By the Numbers: Tunicates, Different from Sponges

Not everything that looks like a sponge is a sponge. Covered by the “tunics” that give them their names, outwardly, tunicates resemble sponges and can be hard to tell apart from them. But their internal architecture is much more complex than sponges.  IT’S THE “TUNIC” PART OF TUNICS’ ANATOMY THAT GIVES THEM THEIR SUPERFICIAL RESEMBLANCE TO SPONGES. The stiff, cellulose coverings that conceal tunicates’ inner workings may be very different from sponges’ walls of individual

Read more

Stingrays, Eagle Rays, Manta Rays: An Uplifting Tale

Rays are the other star-power cartilaginous fishes, outnumbering sharks in species and matching them in variety of lifestyles. Stingrays lurk on the seafloor, Eagle Rays soar above the reef, Manta Rays cruise the oceans. Did I mention Star Power?  WITH FLATTENED BODIES, RAYS HAVE TAKEN THE PECTORAL FIN/HYDRODYNAMIC LIFT CONCEPT so far as to develop their pectoral fins into broad “wings.” Eagle and manta rays’ wings let them soar through the open waters like…well, eagles…flapping and

Read more

Fishy Thumbnails 1 of 3: Angelfish to Frogfish

Thumbnail sketches of fishes you’re likely to see at dive destinations like Bonaire and Belize. Some Indo/Pacific species, a subjective and Caribbean-centric overview, not a comprehensive Fish I.D. Guide. THIS POST: ANGELFISH TO FROGFISH LINKS TO PARTS 2 & 3: G – P:  GOATFISH TO PUFFERFISH      G – P:  RAYS TO WRASSES ANGELFISH Angelfishes constitute some 86 species, most spread throughout the Indo-Pacific. Species in the Caribbean are limited to a handful, and

Read more

Fishy Thumbnails 2 of 3: Goatfish to Pufferfish

Thumbnail Sketches of fishes you’re likely to see at dive destinations like Bonaire and Belize. Subjective and Caribbean-centric; not a comprehensive Fish I.D. Guide. THIS POST: GOATFISH TO PUFFERFISH LINKS TO PARTS 1 & 3 A – F:   ANGELFISH TO FROGFISH     G – R:   RAYS TO WRASSES GOATFISH Goatfish, encompassing some 86 species worldwide, get their name from the pairs of goatee-resembling barbels extending from their chins that they use to probe the sand

Read more

Fishy Thumbnails 3 of 3: Rays to Wrasses

Thumbnail sketches of the fishes you’re likely to see at dive destinations like Bonaire and Belize. Subjective and Caribbean-centric; not a comprehensive Fish I.D. Guide. THIS POST (PART 3): RAYS TO WRASSES LINKS TO PARTS 1 & 2:  A – F,  ANGELFISH TO FROGFISH              G – L, GOATFISH TO PUFFERFISH RAYS – STINGRAYS, EAGLE RAYS, MANTA RAYS With flattened bodies, rays have taken the pectoral fin/hydrodynamic lift concept so

Read more

Bermuda Chubs: Just Hangin’ Around

Bermuda Chubs (Kyphosus sectatrix) are sort of the Charlie Browns of reef fish. Where many fishes, like Bluestriped Grunts and Gray Snapper spend their days hanging around waiting to go forth and scrounge in the sandflats once it gets dark, Bermuda Chubs just seem to hang around. None of my references make any mention of them being nocturnal foragers.  BERMUDA CHUBS ARE ELLIPTICAL-SHAPED, 10- TO 12-INCH FISHES reputed to earn their livings eating algae and

Read more

Damselfish: Small, Shy, Feisty

 Damselfish like Threespot, Dusky and Bicolor Damsels don’t have the celebrity status of more charismatic members of Family Pomacentridae like Clownfish or the in-your-face visibility of Sergeant Majors. But they’re feisty little guys who deserve attention – and, in fact, encountering Threespot Damsels (and the Damselfish Stare of Intimidation) are among my favorite things on the reef. EVERYBODY KNOWS ABOUT CLOWNFISH AND SERGEANTS BUT OTHER MEMBERS OF THE DAMSELFISH GROUP – like Blue and Brown

Read more

Barracudas: A Tale of the Teeth

Looks aren’t everything, and barracudas prove that. Sort of. In a word, they look fearsome, and fearsome they are to their fishy prey – generally guys like grunts, groupers, snappers, even small tunas and other fishes. They look fearsome to divers, but unless you go up and try to punch them in the mouth or something (not recommended) they shouldn’t bother you. BARRACUDAS LOOK FEARSOME BECAUSE OF ALL THOSE FANG-LIKE TEETH – zillions of them

Read more

What are Copepods? Essential to the Web of Life

 What are Copepods? They’re tiny, ungainly crustaceans. Often barely visible to us, they aren’t on anyone’s must see list. But they’re everywhere in the oceans, and one of the foundations of the web of life in the sea. Appreciate them. NOBODY GOES DIVING TO LOOK AT COPEPODS, AND IF THEY DO SEE THEM THEY’RE LIKELY TO BE GROSSED OUT. Generically, they’re just tiny crustaceans, mostly almost invisible, vaguely similar to shrimps and crabs, that happen

Read more

Fire Corals: Sneaky, Painful & Masters of Disguise

What are fire corals? Well, they’re not true corals, although their talent for stinging certainly lives up to the fire part of its name. The tiny animals behind them are hydrocorals, hydroids that build calcium carbonate dwellings. They’re closer to jellyfishes than to the stony corals they sort of resemble.  THE FIRST THING TO SAY ABOUT FIRE CORALS IS A WARNING: THEY LOOK TOTALLY INNOCENT. But touching them, presumably accidently, has caused many a diver

Read more