Feather Duster Worms Speak with Quiet Grace

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FEATHER DUSTER AND CHRISTMAS TREE WORMS? For one thing, the conical feathery crowns of Christmas tree worms shout out their presence with color and beguiling shapes. Feather dusters’ fan-shaped crowns often whisper with subtle elegance. If it’s simply about appreciating the beauty of the reef, that’s the main point – conical versus fan-shaped, bold versus muted. It’s the fan shape that gives feather dusters their other common name, fan worms.  

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The Conch Republic Has Just Banned Coral-Toxic Sunscreens, and So Should You!

THE EVIDENCE IS CLEAR: THE MOST COMMON CHEMICALS FOUND IN SUNSCREENS, OXYBENZONE AND OCTINOXATE, are damaging to coral reefs and contribute to coral bleaching. The city of Key West in Florida has just joined the state of Hawaii in voting to ban the sale of coral-toxic sunscreens. At stake is the health of their fragile reefs and, obviously, their futures as destinations for millions of divers and other tourists. They’d like to see reef-safe sunscreen

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Some Sharks Have to Swim to Survive, But Most Don’t

DO SHARKS HAVE TO SWIM CONSTANTLY IN ORDER TO BREATHE? The answer is yes – for the relatively small number of shark species that excite us the most, like great whites and hammerheads. But it’s not the case with most of the 400-plus species of sharks in the oceans, like the familiar nurse shark and lesser-known species like bullhead, angel and carpet sharks. WATER, OXYGEN & GILLS Like all fish, sharks breathe by extracting oxygen

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Watch How Starfish Walk…and Bounce

WITH FIVE ARMS STRETCHING IN FIVE DIRECTIONS, you’d think that starfish could move along the seafloor like Indiana Jones. In fact, usually they creep along on hundreds of little tube feet that line the undersides of those arms. But, researchers studying how starfish walk found something else: sometimes starfish bounce along for speed. As echinoderms in Class Asteroidea, starfish walk by operating their multitudes of little tiny feet through intricate networks of fluid-filled canals. With

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how do fish sleep

How Fish Sleep: By Resting, Snoozing & Totally Zonking Out

HOW FISH SLEEP DEPENDS ON THE SPECIES. Nocturnal fishes, like cardinalfishes and those closely packed platoons of grunts and gray snappers you see just hanging around by coralheads and pier pilings during day dives, are likely resting rather than actually sleeping. Some species, like parrotfish, clearly sleep at night, although they seem like they can be awakened with minor disturbances (I base this on my own clumsiness around them on night dives). Some, like bluehead

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Shades of Orange – Clownfish & Anemonefish

ANEMONEFISH FACTS, BY THE NUMBERS  1   All clownfishes are anemonefishes but only two species of anemonefishes get to be called clownfishes, and one of them is the false clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris). 2   Widely thought of as the archetypal clownfish, the adorable hero of Finding Nemo is actually a false clownfish, with three broad white bands encircling his body. But that’s a design that’s easily animated and he had great marketing reps. 3   The color patterns of true clown

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Nudibranchs: Fantastic Mollusks Explained

THERE ARE TWO KINDS OF DIVERS: THOSE WHO ARE BONKERS ABOUT NUDIBRANCHS and those who ought to be. For those in the second category, here are some nudibranch facts. First, as the name “nudibranch” suggests – it’s from the Greek for “naked gills” – nudibranchs absorb their oxygen from the water through external breathing structures located on their backs. There’s great variation in gill architecture among the many species of nudibranchs, from flamboyant to demure. And

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 Diving with Manta Rays: Atlantic Giant Manta Encounter

DIVING WITH MANTA RAYS WAS SORT OF A DISTANT FANTASY. I just wanted to see them. The giant Atlantic mantas I had seen in the past were fast-moving and, mouths agape, totally focused on sweeping up the plankton they make their livings on. Suddenly here, there, gone. Spending extended time in close-up choreography with one of these gentle giants was not in my vision. Until it was. The dive was at Flower Garden Banks National

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Manta Rays: Gentle Giants Explained

1)  THERE ARE TWO SPECIES OF MANTA RAYS – OCEAN MANTAS (MANTA BIROSTRIS) AND REEF MANTAS (MANTA ALFREDI). M. birostris is also sometimes known by the names giant ocean manta and Atlantic giant manta. Mantas are the largest members of the ray family and among the largest fishes in the sea. 2) Oceanic mantas are found worldwide, often reported as swimming great distances across oceans. They generally prefer tropical and subtropical waters. 3) Reef mantas are

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Bluehead Wrasses – The Great Damselfish Egg-Raid

IF YOU’VE DIVED IN THE TROPICAL ATLANTIC/CARIBBEAN, you’ve almost certainly seen bluehead wrasses. Of course, most of them weren’t blue. The blueheaded members of bluehead wrasse world are terminal-phase males, or supermales. Despite their high visibility, they make up no more than 10 percent of a given bluehead wrasse population. The overwhelming majority of bluehead wrasses are yellow – juveniles or initial-phase adults or something in between. Blueheads (Thalassoma bifasciatum) are among those fish that

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