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

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Sharksuckers: Not Just for Sharks! And They Don’t Suck

More properly known as remoras, the “sharksuckers” that famously hitch rides on sharks also stick themselves to tunas, manta rays and other large fishes, turtles, whales, boats and anything else that might move. Including, occasionally, divers.   SHARKSUCKERS – REMORAS – USE LARGE SUCTION PADS on the tops of their heads to stick to their hosts, relying on those sharks, rays or whatever to do the heavy work of actually moving. The suction pads are transformed

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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

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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.

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The Lionfish Enigma: Atlantic Threat But Not Pacific

LIONFISHES HAVE BEEN AROUND IN THE INDO/PACIFIC FOR EONS, yet almost all talk about them focuses on their presence in the Atlantic and Caribbean. Google “lionfish” and you’ll find a zillion articles on them as an invasive threat in the Atlantic basin for each one about them in their native habitat. Okay. That’s a bit of hyperbole, but the idea is good. There’s an enormous disparity in Atlantic and Pacific lionfish articles. Almost all of

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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,”

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Trumpetfish: Sneaky, Relentless Predators on the Reef

THINK ABOUT THE MOST RELENTLESS HUNTERS ON THE REEF and you probably envision menacing sharks, barracudas and moray eels. But those are mere grandstanders in the predation game. High on the list of sneaky relentless predators would have to be a species of fishes that Caribbean divers encounter so frequently – and that appear so benign – that they’re likely to take them for granted and ignore them. After all, the ever-present trumpetfish (Aulostomus maculatus)

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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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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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