Many cryptozoology lovers were disappointed to learn that cute yellow elephant fish was a hoax, myself included. So when I saw this fascinating and gorgeous creature called a Unicorn fish, I thought, I’ll have to investigate that! Let me share my findings with you!
While it doesn’t exactly look like the rainbow-maned beauty we know and love as the unicorn of old, it certainly has an interesting horn! And at times is quite colorful. But it is real? Yes!
Let me introduce you to Naso brevirostris, a member of the Acanthuridae family of fish commonly known as surgeon fish. They’re so named because they are known for the distinctive head ornaments that they sport, and in the case of N. brevirostris, it sports a unicorn-like horn.
Unicorn fish aren’t born with the horny protrusion; that develops as the fish matures. One of their more interesting characteristics is that their scales resemble those of sharks more than other fish. These scales are called placoid squamation and it’s believed they help reduce the drag from turbulence in the water, thereby allowing the fish to move more quickly and efficiently.
Many species of unicorn fish are brown, gray, or blue-gray. But some of them can change color quickly to more vibrant hues, during courtship for example.
Their favorite food? Fleshy macroalgae, particularly Sargassum (see photo below), Pocockiella, and Dictyota. The teeth of N.brevirostris are serrated which scientists believe help them strip fronds of leaves from Sargassum, and/or grab chunks off of Dictyota.
These fish are popular for aquariums but they do require larger tanks and careful care. Maybe it’s best to just leave them in their native habitat, the Indo-Pacific oceans.
What do you think of this marvelous creature with the unicorn horn?