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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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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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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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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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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Feather Duster Worms Speak with Quiet Grace

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FEATHER DUSTER AND CHRISTMAS TREE WORMS? For one thing, the conical feathery crowns of Christmas tree worms shout out their presence with color and beguiling shapes. Feather dusters’ fan-shaped crowns often whisper with subtle elegance. If it’s simply about appreciating the beauty of the reef, that’s the main point – conical versus fan-shaped, bold versus muted. It’s the fan shape that gives feather dusters their other common name, fan worms.  

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Barnacles at Work

BARNACLES HAVE BEEN DESCRIBED AS SHRIMP THAT STAND ON THEIR HEADS AND FLYFISH WITH THEIR FEET. Despite the hard mollusk-like shells they build, acorn and gooseneck barnacles are crustaceans, related to shrimps, crabs and lobsters. Look closely and you’ll see fine, feathery extensions constantly being flicked into the current from within those shells, like expert fishermen casting and recasting into a stream. The creatures within use these “cirri” – adapted leg-like appendages – to capture

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Barnacles: Sticky Crustaceans Explained

AS ANIMALS THAT SPEND THEIR LIVES HIDDEN INSIDE HARD, PROTECTIVE SHELLS, IT’S EASY TO OVERLOOK BARNACLES. In fact, they may be subtle but they’re fantastic, busy little guys, always working the plankton for edibles. Need evidence? Here are some random barnacle facts. 1  Acorn and gooseneck barnacles are both crustaceans in the cirripedia subclass – cirripedia reflecting their singular adaptation of their legs into cirri used for capturing prey. 2   They’re the only crustaceans that are

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Shades of Orange – Clownfish, By the Numbers

1  ALL CLOWNFISHES ARE ANEMONEFISHES, but only two species of anemonefishes get to be called clownfishes, and one of them is the false clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris). 2   Widely thought of as the archetypal clownfish, the adorable hero of Finding Nemo is actually a false clownfish, with three broad white bands encircling his body. But that’s a design that’s easily animated and he had great marketing reps. 3   The color patterns of true clown anemonefishes (Amphiprion percula) are

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Manta Rays: Gentle Giants Explained

1)  THERE ARE TWO SPECIES OF MANTA RAYS – OCEAN MANTAS (MANTA BIROSTRIS) AND REEF MANTAS (MANTA ALFREDI). M. birostris is also sometimes known by the names giant ocean manta and Atlantic giant manta. Mantas are the largest members of the ray family and among the largest fishes in the sea. 2) Oceanic mantas are found worldwide, often reported as swimming great distances across oceans. They generally prefer tropical and subtropical waters. 3) Reef mantas are

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