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

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Benthic & Pelagic Fishes: Defining Oceanic Lifestyles

Describing pelagic fishes is easy: They swim, feed and just hang out in the open ocean, a pretty consistent pattern across many ocean-going species. Describing benthic fishes is something else. They live at the bottom of the ocean but they go about their lives in a bunch of differing ways – above, on and sometimes in the seafloor. Some may engage in all three approaches. IF TOLSTOY HAD WRITTEN ABOUT MARINE LIFE, he might have

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Why Are Flounders Flat? Because it Works.

Flounders are famously fishes that start out with typical-fish body shapes and morph into bottom-dwelling flatfishes that live sideways, with both eyes on the same side. As weird as this sounds, they’re highly successful survivors and predators. But why are flounders flat? And how do they get flat?  FLOUNDERS ARE THE FISHES THAT PABLO PICASSO MIGHT HAVE DREAMED UP – all the parts are there, just arranged differently. And Peacock Flounders obviously would have been

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How Do Flying Fishes “Fly?” Well, Actually, They Glide.

Why do flying fishes fly? To escape predators, to flee from surprises like boat engines next them, perhaps to entertain you during the ride to a dive site. In any event, they earn their names by propelling themselves out of the water and gliding for long distances on broad pectoral fins. Torpedo-shaped and silvery, sometimes with markings in subdued colors, they’re not especially exotic visually. But they’re impressive both underwater and in the air. YOU’RE

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Do Sea Urchins Sting? No, But They Hurt All the Same

What are sea urchins? Members of Class Echinoidea, they’re distant cousins of starfishes that boast imposing defenses and bad reputations. Do sea urchins sting? Not really. It’s more that they impale. But, if you don’t bother them, these oceanic pincushions won’t bother you. The trick is in not accidentally bothering them. RATHER THAN APPRECIATING SEA URCHINS, MOST PEOPLE FLEE FROM THEM, CAREFULLY. After all, the likely result of interacting with these oceanic pincushions while doing

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Sea Turtles Fake Out Predators with Decoy Turtle Nests

When leatherback and hawksbill sea turtles finish laying their eggs in newly dug nests on a beach, they pull a fast one on would be egg poachers. They create trails and decoy turtle nests a distance away from their real egg caches, scientists say in a new paper. ON THE NATURE DOCUMENTARIES, THE PROCESS OF SEA TURTLES NESTING ON THE BEACH is both charming and straightforward: Momma turtles crawl up the sand, dig a hole,

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Akin to Brittlestars, Basket Stars Network in the Dark

Basket stars are the starfish relatives you’re least likely to see in their full glory. Key basket star fact: They do their work of unfolding their tangled arms and capturing passing prey in the dead of night.  Another: If you come across one during a night dive and stop to look at it – shining a light on it, of course – it’s going to fold right up and not quite disappear in front of

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Stars of Doom: Crown of Thorns Starfishes

Coral reefs are constantly being built up and simultaneously torn down, but Crown of Thorns Starfishes throw that equation out the window. Left to their own devices during population outbreaks, Acanthaster planci devour coral polyps and devastate reef habitats. Herewith: Crown of thorns starfish facts.  IF CROWN OF THORNS STARFISHES HAD A THEME SONG, it would be Darth Vader-type music. So destructive are these rogue echinoderms that their very name is synonymous with bad news

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All Arms, All the Time: Feather Star Facts

UNLIKELY ANIMALS THEY MAY SEEM TO OUR EYES, but feather stars are full-fledged members of the animal kingdom. Here’s a key feather star fact: They may seem to be fixed in place in their perches on coral heads or sponges  or sea rods, but these crinoid creatures eat, reproduce and move like other animals. As a bonus, they’re often beautiful and compelling.  TECHNICALLY, FEATHER STARS HAVE ARMS JUST LIKE THEIR STARFISH AND BRITTLESTAR COUSINS. At

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Brittlestars: Well-Armed, Laid-Back and Full of Tricks  

If you think of brittlestars as just a variation on the familiar, pointy starfish, think again. They’re made quite differently, they act differently and they live quite a different lifestyle.  It’s all in the long, whip-like arms. BRITTLESTARS ARE MORE THAN JUST TRADITIONAL STARFISHES WITH LONG, SINUOUS ARMS AND LAID-BACK ATTITUDES. Actually, there are many differences between brittlestars and star-shaped starfishes, both in body design and behavior. In contrast to sea stars, brittlestars have flexible,

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