IT IS A SIGHT RARELY WITNESSED. Two Red Sea goatfish (Parupeneus forsskali) are seen at Abu Dabab, circling on the sandy seabed before merging into a kiss and slowly spiralling upwards together to the surface.
They then plummet back to the bottom in different directions.
This amazing courtship ritual is repeated again and again. I was fortunate enough to watch it going on for as long as 20 minutes.
Like many other demersal fish, goatfish lay eggs that float and develop in the water column.
To this end, and to best protect their potential offspring from ground predators, at the time of spawning both male and female rise high above the seabed.
After sinking to the bottom again they go on bouncing back up into the water column together with every indication of pleasure.
Goatfish are widely distributed in both temperate and tropical regions of the world’s oceans, mainly in sandy areas. They feed on small invertebrates, located in the sand with the help of the chin barbels that give these fish their name.
Goatfish are not usually noticed particularly by divers but these fish were highly prized in ancient Rome and were known to be traded for their weight in silver.
At banquets live goatfish would be presented to guests in glass jars, and the colour changes as the dying fish passed through various shades of red were much admired.
I would far rather watch their unusual mating dance.