Avid outdoorsman and underwater photographer, Barry Brown has spent the last 12 years documenting life above and below water in Curacao, Netherlands Antilles. He is currently working with the Smithsonian Institution documenting new Caribbean deep-water species and building a one of a kind database. His underwater images can regularly be seen in Sport Diver, Scuba Diver and on the Ikelite website. His image of a "Collage of Corals" seen under blue-light at night recently placed in the TOP 10 images for the 2014 NANPA (North American Nature Photographers Association) photo contest.
May 24, 13 Comments Off on Karpata Bonaire, Purple Stove Pipe Sponges
Hello fellow reef lovers, it’s Friday!! Yesterday was crazy with running back and forth to help with the moving at our house and helping the scientists at work. I tried and tried yesterday evening as well to get a ride in but with everything going on I can’t seem to find the time!! Stijn showed up this morning at the house to help out as I have to be underwater in an hour to photograph the sub and it’s passengers then I can go home to help with the moving.
This is my buddy Arron hovering above a beautiful cluster of Stove-Pipe Sponges at the dive site called “Karpata in Bonaire. Aplysina archeri (also known as stove-pipe sponge because of its shape) is a species of tube sponge that has long tube-like structures of cylindrical shape. Many tubes are attached to one particular part of the organism. A single tube can grow up to 5 feet high and 3 inches thick. These sponges mostly live in the Atlantic Ocean: the Caribbean, Bahamas, Florida, and Bonaire. They are filter feeders; they eat food such as plankton or suspended detritus as it passes them. Very little is known about their behavioral patterns except for their feeding ecology and reproductive biology. Tubes occur in varying colors including lavender, gray and brown. They reproduce both by asexual and sexual reproduction. When they release their sperms, the sperms float in water and eventually land somewhere where they begin to reproduce cells and grow. These sponges take hundreds of years to grow and never stop growing until they die. Snails are among their natural predators. The dense population of these sponges is going down because of toxic dumps and oil spills.
May 23, 13 Comments Off on Blackbar Soldierfish, Myripristis jacobus, Squirrelfish
Hello faithful readers, I hope the week is treating you well and your finding some time to relax. We are off to a crazy start around here with scientists and getting our ship and sub ready for the high seas next week. I believe we are leaving Curacao on Sunday first to the island of Klein Curacao and then five days at sea to Bonaire. This will be the first time ever that the deep water reefs of Bonaire have been explored and we can hardly wait! During this time of travel I will be unable to post but be assured that once I am back the photos and stories will continue, so stay tuned.
Here is one of the most common fish in Curacao called the Blackbar Soldierfish or, Myripristis jacobus for those of you smarty fish people out there. These are considered Squirrelfish and are in the Holocentridae family. Holocentridae is a family of ray-finned fish, belonging to the order Beryciformes with the members of the subfamily Holocentrinae typically known as squirrelfish, while the members of Myripristinae typically are known as soldierfish. In Hawaii they are known as menpachi.
They are found in tropical parts of the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, with the greatest species richness near reefs in the Indo-Pacific. Most are found at depths from the shoreline to 100 m (330 ft), but some, notably the members of the genus Ostichthys, are generally found far deeper. Being largely or entirely nocturnal, they have relatively large eyes. During the day they typically remain hidden in crevices, caves, or under ledges. Red and silvery colours dominate. The preopercle spines (near the gill-opening) of the members of the subfamily Holocentrinae are venomous, and can give painful wounds. Most have a maximum length of 15“35 cm (6“14 in), but Sargocentron iota barely reaches 8 cm (3 in), and S. spiniferum and Holocentrus adscensionis can reach more than 50 cm (20 in). The squirrelfishes mainly feed on small fishes and benthic invertebrates,while the soldierfishes typically feed on zooplankton. The larvae are pelagic, unlike the adults, and can be found far out to sea.
Well, friends, I have to get home and help with the moving process, we are just moving across the street but still a whole lot of work!!
May 22, 13 Comments Off on Cereus repandus, Lady of the Night Cactus Flowers
Good morning from the Caribbean. Well, after last night I can honestly say I have seen one of the coolest things I have ever seen here in Curacao, night blooming flowers on a giant cactus!!!! A friend called yesterday morning very early and told me to get over here ASAP as his cactus was exploding in giant white flowers! I rushed to get there before work and did get a few shots but last night proved to be much better. I arrived at 9:30 last night to see the flowers of the Cereus repandus just starting to open. The locals here call this plant, “Dama di Anochi” which translates to “Lady of the Night”. In Spanish it’s called; Dama de Noche. Turns out the real name is, Cereus repandus or the Peruvian Apple Cactus. Cereus repandus, is a large, erect, thorny columnar cactus found in South America as well as the nearby ABC Islands of the Dutch Caribbean. It is also known as Giant Club Cactus, Hedge Cactus, cadushi, (in Wayuunaiki and kayush.
With an often tree-like appearance, the Peruvian Apple Cactus’ cylindrical gray-green to blue stems can reach 10 metres (33 ft) in height and 10-20 cm in diameter. The nocturnal flowers remain open for only one night. The fruits, known locally as “pitaya” or Peruvian Apple, are thornless and vary in skin colour from violet-red to yellow. The edible flesh is white and contains small, edible, crunchy seeds. The flesh sweetens as the fruit opens out fully.
Cereus repandus is an unresearched, under-utilized cactus, grown mostly as an ornamental plant. As noted above, it has some local culinary importance. The Wayuu from the La Guajira Peninsula of Colombia and Venezuela also use the inner cane-like wood of the plant in wattle and daub construction.
I ended up shooting till around 11:30 last night and had to stand on a plastic table to get the top photo. In fact, we first put the wobbly table down then placed a giant cooler on top of the table, I then carefully climbed up and stood on that in the darkness, again, the things I do for a photo!!?? Amazing that these flowers only bloom once a year and for just a few hours??? I frantically rushed around trying to shoot as many as I could before their short life was over, I felt so lucky to get to see such a cool thing and can hardly wait till next year, I will be more prepared next time!!
The scientists from the Smithsonian have arrived, we will be so busy this week so hang in there if you don’t hear from me for awhile!!
May 21, 13 Comments Off on Disk Corals, Artichoke Coral, Scolymia cubensis
Hi friends, yet another crazy day in Curacao!! So this morning I got up and checked my e-mail at 6:00 and saw that a friend had sent photos of this insane cactus in his yard that bloomed late last night and had hundreds of giant white flowers!!! I quickly wrote back and asked if they were still there or if the show was over and within minutes he called and said get over here as fast as you can! I think I was there at 7:00 and was blown away by what I saw, I will send photos out soon after I find some information for you all. The cactus only blooms like this once a year and the flowers only last a few hours, you have to see it to believe it! I am going back tonight at 10:00 to hopefully get to see the last of the buds open so cross your fingers!
After that quick morning adventure I raced into work, grabbed my dive gear and camera and took off to meet the sub which was waiting for me underwater. I did a super fast photo shoot of our two guests from Holland and then once they took off I proceeded to search the reef for treasures. One of the coolest things I found other than these two solitary disk corals above was a monster sized mantis shrimp hiding deep in his hole. I have never seen a mantis this big, the hole he was in was about four inches wide, that’s a big shrimp and yes I will be going back to take photos.
The two disk corals above are called; Artichoke Coral or Scolymia cubensis. This animal is also known as a Solitary Disk coral, Smooth Disk coral, Doughnut coral, Flat Brain coral, Modern Meat coral, or just Meat coral, Atlantic Mushroom coral, and Tooth coral, talk about a animal with a whole lot of names! When I say Meaty Coral the meaty association is a reference to the polyps’ fleshiness and also to the common red coloration. This oral is found in the Atlantic waters in deeper habitats. They are solitary and grow up to four inches in diameter, and form a saucer shape. They have a smoother surface than S. lacera and is a solid green, red or brown with very little of any other colors. I believe this is a juvenile Artichoke coral because of the brownish/maroon ring on the outside, the adults are more one color. Underneath this beautiful green fleshy creature is a skeleton made entirely of calcium carbonate with it’s own unique designs and patterns. Other more popular Stony corals like Sheet corals, Brain corals, Star corals, Pillar corals and Finger corals just to name a few also have their own unique calcium carbonate skeletons underneath. These small, colorful corals generally inhabit deep reefs and walls but can be occasionally found shallower. They prefer shaded areas on rocky substrates and also grow in low-light conditions under ledge overhangs and in cave openings. During the night the polyp tentacles will emerge and the animal will feed by grabbing plankton and particles as they pass by.
The next two weeks will be on and off for me with the blog. We will be heading to Klein Curacao this Sunday for two days with the sub and then after that we head to Bonaire for five more days with the sub and the Scientists from the Smithsonian, so needless to say I will be very busy.
May 20, 13 Comments Off on Giant Green Moray EEL, Gymnothorax funebris
Hello everyone, I am so sorry for the super late post today but from the second I walked in to work till now (it’s 5:00 pm) I was busy!! We started the day off with two sub dives with more kids from Wilmington which is one of the main schools that visits here every year to do research projects on our house reef. The kids are super fun, we first had them all decorate styrofoam cups with colorful sharpies that we attach to the top of the sub which as most of you know shrink about half the size because of the depth we take the sub to. If we go down to 1000 feet a regular size styrofoam cup ends up shrinking to about one third the size!! They are like little shrunken heads and make great Christmas ornaments!! After my dives I started packing for our trip to Klein Curacao and Bonaire which will start this coming Sunday, it’s going to be a real crazy week! Tomorrow the scientists arrive from Smithsonian and we all can hardly wait, these are some of the greatest folks we have ever had the pleasure of working with!
So, how was your weekend out there??? I did a fast paced 40k mountain bike race yesterday in the hot Curacao sun and ended up in the top five. Stiyn did a 50k road race which started at the same time mine did and he was still riding when I returned, I think I was out there for around an hour and forty minutes. On Stiyn’s last lap he left everyone in the dust and did a fantastic finish winning yet another race, he had hundreds of fans going crazy at the finish line!!
I have a big, bad Green Moray eel for you all today, one of coolest creatures on the reef! Green moray eels, Gymnothorax funebris (Ranzani, 1839), aka black moray, green cong, green conger, green congo, green eel, and olive-green moray eel, are one of the most common and one of the largest of the moray eels. These eels average 1.8 m in length, but can grow up to 2.5 m long and weigh up to 29 kg. The dark green to brown color comes from a yellowish mucous that covers its blue skin to provide protection from parasites and infectious bacteria. Additionally, they are often camouflaged to hide in the reef from unsuspecting prey. Camouflage often extend into the mouth of the green moray which continually opens and closes slowly to move water over the gills for respiration. The large mouth features strong, pointed sharp teeth. The body is muscular with a long dorsal fin that extends down the length of the body starting from the head and ending in a short tail fin.
Green morays are nocturnal predators with poor eyesight that primarily use their sense of smell to hunt for fish, squid, octopuses, crabs and occasionally other eels. Green morays have been observed eating octopuses whole as well as tentacle by tentacle.
Due to its large size, the bites of this moray can be particularly dangerous, however unless provoked, this eel is not a threat to humans. Within their native range they are eaten by some indigenous peoples but the risk of contracting ciguatera poisoning from this species is considered great.
Again sorry so late, I have to go walk the dogs!! Have a great eveing, see you sometime tomorrow.
May 17, 13 Comments Off on Hawksbill Turtle, Endangered Species, Sea Turtles
It’s Friday gang!! I have a 40k mountain bike race on Sunday which starts at 2:00 in the afternoon and for those of you living here you know how stupid that is!! By 2:00 on most days here in Curacao it’s in the 100 degree range so that should be fun???
On yesterdays dive we came across this very majestic, very endangered, Hawksbill Turtle, Eretmochelys imbricata at around 85 feet out in front of the Substation on our very own reef. We have seen this guy quite a bit but I never have the right lens on my camera and for once I did. The hawksbill turtle grows to lengths of 3.5 feet long and weights of up to 180 pounds. Hawksbill turtles were named for the shape of their beak, which looks similar to the beak of a bird like an eagle, parrot or hawk just to name a few.
Recent studies showed that 95% of a hawksbill’s diet is made up of sponges. In the Caribbean, these turtles feed on more than 300 sponge species. This is an interesting food choice as sponges have a skeleton made of needle-shaped spicules (made of silica, which is glass, calcium or protein), which essentially means, a hawksbill’s stomach is filled with small glass shards. And although sponges are their favorite food they also eat sea squirts, soft corals, shellfish, sea-grasses and seaweeds.
A female Hawksbill turtle can travel up to 2400 kilometers (1500 miles) between feeding and breeding grounds. They only breed once every two to four years but during the breeding season they may nest up to six times, laying about 130 eggs in each clutch. The sex of the hatchlings depends on the temperature in the nest.
After hatching, the baby turtles swim out to sea for several days. They then spend the next five to ten years drifting around in surface waters at the mercy of ocean currents, and they feed mainly on plankton. They are often found in huge rafts of drifting sargassum, a type of brown seaweed, where they are probably best able to hide from potential predators. Once they reach lengths of 30 or 40 centimeters they settle in one particular area around coral or rocky reef.
I hope you all have a wonderful weekend, I have tons to as usual including going to another beach-cleanup at Caracas baai.
May 16, 13 Comments Off on Peacock Flounder, Bothus lunatus, Flounders
Hi gang, we had a super busy day here at Substation-Curacao yesterday with collage kids from Wilmington and folks that just wanted to go down in the sub. One of my main jobs here is to follow the sub out onto the reef and photograph who ever happens to be inside at the time and send them home with these super cool underwater photos. Most of the time the sub meets me at around 50 feet, I then take a bunch of shots and usually follow them down to around 100. We use an old Nikon D-200 in an IKELITE housing with double strobes for these shots and a D-800 for all the specimen shots and video. While out there yesterday I came across this very hidden Peacock Flounder as you see above, look how well he blends in!! Like so many fish and creatures here in the Caribbean these flounders have the art of disguise down to an art, it’s really amazing! I can’t even tell you how many times I have seen friends and divers swim right over these fish and never spot them and the cool thing is the flounders won’t move unless they are sure they have been spotted.
The peacock flounder is also called flowery flounder because it is covered in superficially flower-like bluish spots. As suggested by the family name, lefteye flounders have both eyes on top of the left hand side of their heads. The eyes are raised up on short stumps like radar dishes, and can move in any direction independent of each other. That feature provides flounders with a wide range of view. One eye can look forward while the other looks backward at the same time. The baby flounders have one eye on each side of their bodies like ordinary fish, and swim like other fishes do, but later on, as they are becoming adult, the right eye moves to the left side, and flounders start to swim sideways, which gives them the ability to settle down flat on the bottom. The maximum length of this flounder is about 45 centimetres (18 in).
Peacock flounders are mostly found in shallow water on sandy bottoms. Sometimes they rest over piles of dead corals or bare rock. They may be found as deep as 150 meters (490 ft).
As most flounders, the peacock flounder is mainly nocturnal,but is sometimes also active during the day. It hunts for small fishes, crabs and shrimps.
Like all flounders, peacock flounders are masters of camouflage. They use cryptic coloration to avoid being detected by both prey and predators. Whenever possible rather than swim they crawl on their fins along the bottom while constantly changing colors and patterns. In a study, peacock flounders demonstrated the ability to change colors in just eight seconds. They were even able to match the pattern of a checkerboard they were placed on. The changing of the colors is an extremely complex and not well understood process. It involves the flounder’s vision and hormones. The flounders match the colors of the surface by releasing different pigments to the surface of the skin cells while leaving some of the cells white by suppressing those pigments. If one of the flounder’s eyes is damaged or covered by sand, the flounders have difficulties in matching their colors to their surroundings. Whenever hunting or hiding from predators, the flounders bury themselves into the sand leaving only the eyes protruding.
I found another new Gecko yesterday at my house and got him photographed at work. After that I took him back out to the desert and released him or her back into the wild.
May 15, 13 Comments Off on Golden Basslet, Liopropoma aberrans, Eyestripe Bass
Good morning from the ABC Islands!! I have a real treat for you all today especially for my fish collectors out there. This is the mega-rare, Golden Basslet, Liopropoma aberrans or we call them here, the Eyestripe Bass. Your looking at one of the rarest, most beautiful fish ever brought up from the deep and to date we have only found and collected 10!! This is an adult male, the juveniles are completely yellow with just a faint orange glow on their bellies, as they get older they get more of this beautiful orangish-red color to their bodies. These are found and collected by our new 1000 foot submersible called the “Curasub” at www.substation-curacao.com We find these fish in little caves or parked next to solitary stones, never near the walls. They seem to love areas near sandy slopes or little rubble piles the most and are always found hidden behind rocks most likely so they can ambush prey. This species like other basslets is very shy and solitary, we sometimes will see two in one area but they are always spaced 10-15 feet apart. They are found at depths between 450 and 800 feet and researchers are thinking there could be two or three different species yet to be found. Once brought to the surface which takes about a week, they are taken into our deep-water lab (it’s very cold in there) and fed live mysis (type of tiny shrimp) which they seem to love. Like other basslets they also feed on just about anything that moves and are very aggressive hunters. So if your reading this and all ready thinking, “I gotta have one”, be prepared to shell out around $6,000!!! Yes, you read that right, in fact the first one brought up ended up selling for over five figures!!! I have been told that these fish can live a long time and they seem to do well in captivity, they just need plenty of places to hide and lots of live things to eat!!
I am off to the sea, we have two sub runs today!!
Have a wonderful day, Barry/www.coralreefphotos.com
May 14, 13 Comments Off on Longsnout Seahorse, Hippocampus reidi, Seahorse’s
Hola Amigo’s, I have a very shy, bright orange, Longsnout Seahorse, Hippocampus reidi for you all today that I found right here on the Sea Aquarium house reef. For most visiting divers this is the Holy Grail of finds but sadly many will leave without ever seeing one. If you want to find a seahorse you have to dive slow, get lower to the reef and look at the base of all sponges and gorgonians, I promise you they are there you just have to find them. This little reef treasure can grow to about seven inches long and can be found in a multitude of rainbow colors. Males are often bright orange and the females yellow, both may be covered in brown or white spots, and may turn pink or white during courtship. They are found in coral reefs and sea grass beds and occasionally in the midwater of the Atlantic from North Carolina to Florida, and from the Caribbean down to Brazil. Males can carry broods of up to 1,000 young in their pouches, with larger males carrying even more young.
Of the thousands of longsnouts born in each brood, only one or two may live to become adults and raise broods of their own. In the past, that’s been enough to keep their populations healthy. But today, collectors take tons to dry and sell as souvenirs. The more that are taken, the fewer that are left to reproduce putting longsnout populations in danger.
As with other seahorses, when longsnout seahorses mate, the female deposits her eggs into a special pouch on the male’s belly. The pouch seals shut while he nurtures the developing eggs. Once the eggs hatch, the pouch opens and the male goes into labor giving birth to his tiny young.
We had a crazy day here at Substation yesterday with film crews, famous singers and two actors, never a dull moment around here!!
Not much else to report, the rains have stopped and the island is nice and green, the down side is the wind is blowing hard again and the ocean is rough!
May 13, 13 Comments Off on Trumpetfish, Aulostomus maculatus, Long Fish
Good morning from the Caribbean!! IF your like me, you just got to work and are just sitting there starring at your computer wondering why your head is spinning and asking yourself, “where did the weekend go”???? It’s like some cruel magic trick, you wait all week for your weekends and then “POOF” they are gone!! I was thinking, we as a human race need to implement a new work strategy, we will all work super hard on the weekends even overtime if needed and then we get the week off, tell me that doesn’t sound better!!
My weekend was of course crazy busy again and so much in fact I can hardly remember what I did on Saturday?? Yesterday, Sunday I left the house at 6:30 am on my mountain bike and did a very fast paced two and a half hour ride to the North coast and back, that’s around 35 miles. After that Stijn came over and we found two more different gecko’s in my yard for my “reptiles of Curacao” collection and took them to work to be photographed. After they were photographed we took them all the way back out to the desert and released them in a beautiful spot with lots of old wood. We then met a few friends at Substation and went on a fun reef dive, I spent the whole time just cleaning up the reef and not taking my camera for once. After the dive we worked in my yard getting it cleaned up and finally at 4:30 took the dogs out for a long two hour hike around the salt ponds, talk about a man who was wiped out when I got home!!! So tell me what you all did this weekend for once.
Here is a sleek Trumpetfish I found a few days ago and forgot to send it to you all. These fish are everywhere you look here in Curacao! They can be found in electric yellow, blue as you see above and even red, and I am still trying to get all the colors into one photo!! Trumpetfish, Aulostomus maculatus, are long bodied fish with upturned mouths, that often swim vertically while trying to blend with vertical coral, like sea rods, sea pens, and pipe sponges.
Trumpetfish occur in waters between 0.5 and 30 meters (1.6 and appr. 100 feet) deep and can grow to 40 to 80 cm (appr. 15 to 31+ inches) in length. They are sometimes locally abundant over coral atoll reefs or in lagoons, where they may be caught even in areas of severe wave action. The spawning habits of the trumpetfish are unknown, but in the region around Madeira, it is known that the females have mature eggs from March to JuneTrumpetfish are closely related to cornetfish. Trumpetfish can be a bit more than 36 inches (3 ft) long and have greatly elongated bodies with small jaws at the front end of a long, tubular snout. The gills are pectinate, resembling the teeth of a comb, and a soft dorsal fin is found near the tail fin. A series of spines occurs in front of the dorsal fin. Trumpetfish vary in color from dark brown to greenish but also yellow in some areas. A black streak, sometimes reduced to a dark spot, occurs along the jaw, and a pair of dark spots is sometimes found on the base of the tail fin.
Trumpetfish swim slowly, sneaking up on unsuspecting prey, or lying motionless like a floating stick, swaying back and forth with the wave action of the water. They are adept at camouflaging themselves and often swim in alignment with other larger fishes. They feed almost exclusively on small fish, such as wrasses and atheriniformes,by sucking them suddenly into their small mouths.
There is another fish similar to a Trumpetfish called a Cornetfish often mistaken for a trumpetfish. The key visible difference is the tail, pointed “T” in a cornetfish and rounded fan-shaped in a trumpetfish. In the years I have been here in Curacao I have only seen two cornetfish, they are so hard to find and very scared of their own shadows!!
Trumpetfish make up the genus Aulostomus of the family Aulostomidae.
Have a wonderful day folks, we have the film crew from “Wild About Animals” showing up here soon so I need to get ready!!!
May 10, 13 Comments Off on Coral Crab, Channel Clinging Crab, Mithrax spinosissimus
Good morning gang, I really can’t believe it’s Friday already!! Here is a big Channel Clinging Crab by request this morning. Most of you divers know this species by the common name Channel Clinging Crab, but it turns out that it has several other common names, including Reef Spider Crab, and Spiny Spider Crab, among others. The crab’s scientific name is Mithrax spinosissimus, and that designation stays the same, independent of the common name, which varies from place to place. This crab is a ‘true crab’ (as opposed to, say, a hermit crab), and belongs to the Majidae family.
Majidae tend to have long slender legs just like this example above which is why the common names of many species in this family include the word ‘spider’. Majids also tend to have little hairs or bristle-like structures on their carapaces. Bits of material like algae, sponge, and so on attach to those hairs and act as part of the crab’s camouflage.
Note that the walking legs of this species also are rather hairy, and are covered with ‘stuff’ while the business end of the crab those impressive claws, are smooth.
Like so many reef creatures, this species forages mainly at night. During the day, they hunker in the reefs, under ledges, and in cavelets. Because of their size, they can’t wiggle into small cervices like so many smaller species can do. Still, they can be difficult to spot during the day, since their decorated carapaces blend so well with their surroundings.
These crabs inhabit a range from the sub-tropical western Atlantic to the Caribbean. They can be found in reef areas along the coasts of southern Florida, through the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands, and throughout much of the Caribbean. Thanks to The Right Blue for this great information. http://therightblue.blogspot.com/2009/02/channel-clinging-crab-mithrax.html
Stijn and I started filming a mountain bike movie last night but will takes weeks of work to finish. Because of all the new green growth everywhere now we thought it would be a perfect time to start this long overdo project and so many have asked to see the trails here!
I am off to the sea, have a great weekend and thanks for all the wonderful comments and suggestions.
May 9, 13 Comments Off on Pillar Coral, Dendrogyra cylindricus, Stony Corals
Good morning gang!! I have a super cool photo for you today showing how Pillar Coral can look before the “coral pillars” really begin to form. All these small pillars you see will eventually grow to be quite tall and what I love about this shot is how big the base is. This is very important as the pillar corals once grown, will need to be well fused to the reef that way it can never fall over in case of a big storm. For my coral fans out there visiting Curacao that want to see some “killer pillar corals” dive the area to the East of our Aquaelectra, desalination plant, these are some of the best in Curacao!
Pillar coral (Dendrogyra cylindricus) is a hard coral (order Scleractinia) found in the western Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. It is a digitate coral -that is, it resembles fingers (Latin digites) or a cluster of cigars, growing up from the sea floor without any secondary branching. It is large and can grow on both flat and sloping surfaces at depths down to 20 m (65 ft). It is one of the few types of hard coral in which the polyps can commonly be seen feeding during the day. Pillar coral forms an encrusted base from which grow vertical cylindrical, round-ended columns. This coral can grow to a height of 3 m (10 ft) with pillars more than 10 cm (4 in) wide but is usually much smaller than this. The corallites from which the polyps protrude are smaller than 1 cm (0.4 in) in diameter and arranged in shallow meandering valleys with low ridges in between. The skeleton of the coral is not usually visible because the polyps are typically extended during the daytime, unlike most other coral species. The mass of undulating tentacles gives the coral a furry appearance. This coral is usually some shade of beige or brown.
Pillar coral is a zooxanthellate species, with symbiotic dinoflagellate algae living within the tissues. In sunlight these undergo photosynthesis and most of the organic compounds they produce are transferred to their host, while they make use of the coral’s nitrogenous wastes.These algae give the coral its brownish colour and restrict it to living in shallow water into which the sunlight can penetrate.
Pillar coral is a slow-growing, long-lived species. A number of columns grow up from a basal plate; if the whole colony is dislodged and topples over, new cylindrical pillars can grow vertically from the fallen coral. Some specimens have been found where this has happened more than once, and the history of the colony can be deduced from its shape. If a pillar gets detached and becomes lodged in a suitable position, it can continue to live, sending up new pillars from the base and other parts of the column.
Each pillar coral clonal colony is either male or female. Sexual reproduction takes place with gametes being released into the water column where fertilisation takes place. The larvae that hatch out of the eggs are planktonic and drift with the currents before settling on the seabed to found new colonies.
We have a film crew here from Brazil this morning and we are taking them down in the sub in just a few minutes. I will be on the outside following them down to about 150 feet taking photos the whole way which means I have to get going!
May 8, 13 Comments Off on Sand Divers, Synodus intermedius, Lizardfishes
Good morning readers, how is your week treating you?? It’s been a busy week around here trying to get ready for all the scientists and film crews that will be arriving starting tomorrow and today we have groups and groups of American kids all here learning about the sub. I was so busy at home last night getting the house ready for it’s inspection this morning that I skipped my bike ride last evening but will make up for it tonight instead!!
So here’s two Lizardfish which are also called Sand Divers laying next to each other at around 70 feet doing what lizardfish do, remaining perfectly still! These are honestly some of the meanest, scariest, most aggressive hunters I have ever seen in the sea, very much like a barracuda! I can’t even tell you how many times I have watched a lizardfish ambush a poor unsuspecting fish and to say they are fast would be an understatement! I remember once in Bonaire I was laying on the sand at 20 feet in front of “1000 Steps” photographing this beautiful little fish in the sand. I had laid there for at least 15 minutes and never saw the lizardfish that was buried next to my arm and it was only inches away?? Well, you know where this is going, just as the little fish came out of it’s hole near the sand thinking I was safe, the lizardfish bursted out of the sand like a rocket and ate him in one gulp, it scarred me so bad I almost peed my wetsuit and my heart was pumping overtime! With that said it is now the fish on the front of my “coralreefphotos” business card. Sand Divers, Synodus intermedius can be exceptionally difficult to spot. I have watched an entire group of divers pass within two feet of a Sand Diver and fail to notice it. Sand divers are a type of lizardfish, and like chameleons, they are masters of disguise. A Sand Diver can pale to almost white, or darken to mimic a colorful reef or sponge.
Well, I am off to find the 5 baby squids that are under or around our floatting dock, I saw them yesterday so I know they are out there!
May 7, 13 Comments Off on Blue Tang Aggregations, Acanthurus coeruleus
Good morning friends, yep, late again what can I say?? There is so much going on here at the moment that getting to the blog is becoming down right difficult, but I am trying! So just to get you up to speed on what’s coming up for us this month, we first have the crew from “Wild About Animals” arriving from the States on the 14th through the 16th to shoot a story on the sub and all the cool stuff we find down there, not sure yet when that will air but I will keep you posted. Then, days after we have the scientists arriving from the Smithsonian again and they will be around till June 3rd or 4th. We are first taking them, our ship and the sub to Klein Curacao for a few days and then to Bonaire for five days, we are going to be sooo busy! The scientists will be searching for new species of fish and creatures and I will be right there with camera ready to photograph these new finds when they surface in my waiting deep-water aquariums that I will have aboard the ship. We are also in the middle of moving to another house so please be patient in the coming days. When we are out to sea on the “Chapman” (our research vessel) I will have no Internet which means no blog for about a week but I will make it up to you with cool photos never seen before.
Here is a colorful photo of a big school of Blue Tangs cruising through the reef. We see these large groups called “aggregations” on the reef here every single day and I still never seem to get tired of it, they are just so beautiful. Adult blue tangs have three social modes: territorial, wandering, and schooling. Territorial adults defend their home rage from other members of the species. Schooling adults are not aggressive. Wanderer adults are not aggressive nor do they interact with other individuals like schooling fish do. Wanderers are mostly chased by other fish including Ocean surgeonfish and damselfishes. Occasionally, Blue Tangs form large multi-species aggregations with other surgeonfishes as seen above.
Blue tangs may benefit from forming schools for two reasons. First, individuals may experience lower rates of predation when feeding in large groups. Second, by feeding in groups, fish might be able to work together to overcome the territorial defenses of other fishes. For example, a single blue tang is easily chased away by an aggressive damselfish defending its territory. However, when a large school of blue tangs and their schoolmates try to feed on algae in a damselfish’s territory, there is little that the damselfish can do. When this occurs, the damselfish frantically, but ultimately fruitlessly, attempts to chase away their more numerous attackers while the school consumes all of the algae in their territories.
Blue tangs are active during the day, hiding in crevices on the reef at night to avoid predators.
Juvenile blue tangs are solitary and occupy home ranges that increase with body size. Juveniles aggressively defend their home ranges from juvenile ocean surgeonfish. Juveniles also avoid damselfishes that overlap in range with them.
May 6, 13 Comments Off on Yellow Goatfish, Mulloidichthys martinicus, Mullidae
Good morning from wet Curacao! It’s crazy how fast things change here, we went from two months without rain and now there is standing water everywhere! The forecast for today and tomorrow is heavy rain and stupid me I rode my bike to work, it’s gonna be real fun getting home.
So how was your weekend???? Mine was busy with packing up our house and getting ready for our big move across the street at the end of the month. The house we are in now is much too big for us and we hardly even use the upstairs, our new place will be cheaper and have better wind circulation so needless to say we can hardly wait. I did a three hour bike ride yesterday and then went to watch Stijn and Dorian race in a criterium over on the North coast by the airport. Stijn had to do 30 laps (65k) and Dorian who is much younger only had to do 5 laps (13k), they both won first place!!
Today I have a beautiful school of Yellow Goatfish, Mulloidichthys martinicus, hanging out around a mound of Mountainous Star Coral. Yellow goatfish are tireless benthic feeders, using a pair of long chemosensory barbels (“whiskers”) protruding from their chins to rifle through the sediments in search of a meal. May grow up to 39 centimetres (15 in) in length. They usually feed off of smaller fish, hunting in a school during the day, and alone at night.
Goatfishes are tropical marine perciform fish of the family Mullidae. Seldom found in brackish waters, they are most associated with the reefs of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans.
The goatfishes are sometimes called ‘red mullets’ as opposed to the Mugilidae, the grey mullets, though that name is usually reserved for the red mullets of the genus Mullus of the Mediterranean. Within the family are approximately six genera and 55 species. All goatfishes have the ability to change their coloration depending on their current activity. By day, many goatfishes will form large inactive (nonfeeding) schools; these aggregates may contain both conspecifics and heterospecifics. By night, the schools disperse and individual goatfish head their separate ways to loot the sands. Other nocturnal feeders will shadow the active goatfish, waiting patiently for any overlooked morsels. Goatfishes stay within the shallows, going no deeper than about 110 m.
I hope all is well out there, the rain has stopped and I am racing home to get the car before the next wave arrives!