Bulletin 1 - March 1977: Fishes of Abu Dhabi

Fishes of Abu Dhabi

by R.W. Brown

Quite a variety of marine and exotic marine fish gather around the coast of the Arabian Gulf. Abu Dhabi Island has its fair share of these fish. Over the next few issues of the ENHG Bulletin an attempt will be made to describe the physical details, habits and habitat of some of the fish which can be seen around the coasts of Abu Dhabi.

In this issue we will begin with one of the exotic marine fish, the Sergeant Major (Abudefduf saxatilis).


The Sergeant Major belongs to the Damselfish family and it is sometimes referred to as the Five-banded Damselfish. It is a very hardy fish and is quite common around Abu Dhabi.


The upper half of the body is golden-yellow, the belly being white and the body is marked with five black or dark green vertical stripes. The dorsal fin contains thirteen spines and the fish attains a length of about six inches at maturity.


Abudefduf saxatilis can often be found in coral or rocky areas where there is plenty of refuge from predators. Juveniles can be seen schooling, whereas the more mature individuals tend to become territorial, patrolling their own fixed areas.


The feeding habits of the A. saxatilis are quite diverse. Their diet can consist of colonial anemones, algae, copepods, small fishes, the larvae of various invertebrates and even adult nudibranches. Juveniles tend to restrict their diet to plankton, which is readily available in this area, and they usually feed while schooling.

As these fish approach maturity, and especially during the mating period, they become quite aggressive. The female lays her eggs in a round patch on a rocky or coral surface. This patch of eggs is usually several inches in diameter and is deep red or purple in color. The eggs are constantly guarded by the male who, during this phase, changes his body coloring to a dark blue thus making his dark vertical bars less conspicuous.


Abudefduf saxatilis has been observed in several locations around Abu Dhabi Island. The best place was found to be alongside the breakwater by the Hilton Hotel. Here, on can observe these fishes quite easily without getting wet. However, the best method of serious study is, without doubt, by swimming either with snorkel mask or with scuba gear.


Back Home Up Next

Copyright 1977-2011 Emirates Natural History Group
Patron: H.E. Sheikh Nahayan bin Mubarak Al Nahayan

Served from Molalla, Oregon, United States of America