ABOUT

Avid outdoorsman and underwater photographer, Barry Brown has spent the last ten 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’

Oct 27, 14     Comments Off

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Good morning friends, I have a super cool shot for you today of an adult Blue Tang, Acanthurus coeruleus stopped at a cleaning station being cleaned by eight juvenile Bluehead Wrasses, Thalassoma bifasciatum. So what’s going on is this beautiful Blue Tang is taking time out of his busy day for a little personal grooming or cleaning as we call it. Most fish generally swim around until they spot a “Certified Cleaning Station”, they then either just stop or point their heads upwards towards the surface and just wait for the cleaning fish or shrimps to come to them. Here you see the yellow juvenile Bluehead Wrasses racing all around our happy customer in search of any little tid-bit of food that might be hanging on the outside of his body or many times stuck or caught inside the mouth. These little fish are such a major part of the wellness of the reef as they act as cleaners, removing parasites and debris from larger fish. Without this free service many fish would become sick and die from infection or disease. Many fish like this Blue Tang tend to be so caught up in the moment that they can often be caught with their guard down giving a quiet diver the chance for closer approach.

Late yesterday afternoon we loaded up the dogs and took off to Saint Joris Bay which is a big lagoon or bay of salt water fed by the open ocean. This is where I get most of my driftwood and it’s a favorite place for the dogs because of all the little beaches and places to swim. While walking along an area thick with mangroves we found what we first thought was a dead giant porcupinefish (fully inflated) wrapped in a t-shirt washed ashore high on the beach. Aimee’s first response was “poor ballooonfish” and I just wanted to cry as this is one of my favorite of all the fish in the sea. She continued to walk past and I bent down just to uncover it a bit to see what it looked like and as I did it’s little fin moved! I screamed, it’s still alive!! I quickly picked up the animal still wrapped in a black t-shirt and ran into the water at top speed followed close by two now very excited dogs! This was a monster sized porcupinefish, he was around a foot and a half long and since he was puffed up he was the size of a basketball. I first removed the shirt which was difficult as all his spines were poking through it and with no gloves this was not an easy task! Once the shirt was gone I then did my best to hold him underwater but I could instantly tell he was over-inflated with air most likely from being onshore all day! I screamed to Aimee who was onshore to go find a big container because I think we will have to take him back to the aquarium and release the air in his belly with a needle. He was so full of air that he could not stay right side up and was really struggling to swim. I then started holding him underwater with both hands (remember his spines are out and he’s poking me) and every few minutes I would tilt his body straight up expelling bubbles of air out of his mouth, almost like burping him. This was starting to work and after 30 minutes he was finally able to stay underwater by himself, it was so exciting! Aimee returned with a great container but I told her I think he’s doing alright and just to wait. I continued to reach underwater and gently pick him up and tilt him up to keep releasing any air and finally no more came out. I was now holding the side of his body and pushing him forward to get water into the lungs and that really did the trick, all of a sudden he deflated all his spines and went back to being a normal fish and he slowly swam off!!! Talk about a great feeling, I yelled to Aimee. “he’s gone”, how cool is that!? I really believe the shirt that he was caught in and almost killed him also saved him by keeping him wet all day in the sun, it really kept him from drying out. So once again you never know what you will find along the shores of the Caribbean, so glad we were there to help!

I also pre-rode the 40 mile Extreme mountain bike race course again yesterday which we did in under three hours this time. I ended up having to take my new 27.5 Scott because my Epic was down with tire problems. For anyone wanting to join I will be doing the Extreme route every Sunday morning until the race in December, your welcome to join.

I’m off the sea, have a great day!

Barry

Oct 24, 14     Comments Off

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Good morning friends, it’s FRIDAY!! Yesterday morning I came into work and quickly set up my underwater rig with the 105 macro and set out for a long hour and forty minute dive! I was immediately greeted by my cloud of hundreds of shimmering Boga’s which are always so curious and it’s like they feel safe with me out there knowing I will chase away any of their lurking predators like the crazy amber jacks. The water was pretty darn clear yesterday making the whole dive seem like you were in a giant fish bowl and there was a bit of current but that can be used to one’s advantage. I lucked out and found not one, not two but three beautiful Scrawled Filefish, Aluterus  scriptus (above) all out looking for breakfast and figured I would follow at a safe distance in hopes of some kind of photo opportunity. These fish are completely amazing!! They can change colors in the blink of an eye and have that cool spine at the top of their head that they can raise or lower depending on the level of danger present. As you can see from the top photo these are also very thin fish, they can swim through about any crevice which can make following them difficult at times. I ended up hanging out with this beautiful trio for almost an hour, it seems like the more time you hang out with them the more they seem to trust you which in the end allows for better photo opportunities. If you look closely at the top photo you will see how both eyes are looking in different directions, I mean is that cool or what?? Reminds me of a flounders eyes!

Aluterus scriptus is a medium size fish which can grow up to 3-feet in length. The body shape looks like an elongated oval, strongly compressed. Its background body coloration is olive-brown or grey depending on its surrounding environment, irregular blue lines and spots are distributed on the body mixed with some black spots mainly on the head. The mouth is small and at the end of its pointed snout. Like all the Tetraodontiformes, it has no pelvic fin but has two particular dorsal spines; the first anterior one is long, slender and erectile, located just over the eyes, the second is small and not easy to see but it locks the first one when it is erected. The rounded caudal fin is quite long and can be displayed as a fan. The juveniles have a yellow with black spots body coloration.

Aluterus scriptus is omnivorous and have a large choice for its meals like small crustaceans, algae, gorgonians, anemones, tunicates, fire coral…

Off to the sea again, have a wonderful day and a great weekend!!!

Barry

Oct 23, 14     Comments Off

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Good morning all, I had a few people asking this week about our resident school of Boga’s, Inermia vittata and how they are doing so yesterday while out with the submersible I snapped a few photos just for you. The group or school has tripled in size over the past few months and everyday now I spend swimming amongst them and taking their photos before the submersible arrives. These beautiful fish are so calm with divers, you can slowly enter the school and they will then completely surround you and be just inches from you showing no alarm at all. These fish are around 5-9 inches in length and can be found in depths of 30-150 feet. I would love for some of my friends back home to join me swimming thru this large school, it’s so cool to be surrounded by so many fish, I will try and shoot some video for you. Most of my diving buddies will tell you how rare it is to see big schools of fish in Curacao and when you do come across such a site one usually tends to follow in hopes of being totally engulfed in fish! These Bonnetmouths/Boga’s are also one of the few fish that can be closely observed with a slow, non-threatening approach.

Not sure I told any of you or not but on the 31st of this month I have a pane of deep-water fish being issued as Curacao stamps, cool huh?? I will send a photo of them on the release date so be on the lookout for those, your going to love it! 

Got in a fast 25 mile mountain bike ride last night, rode from the Sea Aquarium to Vaersenbaai and back, not a ton of fun but did get some miles in.

Have a great day…

Barry

Oct 20, 14     Comments Off

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Good morning friends, we started our Caribbean morning out with a massive tropical downpour and we are loving it!! These next few months are typically our wet months and it’s looking like we are off to good start which is great for the island, bad for mountain biking!

This morning when I got to work I took off directly into the water for an early morning dive, what better way to start out a monday right? I immediately found a full size 12-inch long Glasseye Snapper “Blotched Bigeye”, Heteropriacanthus cruentatus motionless alongside a coral wall and moved in very slowly for just a shot of his big beautiful eye that looks like glass, thus the name. These bigeye fish often hide in dark recesses of the reef by day and are active at night. During the day when out diving I see these fish quite often just chilling under rocky ledge’s displaying their striped daytime colors and for the most part could care less about a passing diver.

The Glasseye Snapper inhabits shallow reefs and spends its days hiding in or at the entrance to caves. They are nocturnal and feed at night on zooplankton such as shrimp, larval fishes, and small squids and octopuses.

This snapper can be recognized by its reddish coloration, large eye, relatively symmetrical body shape, and by the small elliptical spots on the soft dorsal, anal and caudal fins. It has a scaleless preopercular margin that is covered with small ridges.

H. cruentatus is the only species in the genus Heteropriacanthus.

So how was your weekend out there??? Mine was fairly busy and a lot of fun. Saturday morning I took both dogs for a long overdue walk to the North coast in search of driftwood and we hit the jackpot! I was shocked at how much new wood had floated in over the past few months and it was a blast looking through it all. I actually found so many nice pieces that I had to leave a big pile hidden out in the desert, not sure when I will be able to get back out there now to pick it after these crazy hard rains. While I collected driftwood the dogs ran around chasing each other on the beach and explored every nook and cranny, tired dogs are good dogs! On Sunday I pre-rode the 40 mile extreme mountain bike race course and pretty much hated every minute of it! Not only was it 75% uphill and blowing wind it’s mostly on dirt and paved roads, not much of a mountain bike race! After the ride I spent the rest of the day working on my “honey do list” and hiding from the heat, I never would have guessed rain like this was coming! That’s the island news in short, have a great week friends!

Cheers,

Barry

Oct 15, 14     Comments Off

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Good morning folks, This is another extreme close-up I shot yesterday with the ever faithful 105/2.8 macro shot at 160/F22 and 2-strobes on half power. Geez talk about a fish with a mouthful of teeth!! I had some questions about parrotfish teeth and found a little more information for you.  

Parrotfish are so-called because their fused teeth give their mouths a beak-like appearance. These teeth are situated outside the jaw bones, so the beak protrudes beyond the mouth. This is perfect for scraping algae from the surface of rocky substrates, but can also get past one of the algae’s defenses — growing within the matrix of the coral itself. In some species, such as the hump-headed parrotfish, the beak can take a chunk out of the reef itself. Interestingly, although the parrotfish eat the polyps themselves, these herbivorous fishes are probably primarily Interested in the zooxanthellae contained within the coral’s tissues, rather than the coral itself.

To counteract their tough diet, parrotfishes teeth grow continuously. But those that form the beak are not the only teeth that these remarkable fish have; the plate-like pharyngeal teeth towards the back of the mouth can bring considerable crushing force to bear, pulverizing even the tough limestone. After this, the coral’s resistance is at an end. In the fish’s gut, living tissue is separated from the limestone rubble and powder. This ground material is ejected by the parrotfish as fine, white grains, which makes up a considerable proportion of the highly prized white sand found in coral reef lagoons and beaches!

Great information from….

http://infolific.com/pets/coral-reef-life/eating-the-coral-reef/

Aimee and I took the dogs to Vaersenbaai early this morning before work and finished the new trail, it’s now rideable but still needs to be cleaned up.

We have a late submersible dive today and I will most likely head out now to hunt for more photos for you all.

Have a great day..

Barry

Oct 14, 14     Comments Off
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Good afternoon readers, better late than never right?? You want to talk about HOT, Curacao is baking today!! There are no clouds to be seen, very light wind and like always…. melting humidity, oh what fun! Because of the sweltering heat I did what everyone else is doing and took off to the water and got in a nice cool relaxing dive on our Substation reef armed with my trusty 105 macro lens, you can’t go wrong with that! I immediately swam down to around 50 feet and just took in the view and tried to figure out which way to go? As I quietly hovered I heard the all to familiar sound of “crunch”, crunch”, “crunch” and knew without even looking there had to be a large parrotfish near by scarping his teeth on the rocks looking for lunch. Sure enough within seconds a giant Stoplight Parrotfish, Sparisoma viride pops his head up from his algae dinner plate and looks me straight in the face, “SNAP”, that was the photo! I have found through trial and error if you want any kind of fish face shot you have to not only be prepared to spend the whole dive with a single fish but you have to catch them off guard as I did here. Parrotfish have some of the most comical faces and there are so many different species of parrotfish meaning there are countless fun face shots waiting for you down there. I also saw my school of Bonnetmouths out there today (that have been there for years) and was shocked at how many there are now?? I estimated the school at around 350-400 and if the water would have been more clear I would have gone back out for some wide angle shots, talk about a beautiful little fish!

I will have to force myself to get on the bike today in this heat, this is the downside to Curacao in October!

Not much else going on, it’s very quiet at the moment, next month and December will be crazy around here!

Have a great day!!

Barry

Sep 26, 14     Comments Off

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Good afternoon all, it’s Friday and we are still busy here at Substation Curacao working with the Smithsonian. We did have another group of Smithsonian scientists leave this morning with smiles on their faces from all the new goodies they found. So now we just have our World famous Carole Baldwin left who’s down in the submersible now and her assistant Cristina looking for two more specific fish and bringing up temperature loggers from 800 feet. I’m currently sitting here in my dive gear waiting to go under to photograph the sub bringing up the temperature loggers and do a final photo shoot with the ladies in the front. So while I wait I can quickly fill you in on all the recent finds and happenings.

Your photos of the day are a POSSIBLE new species of snake eel the Smithsonian Institution found this week while searching the sandy abyss near the 900 foot mark. This beautiful eel is only around 10 inches in length. Is it a full grown adult or a juvenile of another species, who knows but they can hardly wait to find out! We see quite a few different eels down there the problem is eels live in caves and holes and are very hard to collect or observe so this quite the opportunity.

Yesterday I was so busy running around photographing the scientists doing their thing either in the labs or in the sub. When the sub returned yesterday they brought back more beer bottles they found down deep and one had a baby octopus inside. The scientists are now thinking that all the deep water shells we are finding in the bottles do not crawl in to the bottles but are carried into the bottles by these octopus, makes sence to me. We had a bunch of shell experts here this week and they went home very happy with their beautiful slit-shells, deep-water murex’s, cone shells and on and on. We had one lady here with the Smithsonian who has one of the new cone shells named after her, I will do a story on her next week.

I just heard on the radio the submersible is coming up, I need to get ready to go.

Have a great weekend all…..

Barry

Sep 17, 14     Comments Off

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Good morning friends, it’s barely 8:00 here and the Smithsonian is already underwater looking for new fish but this time on scuba and not with the submersible. Not only are they looking for new species down to 1000 feet with the sub, they are also searching for new fish in the shallows and believe it or not there is still a lot of new stuff to be found in just a few feet of water. There are so many beautiful little fish in the shallows that no diver will ever see as they are either so small or so reclusive and many live in very hard to get to places. Once the scientists come up from their scuba dive they will then climb into the submersible and disappear down into the darkness for the rest of day in search of new deep sea creatures and fish.

Your fish of the day is one such creature that was recently found at around 600 feet with the new “Curasub”. This is a beautiful three and a half inch Sphoeroides dorsalalis, or Marbled Puffer to the rest of the World. This is one of those fish that lives in the darkness and that no diver will ever get to see unless your tuning into this blog everyday. We have a fish here in Curacao that is called a Bandtail Puffer, Sphoeroides spengleri and it can be found in depths of 5-to 35 feet and is a close relative to the Marbled Puffer.

The Bandtail puffer is usually found on seagrass beds and coral reefs, and mostly close to the bottom, where it finds adequate cover and is less likely to be spotted by predators. The preferred food items are mollusks, crustaceans and echinoderms. The marbled puffer on the other hand lives in a very different environment. Not only is it dark it’s very rocky and sandy but most likely eats the same foods as his shallow swimming cousin.

I have to get back to the labs to photograph some deep-sea urchins, anemones and crabs, so stay tuned for more fun finds.

Have a wonderful day……………

Barry

Sep 16, 14     Comments Off

Scorpionfish

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Good afternoon all, I’ve been inside the deep-water labs all morning photographing some beautiful little fish that came up from around 540-600 feet. This is a little three inch scorpionfish posing nicely inside a giant thorny oyster shell and the bottom photo is a close-up of just his cool, very colorful eye. Many have asked me if these are babies or juveniles but they are full grown adults, they just don’t get that big. It took us about a week to bring this fish and others up safely from the deep, it’s a slow process but it works. We normally drop the fish off at about 250 feet and then slowly bring them up 50 feet each day feeding them along the way.

Scorpaenidae, the scorpionfish, are a family of mostly marine fish that includes many of the world’s most venomous species. As the name suggests, scorpionfish have a type of “sting” in the form of sharp spines coated with venomous mucus. The family is a large one, with hundreds of members. They are widespread in tropical and temperate seas, but mostly found in the Indo-Pacific. They should not be confused with the cabezones, of the genus Scorpaenichthys, which belong to a separate, though related family, Cottidae.

Some types, such as the lionfish, are attractive as well as dangerous, and highly desired for aquaria. In addition to the name scorpionfish, informal names for family members include firefish, turkeyfish, dragonfish, and stingfish, usually with adjectives added.

General characteristics of family members include a compressed body, ridges and/or spines on the head, one or two spines on the operculum, and three to five spines on the preopercle. The dorsal fin has 11 to 17 spines, often long and separated from each other, and the pectoral fins are well-developed, with 11 to 25 rays. The spines of the dorsal, anal, and pelvic fins all have venom glands at their bases.

Most species are bottom-dwellers that feed on crustaceans and smaller fish. Many inhabit shallow waters, but a few live as deep as 2,200 m (7,200 ft). Most scorpionfish, such as the stonefish, wait in disguise for prey to pass them by before swallowing, while lionfish often ambush their prey. When not ambushing, lionfish may herd the fish, shrimp, or crab into a corner before swallowing. Like many perciform fishes, scorpionfish are suction feeders that capture prey by rapidly projecting a suction field generated by expansion of the fish’s buccal cavity.

Scorpaenid systematics are complicated and unsettled. Fishes of the World recognizes 10 subfamilies with a total of 388 species, while (as of 2006) FishBase follows Eschmeyer and has three subfamilies, 25 genera, and 201 species, some of the species being removed to family Sebastidae which other authorities do not follow.

I have to get back to my camera, have a wonderful day all!!

Barry

Sep 12, 14     Comments Off

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Hey friends, we had another busy day at Substation Curacao so finally I have time to do a little chillin! We had two submersible runs again today with paid guests and I of course was waiting for them at 50 feet to take some photos as they pass by. While waiting for the sub to arrive I hung out with my buddy you see above that has been living in this cave under a mound of star coral for longer than I can remember. This is a GIANT Spotted Moray Eel, Gymnothorax moringa and he must be close to four feet in length!! During any given day you can find him right there poking his head out and just enjoying the view, at night time he is gone and out hunting for food. I of course have the greatest respect for this creature and know that he could take my hand off if he wanted to, that’s why I always keep a safe distance when taking his photo. While I laid on the sand watching him or her today I observed two Sharknose Gobies cleaning him, one can be seen clinging to the coral above his head to the right. These little cleaner fish are so brave, you can watch as they swim all over his body and even in and out of his mouth, it’s a win-win for both parties.

On the second dive I did today I found a mega tiny, just born trunkfish (see photos from 2 days ago) in a foot of water being tossed around by the big waves. I immediately opened my pocket on my BC vest and pulled out a little critter container with a lid that had holes drilled all around it and placed it near him and he swam inside. This little thing was smaller than the three I posted 2 days ago, it was super tiny and so dang cute. I normally don’t mess with sea creatures but this little baby was in the wrong spot, he was getting pounded by the waves and surge. So as I went to meet the submersible I took him with me down to 50 feet and placed him in a tiny coral cave near the others we found a few days ago. Once out of the container he immediately started eating and exploring his new calm world, I will check on him again tomorrow to make sure all is good. These little baby trunkfish normally stay very near one area for months until they are old enough to head out into the big blue, such brave little things!

We are awaiting the arrival of the first batch of Smithsonian scientists that should arrive within the hour, it will be two crazy weeks coming up so stay tuned!

Have a wonderful weekend all…..

Cheers, Barry

Sep 11, 14     Comments Off

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Good morning from Curacao! We are gearing up for a busy day of underwater exploration here at Substation Curacao with two dives planned starting at 11:00. I am sorry to say that our live underwater video camera is still down and not working but I will make sure and let you know once we go live again.

Here is one of the top 10 most beautiful fish in the Caribbean, the Queen Angelfish, Holacanthus ciliaris. As babies these fish are absolutely spectacular but super hard to find and very shy! This one here is a full grown adult and was around 16-18 inches in length. Unlike the French angelfish these Queens are one of the hardest animals to photograph because they are so shy, they seem to be afraid of everything! I usually end up just having to swim alongside them at top speed as I did here because they will not stop long enough for a photo. 

The adult Queen angelfish overall body color can be described as blue to blue-green with yellow rims on its scales. Their pectoral and ventral fins are also yellow but their lips and the edges of their dorsal fins and anal fins are dark blue. Queen angelfish are also known to have blue markings around each gill cover. Juveniles have dark blue bodies with yellow lips, gills, and tail and vertical bars ranging in color from light blue to white. The Queen angelfish may live up to 15 years in the wild and reach up to 45 centimeters (17 inches) in length. Queen angelfish are about three and a half pounds.

Like other angelfish, much of its locomotion is produced by the pectoral fins. The outer 40% of each fin can be used to produce up to 80% of the fish’s total thrust.

The Queen angelfish feeds primarily on sponges, but also feeds on tunicates, jellyfish, and corals as well as plankton and algae. Juveniles serve as “cleaners” and feed on the parasites of larger fish at cleaning stations. 

The adults are found in pairs year round, perhaps suggesting a long-term monogamous bond. The pairs reproduce by rising up in the water, bringing their bellies close together, and release clouds of sperm and eggs. The female can release anywhere from 25 to 75 thousand eggs each evening and as many as ten million eggs during each spawning cycle. The eggs are transparent, buoyant, and pelagic, floating in the water column. They hatch after 15 to 20 hours into larvae that lack effective eyes, fins, or even a gut. The large yolk sac is absorbed after 48 hours, during which time the larvae develop normal characteristics of free swimming fish. Larvae are found in the water column and feed on plankton. The larvae grow rapidly and about 3–4 weeks after hatching the 15–20 millimetres (0.6–0.8 in) long juvenile settles on the bottom.

I am off to the sea, have a great day out there!!

Barry

Sep 10, 14     Comments Off

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Good evening friends, what a day!! Sorry about the late blog  but yours truly has been very busy!! Yesterday after posting the blog Aimee called and begged me to come over to Dolphin Academy with my dive gear and help the trainers do underwater repairs to the dolphin lagoons. Because of this crazy wind we are getting monster waves which are causing damage to our underwater dolphin living areas. What we did in a nutshell was to lift giant rocks back into place and tie many of them down with ropes. The waves were rolling in so hard at times we couldn’t see the hand in front of your face with all the bubbling whitewater, it was actually kind of funny and I found myself laughing to myself more than once! During this event the dolphins are racing back and forth and many times they will swim over to you and just hang out right over your shoulder and watch and make their classic buzzing sound (echo locating) right in your ear. While moving the stones I noticed that all the brittle stars were out in broad daylight climbing all over each other and spawning!!! Yeah and no camera! Whats up with that you ask?? We just had a full moon which is the official start of coral spawning for September. This means from now until the 17th  just about everything in the sea will be spawning, it’s my favorite time of the year because you never know what you will find! I have never seen this happen during the day and there it was happening right before my eyes! I watched as brittle star after brittle star released thousands upon thousands of beautiful pinkish purple eggs, it was one of the coolest things I ever saw underwater to date and again no camera!

Later in the evening I took off on a crazy 20 mile mountain bike “wind ride” which was about as much fun as being sick, the things we do to stay in shape!

Today Aimee was off and met me at Substation at 10:00 for a dive in hopes of seeing the brittle stars spawning again. Well no such luck with the spawning but we did find three baby Smooth Trunkfish, the hands down cutest fish in the sea!! We found the top baby at around 60 feet and he was the largest of the three at a mere one inch in length! If you look closely you can see his tail wrapped around to the right, the others are so small they don’t have much of a tail yet. For years we have been calling these things “little marbles” because of their size, they kind of just bounce around and look so vulnerable but nothing will eat them because of the protective slime they have around their bodies. The second and third baby trunkfish (pictured above) were both less than a half an inch long and both made me work for a decent photo. Look at their cute little lips, man I love these things and could watch them for hours! We are guessing that a few times a year these cuties are born in great numbers, we never see these tiny babies and today we found three! For those of you wanting to see what these guys look like as adults type in “Smooth Trunkfish” in my search box on the front page, it’s quite the transformation!

That’s about it, we have a busy day on tap tomorrow with two submersible dives and then I have a two hour bike ride starting at 5:00 with my buddy Dorian.

Off to bed.

Barry 

Aug 29, 14     Comments Off

Good morning friends, I have a lionfish video for your viewing pleasure today that was taken moments before the giant crab that I posted yesterday. These two here were at around 50 feet alongside a giant sunken propellor just hanging out in the darkness looking for dinner. As you can see they could have cared less! One of the coolest things about lionfish is all their different colors. They can be found in black, white, orange, red and brown and as babies they are almost clear or see-through. I have never seen a creature that has the ability to adapt to so many different conditions and that can multiply so fast! Lionfish are good eating and folks are hunting them and selling them to restaurants, maybe that’s what I need to start doing as well to help keep the numbers down.

As much as I hate these lionfish for invading the Caribbean and gobbling up all our baby fish they are still one of the most beautiful fish I have ever seen and I honestly can’t resist the temptation of photographing them on a daily basis. I think one of the top reasons I find them so intriguing is because unlike so many other fish that don’t want you anywhere near them, these fish will pose all day long for you and seem to have no fear of anything! 

Lionfish or Pterois volitans, which makes up approximately 93% of the invasive lionfish population, is also commonly called “red lionfish” and Pterois miles is often called the “common lionfish” or “devil firefish.” However, their common names do not match the origins of their scientific names. The genus name, Pterois, pronounced (tare-oh-eese) is defined in modern dictionaries as simply “lionfish”, however the word Pterois comes from the Greek word “pteroeis” meaning “feathered” or “winged” and the Ancient Greek word, “πτερόν” (pteron), meaning “feather” or “wing”. The species name, volitans, pronounced (vole-ee-tahnz), is Latin for “flying” or “hovering” and the present participle of the Latin word “volitō,” which means “to fly” or “to hover. ”The species name, miles, pronounced (mee-layz), is Latin for “soldiering” and the present participle of the Latin word “mīlitō”, which means “to soldier.

No one is quite sure where the name “lionfish” really came from but it would be a logical guess that when both pectoral fins are completely extended and fanned out a head-on view of the lionfish might resemble a male lion’s mane. Others have also suggested that it might be a tip of the hat to the lionfish as a ferocious predator.

We have a dive with the submersible at 11:00, lots to do before that happens.

Have a wonderful weekend all!!

Barry

Aug 26, 14     Comments Off

BAR-

Hi friends, I had a request asking if moray eels have a nose or nostrils and do they have bones, YES to both!

The elongate body is laterally compressed or “flattened” and this fish possesses a muscular appearance. The spotted moray lacks pelvic and pectoral fins, the former true of all eels, the latter true of all morays. The dorsal and anal fins are long and are continuous with the short caudal fin. The incurrent nostrils are conspicuous tube-like structures, while the excurrent pair take the form of simple openings. The tubular nostrils spotted on moray eels are believed to help them detect prey. Having poor eyesight and hearing, they rely mostly on their sense of smell to alert them of prey and other marine animals. The coloration of their skin and the shapes of their fins and nostrils help them camouflage with their environment. For example, the blue ribbon eel’s nostrils are shaped like aquatic plant leaves to help it blend in.

There are nearly 200 different types of moray eels around the world, but they all share several things in common. Most morays are about 1.5 meters long however some have been known to grow as long as 4 meters in length. Morays come in a wide variety of colors and patterns. All moray eels posses a long spine which gives them their snakelike body and allows these aquatic vertebrates to maneuver forwards and backwards through the water with a serpentine motion. Unlike most fish who use suction to capture their prey, moray eels have a unique, second jaw which allows them to drag their prey into their mouth. The pharyngeal jaw (pharyngeal meaning near the pharynx), located deep within the throat, snaps forward and clamps down on the prey once the first jaw has a firm grip. The eel will then relax its first jaw and pull the prey into its throat using its pharyngeal jaw. Eels have sharp, curved canine teeth which enables them to latch onto their prey with a firm grip. Some eels, like the Atlantic Green Moray Eel, even come equipped with a third row of teeth on the roof of their mouth. Bacteria forms on the insides of their mouths and this can easily cause an infection from a bite wound. A tall dorsal fin runs the length of a moray eels back and is joined with a smaller caudal fin (or tail fin) which runs from the bottom of the tail and ends halfway along the underside of the body. They lack pectoral fins and thus lack vertical stability. It is not uncommon for them to drift lazily on their side. Two small, circular gills located behind the mouth allow the moray eel to breath. Morays continually open and close their mouths in order to pump water through their gills. Eels also have a layer of mucus which coats their thick, scale-less skin in order to protect them from germs and parasites; in some species this mucus is toxic. This mucus also assists them in maneuvering quickly and painlessly through the rough edges of coral reefs.

I am off for next few days so the blog will most likely be getting done in the evenings. Aimee did not get to Michigan on time! I heard from Emily she had to spend the night in the airport in Chicago and today found a flight to Green Bay and was getting picked up by friends and hand delivered the rest of the way??

Time for dinner, see you soon.

Barry

Aug 20, 14     Comments Off

Good morning from Curacao. I had a friend asking if fish really do sleep, the answer is YES! I found this video I shot a few weeks ago late at night of a giant Stoplight Parrotfish, Sparisoma viride tucked away, sheltered from the current sleeping under a swaying gorgonian. This guy was close to two feet in length and never really reacted to me or the lights, he was pretty much in his happy place. I find that few parrotfish on the reef secrete mucus cocoons but many do in the shallows and I always find the leftover cocoons on the sand in the mornings. Almost all the fish you see during the day you won’t see at night, they are either sleeping out in the open like this parrotfish or tucked away down in the safety of the rocks or corals. As divers we try to not wake the fish with our bright lights but many times it can’t be avoided. If a sleeping fish is startled it will quickly swim off into the darkness and find another home but it can do serious damage to itself in the process. I have seen parrotfish wake up scared from lights and swim right into rocks and corals which could knock them out if they are not careful.

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.

Have a great day.

Barry

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