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The barracuda is a ray-finned fish known for its large size and fearsome appearance. Its body is long, fairly compressed, and covered with small, smooth scales. Some species could reach up to 1.8m in length and 30 cm in width. The barracuda is a salt water fish of the genus Sphyraena, the only genus in the family Sphyraenidae, and is found in tropical and subtropical oceans worldwide. Barracudas are elongated fish, pike-like in appearance, with prominent sharp-edged fang-like teeth, much like piranhas, that are all of different sizes which are set in sockets of their large jaws. They have large pointed heads with an under bite in many species. Their gill-covers have no spines and are covered with small scales. Their two dorsal fins are widely separated with the anterior fin having five spines, the posterior fin having one spine and nine soft rays. The posterior dorsal fin is similar in size to the anal fin and is situated above it. The lateral line is prominent and extends straight from head to tail. The spinous dorsal fin is placed above the pelvic fins and is normally retracted in a groove. The caudal fin is moderately forked with its posterior edged double-curved and is set at the end of a stout peduncle. The pectoral fins are placed low on the sides. Their swim bladder is large. Barracudas are voracious, opportunistic predators relying on surprise and short bursts of speed up to 27 miles per hour, to overtake their prey. Adults of most species are more or less solitary, while young and half-grown fish frequently congregate. Barracuda prey primarily on fish (which may include some as large as themselves). They kill and consume larger prey by tearing chunks of flesh. Like sharks, some species of barracuda are reputed to be dangerous to swimmers. Barracudas are scavengers, and may mistake snorkelers for large predators, following them in hopes of eating the remains of their prey. Swimmers have been reported being bitten by barracuda but such incidents are rare and possibly caused by poor visibility. Barracuda generally avoid muddy shallows, so attacks in surf are more likely to be by small sharks. Barracudas may mistake things that glint and shine for prey. Handfeeding or touching large barracuda in general is to be avoided. Spearfishing around barracudas can also be dangerous, as they are quite capable of ripping a chunk from a wounded fish thrashing on a spear. Diamond rings and other shiny objects have been known to catch their attention and resemble prey to them. Caution should be taken when swimming near mangrove coastlines by covering or removing items. Barracudas are popular both as food and game fish. They are most often eaten as fillets or steaks. Larger species, like the Great Barracuda, have been implicated in cases of ciguatera food poisoning. [READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE]
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