Archive for January, 2012

Creature Feature: Pontohi Pygmy Seahorse

The Pygmy Seahorses are without doubt among the most attractive critters – they are cryptic, hard to find but yet beautiful. And for a lot of divers the Pontohi Pygmy Seahorse (Hippocampus pontohi or Weedy Pygmy Seahorse) is even more special than other Pygmy Seahorses.

The Pontohi Pygmy Seahorse was first seen in 2003 in Bunaken (by a local guide named Hence Pontoh) and officially described in 2008 – so it is a rather recently discovered species. No wonder, as the Pontohi is not as “easy” to find as other Pygmy Seahorses. While other Pygmies prefer specific hosts (like the hippocampus bargibanti for example likes the muricella seafan), the Pontohi hangs out in between small halimeda algae and hydroids – which means basicly everywhere along walls and rocks 😉 So looking for a Hippocampus pontohi means screening more area than just checking specific seafans.

The Pontohi grows to about 1 cm in size, lives mostly in pairs and comes in two general colour variations: White-Yellow with some red and Brown-Black with some red. The pontohi mimics dead halimeda leafs and therefor likes to turn his body with the surge – which makes it hard at times to take pictures of it. The Pontohi can be found in between 1 and 25 meters depth.

Best Places to see Pontohi Pygmy Seahorses in Lembeh Strait: Nudi Retreat 1-3, Angel’s Window, California Dreaming, Batu Sandar, Tanjung Tebal, Tanjung Kubur, Nudi Falls.

Photo Tips: Use a 100mm Macro or longer – please do not attempt to photograph Pontohis with a 60mm Macro, as they live on the walls and you will have to go so close that your camera and strobes will damage the reef. Consider also to use a Teleconverter or Diopter with the 100mm. Try shooting Pontohis only when there is not much surge or choose deeper living specimens – as they will move less. Try manual focus.

Goby with 3 parasites on his head

Goby with 3 parasitic copepods yawning

On one of this weeks morning dives we went diving at Tanjung Tebal – one of Lembeh Strait’s best coral dives with lots of Seafans, whips and soft corals. It is just a dive that has to be timed well with currents. We went there this week on slack tide with just a gentle water movement – just enough to keep the corals open. It was a fantastic dive with an amazing number of Pygmy Seahorses. Joni even found 13 specimens in one single muricella fan. Another cool thing was this goby who was also sitting on a muricela fan. The special thing about this one was the fact, that he had 3 parasites on his head: Parasitic Copepods. These make the Goby suffer and die eventually. In this photo it even looks like the goby is screaming – which is of course not true. He is just yawning … but it still looks cool 😉

Baby Randall’s Frogfish

Tiny juvenile of Randall's Frogfish

When i took our Guest Mood diving this week we were actually trying to find the Hairy Octopus again … but as often: You don’t always get what you ask for. Anyway: we still had a good dive with various Highlights such as several painted frogfishes, cool nudibranchs and other interesting stuff. But the best thing was this tiny little Baby Frogfish, that i found in a piece of Algae. It is a very juvenile Randall’s Frogfish – one of the rarer frogfish species here in the Lembeh Strait. Distinctive is his high head, the very flat body (which you cannot see in this picture) and a tiny white spot behind the eye. A very cool critter which we hope to photograph again once it gets a little bigger (thae grow to about 5 cm in size).

Creature Feature: Lembeh Seadragon

A Pair of Lembeh Seadragons

Happy Chinese New Year everyone and welcome in the year of the (sea) Dragon! The Lembeh Seadragon (Lembeh Pygmy Pipedragon, Kyonemichthys rumengani) is a recently dicovered species that has been seen for the first time in Lembeh Strait in 2006. It belongs to the Family of seahorses and pipefishes and is closer related to them than to the actual seadragons that are known from Australia. But the Lembeh Seadragons got their name because of their unique way of swimming, which reminds much of the Australian Seadragons.

The Lembeh Seadragons live in pairs (sometimes up to 10 pairs in one area) and are usually hanging with their tails attached to overhanging walls and crevices. Before Sunset they can be seen free swimming and courting. They are extremely thin (about 1mm) and grow to about 3-4 cm in length.

Best Places to see Lembeh Seadragons in Lembeh Strait: They can be basicly on any bigger rock or coral bommy. Nudi Falls, Pulau Abadi and similar sites are usually good to look for them. But the best place to find them is NAD Lembeh Housereef where there are constantly several pairs around since many years.

Photo Tips: A 100mm Macro for photographing individuals or a 60mm Macro for photographing swimming pairs.

Beautiful variation of Hippocampus denise

Red Hippocampus DeniseThis Picture of our Repeater Guest Mood shows a beautiful Pygmy seahorse found by our dive guide Paulus. Paulus has found already several of them over the last 10 years – but not many. And this is one of them. It is most probably a variation of the Denise Pygmy Seahorse and usually found in the Raja Ampat area. But sometimes also here in Lembeh Strait. Unlike the “ordinary” Denise it has little Bumps – much like the Hippocamus bargibanti. But it has clearly the Body Shape of the Denise. Some people also say, that it might be a separate species – which we don’t think. Denise Pygmy Seahorses are (unlike Bargibantis) to be seen in different species of seafans … so this might be just be a better adapted variation to a specific kind of seafan.

The little green Shrimp

Green Hairy Shrimp Variation without hair.

We found this Phycocaris species for the first time in October and since then already several times at different dive sites here in the Lembeh Strait. This one is now the 5th specimen we found and we have seen them in between 25 and 10 meters depth. It is always associated with the little green ascidians and is most probably a member of the phycocaris family as it has the same features as the Hairy Shrimp. But it has no hair – that’s why we think it could be either a variation or even a completely new species. It definately has the same body shape, behaviour, ray like eyes, hairy legs and size. All specimens we have seen until now are green – even though we have been also searching on different coloured ascidians. No matter what it is: Our guests love them – even though they are really tiny and hard to see without magnifying glasses.

The elusive Hairy Octopus

The rare and elusive Hairy Octopus

It is one of the most requested critters here in Lembeh Strait and the holy grail of muck diving fanatics: The extremely rare Hairy Octopus. And it is also exactly what our lovely guests Tom and Susan wanted to see. They have been here at NAD Lembeh already several times and the Hairy Octopus was one of things they still missed. And today we found one: It was one of these special Lembeh moments when Aso suddenly started yelling into his regulator and calling everybody. He pointed at a little thing on a little algae covered rock that just looked like the algae. But it had two eyes, was pulsating and had 8 arms. So one guest after the other started making “aaahh”, “oooohh” and “woooooha” sounds into their regulators (specially tom and susan). This little bugger is about 3 cm in size and is perfectly camouflaged with his hairy body.

Another funny thing were the “AAAaaahs” and “Oooohhs” when everybody showed his pictures around in the resort. We also want to share this little video that shows Mood (one of our repeater guests that comes several times each year … since many years) who really, really wants to see one as he does not yet have a picture of a Hairy Octopus. This is when i showed him the LCD screen of my camera after coming back. Mood missed this dive 😉

Mood missed the Hairy Octopus