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These Yellow-lined Goatfish can change colors if they need to.
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Windows Original, adapted from Corel Photography

Goatfish

The Mullidae family is more commonly known as the Goatfish. These special fish have the unique ability to change colors! They find their homes in coral reefs, sand or possibly seagrass. The Goatfish range in size from 12 to 20 inches, and are usually thick and short.

Some Goatfish are like the Dash-and-Dot Goatfish, in that they hide during the day and feast at night. There are some exceptions, such as the Yellow-lined Goatfish. They are much braver than their cousins, and search for food in broad daylight. This is why they can change color. The Yellow-lined species will turn white while searching for food in the sand.

Another interesting characteristic is what scientists call barbels. A barbel is a long sensitive tissue that hangs from a Goatfish's chin. They use the barbels to find invertebrates that are hiding in the sand. Molluscs and crustaceans seem to be the food of choice for most goatfish.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA