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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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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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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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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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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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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