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.

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Archive for the ‘Bony Fish’

Feb 4, 17     Comments Off on Fossil Sting-Ray, Heliobatis Radians, Asterotrygon, Fossils

Good morning friends, Aimee, the three dogs and yours truly just returned from the annual 2017 Tucson Gem and Mineral show. Now that I have spent years underwater I find myself more attracted to the underwater fossils more than ever and when I found this rare sting-ray I of course went crazy and had to photograph it! This was a large ray measuring around or close to 24 inches from top to bottom and cost around $10,000, more than I had with me… We spent days walking around looking at gems, minerals and fossils from all over the world but most pieces were way out of our budget, I think Aimee ended up with a sterling silver ring with a tiffany jasper (lavender) cabochon and I bought a colorful tripod bag from Tibet. 

While in Tucson I went out to help the SDMB association “Sonoran Desert Mountain Bike” help build a new trail at Star Pass which should be open sometime this year. I got up early two mornings in a row at 7:00 and rode the bike “burrrrrrrr” to Star Pass and met a group of around 40 other volunteers and worked swinging a pick for four hours each day, it was super fun and very rewarding. We found Tucson to be very unfriendly place for dogs meaning cacti cover every square inch of this area, rough rocks, dogs have to be on lease on any and every trail and you have rattlesnakes and coyotes everywhere, no thanks! With that said the mountain biking is tops!

Heliobatis is an extinct genus of ray in the Myliobatiformes family Dasyatidae. At present the genus contains the single species Heliobatis radians.

The genus is known primarily from the Early Eocene, Wasatchian stage, Fossil Lake deposits. Fossil Lake is part of the Green River Formation in southwest Wyoming. Heliobatis is one of only two known rays to have been found in the Green River formation; the other species, Asterotrygon maloneyi, was only recognized and described in 2004.

The genus was described from a single incomplete holotype specimen, number YPM 528, currently residing in the collections of the Peabody Museum of Natural History, New Haven, Connecticut, USA. The specimen was collected from an outcrop of Fossil Lake and presents a dorsal view of the fish. It was first studied by prolific American paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh. He published his brief 1877 type description in the American Journal of Science. Two years later Edward Drinker Cope, rival to Marsh, published a description for a ray specimen giving it the name Xiphotrygon acutidens. though the description by Cope is more complete and includes an illustration of his type specimen, the old name Heliobatis has seniority. In 1947 Henry Weed Fowler published a very brief description of a ray genus he dubbed Palaeodasybatis discus based on a partly restored Academy of Natural Sciences specimen, number ANSP 89344. The specimen, which was subsequently lost, was noted for having a more rounded or disc like body than Heliobatis. The genus was synonymized with Heliobatis based on illustrations of Fowler’s type specimen, characterizing the more rounded appearance as an artifact of the incomplete nature of Marsh’s holotype.

The generic epithet Heliobatis is a derivation of the words helios meaning “the sun” and batis, meaning “skate” or “ray.” The derivation of the specific epithet radians is not mentioned in Marsh’s description.

Heliobatis ranges from 8 to 90 centimetres (3.1 to 35.4 in) in length, with an average of between 30 and 40 centimetres (12 and 16 in). As in modern stingrays the genders are dimorphic, with males possessing claspers. Heliobatis individuals have up to three modified dermal denticles, forming barbed stingers, on their tails, though individuals are often found with less than three. The genus is considered to have been demersal in nature. As in the modern skate genus Raja the teeth of Heliobatis are small and closely spaced. The teeth are triangular and shaped for feeding on small fish, crustaceans, and mollusks. Heliobatis is notably abundant at the same site on Fossil Lake where the only Green River Formation crayfish, Procambarus primaevus, and prawns Bechleja rostrata are found. The genus has a long tail which is very slender, often missing the tip, sporting small spines along the dorsal midline. The tail provides up to half of the total body length.

Lots to do…

Barry

 

Jan 2, 17     Comments Off on Happy New Year, Secretary Blenny, Cute Reef Fish

Happy New Year out there!! I’m super busy these days getting ready for a trip to Bonaire on the 14th, I will be there for a week aboard the Chapman shooting photos for the World famous Smithsonian Institution in Washington. The plan is, the scientists go down in a mini-sub for 3-6 hours at a time and I wait on the ship, cameras loaded and tanks ready to photograph whatever they may find. The Smithsonian is very selective about what they collect, they don’t haul up everything they see and have a shopping list of sorts of what they hope to find or that they are looking for. I have two cold water tanks waiting on the ship with the camera sitting on a giant tripod, I will try to recreate the scenes from below making the photos look like they were taken in the deep. Keep checking in, I’m not sure what kind on internet connections we will have in Bonaire on the ship but I will try to keep in touch, especially for my friends on Twitter.

The Secretary Blenny (Acanthemblemaria maria) is a small, tube-dwelling blenny (suborder Blennioidei) that is identified by its brownish to green delicate patterns and free moving eyes. Averaging at a size of around one inch in length, Secretary Blennies are difficult to spot when hidden in their burrowed homes.

Although a variety of blenny species are commonly found in shallow reefs around the globe, Secretary Blennies are mostly distributed throughout the Bahamas and other regions of the Eastern Caribbean. These blennies are most often found resting inside their tubed dwelling, usually burrowed into pieces of dead coral or reef, with their tiny heads bobbing in and out of the hole and can be found at a depth of 5-25 feet.

While the Secretary Blenny is most comfortable in the protection of its home, these fish are often seen poking their heads out of the hole –a head approx. the size of a pea- and will rarely venture far unless jumping out for a bite to eat. This species is most recognizable by its sharp skeleton-shaped jaw and eyes that can move independently from each other.

Great info from our friends at www.divephotoguide.com

Have a wonderful day out there….

Barry

Nov 9, 16     Comments Off on Mated Pair of Scrawled Filefish, Odd shaped Fish

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Oct 12, 16     Comments Off on Super-Tiny Juvenile Frogfish in a Heineken Bottle Cap

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Sep 8, 16     Comments Off on Baby/Juvenile Flying Gurnard, Colorful Reef Fish

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Good morning readers of the blog, yesterday when I jumped in the water at Substation on my way out to photograph the sub, I found a tiny little 2-inch flying gurnard in the sand right below our floating platform. This is for sure the smallest gurnard I have ever seen and I still can’t believe I found it, he or she is so cute! Because I had the wide angle with me yesterday I had to get back in hours later with my macro lens and find him again which wasn’t hard to do, he was in the same spot. This morning I took off 1st thing in search of him again and since baby fish tend to stay in the same area for months he was fairly easy to find again. When I go out to do a shoot I usually just stop and watch for awhile and learn a little bit about their behaviors, this can make my job a lot easier. I did have a very hard time getting a front view of his or her face as they never stop swimming and always keep their faces away from you.

The flying gurnard (Dactylopterus volitans), also known as the helmet gurnard, is a bottom-dwelling fish of tropical to warm temperate waters on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. On the American side, it is found as far north as Massachusetts (exceptionally as far as Canada) and as far south as Argentina, including the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. On the European and African side, it ranges from the English Channel to Angola, including the Mediterranean. Similar and related species from the genus Dactyloptena are found in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

When excited, the fish spreads its “wings”, (top photo) which are semi-transparent, with a phosphorescent bright blue coloration at their tips. These are designed to scare away predators, but they don’t enable the fish to glide in the air as do the fins of flying fish. The fish also has large eyes. It reaches up to 50 cm (20 in) in length and 1.8 kg (4.0 lb) in weight.

The fish’s main diet consists of small fish, bivalves, and crustaceans.

Have a wonderful day…

Barry

Aug 16, 16     Comments Off on Two French Angelfish, Large, Colorful Reef-Fish

Hi all, we had such a crazy day here yesterday…. I was in the water three times with our submersible and went home completely wiped out. For me it’s not the three dives that is so tiring but the running around in-between dives doing photoshop and getting my gear and camera ready to go for the next run, the day goes by super fast! 

These are two of my buddies that live on our reef and are usually out there to greet us each day showing very little fear and a whole lot of curiosity! 

Sorry so short, I am headed out to photograph some rare Elkhorn corals, I will talk to you later..

Barry

Aug 15, 16     Comments Off on Queen Angelfish, Colorful Reef Fish, Angelfish

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Good morning friends, we have a busy day on tap and I was already underwater once this morning. I often tell folks that some fish can be spotted from a long ways away as is the case with todays photo showing a very colorful Queen angelfish. I spotted this beauty while photographing the submersible which was quite a distance from the reef out in the deep blue. Once finished with our customers I turned around and in seconds re-spotted our little Queen and slowly dove down to his or her level and took this shot from from around 15 feet away. As I have said for years to those of you listening, these Queen angels are scared of their own shadows and can be very difficult to approach and chasing them is just a plain waste of your time and air! There have been only a few cooperative Queens that I can even remember in the past 12 years and those are some of the best shots I have in my collection.

So how was your weekend?? I spent countless hours watching the olympics and found myself on the edge of my seat more than once watching our US ladies gymnastic team, good grief those girls are talented!! I missed the mens 100 meter race last night but pretty much know who won, I am betting on BOLT! 

Have a great day out there, i have to get back in the water soon…

Barry

Aug 2, 16     Comments Off on Whitespotted Filefish, Filefish, Odd Shaped Fish

Whitespotted filefish on coral reef. Cantherhines macrocerus. Curacao, Netherlands Antilles. Unaltered/Uncontrolled Digital Photo (horizontal) N/A

Good morning friends, still in Miami but will be back in Curacao tomorrow. I will for sure miss all these wonderful US comforts like the food, not seeing any trash and the kindness I have found everywhere I have been, it has been a fast but fun little trip. We sent all our personal belongings to Miami in a 20 foot container about a month ago in preparation for moving back to the States sometime in the next year or so, this is one big/expensive thing we won’t have to worry about later. I’m staying in the Doral area here in Miami and folks it is beautiful! There has been on and off rain just about every day and last night we had some serious thunderstorms starting at midnight waking everyone up in Miami! I did drive out to the Everglades on Sunday which took around 5 hours but didn’t find much to do. There are air-boat tours just about every mile but other than that you can’t really go out for a hike because of all the alligators and snakes. I drove into some beautiful little remote lake areas but every 20 feet there was a “beware of alligators” sign so I did what any smart tourist would do, stayed in the car and just kept driving. I did find one area with a one mile boardwalk through the cypress tree swamps and it was so beautiful, that was the highlight of my trip. If I do this again I will for sure book a tour with a canoe or kayak company, that looked like the best way to see the Everglades, up close and personal.

I have a Whitespotted filefish for you all today, one of the coolest fish on the reef and usually found swimming around in pairs.

I have to return my rental car, see you soon…

Barry

Jul 28, 16     Comments Off on Pufferfish, Cute Reef Fish, Balloon fish

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Good morning all, I’m taking off to Miami tomorrow morning for 5 days so you may or may not hear from me for a few days, it all depends on the time I have. 

Our night dive was cancelled last night due to yours truly loosing his keys meaning I couldn’t get into the Substation to get my gear and believe it or not I still haven’t found them??

I did jump in the water 1st thing this morning to photograph the small but nice brain corals that we have growing in just a few feet of water in our lagoon on the side of the walls. I did this in case the water warms up and the corals start to bleach, then I can show you a before and after photo. I did see a few very small corals starting to bleach due to the warmer waters in the basin, I will be keeping a very close eye on them. As I was searching I found one of our resident balloon fish hiding in the rocks in his or her little “cave of solitude” watching the world pass by and I of course couldn’t resist taking a photo of that cute face.

Have a great weekend if I don’t talk to you sooner…

Barry

 

 

Jul 20, 16     Comments Off on Juvenile Bluehead Wrasses (Thalassoma bifasciatum)

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Good morning friends, one of the coolest things we see on the reef each year is a new explosion of bright yellow colored fish called Bluehead Wrasse, these are juveniles. To see this in person is a sight to behold and it’s one of the coolest things we have ever seen, I did shoot some video and will try to get that posted for you as well. During all my dives last week these little fish would surround me in great numbers creating a yellow wall of color in front of whatever I was trying to photograph and at times I just gave trying to shoot the corals.  

The bluehead wrasse or blue-headed wrasse (Thalassoma bifasciatum) is a species of saltwater fish in the wrasse family (Labridae) of order Perciformes native to the coral reefs of the tropical waters of the western Atlantic Ocean. Individuals are small (less than 110 mm standard length) and rarely live longer than two years. They form large schools over the reef and are important cleaner fish in the reefs they inhabit.

Young/small females and males have yellow upper bodies and white lower bodies, often with green or black lateral stripes and occasionally dark vertical bars. This coloration is known as the initial phase. They can rapidly alter the presence or intensity of their yellow color, stripes, and bars, and these color changes appear to correspond to behavioral changes. Large females and some males can permanently change coloration and/or sex and enter the terminal phase coloration, which has a blue head, black and white bars behind the head, and a green body. This color phase gives the species its name. Terminal phase males are larger (70 to 80 mm) than the initial phase males (60 mm).

The bluehead wrasse forages for zooplankton, mollusks, and other small crustaceans, as well as parasites on other fish. Initial phase males eat primarily zooplankton from currents, and females and initial phase males have certain hunting times during the day.

We have a busy day on tap with a submersible dive at 11:00 and a rare night dive starting at 7:00 tonight.

Have a wonderful day…

Barry

Jul 17, 16     Comments Off on Damselfish, Clown Wrasse, Small Aggressive Reef Fish

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Good morning friends, meet frick and frack. Most of you know how much time I spend underwater with my camera; most days I have to battle crazy currents, fight surge from the passing waves and try not to get stung by jellyfish or bitten by numerous sea creatures, not to mention the always glooming threat of my camera flooding!! So with all that going on I still have to deal with these two characters on every single dive, meet Mr. Threespot Damselfish (top) and Mr. Clown Wrasse (below) two of the most aggressive or just plain anoying little reef fish you will ever meet! I did four dives last week and from start to finish the beautiful Clown Wrasse followed me everywhere and annoyed me non-stop! What he does is swim straight up to my mask and parks there, staring straight into my eyes, he’s either the most brave fish on the reef or he can see his reflection?? He also will nibble on my ears, mask straps, fingers and any open cut I have and let me tell you, it hurts. I usually have a hard time concentrating when he is around, I know he’s going to bite something and knowing that makes me cringe! On my last dive I tried to out swim him and loose him but no matter where I went he or one of his faithful relatives was there to make sure I was well attended, it’s like trying to swat a mosquito and they are just to fast! What I finally ended up doing was turning the tables on him and chasing him for a change but I think he loved the attention and posed beautiful for all the photos, what a little clown!

The other fish, the Threespot Damselfish won’t follow you around but if you pass to close to his or her territory they will for sure bite you and chase you off, they are just plain mean! I have observed these four inch damselfish chase much larger fish away from their territory, you honestly can’t believe how aggressive they can be, I will shoot a video this week to show you. These are also the same damselfish causing all the problems with the corals killing sections and making something called “coral gardens” you can put “coral garden” in my search box and read what they do, they are bad little fish!!

Great news, Curacao is getting rain and the desert is starting to green up again, what a wonderful sight. I did a four hour mountain bike ride yesterday and found it tough to get anywhere due to all the standing mud puddles. I did stop at Saint Joris along the way and cleaned up trash out of the mangroves, I just need to go pack now and pick up all the bags.

Have a wonderful monday!!

Barry 

Jul 8, 16     Comments Off on Two Banded Butterflyfish in a Vase Sponge, Curacao

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Hey gang, we had a super busy day at Substation with two runs and we had some of the worst current I have been in making the day even more exhausting!

I have two Banded Butterflyfish for you this afternoon that I found deep down inside a vase sponge at around 50 feet. These small six to seven inch butterflyfish are usually always found in pairs and are some of the most photographed reef fish we have as they are so easy to approach. 

The Banded Butterflyfish is a small-bodied fish that lives on coral reefs of the western Atlantic Ocean. Like all butterflyfishes, the Banded Butterflyfish has a discus body and a very small mouth, perfect for biting its preferred prey – small worms and live, soft tissue of reef-building corals. This species gets its common name from the series of dark, vertical bars (or bands) that help to provide it with camouflage. One of the bands always covers the eye, hiding it from potential predators and preventing predators from being able to easily determine which end of the body is the head and which end is the tail. Thanks to Oceana.org for that beautiful piece of text.

Have a great weekend all…

Barry

Jul 6, 16     Comments Off on Juvenile Bluehead Wrasse, Small Reef Fish

Juvenile bluehead wrasse darting out from a sponge home. Thalassoma bifasciatum. Curacao, Netherlands Antilles. Unaltered/Uncontrolled. . Model Release: Not Applicable.

Good morning friends, we are finally getting a little rain and a little rain is better than nothing! Aimee and I got up early this morning and took the dogs to Saint Joris Bay (before work) for a super fun, very muddy walk along the mangroves collecting small, pocket-sized pieces of beautiful driftwood. I’m guessing because of recent storms and crazy rough seas we are finding all this new wood along the shores, it’s looks like a mini tsunami went through there?? The dogs had a blast running in the soft dirt that had gotten rained on last night meaning we brought home three very dirty and tired dogs who are now fast asleep!

I have a juvenile Bluehead Wrasse for you all today that I observed swimming in and out of a cluster of tube sponges.

Young/small females and males have yellow upper bodies and white lower bodies, often with green or black lateral stripes and occasionally dark vertical bars. This coloration is known as the initial phase. They can rapidly alter the presence or intensity of their yellow color, stripes, and bars, and these color changes appear to correspond to behavioral changes. Large females and some males can permanently change coloration and/or sex and enter the terminal phase coloration, which has a blue head, black and white bars behind the head, and a green body. This color phase gives the species its name. Terminal phase males are larger (70 to 80 mm) than the initial phase males (60 mm).

The bluehead wrasse forages for zooplankton, mollusks, and other small crustaceans, as well as parasites on other fish. Initial phase males eat primarily zooplankton from currents, and females and initial phase males have certain hunting times during the day.

Though bluehead wrasses are common cleaner fish in the coral reefs they inhabit, they avoid cleaning piscivores such as the spotted moray, the graysby, and the red hind. Such species will view them as prey, but will not view gobies, another kind of cleaner fish, as prey. Other predators include the greater soapfish, roughtail stingray, and the trumpetfish.

We have 2 sub dives today, I have to get moving….

Later, Barry

Jun 24, 16     Comments Off on Blue Tang Aggregation, Colorful School of Fish

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Good morning friends, what a busy week!!! We have Fabien Cousteau here and the group from Sirenas collecting sponges for medical research meaning yours truly has not been able to find time to post! I will post a Fabien blog with photos either tomorrow or monday so hang in there, you know I’m good for it…

So yesterday when I was returning from 100 feet after photographing Fabien and Paige from Sirenas in the submersible I ran into a beautiful blue wall of Blue Tangs and ended up following them until I ran low on air. This is called a Blue Tang Aggregation and it’s one of the greatest underwater shows on the planet. 

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.

Lots and lots to do, have a great day all!!

Barry

Jun 13, 16     Comments Off on Rainbow Wrasse Caught in a Territorial Dispute

Two rainbow wrasse in territorial dispute. Halichoeres pictus. Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles. Unaltered/Uncontrolled. . Model Release: Not Applicable.

Hi all, lots going on these days leaving me with very little time to blog. On Saturaday we had the CIE students from Bonaire again and kept busy with them till 2:00, so much for getting anything else done that day!! Then yesterday was the oposite and it turned out to be a contest seeing just how much a human can do in one day… I first did a three hour mtb ride with my neighbor, then went to the beach, then to the hardware store and bought some lumber and spent hours finishing up the boxing or crating of Aimee’s wooden horse, it’s done! I then went to wish Mark from the World famous Dive Bus Hut a Happy Birthday, stopped and watered the birds in the desert and then picked up Aimee and the dogs for a long afternoon walk carying more water out to the desert to water our poor dry baby agave’s, after that I was cooked!

I have two juvenile Rainbow Wrasses for you today that I found mid-water caught in a major dispute over territory! These little fish are only around four inches in length and can be very aggressive, when I first saw them they both had their mouths open yelling at each other but as I got closser for a photo I ended up with this.

The wrasses are a family, Labridae, of marine fish, many of which are brightly colored. The family is large and diverse, with over 600 species in 82 genera, which are divided into 9 subgroups or tribes. They are typically small fish, most of them less than 20 cm (7.9 in) long, although the largest, the humphead wrasse, can measure up to 2.5 m (8.2 ft). They are efficient carnivores, feeding on a wide range of small invertebrates. Many smaller wrasses follow the feeding trails of larger fish, picking up invertebrates disturbed by their passing. Juveniles of some representatives of the genera Bodianus, Epibulus,Cirrhilabrus, Oxycheilinus, and Paracheilinus hide among the tentacles of the free-living mushroom coral Heliofungia actiniformis.

I have to be underwater soon…

Barry

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