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Soft Coral Munchers

Kabira PhyllodensiumAs Phyllodensium Nudibranchs are uncommon, bizarre and attractive at the same time, they always make a good Blog post. Specially when they are found in numbers. Having blogged some weeks ago already about the Solar powered Nudibranch, it’s today the turn of the Kabira Phyllodensium (Phyllodensium kabiranum). As they are very well camouflaged when feeding on Soft Corals, they are very hard to spot – but once you found them, they make a very attractive subject. Specially, when they are isolated from the soft coral, like this one in the picture. At the moment we are finding 5 of them at Nudi Retreat – but we are also seeing them at some other Dive Sites here in Lembeh Strait.

The blue highlights in its brown tentacles make it already very attractive – but when you pass the right moment of the surge moving all it’s cerata to one side, you can see its beautiful orange base. Keep looking within Heteroxenia and Xenia corals and you might find one.

Blue Ring Fever Reaches a Climax

Blue Ring Octopus have been everywhere form months now, which is unusual to have them around for so long.  The guests have seen them mating, feeding, fighting and now we saw a beautiful specimen with eggs.  Blue Rings doing normal behaviour are a Top 10 Critter for Lembeh, where would you place one with eggs?!

'Pregnant' Blue Ring Octopus carrying Eggs

‘Pregnant’ Blue Ring Octopus carrying Eggs

Blue Ringed Octopus have a life cycle of 2 years, however, for this female her time is nearly up as once the eggs hatch she will die.  She will not have eaten for the entire pregnancy (which lasts around a week to 2 weeks). This beautiful girl has moved away from where we found her, hopefully to live out the rest of her days in peace without any photographers! Hopefully in a few months we will start to see her offspring out feeding.

This was a first for me and as such the video is probably not as clinical as it normally would be.  I also left the clip in of the Octopus leaving the bottle without being abused.. Although to be honest I am sure he would not have left the bottle if there were no divers around.

Solar Powered Nudi with Inhabitant

Solar Powered Nudibranch with little Wrasse

 

It seems to me, that we see a lot of Phyllodensium Nudibranchs at the moment. We encountered 4 different Types only yesterday – and 3 Solar Powered Nudibranchs (Phyllodensium longicirrum) on a single dive at “Tanjung Kubur”. The one you can see on this picture was a smaller one. As i was preparing for the shot, i realised, that there was a little fish hiding between the Cerata (tentacles) of the Nudibranch. It turned out to be a little Wrasse seeking shelter within the “arms” of the Solar Powered Nudi. This shot was taken in a brief moment, when the Wrasse came out of its solar powered home.

Even though we also saw a Blue Ringed Octopus, 2 Ambon Scorpionfishes, a Flamboyant Cuttlefish, Hairy Shrimps and other cool Critters on this dive at, the little Wrasse hiding in the Nudibranch was still my personal favourite of this Dive.
We were 6 Divers and had Johan, Stenley and Marnez as Guides with us.

Marine family ties

A number of marine animals do occur in families. Maybe not in the sense we usually use the word to describe human family relations, but at least in the sense of a mother being followed by one or some of her offspring. Dolphins and larger whales are examples that readily come to mind.

Dolphins. Picture not from Lembeh

We often encounter animals that seem to be living in families. Examples are of course the anemone fish, where two adult fish live as a dominant couple defends an anemone, and smaller conspecifics also live in the anemone seemingly without doing much (all to similar in behaviour  to my kids!). A number of shrimp also seem to live in families. Tiger shrimp,

Tiger shrimp

bumble bee shrimp

Bumble bee shrimp

emperor shrimp

Emperor shrimp

and sometimes harlequin shrimp can occasionally be seen in groups of two large individuals and one small, leading many observers to draw the conclusion that the small individual is the offspring of the larger ones, and that the larger ones happily tends for their “baby”.

Harlequin shrimp

What is that then with the “seem to be living in families” I include above? Well, the reality of the anemone fish and shrimp family life is that the small individuals are not related to the large ones. For the shrimps, the interaction between small and large individuals have not been studied a lot, while anemone fish relationships have received quite some attention from researchers. Suffice to say in this blog entry that the relationship between large anemone fish and small conspecific inhabitants of an anemone is far from that we would expect from parents and their beloved offspring.

Pink anemone fish

Why am I so sure that these shrimp and anemone fish are not related? Well, the shrimp and the anemone fish all adhere to the standard way that marine fish and crustaceans, and almost everything else marine, use to multiply. Eggs in marine environments generally hatch into larvae that spend some time as plankton. Plankton are animals that are moved around by currents and have little option to decide wherever they are going. Most larvae are plankton for quite some time, which means that currents sweep them far from their mother and father. Whenever the time (weeks to months) as plankton is over and the larvae metamorphose into the adult form, the shrimp and the anemone fish settle.  The likelihood that larvae should happen to reach metamorphosis size at the same time it is located close to its parents is simply extremely small. Thus, the small anemone fish and different shrimp mentioned above that live together with large, adult conspecifics are extraordinarily unlikely to be related to those adult individuals. This means that relatedness, and thus family ties, can not be used to explain why the small individuals live with the larger ones.

False clown anemone fish

I will in my next blog entry shortly discuss the relationship within an anemone fish “colony”. Be prepared for a grizzly world, combining slavery, forced starvation, castration due to stress, a just-to-happy willingness to let conspecifics meet a certain death outside the anemone and cannibalism, all taking place in one and the same anemone. Quite a far way from the cutie, cuddly feeling that Nemo left most of us in!

Hairy Octopus Video

I finally got around to posting my Hairy Octopus video, we’ve seen 3 in 3 days now here in Lembeh!

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Johan, Marnes and Indra shoot their first Hairy Octopus

We’ve been having fantastic diving recently, and we have been having some fun with the guys taking pictures and also annoying out yearly repeat guest, Mood.
Mood has been to Lembeh every year for the last 5 years and still does not have the hairy octopus, he always missed it.  We see it when he has a bad ear, when he skips a dive, or they find it on the same dive he is on but he has gone off looking for something else and is too far to call over.

The other day the boys took me to try to find the Hairy Octopus for the first time, and they found one on each of the first 2 dives – they haven’t found one for a while so there was quite a lot of excitement, and obviously a lot of bravado beforehand, and even more afterwards.

I was pretty amazed by this creature, so i thought it only fair that I let them click off a few shots whilst we were waiting for the guides to find Mood.

Here are their shots!

Dragon Shrimp

The Dragon Shrimp (Miropandalus hardingi) usually lives on whip corals and is quite a rare critter in Lembeh, although at the moment we seem to have a lot (and a lot of everything in general!).  It is not a very exciting animal, so my video is quite short, it did move a little bit so there is some ‘action’ in there.  I shot this selection of clips and images whilst giving Stenly and Johan a dive as part of their photo courses.  Stenly shooting the 7D and Johan with the S95.

Dragon Shrimp

Dragon Shrimp in Lembeh, Indonesia