You Pick …

The Caribbean, St. Eustatius, N.A.

Two grunts (fish) appear to be kissing as they compete for dominance by comparing the sizes of their mouths
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Nancy loves this photo. She calls it “the kissing fish.” But really, a lot of different captions could work: “Kissing,” “Hi honey, I’m home!”, “Who, me?”, “Yak yak yak”, “Sez you!” … almost anything, really. What would you pick?

This was the first time I’d ever seen this behavior and it really surprised me. I was diving with a group of friends at the “STENAPA Reef” dive site on Saint Eustatius in the Netherlands Antilles (“Statia” to locals and regulars). As we passed the end of a sunken barge (one of three wrecks on this site), I was watching a highway of all kinds of fish steadily streaming around the end of the wreck. I was hoping for a good shot of a pufferfish that is often here. Suddenly, in the middle of the flow these two grunts (I think) stopped, squared off, and opened their mouths wide at one another. The fish-stream just parted and went around their little contest. The incident was over in a second and everybody seemed to quickly return to what they were doing (swimming, blowing bubbles, startling divers, darting in front of cameras, hovering in views, suddenly sprinting away in random directions, or whatever). To tell the truth, I slightly missed the peak moment in this contest: I brought the camera around as soon as I noticed but was slightly too late to capture the full glory. In this shot the fish are already putting away their tackle and getting ready to go … well, wherever it is that these fish go when not comparing mouth-parts. I learned much later that what is actually happening here is that in some common Caribbean fish species, the males do not actually fight for dominance. Instead, they compare mouth sizes. Presumably, whichever one has the bigger mouth gets to be dominant. Like politicians.

So, how would you caption this photo?

(Olympus C-5060 wide-zoom in Ikelite case, TTL exposure with one Ikelite SB-125 strobe, integrated lens at 7.3mm, ISO 100, f/2.8 at 1/30 sec. exposure.)