Great barracuda are enormous and intimidating fish. They can grow to 6 feet in length and weigh as much as 55 pounds. With a mouth full of huge, razor sharp teeth, they are a scary sight. But the seasoned scuba diver knows that they are no threat to people. They often venture close to divers or allow a respectful approach for a close up look. Barracuda have few predators when they reach maturity and they swim casually over the reef, unafraid. This is for for good reason. Few creatures would ever consider them a source of food. A 6 foot long barracuda doesn't even need to fear humans. Even if a person wanted to tangle with one, the meat is often inedible due to the buildup of toxin called ciguatera. The source of this poison is a type of plankton. Consumed by fish and then passed up the food chain, the concentrations of ciguatera are higher in predators at the top of the chain. Barracuda will often swim along beside or behind scuba divers for several reasons. Believing that humans might be likely to kill a fish, they will often wait for the possibility of scraps becoming available. They also hope for opportunities created by the distraction that divers present to other fish. This might turn into an opportunity of an ambush of a fish. People are understandably terrified of the fish, mistaking their interest as predatory and dangerous. While there have been incidents involving barracuda biting people, it is very rare and almost always the case of mistaken identity. Barracuda are also rumored to be attracted by shiny objects that may appear to be the scales of a fish. With the huge canine like teeth that a barracuda possesses, the mouth is a frightening sight to anyone. The barracuda will often open it's mouth wide and snap it shut several times. As it appears, this is threatening behavior that may be caused by the perception that the barracuda's territory is being invaded or that the approach is making the fish uncomfortable. It is also a dominance behavior, an effort to remind other fish that the barracuda is the boss in that area. Once they become convinced that the barracuda will not normally attack, divers take great delight in seeing one such as this one so close up. Here, a careful and respectful approach has paid off and the barracuda stares curiously into the camera for a minute or so before drifting away. As he does, he flashes those impressive teeth and shows off a row of spikes as large as a very big dog's. Barracuda are capable of impressive bursts of speed and can easily distance themselves from a diver with a few rapid strokes of their powerful tails. This barracuda was certainly not worried about the divers sharing his spot over the coral.
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