Octopuses & Squids: Support Your Local Cephalopod

TO BE SURE, CELEBRATING OCTOPUSES, SQUIDS AND THEIR COUSINS DOESN’T NEED A SPECIAL DATE. But it’s Cephalopod Week, so here are some awesome cephalopod facts, by the numbers:   1.   Cephalopods, best known by octopuses and squids, are remarkable for their braininess, and also their brains. Physically, their heads are often larger than their bodies, which perhaps explains why they’re very smart, as well. The term cephalopod is taken from the Greek for, literally, “head-feet.”

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Black Coral: Many Colors – But Rarely Black

BLACK CORALS ARE PROBABLY BEST KNOWN AS SHINY, JET BLACK JEWELRY. As living coral in their underwater habitats, they’re actually unlikely to be black. So what does black coral look like, actually? They’re most likely to be found in shades of soft reds, greens, yellows and other colors. They’re not stony corals – they grow in complex linear structures resembling trees, bushes or sea fans. The “black” part is the protein-based chitin that comprises the

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Balloonfish & Porcupinefish: Big Eyes, Mona Lisa Smile

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BALLOONFISH AND PORCUPINEFISH?  They’re both unobtrusive, usually little guys with an ability to inflate into spiny basketball-shapes when disturbed. It’s a defensive response to threats. And, divers are often confused as to which is which. First of all, when you see picture of them, they’re often inflated like stuffed pincushions. In fact, like this…. But the truth is that recreational divers who are minding their manners are unlikely to see them

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Stony, Soft or Gorgonian, They’re All Coral Polyps

WHEN PEOPLE SEE THE WORD “CORAL,” it very likely brings to mind the great mounds of star and brain corals that stand out on the reefs. In fact, “corals” include many organisms beyond the familiar stony formations, all built on similar, tiny, coral polyps. “Coral” itself is a flexible word. It applies to the coral exoskeletons that we see as the visible shells of hard corals, to the polyp animals that live within those exoskeletons

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Iguanas in the Galapagos: Here Come the Marines

FAMOUS AS LIZARDS THAT SWIM IN THE OCEANS, marine iguanas (Amblyrhynchus cristatus) are found in only one place: the Galapagos Archipelago in the eastern Pacific off Ecuador. Galapagos iguanas also include three species of non-swimming land iguanas. Some land iguanas found in the West Indies – like green iguanas (Iguana iguana) and rock iguanas (nine species in the genus Cyclura) – are also known to swim when called for, but not with the marine lifestyle of A.

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Sea Fans, Rods & Plumes: Thinking Outside the Calyx

NOBODY GOES TO THE TROPICS TO SEE GORGONIANS. The sea fans, sea plumes, sea rods and sea whips that make up Order Gorgonacea are just there, incidental bystanders on the “real” reefs of beautiful, stony corals. Sometimes, they’re in the way. While none of the 500 or so species of fans, plumes, rods or whips can compare to the exquisite beauty that hard corals achieve (although some sea fans make a good effort), they’re part

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Snakes on the Reef! They Won’t Bother You. Probably.

IF THE IDEA OF MEETING UP WITH SEA SNAKES ON A DIVE UNSETTLES YOU, here are two important facts about sea snakes and sea kraits: 1) They’re armed with highly deadly venom, and 2) They’re remarkably unaggressive. That being said, here’s another important thing about these two groups of sea snakes: Don’t mess with them. All sea snakes are venomous snake-like reptiles, but in anatomy and lifestyle, there are two different kinds. So, what’s the

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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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Porcelain Crabs Drop a Little Leg When Necessary

IF IT LOOKS LIKE A CRAB AND IT WALKS LIKE A CRAB, THEN IT MIGHT BE A PORCELAIN CRAB, which is a different thing entirely. Which leaves the question: What’s the difference between true crabs and porcelain crabs? They’re both decapods – crustaceans that resemble each other with hard outer shells and 10 appendages, including walking legs extending on their sides and large claws out in front. They both walk sideways, or “crab-like.” But the

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Horseshoe Crabs: Weird, Wonderful & Amazing

WEIRD AND WONDERFUL CREATURES, HORSESHOE CRABS are survivors from life’s earliest times who almost certainly have saved your life. And, they’re almost spiders. For the record, they’re not crabs in any way. If all that sounds overblown, consider the following horseshoe crab facts: 1)   THEY’RE WEIRD & WONDERFUL Beneath their dome-like carapaces, horseshoe crabs walk around the seafloor on 10 legs and they view the world with 10 eyes spread around their bodies, some on

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