Barracudas are famous. These cold-blooded fish have not only swum the Earth’s oceans for the last 50 million years, they’ve also played a leading role in countless horror films. However, the barracuda doesn’t exactly live his life to terrorize swimmers; these scaly predators prefer to spend their days hunting fish, not humans.
A barracuda is a sleek fish with an elongated body, a mouth full of sharp teeth and, in most cases, an under bite. They resemble underwater torpedoes. Color variation exists within the 20 different species of barracuda, but for the most part barracudas are dressed in hues of silver, gray, green and blue with white bellies. Size is also variable. The largest species, the great barracuda (Sphyraena barracuda), can grow to 10 feet long.
Barracudas live in temperate, tropical seas all over the world except the eastern Pacific Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. Adults prefer to live around coral reefs where the water temperature is between 74 and 82 degrees. Coral reefs provide ample hunting ground for long, flexible barracudas who can easily maneuver cracks and crevices in search of their prey.
A barracuda’s diet includes fish, fish and more fish, but they are also known to occasionally snack on crustaceans and squid. Barracudas are adept at both the sit-and-wait ambush as well as the active predatory styles of hunting. When a barracuda ambushes, it does so in a flash. These fish are capable of great bursts of speed. Their sense of sight is extremely important when hunting; unlike other fish species who rely on their sense of smell to find their next meal, barracudas see and are attracted to shiny objects, like a quick, silver or white fish.
The dominant barracuda prefers to swim the ocean solo. The exception to their “alone time” happens during daytime hours when juveniles and adults travel in schools or when groups of adults temporarily join together to hunt or as a means of protection.
Barracudas don’t have many natural predators besides sharks and orca whales. If they can avoid fisherman, this ensures them a relatively long life. Barracudas can live anywhere from 10 to 15 years.
Christina Stephens is a writer from Portland, Ore. whose main areas of focus are pets and animals, travel and literature. A veterinary assistant, she taught English in South Korea and holds a BA in English with cum laude honors from Portland State University.