The tomtate (scientific name:Haemulon aurolineatum) is a member of the grunt family (Family Haemulidae) that lives on coral reefs in the Western Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea.
Tomtate. Source: ''Reef Fish Identification'', New World Publications © 1994
Kingdom: Animalia (Animals)
Tomtates range from 12.5 to 25.0 centimeters in length. Their silvery bodies have a yellow stripe that runs from the nose through the eye to the base of the tail and a second stripe running along their backs.They often have a large black splotch on the base of their tails.
They live in seagrass beds, sand flats, and patch reefs at depths from two to 30 meters.
Tomtates are generalist carnivores that feed on small crustaceans, mollusks, other benthic invertebrates, plankton, and algae. They ang around the reef during the daylight hours. At sunset, they travel to open water where they feed.
Because they feed at night, tomtates spend their days hiding under ledges or near the protection of the reef. They occasionally form sizable schools.
Tomtates are pelagic spawners. Their larvae enter the planktonic stage before settling in nursery area such as shallow back reefs or seagrass beds.
Studies at the Saba Reef, one of the richest fish assemblages in the Caribbean Basin, have indicated the chief threats to Haemulon aurolineatum and other reef fishes are overfishing and the residual impacts of the particular chemical dispersant used by the USA in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill; this chemical has high persistence and known toxicity to a gamut of marine fauna. Studies by Burke et al. suggest that concentrations of dispersant and other water pollutants are of particular concern in critical lagoon nurseries; these studies suggest that the toxicity of residual dispersant may be much more significant to reef fishes than the actual petroleum release of an underwater oil spill. The dispersant used in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Corexit 9500, is known to be much more toxic than the petroleum chemicals it is meant to disperse; moreover, the combined toxicity of Corexit 9500 and petroleum is more toxic to juvenile fish than either chemical set by itself.
Tomtates are not considered to be a taxon at risk by the IUCN; however, this lack of designation carries little meaning, since the IUCN has not evaluated threats to the species.
References and Further Reading
- J.S.Burke, W.J.Kenworthy and L.L.Wood. 2009. Ontogenetic patterns of concentration indicate lagoon nurseries are essential to common grunts stocks in a Puerto Rican bay. Worldwide Science.org
- Jeffrey T. Williams, Kent E. Carpenter, James L. Van Tassell, Paul Hoetjes, Wes Toller, Peter Etnoyer, Michael Smith. 2010. Biodiversity Assessment of the Fishes of Saba Bank Atoll, Netherlands Antilles. PloS One. 5(5): e10676.
- Encyclopedia of Life. Species curator: C.Michael Hogan. 2011. Haemulon aurolineatum Cuvier, 1830
- Humann, P. and N. Deloach (Editor), 1994. Reef Fish Identification: Florida, Caribbean, Bahamas. New World Publications, Inc. Jacksonville, FL. ISBN: 1878348078
- Deloach, N. 1999. Reef Fish Behavior, Florida, Caribbean, Bahamas. New World Publications, Inc. Jacksonville, FL. ISBN: 1878348280
- Laurier Lincoln Schramm. 2000. Surfactants: fundamentals and applications in the petroleum industry. Cambridge University Press. 621 pages