Bluehead Wrasses – An Egg-Raid Video and an In-Depth Spotlight

A bluehead wrasse raid on a bicolor damselfish egg nest, caught on video.  IF YOU’VE DIVED IN THE TROPICAL ATLANTIC/CARIBBEAN, you’ve almost certainly seen bluehead wrasses. Of course, most of them weren’t blue. The blueheaded members of bluehead wrasse world are terminal-phase males, or supermales. Despite their high visibility, they make up no more than 10 percent of a given bluehead wrasse population. The overwhelming majority of bluehead wrasses are yellow – juveniles or initial-phase

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The Difference Between Jellyfish and Comb Jellies? No Sting!

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN JELLYFISH AND COMB JELLIES?  They both come in blobby shapes and gelatinous, transparent bodies. But comb jellies – ctenophores – are entirely different from their oceanic jellyfish neighbors. Most importantly: They don’t sting. And some of them put on fantastic light shows. Note that I said “neighbors,” not “cousins.” The difference between jellyfish and comb jellies runs far deeper than the absence of stinging.  Recent research suggests that combs evolved with

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This Walking Cuttlefish Makes a Colorful Statement

WHENEVER THE FLAMBOYANT CUTTLEFISH MAKES ITS ENTRANCE, it does so with flair, a walking cuttlefish that lives up to its diva-like street name. The Monterrey Bay Aquarium, which breeds them, describes them as “the flamenco dancers of the cuttlefish world.” Small and rare, flamboyants (Metasepia pferreri) are singular among cephalopods in that they live on (or hover near) the ocean bottom. They’re the only walking cuttlefish, moving along the seafloor on arms and fins. As most sources see it,

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Trumpetfish: Sneaky, Relentless Predators on the Reef

THINK ABOUT THE MOST RELENTLESS HUNTERS ON THE REEF and most divers would 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

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Sea Pearl Algae – A Species Spotlight

IF IT LOOKS LIKE A RUBBER BALL AND IT FEELS LIKE A RUBBER BALL, IT MUST BE…ALGAE, a version commonly called a sea pearl (Ventricaria ventricosa). Sea pearl algae is an occasional reef denizen found worldwide that stands out because it so often looks like a delicate glass ball. Typically about the size of a golf ball, sea pearls are remarkable for their structure. Each one is a single cell, all by itself. Its round,

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Reef Lizardfish, Ambush Experts

LIKE ALL LIZARDFISH, REEF LIZARDFISH ARE AMBUSH EXPERTS. With their typical lizard-ish posture of sitting up on their pectoral fins, their M.O. is to lie on the bottom and grab passing prey in the form of small (sometimes surprisingly large) fishes with lightning-fast strikes. Reef lizardfish (Synodus veriegatus) are Indo-Pacific denizens, one of some 45 species found worldwide in Family Synodontidae. LYING IN WAIT With colors and markings that help camouflage them, lizardfish are found on

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Black Coral: Many Colors – But Rarely Black

BLACK CORALS ARE PROBABLY BEST KNOWN AS SHINY, JET BLACK JEWELRY, but in their underwater habitats as living coral they’re more likely to be found in shades of soft reds, greens, yellows and other colors. They’re not stony corals – they grow in complex linear structures resembling trees, bushes or sea fans. The “black” part is the protein-based chitin that comprises the skeletons on which dense colonies of identical, individual polyps reside. In other words,

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Juvenile Slender Filefish

SLENDER FILEFISH (Monacanthus tucken) are only a few inches long and spend much of their time hiding out among gorgonians like this sea rod at the Turneffe Flats atoll off the coast of Belize.  They’re very good at camouflage and somewhat challenging to spot. They’re denizens of the Atlantic/Caribbean basin, found from the southeastern Caribbean as far north as North Carolina and Bermuda. SECOND OPINION PRINCIPAL SOURCES: Reef Fish Identification Florida, Caribbean, Bahamas; Reef Coral Identification, Florida, Caribbean, Bahamas,  Paul

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Banded Coral Shrimps – 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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Yellow Stingrays – Where’s Waldo?

WHERE’S WALDO? That might be the question this yellow stingray (Urobatis jamaicensis) hopes we’re asking, as it fluffs up sand to try to hide itself. In this case it didn’t work since we watched it approach and then proceed to bury itself – most ineffectively. YELLOW STINGRAY FACTS   U. jamaicensis typically measures 12 to 15 inches across, excluding the tail (although the Pittsburgh Zoo & Aquarium, which has yellow stingrays in its collection, says they

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