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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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

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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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Hamlet Fishes: Chasing the Hamlet Grand Slam

WHO KNEW THAT SPOTTING LITTLE GUYS LIKE BUTTER AND BARRED HAMLET FISHES could be challenging? I’ve thought of them as fairly bland little fishes of modest interest. I’m aware of occasionally seeing vivid blue indigo hamlets (Hypoplectus indigo) in Bonaire and Belize but not the other dozen or so species to be found around the tropical Atlantic/Caribbean. Which sounds fishy considering that Humann and DeLoache’s Reef Fish Identification says barred hamlets (Hypoplectus puella) constitute the most

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Babies on Board: How Lobsters Reproduce

WHETHER WE CATCH THEM OR BUY THEM, the process of having a lobster for dinner begins with lobster eggs – the tasty crustaceans begetting more of the same in the ocean. How lobsters reproduce is an arduous journey that takes as long as 20 months from mating to hatching. During much of that time a female lobster carries her eggs around on her underside, protecting and nourishing them. FIRST STEP TO LOBSTER EGGS: MOLT YOUR SHELL

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Banded Coral Shrimp – A Dance, a Wave & Maybe a Nice Massage

BANDED CORAL SHRIMPS MAY BE THE FRIENDLIEST CREATURES ON THE REEF.  Well, they’re always waving at us. Waving, that is, their super-long white antennae trying to attract passing divers – okay, passing fishes, actually – to come over for a little close-up cleaning. With their prominent tentacles, red-and-white banded bodies and outsized claw limbs, they’re high-profile members of the fish-cleaning profession that’s also inhabited by anemone shrimps, cleaning gobies and other little (often-juvenile) fishes. Found in

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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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Glass or Masked, Gobies We Hardly See You

THESE LITTLE GUYS ARE SO SMALL AND TRANSLUCENT THAT YOU HARDLY NOTICE THEM, but they’re actually pretty common on reefs in the Caribbean. Tiny fishes that swim in swarms of a dozen or so just off the corals, they’re either glass gobies or masked gobies. Both an inch or so in length, the two species are so similar that one source suggests the only way to be sure is to hold them in your hand

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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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