phylum class subclass order monotypic order O suborder family


Surgeonfishes and their relatives have small to medium-sized bodies that are narrow from side to side and may be disk-like, oval, or slightly long. Many of these fishes have sharp venomous spines or ridges. Many of these fishes are very colorful.


Surgeonfishes and their relatives live in the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans.


Most surgeonfishes and their relatives live in shallow coral and rocky reefs. Some species live in estuaries (EHS-chew-air-eez), or the areas where rivers meet the sea, or even farther upstream into freshwater. One species lives in the open sea.


Most surgeonfishes and their relatives eat bottom-dwelling algae and invertebrates (in-VER-teh-brehts), or animals without backbones. Algae (AL-jee) are plantlike growths that live in water and have no true roots, stems, or leaves. Some species of these fishes can crush shells. One species eats mostly plants, and one species eats jellylike plankton, which is microscopic plants and animals drifting in water.


Surgeonfishes and their relatives live alone, in pairs, in small groups, in schools of their own species, or in mixed-species schools. Many of these fishes defend their territories. Surgeon-fishes and their relatives spawn, or release eggs, in pairs or in groups. Most of these fishes release free-floating eggs. One species deposits eggs on the bottom and takes care of them. The larvae of many surgeonfishes and their relatives live for a long time in the open sea. Larvae (LAR-vee) are animals in an early stage and must change form before becoming adults.

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