Hunting Together: A Bar Jack and a Southern Stingray

A Bar Jack and a Southern Stingray hunting together
by B. N. Sullivan

We spotted this pair of hunters in the Caribbean.  The dark colored fish in the photo is a Bar Jack (Caranx ruber). This fish makes its living as an opportunistic feeder.  In this instance, it is swimming a little above and behind a Southern Stingray (Dasyatis americana) hoping to snag a free lunch.

The stingray finds its food by rummaging in the sand, looking for little creatures to eat -- worms, small clams, tiny crabs, and such. To locate its prey, it fans away the top layer the sand by fluttering the wing-like tips of its body disc.

The crafty Bar Jack follows closely, letting the stingray do the excavating.  If the stingray uncovers something that looks tasty to the Bar Jack, the jack will snatch it in a lightning strike, then resume its position keeping watch over the stingray's shoulder, as it were.

We've seen Bar Jacks throughout the Caribbean.  In addition to pairing with hunting stingrays, we've also seen them following goatfish -- another species that digs around in the sand and rubble for food. 

By the way, the Bar Jack doesn't always look so dark. When it's not feeding, it is a handsome silvery blue color, with a black bar running along its back from its dorsal fin down to the lower lobe of its tail fin like a racing stripe.

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