ABOUT

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.

General

Archive for October, 2013

Oct 31, 13     Comments Off on HAPPY HALLOWEEN from Curacao! Scary Face
Oct 30, 13     Comments Off on Juvenile Slender Filefish, Hidden Fish, Filefish

Good morning friends, how is your week treating you??? Make sure to tune in tomorrow as I have a special Halloween photo for you and I want you to guess what it is?? Sounds fun right??

Not a whole lot to report on the Smithsonian so far this week, they had two days of problems with collecting equipment on the outside of the sub and were unable to collect specimens but I’m sure today will be different!

I came across this tiny, half inch Slender Filefish the other day hiding alongside a big sea-fan and honestly I could hardly see him! In fact I’m not even sure how I spotted him to begin with because these fish are masters at changing their colors to match almost any background in the sea. Without the use of my artificial light (flash) he is almost invisible to the naked eye and these fish don’t move around, they just hang there and become part of their surroundings, it’s really one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. They also have these sharp little spines all over their bodies that can be used as a type of anchor, by this I mean if they lean into something like the sea-fan you see here those little spines help to hold them in one place making them even harder to see because there is no movement! The filefish gets it’s name from that spine on top of it’s head that can be raised and lowered depending on the danger level, here you see it is raised. If another fish tries to eat this guy the spine on his head will be raised making trying to swallow him a very difficult or deadly situation, they are not going down without a fight.

I had a great ride with Stijn and one of his team-mates last night, we basically did an hour and a half sprint on every trail we could find and some we rode more than once, it was super hot but major fun!

Have a great day, Barry

Oct 29, 13     Comments Off on Curacao Flamingo’s, Flamingo Viewing Areas

Hey gang, I always get questions about the flamingo’s that we have here on Curacao and where they can be found. This is one of the areas at Willibrordus which is near the famous Landhuis, (landhouse) Jan Kok for which this flamingo area is named. The easiest way to find this place is to grab a map and head towards Porto Mari beach area which is located mid ways on the South side of the island. The sign and the viewing area you see above is fairly new and was much needed. If you go early in the morning you find the largest group of flamingo’s here, later in the day as you see here they are spread out everywhere and usually very far from people and their cameras. This area called St. Marie Bay where the flamingo’s now call home used to be home to about 100 slaves which mined salt in the 1860’s. Salt mining on the ABC islands was the main natural resource for hundreds of years, in 1910 16, 000 barrels were produced from these very salt ponds you see above!. The slave-built stone walls used to control salt production are still visible. I highly advise you to not go off the beaten path here, the area is filled with black-smelly quicksand or mud and I can tell you from experience you don’t want any of that action! I walked back to the car one day without shoes and I never did get them back, they are buried in smelly muck forever!

For you artsy folks out there, you can stop in at the Jan Kok Landhuis (built in 1704) and visit one of the islands top artists named Nena Sanchez, her work is sold all over the island, here is a link to her work,  http://www.jankokcuracao.com/Gallery.htm

I am having a very busy day today with the Smithsonian, will write more later.

Barry

Oct 28, 13     Comments Off on Smooth Trunkfish Feeding on Christmas Tree worms

My weekend was again just a blur and as I told you in my last blog we all had to work Saturday because of folks wanting to go down in the submersible. Saturday evening and Sunday I spent a few hours on my new mountain bike trail but it’s so hot out there this time of year that the dogs and myself could only take so much so work is slow! I did get a two hour ride in Sunday morning and fought crazy wind the whole way, talk about depressing!

Here’s something you won’t see too often. This is a large sized, Smooth Trunkfish, Lactophrys triqueter eating or trying to eat a Christmas tree worm!? Yes, they love these things but as I personally have observed “you gotta be fast”!! I watched this big trunkfish spot the worm he wanted and then he slowly and I mean slowly moved in for the kill (top photo) but if he wasn’t fast enough the worm would retract back down into it’s hole to safety. The second photo shows him giving up on attacking from the air and proceeded to just suck the worm out with his big powerful mouth loaded with suction! I can’t be 100% sure if he was successful in his wormy meal but he did have his mouth over the worms tube for over a minute so I am guessing he scored! After this worm he went on to another and another and another, I almost ran out of air watching him and had wished I had gotten that on video! Most of the time these fish can be observed hunting for crustaceans in the sand by blowing big puffs of air straight down into the sand, it’s also so fun to watch and they usually don’t care if you hover and watch.

Have a wonderful day all, the Smithsonian group is getting ready for a 4-5 hour run in the submersible in search of new finds, stay-tuned!!

Barry

 

Oct 26, 13     Comments Off on Close-Up Gorgonian Polyps, Soft Coral Polyps

Good morning friends, sorry again about the NO Blog yesterday but with my better half gone I have double duty around the house now. So yesterday I took the day off because today, Saturday we have two sub dives, normally we are closed on the weekends. There is a big group of Marine Biologists here on the island right now having meeting and conferences almost every night and this morning some of those folks are going down in our deep-water submersible. Yesterday I started out the day by leaving the house at 6:30 in the morning with the dogs and working on a new mountain bike trail that will take months and months to finish but at least I finally got it started! We ended up only staying out there for two hours because of how hot it gets once the sun comes out and the dogs just can’t take it!! After breakfast I raced to the Sea Aquarium and picked up Carole Baldwin (Worlds top fish expert from the Smithsonian) and took her for an hour of beach combing, and it was a blast! After that I went shopping, then at 3:30 (it was crazy hot) went for an hour and a half bike ride and at 5:15 took the dogs back out for another hour and a half walk, talk about a fast paced day!

I have two different photos from two different animals showing open polyps on a soft coral called a gorgonian. Gorgonians is the preferred name for this large group of octocorals; however, they are commonly called “soft corals” because of the colonies “lack of hard, rigid, permanent skeletons”. The common name soft coral should be used when referring to members of the family Nephtheidae, abundant in the Indo-Pacific. Gorgonians include the animal colonies known as sea rods, sea whips, sea feather plumes, sea fans and orange sea whips. The stems and branches of all gorgonians have a central skeleton or axis. The central core in the suborder Scleraxonia is composed of either tightly bound or fused calcareous spicules. A wood-like core typifies the Suborder Holaxonia. The core is surrounded by gelatinous material called the rind. Polyps (above) are embedded in the rind and extend their tentacles and bodies from surface openings called apertures. The arrangement of the polyps (in rows, alternating bands, randomly scattered, ect.) is often helpful in the identification process.

Sorry short all, I just got out of the water with some guys from NASA and now have to go back under for another photo shoot. You might see us if you tune into www.seesubmarine.com

Have a wonderful weekend, Barry

Oct 24, 13     Comments Off on Bluestriped Grunt, Haemulon sciurus, Grunts
Oct 22, 13     Comments Off on Baby Bottlenose Underwater Dolphin Photos
Oct 21, 13     Comments Off on Spanish Hogfish, Bodianus rufus, Wrasse Species
Oct 21, 13     Comments Off on Scaly-Tailed Mantis, Lysiosquilla scabricauda

Good morning from Curacao in the middle of what seems like nowhere??? Someone asked me this weekend how far we are from South America/Venezuela? The answer is; about 40 nautical miles! On a clear day, we can see the mountains of South America and they look so close. We always laugh when we go to Bonaire because of how short the flight is. You sit down, put your seatbelt on and in just a few minutes your already preparing for landing, I think it’s a 15 minute flight.

So how your weekend out there?? From watching the news we see winter is hitting all over but not here, everyday is groundhog day on this island and Yes, we do miss having seasons!

I have a giant Scaly-Tailed Mantis, Lysiosquilla scabricauda for your viewing pleasure today that I found last week while out with the macro lens. The top photo shows our clever shrimp hidden under the sand nestled in his hole waiting for some poor victim to pass by while the second photo shows him exposed after the sandy top collapsed in on him. The third photo shows him bringing up a large scoop of sand that had just fallen in and the fourth photo is of him repairing the hole which only took him around five minutes to re-seal the whole thing.

These mantis shrimps can reach a maximum size of 12 inches which this one here is close to. Their eyes are large, double-lobed, and on stalks, the body is cream colored with darkish bands across body. The ‘claw arms’ have 8-11 spines. Create burrows on flat, sand bottoms off the coasts of Florida, Bahamas, and in the Caribbean

These shrimps will eat just about anything and are very aggressive hunters, their main diet consists of; fish, shrimp, crabs and soft-bodied prey.

Mantis shrimp are not actually shrimp, but are called stomatopods, after the order they belong to.

Stomatopods have hammer-like claws, called raptorial appendages, which can be used to spear or smash prey items. These appendages are incredibly fast (striking in 2 milliseconds) and very strong. This has earned the mantis shrimp the nick-name “thumb- splitter” from divers whose hands got too close to the burrow.

They have up to 16 visual pigments, (Humans have 3-4 visual pigments.) They can also see ultra-violet light unlike some species that can only see polarized light.

I have to get going, the Smithsonian arrives Wednesday for another week of looking for new species so stay tuned for any possible new finds.

See you soon, Barry

 

Oct 18, 13     Comments Off on Juvenile Boulder Brain Coral, Colpophyllia natans

Good morning friends, I just got out of the water from a nice early morning dive and ended up finding all kinds of cool stuff!! My goal this morning was go back and find this small little black seahorse that I found yesterday but as hard as I looked I could not locate it. So after five minutes of searching I gave up and went onto something else. I was equipped with my 105 macro this morning and for once I had the right lens. My first find was an arrow crab hiding in a big azure vase sponge but he was too far down inside for a real sharp photo. Then after shooting him I noticed a little shrimp that was even deeper in the sponge and unreachable with the camera but it was a species I had never seen before?? I may have to go back there at night to get his photo. Then I found a giant slender filefish and I am sure it’s the largest one I had ever seen and I ended up playing with him for quite awhile, he was beautiful! On my way back I shot some close-ups of open polyps on a gorgonian and some beautiful new feather dusters. The photo above is what I found hidden deep down in the reef almost completely out of view, it’s a young or juvenile Boulder Brain Coral and it was only about 3 inches in width. My best find was a monster sized mantis shrimp who was out rebuilding the top of his sandy home which had recently caved in, I will have to send you a photo and better explain! My last encounter was a juvenile lizardfish buried in the sand and I ever so slowly laid down on the sand right in front of him and shot away, he never once moved!

Colpophyllia natans, known as boulder brain coral and large-grooved brain coral, is a species of stony coral found primarily in the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. It inhabits the slopes and tops of reefs, to a maximum depth of fifty metres. It is characterised by large, domed colonies, which may be up to two metres across, and by the meandering network of ridges and valleys on its surface. The ridges are usually brown with a single groove, and the valleys may be tan, green, or white and are uniform in width, typically 2 centimetres. The polyps only extend their tentacles at night. Individual colonies of Colpophyllia natans are large and usually broadly domed, with curvature typically increasing with the size, and therefore age, of the colony. They grow up to two metres in diameter and morphologically earn the epithet “boulder”. Colony shape may occasionally be flat-topped discs, particularly when younger. As a type of brain coral, the surface of the skeleton is a network of winding, curving valleys and ridges (or walls) that roughly resemble the familiar folding architecture of the mammal cerebrum.

The colour of the ridges and valleys vary among colonies, with the ridges being various shades of brown, and the valleys either whitish, green, or tan. The ridge tops are indented with a single thin groove. Ridges and valleys may be up to 2 centimetres wide, and this breadth distinguishes it from the narrower Diploria, which may otherwise be similar in appearance. The polyps only extend their tentacles at night.

The robust shape, size, and slow growth of the boulder brain coral allows it more easily to survive conditions to which smaller and more fragile corals, such as the plate-like lettuce coral (Agaricia agaricites), succumb. C. natans and the sympatric and similarly named boulder star coral (Montastraea annularis) are less likely to be smothered by algal bloom, and have also weathered reef-wrecking Hurricane Allen off the coast of Jamaica in 1980. Corals in the Caribbean are susceptible to bleaching caused by high water temperatures and solar radiation. A nine-month study conducted in 2005 compared the mortality of C. natans from bleaching to that of Porites porites, which has a finger-like morphology. Although the severity of bleaching between the two species was similar, 56% of the P. porites colonies studied died from the bleaching, compared to only 8% mortality for bleach-affected C. natans. However, bleaching induced widespread incidence of the coral syndrome White Plague Type II, resulting in bleaching-related mortality of 42% among C. natans over 9 months, nearly as high as that for P. porites.

These are Stony Corals even though in the photo the animal appears to be very soft. Stony corals, often called hard corals, are the basic building blocks of tropical coral reefs. These animals (polyps) secrete calcium carbonate to form hard cups, called corallites, that provide protection for their soft delicate bodies. In tropical waters most species grow colonially, joining their corallites to produce a substantial structure. Colonies increase in size by asexual budding of additional polyps and successive generations overgrowing one another.

I have to get moving, have a great day and a wonderful weekend!!

See ya, Barry

Oct 17, 13     Comments Off on Corky Sea Finger, Briareum asbestinum, Octocorals

Believe it or not I have a cool octocoral for you today that is actually a gorgonian, it’s called a Corky Sea Finger, Briareum asbestinum. These are one of the most overlooked and most under appreciated animals on the reef and yet are an essential part of our Caribbean coral reef system. Normally you find these colonies in one to several erect, unbranched, cylindrical rods, arising from a common encrusting base but in this case above they are growing in small low-growing clumps. When extended the large polyps give the colony a “hairy” appearance and the area around pore-like polyp apertures often swollen. Rods or the rind are violet to purple colored, occasionally with some tints of brown or tan with the polyps being greenish brown to brown or brownish gray. If you find these on the reef and gently fan your hand above the polyps they will quickly close leaving only the purple rind you see above, talk about a cool creature!!

Corky Sea Fingers are also referred to as the Sea Stalk Briareum, Deadman’s Fingers, Moss Coral, Encrusting Gorgonian, or simply Briareum. It has long, grass-like polyps which are normally extended continuously, retracted only when disturbed. Briareum asbestinum can have multiple forms including encrusting, flat or knobby crusts, or upright branches as pictured above. The polyps will vary in many color variations, size, and shape.

It is highly photosynthetic, containing the symbiotic algae zooxanthellae from which it receives most of its nutrients, but may also capture some particulate matter.

Well, I have to get ready to go diving, have a wonderful day all!!

Curacao regards, Barry

Oct 16, 13     Comments Off on Spiny Flower Coral, Mussa angulosa, Stony Corals
Oct 15, 13     Comments Off on School of Blackbar Soldierfish, Myripristis jacobus

Good morning friends, we are gearing up for a very busy day here at Substation with three dives planned and the first one starting in an hour, so needless to say I will be under the sea a lot today!! Here’s a cool little reef scene I shot for you all yesterday on my morning dive out in front of Mambo Beach. I saw these four Blackbar Soldierfish hanging out under this beautiful coral ledge (which looked like a big open clam) from a long ways away and from experience knew that getting close enough for a photo would be tough! I was right. As I slowly swam up with my giant camera they all took off and hid around the corner and for the next 10 minutes just watched me from a distance but keeping close to their home. Then finally, one by one they swam back up and parked under their super cool hangout and let me shoot away deciding I was not a threat. These fish like many others are very used to a certain home and if you wait they will return, you just have to remain still and of course be ready for anything. The orange and red colors you see under the ledge are two different kinds of encrusting sponges and really “pop” or standout when artificial light is placed on them.

The fish that live here on the Caribbean reef can be found in so many different shapes, colors and all have completely different lifestyles. To reduce some of the competition between species, the coral reef has defined night and day shifts. At dusk, many species that feed during the day take shelter in the reef, while other species emerge from their daytime sanctuaries to begin making a living in the dark. One group that is a ubiquitous component of the night shift are the Blackbar soldierfish, Myripristis jacobus which is also a member of the family Holocentridae (which includes the soldier and squirrelfish).

Like some other fish that are active at night, most soldierfish are red (not a common chromatic scheme among coral reef fish) and have large eyes. Their large optical equipment enables them to see their food in very limited light. It has been speculated that a full moon is all that is required for soldierfish to see a larger crab larvae. The blackbar soldierfish gets its name from the dark bar present at the rear of the gill cover. The blackbar soldierfish can reach a total length of 8 inches.

Myripristis jacobus is found on both sides of the Atlantic. In the Western Atlantic, the blackbar soldierfish occurs from North Carolina all the way south to Brazil. The blackbar soldierfish is found on patch reefs in lagoon habitats, on reef faces and deeper reef slopes. The blackbar soldierfish has been reported at depths from 15 to over 150 feet. The blackbar soldierfish often hides in caves and crevices during the day, while at night they move out over the reef to feed on larger zooplankton. Thanks to www.fishchannel.com for those soldierfish facts.

I have to get moving, our first two lucky customers are here and they are ready to go down to 1000 feet, sounds fun right!!??

Later, Barry

Oct 14, 13     Comments Off on Secretary Blenny, Acanthemblemaria maria
Oct 11, 13     Comments Off on Endangered Corals, Elkhorn Coral, Acropora palmata

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