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.
Archive for June, 2013
Jun 28, 13 Comments Off on Baby Bottlenose Dolphin, Baby Dolphins, Dolphins
Good afternoon readers, a beautiful momma and baby dolphin shot for you today! These are always a crowd pleaser…who doesn’t love a baby dolphin? These two are Tela and Serena. Serena is quite young here, only about 6 weeks old. Serena is now 14 months old and doing great! Dolphin grow very quickly in their first years. When they are born they are about 30 pounds, and by the first year more than 100 pounds! They also need to be advanced in their motor skills right away because of course they need to swim, nurse underwater, come to the surface to breath, dive etc. Whew! It would tire us out! Tela is such a great momma. If you remember, Pasku was her first calf. Pasku is now4.5 years old, and a busy juvenile, playing around with all the gang. Mothers will usually take care of their baby for 2-3 years which will include nursing and getting many lessons in how to be a dolphin. Dolphins are socially complex, so there is much to learn. And, Tela is a great momma to learn from. So, there is your dolphin information for the day! Have a great one and sunny skies from Curacao!
Jun 27, 13 Comments Off on Southern Stingray, Dasyatis americana, Stingrays
Good morning friends, I found a buried Southern Stingray yesterday out on our Substation reef at 85 feet and stayed as long as I could to watch. I have found that if you are very calm and very quiet you can get very close to these animals while buried in the sand, I think it is because they think you can’t see them. When I find rays that are not buried they are much more scared and immediately swim off when they see you.
The southern stingray, Dasyatis americana, is a stingray of the family Dasyatidae (the Whiptail Stingrays) found in tropical and subtropical waters of the Western Atlantic Ocean from New Jersey to Brazil. It has a flat, diamond-shaped disc, with a mud brown, olive, and grey dorsal surface and white underbelly (ventral surface). The barb on its tail is serrated and covered in a venomous mucous, used for self-defense.
The southern stingray is adapted for life on the sea bed. The flattened, diamond-shaped body has sharp corners, making it more angular than the discs of other rays. The top of the body varies between olive brown and green in adults, dark grey in juveniles, while the underside is predominantly white. The wing-like pectoral fins are used to propel the stingray across the ocean bottom, while the slender tail possesses a long, serrated and poisonous spine at the base, used for defence. These spines are not fatal to humans, but are incredibly painful if stepped on. The eyes are situated on top of the head of the southern stingray, along with small openings called spiracles. The location of the spiracles enables the stingray to take in water while lying on the seabed, or when partially buried in sediment. Water enters the spiracles and leaves through the gill openings, bypassing the mouth which is on the underside. Female stingrays can grow to a disc width of 150 cm, contrary to the smaller male stingrays that reach maximum size at 67 cm.
The southern stingray is an opportunistic forager, feeding on small crustaceans, such as alphaeid, penaeid and callianasid shrimp and brachyuran crabs, mollusks, bony fish, and lancelets. It feeds by flapping the wing-like pectoral fins and expelling water to disturb the sand and expose the prey. This bottom-dwelling species is often found singly or in pairs, and can reach population densities estimated up to 245 per km2 in certain shallow systems thought to be nursery grounds.
I am off to do a dive with our submersible, have a great day out there!!
Curacao regards, Barry
Jun 26, 13 Comments Off on Spotted Moray Eel, Gymnothorax moringa, Eels
Bon Dia from Curacao!! For those of you who have never stopped in Curacao, Bon Dia is how the locals say Good Morning which is a mixture of Spanish and Dutch.
So, your question of the day, are you ready?? What has razor sharp teeth, moves through the reef like a stealth fighter and has a very bad attitude, if you guessed a Spotted Moray eel, pat yourself on the back because your right!! I have to tell you there are very few things under the sea here in Curacao that scare me but when it comes to these eels I always keep my distance!! I have seen these eels attack fish and eat other eels without any warning at all and it happens so fast! These are also the only eels here that seem to like the taste of Lionfish! Anytime we are out hunting lionfish we always hand deliver the shot fish to one of the many spotted morays that we know about that are always in the same place. Before you even get the fish close to them they already smell it and swim up and out of their holes to meet you half way grabbing it from the spear and taking it back to their caves. Within minutes they always re-appear and are ready for more, in fact we have one here on the reef that ate six lionfish within 10 minutes and I think he would have eaten more if we would have had them. The big green morays we have here don’t seem to like the lionfish as much.
The spotted moray, Gymnothorax moringa, is a medium to large moray eel. It has a long snake-like body, white or pale yellow in color with small overlapping dark-brown spots. Typical length is around 60 centimeters, but recent specimens suggest to maximum size of this moray is almost 7 feet, or two meters (200 centimeters).
The spotted moray is found in the Western Atlantic Ocean from North Carolina and Bermuda to Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. It is also found around Mid- and Eastern Atlantic islands as far south as St Helena. It is found from near to the surface, up to a depth of 200 meters.
Spotted morays are solitary animals, and are usually seen in holes, with only the head protruding. They are active during the day, feeding at the sea bottom on crustaceans and other fish. Their bite can be dangerous to humans.
Off to the sea, have a great day!!
Jun 25, 13 Comments Off on Caribbean Reef Octopus, Octopus briareus
Good morning friends, I have a Caribbean Reef Octopus, Octopus briareus for you all today that I found late at night out hunting on the reef. I posted two photos to kind of show you the different color patterns these octopus are able to change to in the blink of an eye!
The Caribbean reef octopus (Octopus briareus) is a coral reef marine animal. It has eight long arms that vary in length and diameter. The mantle is large and chunky in comparison (up to 60 cm long). This species is difficult to describe because it changes color and texture to blend into its surroundings, using specialised skin cells known as chromatophores. Its color range is incredibly large; it can change from crimson to green, and bumpy to smooth. It weighs around 3.3 lb or 1.5 kg.
The Caribbean reef octopus lives in warm waters around coral reef environments and grassy and rocky sea beds. Their biogeographic regions are as follows: the Nearctic region, Neotropical region (Central and South America), oceanic islands and the Pacific Ocean.
The Caribbean reef octopus lives in hidden, rocky lairs that are difficult to locate. Their lairs are usually created in shallow warm waters. O. briareus is not a social animal, and stays at a safe distance from other octopuses of the same species, except for mating. If faced with a predator, a Caribbean reef octopus, like most other octopuses, sucks up a volume of water then expels it quickly in the form of a jet to propel itself away. To further deter predators, it can eject ink to mask its escape. This octopus does not live in its lair for its entire life; instead, it moves often except when caring for eggs or young.
Octopus briareus, like most other octopuses, is one of the most intelligent of all invertebrates (see Cephalopod intelligence). The octopus’s ability to remember where a foe resides and then avoid it is considered to be an intelligence trait. The Caribbean reef octopus has also been known to learn from others of the same species and some have disguised themselves as algae or coconuts to avoid predatory detection. This octopus, while not considered very aggressive, will show cannibalistic qualities if individuals are kept too close to one another in captivity.
Lots to do and for once the wind isn’t blowing a million miles per hour!!
Have a great day, Barry
Jun 24, 13 Comments Off on Batwing Coral Crab, Carpilius corallinus, True Crabs
Good morning from the Caribbean! So how was your weekend?? Mine went by so fast again and I really don’t feel like much got done! Friday after my dive with the coral researchers I dropped my phone in the ocean (again) and spent Saturday trying to find a new one! I have personally donated a lot of $$$ to the NOKIA company over the past few years and it’s clumsy people like myself that keep them in business. Saturday morning I took the dogs out for a two and a half hour hike cleaning trails along the way, talk about unforgiving ground here in Curacao, it’s all rock! After getting the dogs washed and putting them to bed I then spent the rest of my day logged into the US Copyright office registering underwater photos. This is the down side to being a photographer, if you want to protect the photos you take you must get them registered and it’s a time consuming process!! On Sunday I again did the long hike with the dogs in the morning and then went out to the Dutch Navel base for a fun afternoon of sightseeing. Every year the navel base is open to the public for one day allowing all to board and explore their fleet of navy ships and walk all over the base, it’s a lot of walking but super fun. We had our submersible parked all day down on the docks and had thousands come by to see it and ask questions. After my afternoon at the base I took off into the wilds of Curacao for an hour and a half bike ride but just wasn’t that into it, it was more like work than fun so I ended up calling it a day! That was kind of my weekend, I’m sure yours was much more entertaining.
Here is a beautiful Batwing Coral crab, Carpilius corallinus for your viewing pleasure today. These crabs are so beautiful with their brilliant array of colors and that unmistakable bat outline on top of their shell. These crabs are classified as â€œTrue Crabsâ€ with their smooth carapace in shades of orange, red or brown with white and yellow spots and markings. The legs are red with purple shading and the top of the shell has the outline of a bat with it’s wings open, thus the name. Although now that I said that, I have also heard these called, Coral Crabs, Red Coral Crabs and the Queen Crab. In all the years I have been here I have never seen a baby one of these, only the full grown adults which are around 4-6 inches wide measured by the width of just the carapace. I also normally never see these creatures any deeper than 50 feet and quite often I have seen them in just a meter of water getting in or out from a dive hiding under rocks. Crabs as you may or may not know have greatly reduced abdomens and tails, which are kept curled under their large, rounded, and often flattened carapace. Their first pair of legs have developed claws that are used for protection and for the manipulation of objects. If disturbed, these claws are raised toward the danger in a threatening manor. Using the remaining four pairs of legs, crabs can move rapidly in a sideways direction. Many species are quite small and secretive, and therefore very difficult to find.
Well, busy week ahead, we have a sub dive in an hour so I need to get ready to go. Have a great Monday, see you tomorrow.
Jun 21, 13 Comments Off on Flying Gurnard, Dactylopterus volitans, Fish with Wings
Good morning from windyville!! I tell you May and June are not my favorite months here in Curacao because of this insane wind and it’s no wonder they hold the World Championship wind surfing events in Bonaire during this time every year! Well, lets see, what did I do yesterday?? Ah, yes, I did two dives with some of the top coral researchers on the planet and photographed them out on the reef doing their best to figure out why the reefs are declining so fast. They swam out onto the reef with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of coral research equipment which took around 20 minutes to hook up to a big colony of star coral, I will send photos. Once they attached their electronic coral survey equipment to the coral they then left it there for a period of time which again, you will better understand when you see the photos.
On my way back from the second dive I found this little sweetheart digging around in the sand, it’s called a Flying Gurnard or Dactylopterus volitans for you fish people out there.
The flying gurnards are a family, Dactylopteridae, of marine fish notable for their greatly enlarged pectoral fins. As they cannot literally fly, an alternative name preferred by some authors is Helmet Gurnards. They are the only family in the suborder Dactylopteroidei. They have been observed to â€œwalkâ€ along sandy sea floors while looking for crustaceans and other small invertebrates by using their pelvic fins. Like the true Gurnards (sea robins), to which they may be related, they possess a swim bladder with two lobes and a â€œdrumming muscleâ€ that can beat against the swim bladder to produce sounds. They have heavy, protective, scales, and the undersides of their huge pectoral fins are brightly coloured, perhaps to startle predators. Most species live in the Indo-Pacific, but at least one is native to the Atlantic. The adults live on the sea bottom, but many species have an extended larval stage, which floats freely in the oceans.
I have so much to do, I have to get moving, have a great weekend all!! Barry
Jun 20, 13 Comments Off on Global Warming, Coral Reef Decline, Coral Disease
Good morning from Curacao! I had recently mentioned that the reefs in Bonaire and Curacao are on the decline and had many readers asking to see photos about what I am talking about, so here you go!! I really wasn’t kidding when I said there is algae and bacteria covering everything on our reefs and there doesn’t seem to be much anyone can do about it?? The number one problem here on our own reef is a nasty red colored bacteria called Blue-Green Bacteria or more commonly known as just Cyanobacteria. This stuff more or less appeared two years ago during our worst year of coral bleaching to date! During this long year, the water in the Caribbean turned very warm, too warm in fact for most corals and the reef was transformed into what looked like snow capped mountains in the Rockies. This was honestly the worst thing I had ever seen in the nine years I have been here and I hated to even go diving for this period of time. So while the corals were bleaching and dying the algae and bacteria started to move in and it started to cover everything! The top photo shows a big colony of pillar coral that is currently fighting for it’s life! This is right out in front of the Sea Aquarium and was completely healthy just a few years ago. I contacted Barrett Brooks at the Smithsonian, one of the Worlds leading authorities on algae/bacteria and asked him a few questions about this stuff.
I asked him is there anything we as divers or concerned reef people can do about this bacteria but he said unfortunately, there isn’t much that can be done about it. He added: It’ll grow when the conditions are right. Often cyanobacteria have toxic compounds, so the usual grazers (fish, urchins) tend to leave them alone. Many can fix nitrogen so that can give them an advantage to outcompete the other algae. I’m not saying that these species are doing that, but it is likely. Even if this cyanobacteria mat doesn’t kill the coral outright, it will stress out the corals who have to continuously keep their surfaces clean of debris. Any of these stresses (e.g. higher water temps, higher nutrients in the water, acidification) add up and can kill the coral. Bleaching occurs when conditions are so bad that the symbiont algal cells â€“ zoothanthellae â€“ leave the tissue of the coral polyp. Without this endosymbiont dinoflagellate, the bleached coral will die eventually. If conditions get better soon enough, the zoothanthellae can recolonize the host coral.
I am going out on the reef today to watch and photograph the coral experts as they do what they can to find out what is going on and why these corals are declining so fast and to see if there is anything I can be doing as a diver, I will keep you posted.
Do something wonderful today!! Barry
Jun 18, 13 Comments Off on Blue Tang Aggregations, Tug Boat Dive Site, Curacao
Good morning friends, we didn’t get much sleep around here last night as Aimee had to go into work at 2:30am to do what we call “baby watch”. We had a new baby dolphin born a few weeks ago at Dolphin Academy and now for the next few weeks there is a human watcher there all the time throughout the day making sure all is good.
One of the best parts about living here in Curacao is having friends visit that bring you gifts and staples, it’s like Christmas all year long!! One of the top coral researchers in the World just arrived from Wilmington and brought me a new Go-Pro, grips for my mountain bike and three bags of the most delicious coffee on planet Earth called Highlander Groog which is only available through www.darkcanyon-coffee.com tell them Barry in Curacao sent you and for goodness sake please do yourself a favor and try one of their many unique blends, it will change your life!!
Your photo today is from a dive site here in Curacao called “Tugboat”. Nine years ago this was such a beautiful wreck covered in corals and sponges but after countless storms and thousands of snorkelers it has had it!! I can remember spending day in and day out here shooting frogfish on the tug that were hidden all over the ship in these big beautiful sponges but you won’t find those here anymore!! It is still home to schools of blue tangs swimming around in giant aggregations as seen above and you will still find almost any kind of fish and creature your looking for it’s just the tug itself that can’t take any more human visitors. My wife and I have watched for years as boat load after boat load of visitors descend onto the tug (as it’s only in 15 feet of water) and fairly easy for anyone to get to. Most snorkelers dive down and grab onto whatever they can so someone above can take their photo not knowing that they just kicked a sponge or broke a coral?? I have tried in vain over the years to get many of the local tour companies to just give their clients a quick briefing about how fragile the coral reef is but it seems giving this kind of information is out of the question. The coral experts that are here right now told me yesterday that the reefs in Curacao and Bonaire are in real trouble and our islands are supposed to have better reefs than other spots in the Caribbean!!? She went on to tell me that they have never seen so many different kinds of algae and it’s destroying the corals left and right, it’s a good thing our water is still fairly cold or it would be another year of coral bleaching. I personally have started carrying a little brush that I use to scrub the algae off the size of sponges and corals and seems to work pretty good, just be careful not to hit the coral itself.
We have a sub dive this morning at 9:00 with three guests so I need to get my gear ready to go, while I am down there I will bring back some little algae covered rocks for my deep-water crabs that love that stuff!
Off to the sea, Barry
Jun 18, 13 Comments Off on Redlip Blenny, Ophioblennius macclurei, Blennies
Hey Gang, first off, I apologize for the no blog today, I was just way too busy!! When I got into work this morning at 8:00 everyone was running around getting the sub ready for an early morning exploration dive down to 1000 feet! So the first thing I did before even turning on the computer was to grab a bucket and run over to our deep-water labs to grab some passengers that needed to go back to the sea. I took two creatures, one was the purse crab that I posted a few days ago and the other was a big orange starfish, both were found at around 750 feet. Once back to Substation I put the bucket outside in the shade to let them acclimate to the warmer temperatures. I then put an air stone in with them and then left them there for around an hour and a half checking on them every few minutes. While the creatures waited and the sub got prepped I found a small Igloo cooler and spent the next hour drilling weights to the bottom, making a custom lid and a cool rope handle that had a real floating rock attached to keep it afloat underwater. After the submersible was set into the water and the hatch closed I took the crab and starfish in a tupperware container down by scuba to meet the sub at 60 feet. The reason I did this was to keep the creatures in semi-cold water and not expose them to the warmer surface water, this would cause some kind of shock, we want to avoid that. Once down to the sub I opened my little tupperware container and one by one set them in the Igloo cooler and then shut the lid, it was now up to the crew to return them and get them to safety. Hours later when the sub returned I asked them how it went and they said; “everything went well, your friends are back home”!! Cool!
So can a fish be considered cute?? Well, I sure think so which brings us to todays or tonights photo, a beautiful portrait of a Redlip Blenny, Ophioblennius macclurei. These are honestly one of the most curious fish on the reef and are mostly found in the shallows. How can anyone resist those big red lips and those beautiful green eyes, I am sure these fish are not getting the attention they deserve. I call these fish “perchers’ meaning they roost in the same spots on a certain rock all day, you will rarely ever see them swimming. When “perched” as you see above they seem very nervous and the closer you get the more “twitchy” they will become flicking their tails and bodies and then “poof” they are gone! The good news for you photographers is, they will be back!! In fact if you just scared one off just wait and watch as they will almost always come back to the exact spot in just a few short minutes, they are very brave!!
Redlip blennies can be found in coral crests and shallow fringing reefs. Their diet consists primarily of algae, but they will also consume zooplankton and other invertebrates. They possess two razor-sharp canine teeth, which has earned them the nickname of “devil fish” in some countries.
Males and females are almost impossible to distinguish between except during mating periods. Reproduction peaks in spring, but spawning does occur year-round. Male and females blennies seem to prefer larger mating partners, and females are observed visiting the nests of larger males and leaving more eggs more frequently than in nests of smaller, less desirable mates. Incubation takes only five days, and the newly hatched larvae are swept up to the surface by an outgoing tide. Most adults settle into their new homes in approximately 45 days.
Adult redlip blennies can reach two to four inches in length. They are chocolate brown in appearance and possess blunt heads and large red lips. A variation on the species is a paler form, having a shell-white body and reddish brown head. These fish occasionally make their way into the pet trade.
Well, it’s late here, I am finally calling it a day!!
See you tomorrow, Barry
Jun 17, 13 Comments Off on Baby Dolphins, Baby Bottlenose Dolphin Underwater
Good morning from windy Curacao!! Yes, the wind continues to blow and the ocean is as rough as it gets, not the best time of the year for diving here. So how was your weekend out there?? Mine was like a scene from Groundhog day and was pretty much the same as last weekend so I will just say it went fast and it was fun! We did go to dinner at Stijn’s grand parents house Saturday evening and ate like Kings and Queens! She made assorted dishes from white asparagus that were out of this World and would be well received at any restaurant on the planet.
Here’s a baby dolphin for my poor neglected dolphin friends out there, you know we still love you!! This is Tela and her new little girl, at less than one month old. Baby dolphins are often in this position, below momma. In this position they can swim in the slip stream, saving valuable energy, hardly swimming themselves at all. It is also common for the baby to bump into the mammary glands of their mother, stimulating a milk letdown, and then the calf will nurse. You can see the mammary gland bump just over the shoulder of this infant. Baby dolphins will nurse for 2-3 years, although at about 8-12 months they will begin eating some fish as well. Toothed whales in general, and bottlenose dolphins in particular, stay with their mothers for such a extensive time for social learning reasons. They actually learn how to be dolphins, much like young humans do. They will learn how to hunt, interact with others of their group, avoid predators etc. It has even been shown that specialized hunting techniques are passed down from mother to calf through the generations.
Have a wonderful day, Barry
Jun 14, 13 Comments Off on Longfinger Purse Crab, Iliacantha subglobosa, Crabs
Good morning all, here’s a new crab called a Longfinger Purse Crab, Iliacantha subglobosa of the family Leucosiidae that they found yesterday at 767 feet buried in the sand out in front of the Substation. Talk about a face only a mother could love??!! He is currently doing very well in my giant cold-water aquarium equipped with all the comforts of home including deep sand, rocks and caves and things to crawl on. This lucky crab is being returned to were we found him sometime next week because we have no reason to keep him, we just wanted to take his picture.
I am off to go take some photos of horses believe it or not, will be nice to be away from the H2O for a bit!!
Talk more later, Barry
Jun 13, 13 Comments Off on Entemnotrochus adansonianus, Pleurotomariidae
Hello all, sorry about the super late blog today but it’s been crazy around here today. As promised yesterday here are five live slit-shells for you viewing pleasure today and try not to droll on your computer. There are three Perotrochus Quoyanus shown here and two Entemnotrochus adansonianus, I’m betting you can tell the two species apart. The three on the left are the Perotrochus Quoyanus and the two on the right are the more rare Entemnotrochus adansonianus. Unlike other slit-shell specimens we have found the one Perotrochus Quoyanus with the greenish top is the hands down largest one we have ever found and the little yellow Entemnotrochus adansonianus all the way to the right is the smallest we have ever found. We also have a live Perotrochus Quoyanus the size of a pea in the lab right now, you kind of have to see it to believe it!! The more rare Entemnotrochus adansonianus are usually found between 375-600 feet and the Perotrochus Quoyanus are found deeper from 600-800 feet, these depths differ greatly in different areas. For instance here in Curacao the Perotrochus Quoyanus are generlly found at around 650-670 feet while the Entemnotrochus adansonianus are mostly found at 400 feet but in Klein Curacao they are mostly found at 480-500 feet. The slit-shells here also perfer a certain type of sponge that is out in the open attached to a single piece of substrate, we hardly ever see them on walls. But, in Roatan they do find them on walls, it’s like our pilot says” find the food source, find the shells”!! I am still trying to find a name for the cool little sea-urchin and the tiny anemone that is hidden below the lowest shell in the middle. Our slit-shells love encrusting sponges and algae and do very well in captivity. This is one of the “Holy Grail” of shells and we have sent them out to private collectors and aquariums all over the World.
The superfamily of Pleurotomariacae Swainson, 1840, are among the oldest surviving mollusca on Earth having first appeared in the late upper Cambrian period over 500 million years ago. The Pleurotomariidae family includes all recent slit-shell species, first appeared in the Triassic period, some 200 million years ago. Since the discovery of the first living plearotomariid species, all have been commonly referred to as â€œliving fossilsâ€ having previously thought to be extinct since the Tertiary. The slit-shell was first illustrated by a Japanese naturalist named Kimura Kenkado in 1755. “The majority of the species recorded from the Caribbean are in the genus Perotrochus and Entemnotrochus.” All living species belong to four different Genera : Entemnotrochus, Perotrochus, Mikadotrochus and Bayerotrochus. “The slit-shell family consists of top shaped shells characterized by a slit in the edge of the outer whorl. When threatened, the animal is capable of discharging a very toxic white solution! These mollusks like others do have a cool little circular operculum but it is not visible in this photo. The operculum is like a shield and uses it as a last defense to block entry into it’s delicate mantle area. Thirty species are known to exist and all are found deep. Most extant species are in the genus Perotrochus and Entemnotrochus. The slit-shell is evolutionarily primitive and lives as a grazer. Sponges form the staple diet, although other food residues have been found in the esophagus and rectum of preserved animals. It is found in tropical and subtropical waters, typically at 300-3000 foot depths. Few people have actually observed a living slit-shell in it’s natural habitat, which can be easily explained by the nature of the habitat it is found in. The uniqueness and sheer beauty of these magnificent shells make them one of the classic rarities of the shell world.
Sorry so short but I’m short on daylight, have a wonderful day!!
See you soon, Barry
Jun 12, 13 Comments Off on French Angelfish, Pomacanthus paru, Angelfishes
Good morning from a tiny island in the Caribbean called Curacao. While I was underwater shooting the submersible yesterday I was joined by a very curious French Angelfish who was pretty much begging to have his or her picture taken. I encounter these magnificent fish on just about every dive and it’s always the same circumstance. For instance, I will be shooting something else and these fish will swim directly in front of me and my camera as if to say “look at how beautiful I am, take my photo instead!” Then once they pass they always come back and usually do circles around me until I give them some attention. I remember once in Bonaire a dive master from Buddy Dive had two pet French Angelfish at a dive site on Klein Bonaire, the minute we jumped in they swam directly to him and waited by the boat until we returned. In this case he was feeding them fruit of some kind and they loved it, kind of strange considering their main diet is sponges. For you photographers, the slower and more quietly you dive the closer you will get to these fish, they tend to react differently to new or bad divers and usually will just swim away.
I finally got into the deep-water labs yesterday and was able to photograph the beautiful assortment of slit-shells we currently have, will send that out to you tomorrow.
I will be heading to Mexico in July to meet and work with the crew from the CATLIN project in Australia and help them photograph the reefs there, stay tuned for more.
Well, we have two sub dives today, one will go to 1000 feet the other to around 550 so I need to get ready to submerge.
Have a wonderful day, Barry
Jun 11, 13 Comments Off on Soapfish, Greater Soapfish, Rypticus saponaceus
Hola Amigos, how was your Monday??? I came in yesterday and went straight to our deep-water labs and ended up being in there till 1:00 in the afternoon. My goal was to photograph the live slit-shells, hermits and assorted mollusks but I ended up draining all my photo tanks and cleaning them instead! We brought back a tiny deep-water scorpionfish from Bonaire as well that we found at 560 feet and he is doing real well, I love to watch him hunt the live mysis we toss in there. So a long story short, I never took any photos yesterday and it’s not looking like I will be getting to it today as well as we have two sub dives to start the day out.
I have one of the strangest fish on the planet for you all today called a Greater Soapfish, Rypticus saponaceus. These fish crack me up!! On any given dive you find these odd looking fish laying around in the open acting like they are completely hung over! This one here was sprawled out high atop one of the pillars in Bonaire and never moved a muscle and NO he was not dead, I knew you were thinking that!
The Soapfishes Body is elongated with a rounded dorsal fin. Their color is mottled, varying from drab reddish brown to gray, often with a green or blue cast. They also have pale spots, about the size of the pupil or smaller, on body and dorsal fin.
The family Soapfish contains about 24 species of marine fishes constituting the tribe Grammistini (family Serranidae; order Perciformes), occurring from the Atlantic to the Indo-Pacific region. In appearance, they are characterized by a reduced spinous dorsal fin and a slightly protruding lower jaw. The name soapfish refers to their ability, when agitated, to produce a toxic body mucus that forms a slimy, soapsudslike froth upon its secretion into the water. The toxic mucus serves as a deterrent to predators. All soapfishes are small, the largest attaining lengths of about 30 centimetres (1 foot).
The greater soapfish (Rypticus saponaceus), the best known member of the group, is found in the Atlantic from the southern United States and northern South America to West Africa. The species is characterized by three distinct dorsal spines and is sometimes called the three-spined soapfish.
I have to be under the sea in under an hour and have so much to do!!
Have a wonderful day, Barry
Jun 10, 13 Comments Off on Endangered Staghorn Coral, Acropora cervicornis
Good morning from Curacao. Did you all have a nice and relaxing weekend?? My Caribbean weekend flew by so fast, I honestly can’t believe it’s Monday already?? Saturday morning I grabbed the dogs and took off to the North coast for a super fun three hour walk along the coast. The dogs love this area because of all the small remote beaches to play on and for me I love all the newly deposited driftwood and the great beach-combing. I had two very dirty, very tired dogs by the time I got home and after shower time they both went to bed for the rest of the day, you gotta love tired dogs!! I then went shopping and stopped by my private sea-glass beach and collected glass shards for an hour, it was turning out to be a great day!! At 4:30 I left the house on my mountain bike for a super fast two hour ride and came home about as dirty as a biker can get due to our dry conditions and riding next to the waters edge. Yesterday, we started the day out with a two hour walk and did a bunch of trail cleaning, then I went into work for the rest of the day.
Here’s my buddy Cival diving above a beautiful colony of critically endangered Staghorn coral that we found near the airport pier in Bonaire. You want to talk about a coral that is hard to find and is disappearing right before our eyes, here it is!! I was shocked when we found these and couldn’t believe we had found so many nice colonies all in one area, talk about a major treat!! These corals are becoming so rare that here in Curacao we hardly see them much any more, they are only found in a few locations.
Staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis) is a branching, stony coral with cylindrical branches ranging from a few centimetres to over two metres in length and height. It occurs in back reef and fore reef environments from 0 to 30 m (0 to 98 ft) depth. The upper limit is defined by wave forces, and the lower limit is controlled by suspended sediments and light availability. Fore reef zones at intermediate depths 5â€“25 m (16â€“82 ft) were formerly dominated by extensive single-species stands of staghorn coral until the mid-1980s. This coral exhibits the fastest growth of all known western Atlantic fringe corals, with branches increasing in length by 10â€“20 cm (3.9â€“7.9 in) per year. This has been one of the three most important Caribbean corals in terms of its contribution to reef growth and fishery habitat.
The dominant mode of reproduction for staghorn corals is asexual, with new colonies forming when branches break off a colony and reattach to the substrate. This life history trait allows rapid population recovery from physical disturbances such as storms. However, it makes recovery from disease or bleaching episodes (where entire colonies or even entire stands are killed) very difficult.
Sexual reproduction is via broadcast spawning of gametes into the water column once each year in August or September. Individual colonies are both male and female (simultaneous hermaphrodites) and will release millions of gametes. The coral larvae (planula) live in the plankton for several days until finding a suitable area to settle; unfortunately, very few larvae survive to settle and metamorphose into new colonies. The preponderance of asexual reproduction in this species raises the possibility that genetic diversity in the remnant populations may be very low. These uncertainties as to recruitment/recovery potential and genetic status are the bases for increased demographic concerns for this species.
Since 1980, populations have collapsed throughout their range from disease outbreaks, with losses compounded locally by hurricanes, increased predation, bleaching, and other factors. This species is also particularly susceptible to damage from sedimentation and sensitive to temperature and salinity variation. Populations have declined by up to 98% throughout the range, and localized extirpations have occurred.
Have a wonderful day, I am off to the deep-water lab. Barry