> Subphylum Vertebrate > fishes
learn only 3 things about them ...
They specialise in foraging at the water surface.
Their lower jaw is many times longer than their upper
are well camouflaged as floating twigs or rubbish.
Where seen? These
stick-like fishes are commonly encountered on many of our shores.
They swim at the water surface, often quite actively at night. Small
ones may be mistaken for floating twigs or other bits of flotsam.
What are halfbeaks? Halfbeaks belong to the Family Hemiramphidae.
According to FishBase:
the family has 12 genera and 85 species. They are found in the Atlantic,
Indian and Pacific Oceans.
Features: To about 10cm long.
Body long and stick-like; generally cylindrical. The halfbeak is so
named because its lower jaw is much longer, while its upper jaw is
short and triangular. 'Hemi' means half; while 'rhamphos' means beak
or bill in Greek. The jaws have several rows of small teeth and the
tip of the long, spike-like lower jaw is often brightly coloured.
The eyes are relatively large and scales are large too.
Sometimes mistaken for needlefishes.
Needlefishes (Family Belonidae) are usually much longer. The jaws
of needlefishes are also elongated and both the upper and lower jaws
are of equal length and usually filled with sharp teeth. Young
barracuda (Family Sphyraenidae) also appear similar at first glance.
Here's more on how to tell apart stick-like
fishes commonly seen on our shores.
Surface dwellers: It is well adapted
to living at the water surface. Usually darker on the top while the
sides and underside are silvery. Thus its darker blue or green back
blends in with the water surface when above-water predators look down
on it. While at the same time, underwater predators looking up at
it can't really see it well either as its silvery body blends with
the sunlit waters. Its unfish-like body shape also means it is often
dismissed as a floating stick. Some small ones are brown and twig-like.
What do they eat? Halfbeaks eat things that float on the
surface such as algae, tiny animals like zooplankton and other fishes.
Some halfbeak species eat land insects that might fall into the water,
while others eat seagrasses and algae.
Halfbeak babies: Most halfbeak
lay eggs attached to seaweed in shallow waters. Some, however, may
give birth to live young. In some, fertilisation takes place internally
and the males have modified fins to fertilise the females with.
Human uses: Halfbeaks apparently
taste good and large species (like the Black-barred halfbeak) are
eaten in some places, sold fresh and dried salted. Or they are used
as bait fish. They are caught with nets under lights at night. Some
freshwater species are popular in the live aquarium trade.
Status and threats: Our halfbeaks
are not listed among the threatened animals of Singapore. However,
like other creatures of the intertidal zone, they are affected by
human activities such as reclamation and pollution.
Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Jan 04
The lower jaw is many times
longer than the upper jaw.
Sungei Buloh, May 05
A young halfbeak?
Pulau Hantu, Jan 06
on Singapore shores
Hemiramphidae recorded for Singapore
Wee Y.C. and Peter K. L. Ng. 1994. A First Look at Biodiversity
*Lim, Kelvin K. P. & Jeffrey K. Y. Low, 1998. A Guide to the Common
Marine Fishes of Singapore.
commonly seen awaiting identification
Hemiramphus dussumieri=^Hyporhamphus dussumieri
Hemiramphus georgii=^Rhynchorhamphus georgii
Hemiramphus russelli=^Rhynchorhamphus georgii
Hemiramphus erythrorinchus=^Hyporhamphus erythrorinchus
Hemiramphus far (Black-barred halfbeak)
Hemiramphus fasciatus=^Hemiramphus lutkei
Hemiramphus tweediei=^Euleptorhamphus viridis
Hemiramphodon pogonognathus=^Hemiramphus pogonognathus (freshwater)
Hyporhamphus quoyi (Quoy's halfbeak)
*Hyporhamphus limbatus (Congaturi halfbeak)
|| Dermogenys pusilla (Pygmy halfbeak)
Zenarchopterus buffonis (Striped-nosed
- Wee Y.C.
and Peter K. L. Ng. 1994. A First Look at Biodiversity in Singapore.
National Council on the Environment. 163pp.
- Allen, Gerry,
Fishes of South-East Asia: A Field Guide for Anglers and Divers.
Periplus Editions. 292 pp.
- Kuiter, Rudie
H. 2002. Guide
to Sea Fishes of Australia: A Comprehensive Reference for Divers
New Holland Publishers. 434pp.
Ewald and Robert Myers. 2001. Coral
Reef Fishes of the World
Periplus Editions. 400pp.