Costa Maya, Xcalak and Mahahual (Majahual) Visitors pages - Marine life |
Marine life

Jewfish (Argyrosomus hololepidotus)

Jewfish (Argyrosomus hololepidotus)The Jewfish is also commonly referred to as Mulloway. It can be commonly found in coastal and estuarine waters and generally occurs in large schools. Juveniles are offered referred to as Soapies. They found around the southern waters of Australia from South Queensland down south to Exmouth Gulf on the Western Australian coast. They can be found to depths of 150 metres and grow up to 2 metres in length; however they are more commonly found at about 1 to 1.5 metres. A good characteristic of the Jewfish is a line of silvery spots that follow along the lateral line of the fish. These are commonly referred to as the Jewfish Diamonds.

Dorado (Coryphaena hippurus)

Dorado (Coryphaena hippurus)This beautifully colored fish can be found in all tropical and warm temperate seas of the world, including the waters of the Costa Maya and Chichorro.

Dorado are prolific breeders, rapid growing and short lived which make them an excellent choice as a gamefish because they can sustain recreational catch efforts without fear of overfishing.

A Dorado can grow to a weight of about 80 pounds and live only about five years. The Dorado’s coloring can range from a dark blue along its back and changes laterally through a green – gold – yellow color spectrum as look from their back to their belly. Mature males or bulls are easily distinguished by their high flat forehead and are usually larger than the females or cows. Smaller fish travel in schools (schoolies) which can range from a few fish to several dozen. Larger bulls and cows travel alone or in pairs.

These fish are commonly found near floating objects and Sargassum weed lines and patches. They feed on the sea life which seek shelter near and in the floating structures, such as flying fish, squid and sea horses. Dorada like warm water, generally greater than 68 °F, 78°F - 85 °F is preferred.


DolphinCommon Dolphin, Saddleback Dolphin, Saddleback Porpoise, Criss-cross Dolphin, White-bellied Dolphin, Hourglass Dolphin and Saddleback - Common Dolphins are typically 1.7-2.6 m in length and weigh between 70-135 kg. They are fusiform (shaped like a fish), slender, not robust; back black of brownish black, coloration and markings variable; chest and belly cream to white. Sides distinctly marked with hourglass or criss-cross pattern of tan or yellowish tan. Beak well-defined, short, often dark with white tip. The species Delphinus capensis is also known as a common dolphin and is nearly identical except for a longer beak. One or more dark stripes from center of lower jaw to flipper. Dorsal fin nearly triangular to distinctly falcate, usually black with lighter grayish region of varying size near middle, tip pointed.

These animals are very sociable and often travel in huge herds of more than a thousand. They frequently leap clear of the water, sometimes together as one and ride bow waves of vessels for a long time. They are very energetic and highly vocal producing a variation of whistles, pulses and clicks easily heard while diving.

Dolphin soundDolphin video

Nurse Shark (Ginglymostoma cirratum)

Nurse Shark (Ginglymostoma cirratum)The Nurse Shark can be found Atlantic--off Cape Hatteras to off the coast of Brazil in the West and off of West Africa and the Cape Verde Islands in the East. Strays have been found around Rhode Island and Chesapeake Bay. Common in shallow waters throughout the West Indies, South Florida, and of course the Costa Maya. It's habitat is shallow water, less than ten meters in depth. It is often found lying motionless in the bottom of the water with a its head in a cave or under coral formations. The diet is invertebrates and small fish, Crabs, shrimp, squid, and sea urchins.


BarracudaThe great barracuda has a slender, streamlined body that is round in the mid-section. The top of the head between the eyes is nearly flat and the mouth is large, containing many large sharp teeth and a projecting lower jaw. The pectoral fin tips extend to the origin of the pelvic fins. The spinous and soft dorsal fins are widely separated and the double emarginate tail fin exhibits pale tips on each lobe.

The barracuda is a curious fish and likes to shadow snorkelers and divers. It is unusual for a barracuda to bite unless the swimmer is wearing shiny jewelry or a meat flavored wetsuit. They range in size from 1 to 2 meters in length and are normally bluish green to gray in color.

Barracuda video

Blue Marlin (Makaira Nigricans)

Blue Marlin (Makaira Nigricans)English language common names include blue marlin, Atlantic blue marlin, billfish, cuban black marlin, marlin, ocean gar, and ocean guard. Common names include abanico (Spanish), aguja (Spanish), castero (Spanish), prieta (Spanish), voladora (Spanish), blauer marlin (German), espadarte-sombra (Portuguese), espadon (French) and makaire bleu (French). Occurring offshore in blue oceanic waters, the blue marlin prefers to stay in the warm waters near the surface, above the thermocline. They follow the seasonal water temperature changes, being closely tied to these warm waters. They are found in ocean waters great distances from the continents as well as coastal regions near deep waters, such as near the Mississippi River in the Gulf of Mexico and the waters off of the Costa Maya.
The body is dark blue dorsally, shading to a silvery white ventrally. On the body there are 15 vertical rows of blue spots on the side, on a background of blue to silvery white.The blue marlin can reach a length of 14 feet (4.3 m) and a weight of one ton (910 kg). Females are generally much larger than males. IGFA lists separate records for Atlantic and Pacific blue marlin. The all-tackle record for the Atlantic is 1402 lb 2 oz (636 kg); the all-tackle record for the Pacific is 1376 lb (624.14 kg).
This species has been under intense fishing pressure in recent years from longline fishing. The Japanese and Cubans harvest over a thousand tons of blue marlin annually from the Caribbean region alone. The Japanese eat the meat raw in sushi dishes.

Tarpon (Megalops atlanticus)

Tarpon (Megalops atlanticus)Tarpon inhabit a large range on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. The Tarpon is a very common site for divers and snorkelers in the Costa Maya and can be seen in schools of up to a hundred individual fish patrolling the reefs, in search of food. Tarpon are slow-growing fish and do not obtain sexual maturity until reaching an age of 6-7 years and a length of about 4 feet (1.2 m). Tarpon weighing about 100 pounds (45.4 kg) typically fall between 13-16 years of age. Male tarpon attain lifespans of over 30 years, while females may live longer than 50 years. A female tarpon held in captivity at the John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, Illinois died in 1998 at the age of 63.

Prized as a gamefish by fishermen, the Tarpon can grow up to 8.2 feet in length (2.5 Meters) and wiegh up to 355 lbs. (161 kilos). Most seen are in the midrange of 4 to 6 feet in length and 40 to 120 lbs. Still an impressive fish!

Sometimes a large tarpon passing below an inexperienced snorkeler or diver will startle the swimmer because of the size and speed of this fish, mistaking it for a shark.

While juvenile tarpon are planktivorous, adult tarpon are strictly carnivorous and mostly feed on mid-water prey such as mullets, pinfish, marine catfishes, Atlantic needlefish, sardines, shrimp, and crabs. Tarpon feed during both day and night. Since the tarpon have minute teeth only, they usually swallow the prey whole.

Zooplankton and small fishes prey on tarpon in the egg and larval stages, and piscivorous birds are primary predators of juvenile tarpon once they enter nursery areas. Sharks, e.g. bull and hammerhead, are the main predators of adult tarpon, but porpoises, man, and alligator also prey on the fish.

Tarpon video

Spiny Lobster (Panulirus Argus)

Spiny Lobster (Panulirus Argus)The spiny lobster is found from Florida through Bermuda, Carribean to Brazil. They eat primarily mullusks (snails)and crustaceans (shrimp,crabs, etc.) also smaller amounts of echinoderms (sea urchins, starfish, brittle stars), sponges, and plants. The main predators are fish ( snappers, groupers, nurse sharks, stingrays), octupus, crabs. To avoid these predators, lobsters are mainly nocturnal. Humans are also important predators.
Spiny lobsters, in the Costa Maya spend their youth usually in the mangrove tangles and move to the reef when they become mature. Once settled on the reefs, adult lobsters migrate every fall to even deeper water where they mate. Sometimes the lobsters migrate together in one very long single file line, each lobster " holding on" to the one in front of it. After mating the lobsters return to their reef homes. They probably use a kind of internal compass to find the same exact den they
lived in before!

Spiny Lobster (Panulirus Argus) video

West Indian Manatee

West Indian ManateeWest Indian Manatees live in the Costa Maya region and a lot of lucky people have spotted them. The manatee is a slow swimmer and grazes on the abundant sea grasses along the Costa Maya and in Chetemul Bay. Motorized boats, with their props are the manatees worst enemy. Please watch out for these gentle giants. They and there relatives the dugong are the only water dwelling mammals that have adapted as vegetarians.

Total length of adults varies from 250 to more than 450 cm, and weight is 200 to more than 600 kg, but average adults are 300-400 cm long and weigh less than 500 kg. Sexual dimorphism in size has not been documented, though females seem bulkier. The finely wrinkled skin is slate gray to brown in color. Fine, colorless hairs, 30-45 mm long, are sparsely distributed over the body, and stiff, stout bristles are on the muscular, prehensile pads of the upper lip. Nails are present on the dorsal surface of the flippers. The skull is broad and has a relatively short and downturned snout.

Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta Caretta)

Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta Caretta)Loggerhead - named for its exceptionally large head. These turtles inhabit the Costa Maya waters and nest on the white sandy beaches. Typically 32 to 41 inches long (82-105cm) and up to 350 lbs.(160 kilos). Head is very large with heavy strong jaws. Carapace is bony without ridges and has large, non-overlapping, rough scutes (scales) present with 5 lateral scute. Carapace is heart shaped Front flippers are short and thick with 2 claws. While the rear flippers can have 2 or 3 claws. Carapace is a reddish-brown with a yellowish-brown plastron. Hatchlings have a dark-brown carapace with flippers pale brown on margins.
Found in temperate and subtropical waters throughout most of the world, but will range far north and south. Inhabit an enormous range from north to south. In the Western hemisphere they are found as far north as Newfoundland and as far south as Argentina. Prefer to feed in coastal bays and estuaries, as well as in the shallow water along the continental shelves of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans.
Primarily carnivorous and feed mostly on shellfish that live on the bottom of the ocean. They eat horseshoe crabs, clams, mussels, and other invertebrates. Their powerful jaw muscles help them to easily crush the shellfish.
Nest at intervals of 2, 3, or more years. Nests between 4 to 7 times per season. Lays average of between 100 to 126 eggs in each nest. Eggs incubate for about 60 days.

Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta Caretta) video

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