Fish Food: 13 Marine Animals Named by Hungry Biologists

two fried egg jellyfishes
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The colorful world beneath the ocean's surface is full of quirky creatures of all shapes and sizes. Some animals, like the fried egg jellyfish pictured above, have names that reflect their uncanny resemblance to foods we eat. Dive in and take a look at some of these ocean critters whose names have culinary roots.

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Lettuce Sea Slug

Lettuce sea slug

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Elysia crispata, or the lettuce sea slug, has a ruffled exterior that is reminiscent of a head of iceberg lettuce, especially when it takes on a greenish hue. These lettuce-like folds are actually fleshy protrusions known as parapodia, which are exceptionally frilly in this species. While it's not really a vegetable, the lettuce sea slug does know a bit about photosynthesis. This unique animal is both heterotrophic because it eats various kinds of algae and autotrophic because it retains the chloroplasts from the algae it eats, storing them in its parapodia and using them to later make its own food.

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Banana Wrasse

Banana wrasse

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Thalassoma lutescens, also known as the banana wrasse, is named for its bright yellow color and long shape. A forager in the coral reef, the banana wrasse can even grow to be the size of a banana, up to 12 inches long. Just like bananas, they live in bunches, and schools of banana wrasses can span almost 100 feet.

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Chocolate Chip Sea Star

Chocolate chip sea stars

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Protoreaster nodosus, also known as the chocolate chip sea star, is named for its brown spines that resemble chocolate chips, and they appear to come in both milk chocolate and dark chocolate varieties. Although these spines are meant to scare off predators by looking sharp and dangerous, they may have the opposite effect on humans as they make these animals look like starfish-shaped cookies.

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Lemon Shark

Lemon Shark Swimming With Small Fish
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Negaprion brevirostris earns its nickname of lemon shark not because it looks like it just tasted something sour, but because of the yellowish tint that helps it blend into the sand while hunting along the ocean floor. Like lemons, these sharks prefer the warmth, sticking to shallower waters mostly in the Gulf of Mexico.

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Cauliflower Jellyfish

Beautiful cauliflower or crown jellyfish floating close to the surface.

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Members of the jellyfish genus Cephea, also known as the cauliflower jellyfish, have lumpy crowns that resemble heads of cauliflower, although the jellyfish is a lot more colorful than the vegetable. Fittingly, the cauliflower jellyfish is also edible, serving as a delicacy for both sea turtles and humans.

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Tomato Clownfish

Tomato clownfish among sea anemones

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Amphiprion frenatus, also known as the tomato clownfish, is a beautiful anemone-dweller that's as bright red as a tomato. He may look like his cousin Nemo, but his much darker hue sets him apart from other clownfish.

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Pancake Batfish

Pancake batfish

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Halieutichthys aculeatus, or the pancake batfish, has an appearance that's almost as bizarre as its name. It's as flat as a pancake and lives on the ocean floor coved in sand, allowing it to evade predators that find it appetizing for reasons other than its name.

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Fried Egg Jellyfish

Fried egg jellyfish

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Cotylorhiza tuberculata, or the fried egg jellyfish, is a resident of the Mediterranean Sea that truly resembles a fried egg served sunny side up. Its bright orange dome looks like a pristine yolk resting on top of a disk of egg white. Much larger like an actual egg, these jellies can grow to be more than 13 inches in diameter, but they are often less than half a foot wide.

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Potato Grouper

Potato grouper
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Epinephelus tukula, also known as the potato grouper or the potato cod, gets its name from the dark brown or black blotches on its body, which make it look like a potato. However, these massive groupers are far larger than potatoes, growing as long as 8 feet and weighing as much as 240 pounds.

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Orange-Peel Doris

Orange-peel doris

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Acanthodoris lutea earns its nickname of orange-peel doris because it turns bright orange to warn predators of its nasty taste. At barely an inch in length, this neon nudibranch looks like a fleck of orange peel crawling along the rocks. However, while oranges might be tasty, this colorful sea slug is potentially toxic.

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Pineapplefish

Pineapplefish (Cleidopus gloriamaris)
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Cleidopus gloriamaris, also known as the pineapplefish, is a striking reef-dweller that is bright yellow like the inside of a pineapple. Furthermore, the pattern on the fish's scales resembles the outside skin of the fruit, earning the fish its nickname. Living off the coast of Australia, the pineapplefish sports bioluminescent "navigation lights" in its jaw and heavily resembles its cousin Monocentris japonica, the Japanese pineapplefish.

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Garlic Bread Sea Cucumber

Garlic bread sea cucumber

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Vaguely resembling what you might pull out of a bread basket at your local Italian restaurant, Holothuria scabra, or the garlic bread sea cucumber, is considered a delicacy in China, where it is known as "trepang" and has been eaten by people for over one thousand years. The species is listed as "vulnerable" on the IUCN Red List because of over-harvesting and habitat loss.

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Cherry Barb

Fishtank landscape with red orange fish cherry Barb. Tropical freshwater aquarium, female Puntius titteya pet belonging to the family Cyprinidae
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Puntius titteya, also known as the cherry barb, is one of the prettiest fish on this list, so it's no wonder that it's a popular aquarium pet. Male cherry barbs are red like cherries, and cherry barbs of all genders are small like the fruit, reaching a length of up to 2 inches. Native to Sri Lanka, the cherry barb has been introduced to Mexico and Colombia but currently faces threats from overfishing.