“Daddy why are the fish so many colors?”
On land vivid colors might say “I’m dangerous or bad-tasting” — but most brightly colored reef fish are actually pretty tasty to humans. Bright colors might help fish attract mates, but most fish, male to female, are equally colorful. Bright colors might help to camouflage and/or identify fish in the multi hued environment of the coral reefs. Different patterns limit inter-species aggression since fish usually don’t fight with their relatives.
These and other less well known theories are being studied and researched, and as such are still just scientific conjecture. But you also need to know, that fish don’t see as we do and recognize different colors that humans don’t. In fact research has shown that this ability to perceive colors even differs between fish species. Most big predator fish are color blind and can’t pick up on small movements, since they don’t care what color their prey is and don’t “eat small.” Nocturnal fish react to a different spectrum then diurnal, and it is also fascinating that fish see UV colors we can’t, so what we perceive is not what they focus on. In fact some San Blas species can emit UV signals like ocean fireflies that can turn a school of fish on a doubloon in reaction to an incoming predator. Numerous San Blas fish also have UV markings that are beyond human perception, and so is it all an illusion?
Furthermore the clarity of the fish’s environment waters has had a huge evolutionary influence. As a result, the fish in the Pacific and Atlantic are darker than their cousins in the clearer San Blas. Dark matches dark, bright matches bright. The fish and the waters of the Pacific and Atlantic are muddier and darker. There you won’t see the bright reds, oranges, yellow and blues displayed by San Blas fish. Instead your catch is markedly brown, white and black. These fish also display simpler designs lacking the intricate dots, swirls, lines and shapes of San Blas fish. So why don’t you and the kids chose some colors and start looking here in San Blas.