Malta's Marine Life

The waters around Malta have some of the best fish stocks and richest profusion of marine life in the Mediterranean – from flying gurnards to seahorses, from vast schools of bream solitary morays and conger eels hiding in every crevice 

VERTEBRATES

Flying Gurnard

Dactylopterus volitans 

When threatened or when swimming, this wonderful creature opens its multi-coloured wings  – in fact greatly enlarged pectoral fins. It lives on sandy sea beds, usually in the shallows and appears to walk on its pelvic fins searching for crustaceans and other small invertebrates.

Mediterranean parrotfish

parrotfish shutterstockMalcolm Grima

Sparisoma cretense

Like its tropical cousin, this eye-catcher adds a bit of colur to your dive. The females are brigher red and the males more brown or greenish. With their chisel sharp teeth they scrap algae and crustaceans from rocks and can often be found in neptune grass meadows. Measures up to 50 centimetres.

 

TomPot Blenny

Tompot

Parablennius gattorugine

At about 30cm the tompot blenny is among the largest blenny species found in the Mediterranean. The blenny lives in the crooks and crannies of Malta's reef walls, the rocky seabeds or seagrass meadows and is a favourite among macro photographers because of their inquisitive nature. Have a bit of patience and the tompot might leave its shelter to check you out and pose for a few images.  

Saddled seabream

Saddled seabread
 

Oblada melanura 

Divers often encounter large schools of saddled seabream on rocky seabeds or near neptune grass. They are easy to identify with the distinctive large black saddle-shaped spot near the tail fin.

John Dory

JohnDory

Zeus faber

The John Dory, also known as the St Peter's fish, inhabits most coastal waters from Europe to south-east Asia, Africa, Oceania and Japan. The species is easily identified by its long spines on the dorsal fin and the dark circular spot on its side. It catches small fish and occasionally invertebrates by protruding its jaw forwards and trap its prey. John Dory's can be found near sandy bottoms at a depth of 20m to 400m. 


Short-snouted seahorse 

seahorseCredit: Hans Hillewaert

Hippocampus hippocampus

The short-snouted seahorse is mainly found clinging to seagrass leaves near the shoreline. They are endemic to the Mediterranean and the North Atlantic and in Malta, the bay of Mġarr ix-Xini on Gozo is a known hotspot for the 15cm-long critters. From April to October divers might be able to witness the seahorses' courtship 'dance' and breeding ritual during which the female deposits up to 1,500 eggs in the male's breeding pouch. 

 

PORCUPINEFISH

 

Diodon hystric

Adults generally linger inshore, around areas that offer shelter, such as caves, shipwrecks, reefs, and ledges. They are nocturnal and solitary creatures, commonly residing in holes and crevices within the reef complex. Juveniles are pelagic until reaching 20cm in length, after which they become benthic. It gets it name from the spines which stick out when the body is inflated when threatened.

Invertebrates

Common octopus

octopus shutterstockMalcolm Grima

Octopus vulgaris 

Frequently spotted by divers despite its excellent camouflage – one giveaway is the scattering of crustaceans shells and other takeaway food litter around their lairs. The large bulbous head houses one of the most intelligent brains to be found underwater. If you are lucky enough to find one hunting during a night dive you see just how sneaky they can be - during the day marvel at how quickly they can change colour and appearance as the move around their rock strewn habitats. They can grow to 60 centimetres in the waters around Malta, but most are far smaller.

 

Cuttlefish

Sepia officinalis

Cuttlefish have eight arms and two tentacles with which they secure their prey. They eat small molluscs, crabs, shrimp, fish, octopuses, worms, and other cuttlefish. Their predators include dolphins, sharks, fish, seals, seabirds, and other cuttlefish. Recent studies indicate cuttlefish are among the most intelligent  invertebrates – they have one of the largest brain-to-body size ratios of all invertebrates.

Mediterranean jellyfish

MedJellyfish

Cotylorhiza tuberculata

During the summer and autumn months these jellyfish are found along Malta's coastline. Their distinct look has earned them their alternative name, fried-egg jellyfish. The orange umbrella measures up to 20cm in diametre with hundreds of short tentacles ending in white and purple tips. This beautiful jellyfish species is harmless to humans, unlike their mean cousin below. 

Mauve stinger

MauveStinger

Cotylorhiza tuberculata

After having almost disappeared from the Mediterranean, the mauve stinger had a comeback after the 2003 heatwave. Since then, swarms of this notorious stinger have spoiled numerous summers. The 10cm-wide bell,  four oral arms and the eight long tenticles all shimmer in pink and purple shades, hence then name. 

 

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