Marine Fauna Tenerife - the aquatic life in the island's waters

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marine fauna tenerife

Although probably everyone is aware of the presence of whales and dophins in the island's waters, due to the popular cruises, the sea is also teeming with other species of fish and other sea creatures. Here, I'll try to list as many of them as possible.

Okay, let's start with the obvious ones, then proceed to species of which you may not be aware.


Pilot Whale

You may be surprised to find this so-called "whale" under the "dolphins" heading, but this aquatic mammal is actually a member of the dolphin family.

With the Latin name globicephala melas melas, they are a permanent resident in Tenerife's waters.

The largest of the dolphin family, females can grow to a length of 19 feet, while males can attain a length of up to 25 feet.

They are gregarious creatures, travelling in groups, sometimes as many as several hundred to a thousand. They feed at night in deep water, when they feast on a diet of fish and crustaceans.

Bottlenosed Dolphin

This species, Latin name tursiops truncatus, is another permanent Tenerife resident. They tend to prefer warmer water, so the ocean around the island suits them.

Their name comes from their long, pointed snout (which, of course, is not really a nose). As well as having extremely keen eyesight, they emit a clicking noise as a sort of "sonar" device to locate prey.

Living in "pods" of between 10 and 30, they can also travel in groups of up to 1,000. Food consists of various fish.

Other Species Appearing Throughout The Year

The following species either appear at specific times of the year, or have been sighted on totally random occasions.

  • Spotted Dolphin (stenella frontalis)
  • Rough-Toothed Dolphin (steno bredanensis)
  • Eden's Whale (balaenoptera edeni)
  • Striped Dolphin (stenella coeruleoalba)
  • Risso's Dolphin (grampus griseus)
  • Sperm Whale (physeter macrocephalus)
  • Common Dolphin (delphinus delphis)
  • Fin Whale (balaenoptera physalus)
  • Sei Whale (balaenoptera borealis)
  • False Killer Whale (pseudorca crassidens)

list source


An aggressive fish, similar in appearance to the pike, the adult can grow up to six feet in length.

They frequent coastal waters and fully matured specimens are generally solitary predators. They feed on all different types of fish and are not adverse to attacking something of similar size to themselves.

marine fauna tenerife

Blue Marlin

The Atlantic blue marlin is endemic to that ocean and prefers tropical, warmer water.

Females are the larger of the sexes, often growing up to 13 feet in length. Males are considerably smaller.

They use their sword-like bill to spear and slash potential food, often leaving it dead or dying to revisit later. They're not fussy about the size of the organism they attack either, including large species of tuna amongst their prey.


The most common subspecies of tuna found around the Canary Islands is the bigeye tuna (thunnus obesus). A fat-bodied fish, they can grow up to over eight feet in length and are frequently used for sport by big game deep-sea fishermen. They are found in temperate waters and can live for up to 12 years.bigeye tunas being landed by fishermen

The most common subspecies of tuna found around the Canary Islands is the bigeye tuna (thunnus obesus). A fat-bodied fish, they can grow up to over eight feet in length and are frequently used for sport by big game deep-sea fishermen.

bigeye tunas being landed by fishermen

They are found in temperate waters and can live for up to 12 years.

Other species of this fish that may be encountered in Tenerife waters include the yellowfin, the skipjack and the bluefin.

marine fauna tenerife

Parrot Fish


This fish, so named because the arrangement of its teeth give it a parrot-like beak, is generally found on rocky bottoms of the coastal areas. Although mainly vegetarian, they are not adverse to feeding on small organisms.

A unique feature of this creature is that it starts its life as female and then becomes male!

Dusky Grouper

dusky grouper
Photo: Georges Jansoone

A solitary fish usually found on rocky sea bottoms and living in caves, this is another fish that starts its life female and becomes male.

Feeding voraciously on such species as crab and octopus, it is also subject to the attention of various larger predators.

In Spanish restaurants, it is considered a delicacy.

Sarpa Salpa

sarpa salpa
Photo: Tino Strauss

A species of bream, quite common off the Tenerife coast. It is a delicacy in Mediterranean restaurants, but may, due to its eating various algae or plankton, induce hallucinations in the consumer.

They inhabit rocky areas and are quite gregarious. The young are carnivorous, but, as they age, their diet changes to plants.

White Bream

white bream
Photo: Júlio Reis

A small, gregarious fish frequenting submerged vegetation along the coast. Mainly nocturnal, it feeds on various invertebrate organisms.

marine fauna tenerife


Photo: Júlio Reis

This fish is found along the coasts of north Atlantic landmasses and in the Mediterranean Sea.

It lives on rocky sea beds and feeds on fish and crustaceans.

Scorpion Fish

scorpion fish
photo source

This fish is a bottom-dweller preferring warm, temperate seas and is distinguished by a collection of spines that are venomous - hence its name.

Their colouring means they can lie camouflaged amongst rocks, to pounce on any passing prey. They feed mostly on crustaceans and small fish.


Image: Drow male

Tenerife's coastal sea contains many sunken wrecks and this fish is often found amongst them, as well as on rocky ledges.

Mostly, though, inhabiting the ocean floor, they can grow up to seven feet in length and generally feed off crustaceans and small fish. It is a solitary fish, never being seen in shoals.

Mediterranean Moray Eel

Mediterranean moray eel
Photo: Drow male

This creature, as well as being found in the Mediterranean, as its name implies, also frequents the eastern Atlantic Ocean, which, of course, includes Tenerife.

Growing up to five feet in length, it is characterised by having a "pharyngeal" jaw. This makes it uncannily like the creature from the "Alien" films, in that it grabs its prey with one set of teeth, then another set comes forward to drag its catch down its throat. This is the only animal in existence that possesses this ability. Nice!

marine fauna tenerife


Photo: Liné1

This subspecies of the stingray frequents the waters of the eastern Atlantic and dwells on sandy bottoms, where it likes to burrow itself into the silt.

Feeding mainly on crustaceans, it has a serrated, venomous tail spine which can deliver an unpleasant (though not lethal) sting.

Angel Shark

angel shark
photo source

With a flattened body, these fish look more like rays than sharks. They inhabit warm seas, prefering sandy ocean bottoms.

They are generally harmless and, if left alone, will not be aggressive.

Their method of catching prey is to bury themselves in sand and wait. Preferred food consists of fish, crustaceans and molluscs.

Loggerhead Turtle

This giant turtle, which can grow up to seven feet in length, inhabits warm coastal waters, the female of the species coming ashore to lay her eggs.

They eat anything, but mainly invertebrate creatures inhabiting the sandy ocean bottom.

When the eggs are laid, they are then subject to the attention of numerous different predators, so much so, they are now considered an endangered species.

marine fauna tenerife

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