The yellowhead jawfish inhabits the sandy, rubble-strewn areas on the reefs of the tropical Western Atlantic Ocean. Often found in close proximity to its burrow or cave, jawfish will spend much of their time in its burrow and when it does venture out, if it is startled, it will bolt back into its burrow tail first with lightning speed.
Known as mouthbrooders, the males are the ones charged with incubating the eggs inside the safety of their mouths until they are ready to hatch. The definition in the eyes indicates they are almost ready to hatch!
To capture this image, I had to dedicate an entire dive to get this shot. Being notoriously shy, jawfish are very wary of anything that comes near its burrow, even more so when they are carrying a mouthful of developing eggs. I had to start a certain distance away, where the jawfish felt comfortable enough to be partially outside its burrow. I then inched my way closer and closer to get as near to my subject as I could. Timing also played a key role, with the jawfish only opening up its mouth infrequently to expose the eggs to the oxygen-rich water outside the mouth called aerating or “chumming.” I had to press the shutter button right as I noticed the jawfish opening up its mouth, which from my recollection only happened a handful of times throughout my hour-long dive.