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 February, 2015

Feb 27, 15     Comments Off on Longsnout Seahorse, Hippocampus reidi
Feb 25, 15     Comments Off on Colorful Stoplight Parrotfish, Sparisoma viride

Good morning all, gearing up for two dives with our submersible today, the first will be at 11:15 ish and the next at 1:30 ish, it’s always hard to stick to an exact time. You might get lucky and catch some of the action on our live underwater video at www.seesubmaine.com  As most of you know by now my job is to meet the sub between 50 & 100 feet and photograph it’s lucky passengers before they descend into the Caribbean darkness, and remember we can take you down to an insane 1000 feet!

I have a Stoplight Parrotfish, Sparisoma viride in it’s initial phase meaning it will loose all the colors you see here and change into it’s terminal phase consisting of an emerald green body with salmon to yellow markings on the head and body. Even as babies or juveniles they look different than the photo above giving them three different color phases throughout it’s life. Of all the parrotfish species I chase around the reef with camera in hand, the Princess Parrotfish is the hands down easiest to approach (they could care less) and the Stoplights follow at a close second, but most of the others like the Blue’s, Midnight’s, Rainbows and Yellowtails are scared to death and won’t allow you to get close.

Parrotfishes are a group of about 90 species traditionally regarded as a family (Scaridae), but now often considered a subfamily (Scarinae) of the wrasses. They are found in relatively shallow tropical and subtropical oceans throughout the world, displaying their largest species richness in the Indo-Pacific. They are found in coral reefs, rocky coasts, and seagrass beds, and play a significant role in bioerosion. A number of parrotfish species, including the queen parrotfish (Scarus vetula), secrete a mucus cocoon, particularly at night.

Prior to going to sleep, some species extrude mucus from their mouths, forming a protective cocoon that envelops the fish, presumably hiding its scent from potential predators. This mucus envelope may also act as an early warning system, allowing the parrotfish to flee when it detects predators such as moray eels disturbing the membrane. The skin itself is covered in another mucous substance which may have antioxidant properties helpful in repairing bodily damage, or repelling parasites, in addition to providing protection from UV light. Although they are considered to be herbivores, parrotfish eat a wide variety of reef organisms, and they are not necessarily vegetarian.

Species such as the green humphead parrotfish (Bolbometopon muricatum) include coral (polyps) in their diets.  Their feeding activity is important for the production and distribution of coral sands in the reef biome, and can prevent algae from choking coral. The teeth grow continuously, replacing material worn away by feeding. Their pharyngeal teeth grind up the coral and coralline algae the fish ingest during feeding. After they digest the edible portions from the rock, they excrete it as sand, helping to create small islands and the sandy beaches of the Caribbean. One parrotfish can produce 90 kg (200 lb) of sand each year. Or, very averagely (as there are so many variables i.e. size/species/location/depth etc), about 275 g per parrotfish per day. While feeding, parrotfish must be cognizant of predation by one of their main predators, the lemon shark.

Well, off to the sea, horrible visibility today due to a local beach being dredged!

Later,

Barry

Feb 24, 15     Comments Off on Stove-Pipe Sponge, Aplysina archeri, Reefs
Feb 23, 15     Comments Off on Red Hind, Cleaner Fish, Epinephelus guttatus

Good morning from Curacao, how was your weekend out there?? We finally got a few little rain showers but to be honest it didn’t do much!! On my three hour mountain bike ride Sunday morning I was pretty shocked at how dry the island is looking, I hate the thought of another year of drought conditions!

We found yet another bird (big pigeon) in need last night over at our neighbors house, it was just sitting on the steps and not moving very much. I watched for awhile from a distance and then towards dark went to check on him again and he was still there. I calmly walked up the steps, he didn’t move so I picked him up and took him home, he seems to have a bad foot or something, will take him to the vet on Wednesday.

I have a Red Hind sea bass for you all today being cleaned by a little neon colored Sharknose goby. This is quite the situation. You have a big fish- eating sea bass allowing a tiny goby to swim all over it’s body, it’s a case of “you clean me and remove all my parasites and I won’t eat you”, sounds like a plan to me! These Red Hinds are very difficult to get close to, they are scared of their own shadows and rarely have I ever been able to get close enough for a photo. I think in this case he was pre-occupied with getting cleaned and although alarmed let me move in close enough for a photo but usually one shot is all you will get! This variety of sea bass is VERY common on our Caribbean reefs, they can reach a maximum length of about 2-feet and can be found in the 10-160 foot range.

Busy Monday on tap….

Have a great day all.

Barry

Feb 20, 15     Comments Off on Channel Clinging Crab, Mithrax spinosissimus

Good morning friends, wiped out this morning after a long evening of mountain biking in crazy heat and horrible wind, it’s like I tell visiting friends, “it’s not the trails that will kill you, it’s the weather”! I recently put together a new 20 mile loop consisting of all the trails I have built over the years. It has some really technical sections, fast downhills and rolling single-track and for sure is not for everyone.. but I love it!

Aimee called me yesterday from home saying that two big iguana’s had walked into our house and were fighting in our entry-way at the bottom of our steps, I asked, “did you get it on video or at least a photo” NO was the answer! But how cool is that?

I have a monster sized Channel Clinging Crab for you all today that we found out on the reef hunting for food late at night! Look at the size of those claws?? For the most part one can observe these guys up close and personal if your careful with your lights and remain still, we really love finding them and watching them climb all over the reef!

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.

We have another submersible dive at 11:00 so I need to get ready to dive.

Tomorrow I’m headed out to hopefully find a new home for our four land tortoises, will keep you posted.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Barry

Feb 19, 15     Comments Off on Spotted and Yellow Goatfish, Goatfishes

Good morning from Curacao!! I have two different species of Caribbean Goatfish for you all today. The top photo is a beautiful school of Yellow Goatfish, Mulloidichthys martinicus and the bottom photo shows a Spotted Goatfish, Pseudupeneus maculatus at night in it’s “inactive color phase”. During the day the Spotted Goatfish (seen here in reds) looks almost the same as the Yellow Goatfish at the top, both species have the crazy ability to change colors in the blink of an eye, it’s again just one of those weird things you have to see to believe!! Goatfish remind me of goats on land, they will eat just about anything and spend most of their days digging in the sand, silt and algae for food, they are not picky eaters! They use their chin barbels (long finger like projections under the mouth) to probe the sand as they search for the mollusks, worms and crustaceans that they feed on. While many goatfishes occur singly, the yellow goatfish is a school-forming species. It regularly occurs in large groups (numbering in the hundreds) during the day and will sometimes even form mixed schools with the blueline snapper (Lutjanus kasmira). At night, yellow goatfish schools break-up and solitary individuals or small groups disperse onto surrounding sand patches to feed. This species is very similar to the spotted goatfish (Pseudupeneus maculatus). The latter species has a yellow lateral stripe, a feature that is lacking in the spotted goatfish, and a longer snout. The yellow stripe of the yellow goatfish changes into an oblong dusky blotch when the fish is hunting for food. The yellow goatfish reaches a size between 6-12 inches while the spotted goatfish grows to 5-8 inches. Spotted goatfish are normally never found below 60 feet while the yellows are commonly spotted down to 200 feet, that’s quite a difference in range.

We have a submersible run in 30 minutes and I have a long mountain bike ride going on late this afternoon, busy day on tap!

Have a great day…

Barry

Feb 18, 15     Comments Off on Batwing Coral Crab, Carpilius corallinus, Crabs
Feb 16, 15     Comments Off on Slender Filefish, Monacanthus tuckeri, Filefishes

Hi all, so very sorry about the no blogs for the past four days but I have been crazy busy! On thursday and friday we had sub dive after sub dive, then came Valentines, and yesterday was spent entertaining friends from the Smithsonian. Yesterday was also the last day of Carnival and today monday is an official day off giving all involved in Carnival a day of needed rest. I’ve also been out in the desert cleaning the 2006 World Cup mountain bike course for the past 2 weeks trying hard to get that mess cleaned and rideable, boy you want to talk about a big project! I did a fast two hour ride Sunday morning before I met the Smithsonian and then in the evening Aimee and I took the dogs out for a long two hour walk, it’s been go, go, go!

I have a super cool, two inch Slender Filefish, Monacanthus tuckeri for you all today that I found hiding in a swaying gorgonian. These little fish are completely amazing and a thrill to watch! This fish has the ability to change colors in the blink of an eye and honestly if you don’t see it yourself it’s hard to imagine and describe! Above you can see him or her blending in with the dark background and without my lights or flash you would be challenged to spot this animal on your own. These fish normally drift with their heads down and tails up among the gorgonian forests pecking at bits of algae or finding tiny shrimps. If they leave this dark environment and float into a lighter coral, they will usually change their colors before they reach their destination and I swear if you take your eyes off this fish for a second it is gone!!! These fish also have a cool spine at the top of their heads that can be raised or lowered and is used for it’s own protection. The fish also has hundreds of tiny bards all over it’s body enabling it to hook itself if you will to the swaying corals to help it stay in one place which works great at night during sleep.

Filefish (also known as foolfish, leatherjackets or shingles) are tropical to subtropical tetraodontiform marine fish of the diverse family Monacanthidae. Found in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans, the filefish family contains approximately 107 species in 26 genera. Filefish are closely related to the triggerfish, pufferfish and trunkfish.

Their laterally compressed bodies and rough, sandpapery skin inspired the filefish’s common name; it is said that dried filefish skin was once used to finish wooden boats.

Appearing very much like their close relatives the triggerfish, filefish are rhomboid-shaped fish that have beautifully elaborate cryptic patterns. Deeply keeled bodies give a false impression of size when these fish are viewed facing the flanks. Filefish have soft, simple fins with comparatively small pectoral fins and truncated, fan-shaped tail fins; a slender, retractable spine crowns the head. Although there are usually two of these spines, the second spine is greatly reduced, being used only to lock the first spine in the erect position; this explains the family name Monacanthidae, from the Greek monos meaning “one” and akantha meaning “thorn”. Some species also have recurved spines on the base of the tail (caudal peduncle).

The small terminal mouths of filefish have specialized incisor teeth on the upper and lower jaw; in the upper jaw there are four teeth in the inner series and six in the outer series; in the lower jaw, there are 4-6 in an outer series only. The snout is tapered and projecting; eyes are located high on the head. Although scaled, some filefish have such small scales as to appear scaleless. Like the triggerfish, filefish have small gill openings and greatly elongated pelvic bones creating a “dewlap” of skin running between the bone’s sharply keeled termination and the belly. The pelvis is articulated with other bones of the “pelvic girdle” and is capable of moving upwards and downwards in many species to form a large dewlap (this is used to make the fish appear much deeper in the body than is actually the case). Some filefish erect the dorsal spine and pelvis simultaneously to make it more difficult for a predator to remove the fish from a cave.

The largest filefish species is the scrawled filefish (Aluterus scriptus) at up to 110 cm (43 in) in length; most species are below 60 cm (24 in) in length. There is marked sexual dimorphism in some species, with the sexes possessing different coloration, different body shapes, and the males with larger caudal spines and bristles.

Adult filefish are generally shallow water fish, inhabiting depths of no more than about 30 meters. They may be found in lagoons or associated with seaward reefs and seagrass beds; some species may also enter estuaries. Some species are closely associated with dense mats of sargassum, a particularly ubiquitous “sea weed”; these filefish, notably the planehead filefish (Stephanolepis hispidus) are also colored and patterned to match their weedy environments.

Either solitary, in pairs or small groups depending on the species, filefish are not terribly good swimmers; their small fins confine the fish to a sluggish gait. Filefish are often observed drifting head downward amongst stands of seaweed, presumably in an effort to fool both predator and prey alike. When threatened, filefish may retreat into crevices in the reef.

The feeding habits of filefish vary among the species, with some eating only algae and seagrass; others also eat small benthic invertebrates, such as tunicates, gorgonians, and hydrozoans; and some species eat corals (corallivores). It is the latter two habits which have largely precluded the introduction of filefish into the aquarium hobby.

Filefish spawn at bottom sites prepared and guarded by the males; both he and the female may guard the brood, or the male alone, depending on the species. The young filefish are pelagic; that is, they frequent open water. Sargassum provides a safe retreat for many species, both fish and weed being at the current’s mercy. Juvenile filefish are at risk from predation by tuna and dolphinfish.

Take care…

Barry

Feb 11, 15     Comments Off on Caribbean Spiny Lobster, Panulirus argus
Feb 10, 15     Comments Off on Honeycomb Cowfish, Acanthostracion polygonia
Feb 9, 15     Comments Off on Ikelite GoPro Tray with Vega Video Lights
Feb 6, 15     Comments Off on Caribbean Reef Squid, Sepioteuthis sepioidea, Squids
Feb 5, 15     Comments Off on Mahogany Snapper, Lutjanus mahogoni

Good morning friends, the eagle has landed! The trip was great, I got in tons of riding on some of the best trails in Tucson and met up with a bunch of old friends from my years in the fossil business. I stayed with my mom the whole time eating like a king and feasting on some of the best Mexican food in Tucson, boy am I going to miss that! I’m still disappointed in Nikon and their failure to get my camera cleaned and repaired which has been there for over three weeks, I can’t believe I returned without it!

The Smithsonian has arrived once again and will be using our mini-submersible to do research and hunt for new specimens, I will keep you posted on any new finds.

I have school of Mahogany Snappers, Lutjanus mahogoni for your viewing pleasure today that I found hanging out in a beautiful forest of swaying gorgoinans. These fish are fairly easy to approach and photograph if you move in very slow, (never directly towards them) and swim along side them or slowly past them, there is always time for a nice shot or two. These fish are silver to white with a reddish tinge and have a reddish border on their dorsal and anal fins. Also, there is often a dark spot below rear dorsal fin. Mahogany Snappers can be found drifting alone or in small groups (as you see above) over coral reefs, often in the shadows of gorgonians and coral heads in 20-60 feet of water. Their size ranges from 7-12 inches with a maximum length of about 15 inches.

Lots and lots to do today!!

Have a great day….

Barry

Feb 2, 15     Comments Off on UPDATE……UPDATE……UPDATE……UPDATE……UPDATE

Hi everyone, sorry about the NO blogs for the past three weeks but I am without a camera! I brought my Nikon D-800 to the States to be cleaned and serviced and sent it in on the 11th and still have not gotten it back, talk about terrible service!! For you Nikon owners NEVER send you camera to the CA West-coast facility, you will regret it like I am now! And FYI if your thinking I should become an NPS member (Nikon Professional Service) I am, and even having and paying for this apparently means nothing, I guess we should all be using Canon’s, I have heard they have amazing service!

My time here was a blast, heading back to Curacao tomorrow. I did 2 weeks of non-stop mountain biking, 1st week with Outside Magazine and the 2nd week on my own shooting a fun video that I hope to get posted on YouTube  sometime very soon. This last week I have been down at the 2015 Tucson Gem and Mineral Show seeing old friends and going crazy with shopping! For those of you who have never been to this event, you must put it on your to-do-list, it’s a total blast!

The Blog should start back up later this week, probably on Wednesday or Thursday.

Hope all is well out there, miss hearing from my regulars!

See you soon…

Barry

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