The colors of 51 species of Hawaiian reef fish have been measured using a spectrometer and therefore can be described in objective terms that are not influenced by the human visual experience. In common with other known reef fish populations, the colors of Hawaiian reef fish occupy spectral positions from 300–800nm; yellow or orange with blue, yellow with black, and black with white are the most frequently combined colors; and there is no link between possession of ultraviolet (UV) reflectance and UV visual sensitivity or the potential for UV visual sensitivity. In contrast to other reef systems, blue, yellow, and orange appear more frequently in Hawaiian reef fish. Based on spectral quality of reflections from fish skin, trends in fish colors can be seen that are indicative of both visually driven selective pressures and chemical or physical constraints on the design of colors. UV-reflecting colors can function as semiprivate communication signals. White or yellow with black form highly contrasting patterns that transmit well through clear water. Labroid fishes display uniquely complex colors but lack the ability to see the UV component that is common in their pigments. Step-shaped spectral curves are usually long-wavelength colors such as yellow or red, and colors with a peak-shaped spectral curves are green, blue, violet, and UV.

You do not currently have access to this content.