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,

Read more

These Jellyfish Sting with “Mucus Grenades”

Researchers have discovered that seemingly benign upside-down jellyfish utilize a unique, previously unrecognized weapon to capture prey: “Stinging mucus grenades.” It explains the “stinging water” pain that divers, snorkelers and waders sometimes experience without coming into actual contact with the jellies. Upside-down jellyfish have been recognized for some 200 years, but nobody knew this until now. TO ALL APPEARANCES, UPSIDE-DOWN JELLYFISH LIKE CASSIOPEA XAMACHANA spend their days resting on the shallow bottoms of reefs and

Read more

What Are Sponges? Maybe the Future of the Reef.

What are sponges? They’re animals, perhaps animals that stretch our conception of the term, but animals for sure. It’s easy to dismiss them as just backdrop scenery to more exotic stuff on the reef. But ocean sponges come in amazing shapes and colors, chug along with body features unique in the animal kingdom and perform important reef-related roles.  Sponges were among the earliest arrivals in the ocean. And, if corals disappear, sponges may be the

Read more

The Inside Factor

HERE’S A RULE I FOLLOW ON DIVES: ALWAYS LOOK INSIDE THINGS. You can’t tell what’s you’ll find: Octopuses in holes or old tires, eels in crevices, brittlestars in vase sponges, cleaning gobies in barrel sponges, banded coral shrimps under ledges. Here’s a sharpnose puffer inside a tube sponge in Bonaire. Just hanging out, apparently. There appears to be another little fish, which I didn’t notice at the time, inside the tube at the right.  

Read more

Bivalve Mollusks: Oysters & Scallops & Clams, Oh My!

ON THE REEF, OYSTERS, SCALLOPS, CLAMS AND MUSSELS ARE PRETTY MUCH THE INACTION FIGURES. Mostly, they just sit there. If you come close, they clam up, so to speak, until you go away. Yet, environmentally, economically and, yes, culinarily, they’re big players in the oceans and in our kitchens. Spoiler alert: The bivalve mollusks you’ll see on the reef are unlikely to be the ones seafood lovers salivate over. But, they’re likely to be more

Read more

The Shrimp-Goby Connection: An Ocean Odd Couple

GOOGLE THIS FISH, THE SPOTTED PRAWN GOBY, and most of the posts you’ll find are for the aquarium trade. Amblyeleotris guttata appears to be a popular fish for home saltwater aquariums. Www.fishbase.org carries a listing for it, but it’s largely related to it colors, size and distribution (which is the Western Pacific from the Philippines down to the Great Barrier Reef at Australia. This photo was taken on the GBR). IT’S A SHRIMPGOBY    All

Read more

Seeing Sea Anemones – for Themselves

SEA ANEMONES ARE PROBABLY BETTER KNOWN FOR THE COMPANY THEY KEEP than for their unassuming, hard-working selves. On Caribbean dives, I rarely pass by one without checking it out for exotic little cleaner shrimps that might be in residence. If there aren’t any, I’m disappointed and move on. In the Pacific, of course, you hardly have to check them out to be aware of their frenetic, constantly on-the-move, high-visibility companions – clowns and other anemonefishes.

Read more

Sea Pigs: Amazing Sea Cukes You’ll Never See

IF IT LOOKS LIKE A PIG AND IT WALKS LIKE A PIG AND IT’S UNDERWATER, THEN IT MIGHT BE A…SEA CUCUMBER. Specifically, a member of the genus Scotoplanes. Or, to its multitudinous fans worldwide, a sea pig. Whereas most of us are used to seeing sea cucumbers that actually more or less resemble cucumbers in body shape, Scotoplanes species like S. globosa really do remind people of pigs. Plump, pink and sporting rather porky “legs,”

Read more

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.”

Read more

Squid Reproduction: Don’t Mess with Squid Eggs!

SOMETIMES, DURING DIVES, YOU ENCOUNTER THESE THINGS attached to the bottom. They’re squid eggs. Here’s a hint: Don’t Mess With Them! Remember Kirk Douglas battling the giant squid in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea? It’s could be like that. Maybe. MAKING MORE SQUIDS Squid reproduction is a complex process that involves fertilization following the transfer of a male squid’s sperm – in the form of a single bundle called a spermataphore – into a female’s central

Read more