis (Ascension goby)


Holocentridae (soldierfish,squirrelfish)

[caption id="attachment_807" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Holocentrus adscensionis (squirrelfish)-1135 Holocentrus adscensionis (squirrelfish)

[caption id="attachment_808" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Holocentrus adscensionis (squirrelfish)-1000715 Holocentrus adscensionis (squirrelfish) - may be found in large schools.

[caption id="attachment_810" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Myripristis jacobus (blackbar soldierfish)-2275 Myripristis jacobus (blackbar soldierfish)

[caption id="attachment_809" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Myripristis jacobus (blackbar soldierfish)-1405 Myripristis jacobus (blackbar soldierfish)

Kyphosidae (sea chub)

[caption id="attachment_838" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Kyphosus sectatrix (sea chub)-2544 Kyphosus sectatrix (sea chub)

Labridae (wrasse)

[caption id="attachment_790" align="aligncenter" width="584"]20120827-DSC_1406 Thallasoma ascensionis (Ascension wrasse)

[caption id="attachment_792" align="aligncenter" width="584"]20120831-DSC_2123 Thallasoma ascensionis (Ascension wrasse) - juvenile

[caption id="attachment_1022" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Thalassoma ascensionis (Ascension wrasse) Thallasoma ascensionis (Ascension wrasse)

[caption id="attachment_1023" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Bodianus insularis (island hogfish) Bodianus insularis (island hogfish)

[caption id="attachment_785" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Bodianus insularis Bodianus insularis (island hogfish)

[caption id="attachment_1027" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Xyrichtys blanchardi (Blanchard's cleaver wrasse) Xyrichtys blanchardi (Blanchard's cleaver wrasse)

[caption id="attachment_1028" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Xyrichtys blanchardi (Blanchar's cleaver wrasse) Xyrichtys blanchardi (Blanchard's cleaver wrasse)

[caption id="attachment_1029" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Thalassoma sanctaehelenae (yellow razorfish) Thalassoma sanctaehelenae (yellow razorfish)

[caption id="attachment_789" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Xyrichtys novacula (marmalade razorfish) Xyrichtys novacula (marmalade razorfish)

Malacanthidae (tilefish)

[caption id="attachment_1031" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Malacanthus plumieri (sand tilefish) Malacanthus plumieri (sand tilefish)

Monacanthidae (filefish)

[caption id="attachment_846" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Aluterus scriptus (scrawled filefish)-1523 Aluterus scriptus (scrawled filefish)

[caption id="attachment_847" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Aluterus scriptus (scrawled filefish)-1010203 Aluterus scriptus (scrawled filefish)

[caption id="attachment_848" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Cantherhines macrocerus (whitespotted filefish)-5473 Cantherhines macrocerus (whitespotted filefish)

Mugilidae (mullet)

[caption id="attachment_813" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Mugil curvidens (dwarf mullet)-1010157 Mugil curvidens (dwarf mullet)

[caption id="attachment_812" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Mugil curvidens (dwarf mullet)-4999 Mugil curvidens (dwarf mullet)

Mullidae (goatfish)

[caption id="attachment_1007" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Mulloidichthys martinucus (yellow goatfish) Mulloidichthys martinucus (yellow goatfish)

[caption id="attachment_1008" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Mulloidichthys martinucus (yellow goatfish)-1550 Mulloidichthys martinucus (yellow goatfish)

[caption id="attachment_1009" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Mulloidichthys martinucus (yellow goatfish)-2629 Mulloidichthys martinucus (yellow goatfish)

Muraenidae (morays)

Ascension moray gallery here

Ophichthidae (snake eels)

[caption id="attachment_814" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Quassiremus ascensionis (black spotted snake eel)-0920 Quassiremus ascensionis (black spotted snake eel)

Pomacanthidae (angelfish)

[caption id="attachment_850" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Pomacanthus paru (french angelfish)-2392 Pomacanthus paru (french angelfish)

[caption id="attachment_531" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Pomacanthus paru (french angelfish Pomacanthus paru (french angelfish)

Ostraciidae (cowfish)

[caption id="attachment_859" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Acanthostracion notacanthus- (island cowfish)-1630 Acanthostracion notacanthus (island cowfish)

[caption id="attachment_860" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Acanthostracion notacanthus- (island cowfish)-1914 Acanthostracion notacanthus (island cowfish)

Pomacentridae (damselfish)

[caption id="attachment_855" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Abudefduf saxatilis (sergeant major)-1092 Abudefduf saxatilis (sergeant major)

[caption id="attachment_856" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Chromis multilineata (Apollo damselfish)-1816 Chromis multilineata (Apollo damselfish)

[caption id="attachment_857" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Stegastes lubbocki (Lubbocks damselfish)-2073 Stegastes lubbocki (Lubbocks damselfish)

Priacanthidae (bigeyes)

[caption id="attachment_815" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Heteropriacanthus cruentatus (glasseye)-1127 Heteropriacanthus cruentatus (glasseye)

Scorpaenidae (scorpionfish)

[caption id="attachment_818" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Scorpaenodes insularis (red scorpionfish)-1666 Scorpaenodes insularis (red scorpionfish)

[caption id="attachment_817" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Scorpaena plumieri (spotted scorpionfish)-9556 Scorpaena plumieri (spotted scorpionfish)

[caption id="attachment_816" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Scorpaena plumieri (spotted scorpionfish)-2637 Scorpaena plumieri (spotted scorpionfish)

Serranidae (groupers)

[caption id="attachment_825" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Rypticus saponaceus (greater soapfish)-8594 Rypticus saponaceus (greater soapfish) - Image: Peter Wirtz

[caption id="attachment_824" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Rypticus saponaceus (greater soapfish)-2236 Rypticus saponaceus (greater soapfish)

[caption id="attachment_823" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Paranthias furcifer (creolefish)-9147 Paranthias furcifer (creolefish) - Image: Peter Wirtz

[caption id="attachment_822" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Paranthias furcifer (creolefish)-2646 Paranthias furcifer (creolefish)

[caption id="attachment_821" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Paranthias furcifer (creolefish)-0172 Paranthias furcifer (creolefish)

[caption id="attachment_820" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Epinephelus adscensionis (rock hind)-1116 Epinephelus adscensionis (rock hind)

[caption id="attachment_819" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Epinephelus adscensionis (rock hind)-1004 Epinephelus adscensionis (rock hind) - juvenile

Synodontidae (lizardfish)

[caption id="attachment_827" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Synodus synodus (diamond lizardfish)-2588 Synodus synodus (diamond lizardfish)

[caption id="attachment_826" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Synodus synodus (diamond lizardfish)-0877 Synodus synodus (diamond lizardfish)

Tetraodontidae (pufferfish)

[caption id="attachment_862" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Canthigaster sanctaehelenae (St Helena pufferfish)-0816 Canthigaster sanctaehelenae (St Helena pufferfish)

To be added:

Carangidae (jacks)

Lutjanidae (snappers)

Tripterygiidae (triple fin blennies)

Blenniidae (blennies)

Callionymidae (dragonet)

Sphyraenidae (barracuda)

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Ascension Fireworms

Amphinomid polychaetes are commonly known as fireworms due to the burning sensation once their chaetae (fine 'hairs') break after penetrating our skin; however specimens belonging to only a few genera produces the stinging sensation. They are brightly coloured and can reach quite a large size, up to 50 cm long. Fireworms thrive in intertidal zones and can be abundant in coral reefs or rocky areas, although there are some deep-water genera.

During the dive surveys of Ascension Island the SMSG team found two species of fireworms which have now been identified by Beatriz Yáñez Rivera, of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, as  Hermodice carunculata and Eurythoe complanata.

Hermodice carunculata

The first fireworm recorded from Ascension Island was collected in the middle 1800s. This fireworm is Hermodice carunculata, however at the time it was considered to be another species due to great morphological variation. Now, genetic evaluation indicates that Hermodice carunculata have a broad distribution across the Atlantic Ocean. This species shows ecological adaptations according to habitat conditions and different colouration with low genetic divergence. The population from Ascension Island could be playing an important role in the connectivity between both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

[caption id="attachment_760" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Hermodice carunculata Hermodice carunculata

Eurythoe complanata

The discovery of Eurythoe complanata represents the first record from Ascension Island. This species has been reported in mainland and some islands of the Atlantic Ocean. These fireworms are common in shallow waters mainly in rocky shores, and they reproduce sexually and asexually. Sexual reproduction involves a rostraria larvae, which has been hypothesized to enable the long-distance dispersal of this species of fireworm.

[caption id="attachment_754" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Eurythoe complanata Eurythoe complanata

- Text by Beatriz Yáñez Rivera

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Survival against the odds by a small, isolated population of Ascension corals

The brooding reef coral Favia gravida (Verrill 1868) is found on the mid-Atlantic volcanic islands of Ascension and St. Helena, about 1,300 km apart.

First recorded in 1881 in small tidal rock pools, Professor Wirtz revisited the original site at Shelly Beach, Ascension Island, during the recent SMSG expedition.

[caption id="attachment_742" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Peter Wirtz collecting samples from the Shelly Beach rockpools. Peter Wirtz collecting samples from the Shelly Beach rock pools.

Although a large number of dead corals were found in the pools, the small population has somehow persisted to the present day. In a new publication, authors Bert Hoeksema and Peter Wirtz suggest that the remarkable survival of Ascension’s small population for at least 130 years has been made possible through inbreeding and fragmentation, suiting it for life on the bottom of these unique shallow rock pools. The full article can be found and downloaded here.

[caption id="attachment_741" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Live corals photographed in situ Live corals photographed in situ

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Morays of Ascension

One of the most common sights for any diver at Ascension Island is the moray eel. It seems that almost every suitable crack, crevasse, fissure, or small cave is inhabited by one or more of these sometimes rather large animals. While generally harmless if undisturbed, it pays to check before kneeling or grasping any handholds as a needle-toothed moray is never very far away!

This gallery presents all the species recorded by our cameras during the 2012 survey.

[gallery orderby="title"]
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