Rare albino grouper fish found on reef in Cayman Islands
The Cayman Islands boast some of the most spectacular scuba diving sites in the world. It’s crystal clear water offers incredible visibility, even while diving deep. In the shallows, the colorful ocean life creates a show that is a feast for the eyes and a wonder to behold. But these scuba divers got an unexpected and extremely rare treat when they were cruising along the reef at the top of the coal wall surrounding Little Cayman Island. Nestled into the sponges and sea fans was an albino grouper. Albinos exist in many species of animal. What makes them albino is the complete absence or severely muted color pigment, making them either completely white or extremely close to complete white.
There are many species of grouper, each with different coloration and stripe patterns. They vary between creamy brown to black and even a vibrant yellow-gold. These fish reach lengths of 2-3 feet and can weigh up to 30 pounds. Active on the reef, even during the day, they allow close approaches by people who move slowly enough. They spend a good deal of their time at “cleaning stations”. These are locations on the reef that have a group of yellow wrasses or even shrimp that are willing to swim around the gills and teeth of the groupers, removing parasites and food particles that can cause trouble for the larger fish.
This albino grouper had found one of these cleaning stations and was suspended in an angled position with his gills flared and his mouth open. This is a signal to the cleaner fish that they can trust the grouper to not eat them as they do their work. Communication between species is rare, but these fish are all able to understand the agreement that will never be broken. The smaller fish trust the grouper with their lives as they swim into the cavernous mouth to get food. As the diver approaches, the grouper watches, reluctant to leave the cleaning station. He eventually swims off slowly to shelter and the scuba diver takes the hint that the encounter is over. As the diver moved away, this fish returned to the cleaning station immediately to have the job finished.