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 & Anemonefish

ANEMONEFISH FACTS, 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

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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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Bluehead Wrasses – The Great Damselfish Egg-Raid

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 adults or something in between. Blueheads (Thalassoma bifasciatum) are among those fish that

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The Difference Between Jellyfish and Comb Jellies

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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