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’

May 22, 15     Comments Off

Hi boys and girls, I have a short but fun clip for you all today of a beautiful 16 inch scrawled filefish that I found out on the reef a few hours ago. You may have to watch this on Youtube as it’s so small, here is the link….

https://youtu.be/gMuijO-net8

Check out the sharp spine on top of it’s head, this can be raised or lowered depending on how worried he or she is and as you can see he or she is a bit concerned. This ultra cool fish like so many others can change colors in the blink of eye, it’s truly one of the top coolest fish in the Caribbean sea.

Have a great day..

Barry

May 21, 15     Comments Off

Hi gang, sorry about the lazy blogs this week but I am having a weird week. I have a super cool, medium sized smooth trunkfish for you all today that I found yesterday at around 45 feet on the Sea Aquarium house reef. As I followed I noticed all he or she wanted to do was to eat but as you can see the reef is full of crazy little damselfish that guard every inch of property out there and hate trespassers! 

Rhinesomus triqueter, the smooth trunkfish, is a species of boxfish found on and near reefs in the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico and subtropical parts of the Western Atlantic Ocean. It is the only known member of its genus.

The smooth trunkfish has an angular body sheathed in plate-like scales, growing to a maximum length of 47 centimetres (19 in), though 20 cm (8 in) is a more normal size. The body is enclosed in a bony carapace and, when viewed from the front, is triangular in shape with a narrow top and wide base. The fish has a pointed snout with protuberant lips encircling a small mouth. The tail is shaped like a brush. The general background colour is dark with a pattern of small white spots, often in hexagonal groups giving a honeycomb-like appearance in the middle area of the body. The tip of the snout and the area round the pectoral fins are dark with few spots and the eyes are black. The fins are usually yellowish with a dark base and tips. They have only soft rays with no spines.

The juveniles have dark colored bodies covered in large yellow spots. As they get older, they develop a pale area where the honeycomb markings will later appear.

The smooth trunkfish is found down to a depth of about 50 m (164 ft) on coral reefs and over sandy seabeds in the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico and the western Atlantic Ocean. The range extends from Canada and the Gulf of Maine southwards to Brazil.

The smooth trunkfish is normally solitary but sometimes moves around in small groups. It uses its protuberant lips to expel a jet of water which disturbs the sandy seabed and reveals any shallowly buried benthic invertebrates. It feeds on small molluscs, polychaete worms, acorn worms, peanut worms, small crustaceans, sponges and tunicates.

Our submersible is on the way up the reef with Carole Baldwin inside so I better get out there and see if they found anything…

Have a great day.

Barry

May 19, 15     Comments Off

Good afternoon friends, about a week ago I sent you some photos of a Sergeant Major guarding his eggs, you can either just scroll down to see it or click on this link to refresh your memory.

Sergeant Major Eggs, Abudefduf saxatillis

So this morning while I was under the sea I thought why not try and get a little video-clip that better shows how these fish constantly fan their eggs and how dedicated they are to ensuring their survival. If you look closely you will see a one foot square area of lavender colored eggs all glued to the side of this rock, these are about a week old now. When freshly laid the eggs are a beautiful dark purple color and as time passes and the little ones start to grow they start turning a much lighter almost grey color. In the beginning of the film you will see a little black fish with a yellow tail pass by, that’s a little sea bass called a Yellowtail Hamlet. The Sergeant Major knows that this little bass is not after her or her eggs and therefor is left unbothered. With that said, any other fish that passes to close to her eggs will be chased off and folks this little six inch fish can be very aggressive! Now normally it’s the job of the male Sergeant Major to guard the eggs so I’m not quite sure what is going on here, maybe a lunch break?? The male is usually a very dark blue or purple color and doesn’t have these very noticeable yellow stripes. Can you imagine laying your eggs (thousands of them) on the side of a rock out in plain site and having to defend it from an ocean full of hungry fish??? At least at night she can chill and go to sleep, what a life!!! For those of interested, I found this fantastic information on why fish fan their eggs…..Check it out!!

http://www.cyphos.com/forums/showthread.php?t=28762

I had a fun weekend and got to spend all day Sunday with Carole Baldwin from the Smithsonian Institution, you know her, the Worlds leading authority on Caribbean reef fish! Her and I spent a good part of the day beach combing and chillin on the beach and then at 4:00 took off on a 33 mile, three hour mountain bike ride, I was done and it was game over by 8:00! Oh yeah, this is funny… I locked my keys in my car while at the beach but luckily left the window down about 3 inches. At first we both just looked at each other in disbelief and tried a few things that didn’t work. So as a last resort, I was holding a full size garden rake (don’t ask why) and to my complete astonishment it fit in through the window! I put the metal part in first and then since the handle was so long was able to hook my keys that were in the ignition and pull them out, it really could not have been easier and took less than a minute, I’m now thinking everyone should carry a rake!!!

Have a wonderful day!!

Barry

May 13, 15     Comments Off

Good afternoon friends, I have a short but fun clip of some of our local residents swimming in circles in around 15-20 feet of crystal clear Caribbean water. Most of the yellow striped fish you see are Smallmouth Grunts with a few French Grunts mixed in there as well. These fish are all around 7-9 inches in length and are rarely found deeper than 60 foot. Looking more closely you will also see different species of parrotfish, blue tangs, sergeant majors, wrasses and on an on, this is an everyday “quick look” into what we see every time we head out for a dive.

Super busy today, I hope all is well out there!!

Cheers, Barry

May 12, 15     Comments Off

BAR-

Good morning from the windy, dry Caribbean! I have a cute Spotted Trunkfish, Lactophrys bicaudalis for your viewing pleasure today that I found a few days ago hiding inside a big cave. Here in the Curacao we have three species of trunkfish, the Buffalo Trunkfish, Lactophrys trigonus, the Smooth Trunkfish, Lactophrys triqueter and the Spotted Trunkfish, Lactophrys bicaudalis as seen above. Of these three, the buffalo trunkfish is by far the hardest to find and I think if memory serves me right I have only ever seen one and yes I did get a photo. The second hardest to find is the spotted trunkfish, (above) they are so shy and seemingly scared of their own shadows?? And last is the smooth trunkfish that can be found in great numbers all over the reef and for some reason are not afraid of anything?

Spotted trunkfish are shy but curious fish that swim slowly above reefs, often hovering under ledges or over small holes. They prefer warm temperatures between 22 and 26 degrees C (72 and 79 F) and depths between 4.5 and 18 meters (15 and 60 ft). Trunkfish are protected by a bony outer surface that acts as body armor and includes two sharp spines guarding their rear fins. The rigid outer structure helps protect spotted trunkfish from predators, but they are poor swimmers because of their rigidity and bulky shape. At maturity they average 15 to 30 cm (6 to 12 in) in length.

These fish are very weary of divers unlike the more common Smooth Trunkfish that you can almost pet. These guys spend their days hiding in the reef and unless your really looking for them you probably won’t see one. The Smooth Trunkfish on the other hand is out in the open all day and those can be found everywhere on the reef either digging in the sand looking for food or eating algae off rocks. Since we have been here we have only seen 3 or 4 juvenile Spotted Trunkfishes, those are so hard to find and are on our “Holy Grail” fish finding list.

Have a great day out there…

Barry

 

May 5, 15     Comments Off

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Good morning friends, the winds here in Curacao are pushing 38 knots this morning, that’s around 43 mph not including the 60 mph wind gusts, not a fun place to be right now!

I have two different, very aggressive, male Sergeant Major’s for you all today that I photographed a few days ago guarding their eggs which you can see in the last photo. Sergeant Majors earn their name from their brightly striped sides, known as bars, which are reminiscent of the insignia of a military sergeant major. This is a very common reef fish growing to a maximum size of about 7 inches and found in the 1-40 foot zone. The female will lay her eggs in patches on a firm substrate and the male will guard them vigorously until they hatch. The males will turn a sky blue color during this period. These poor males work so hard at chasing off any passing fish or diver that they think may want to eat their eggs, they have to defend the eggs all day long! Like all other damselfish these Sergeant majors are aggressive beyond belief and will go to great efforts to defend the nest, I can’t even count the number of times I have been chased away by a damselfish or bitten on the ear! When the eggs are freshly laid they are a bright purple color as you see in the background of photo 3 on the left side. During the “egg guarding process” the male will constantly fan the eggs with his peck fins as you see in photo 2 which aids in better water circulation, meaning healthy babies! Later when they are just about ready to hatch the eggs turn a clear color (photo 1 and 2) and you can see each individual fish inside each little egg, which means two big well developed eyes and a clear body all looking up at you!

Individuals of this species form aggregations of about several hundreds of individuals. Sometines, they get cleaned of parasites by fish species such as gobies in the genus Gobiosoma, Bodianus rufus, Elacatinus figaro, and Thalassoma noronhanum. Sergeant majors also clean green sea turtles with Acanthurus chirurgus and Acanthurus coeruleus.

Have a wonderful day…

Barry

May 4, 15     Comments Off

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Good afternoon friends, I’m back!! I had another three day weekend and stayed far away from the computer, I love being out of touch! Aimee and I both refuse to enter the world of mobile phones, we only carry our antique Nokia disposable phones that have zero access to the internet, so no texting or surfing on the go for us.

My three days off went super fast but they sure were fun, just ask the dogs! Each day I took them on one 2-3 hour adventure and returned them worn out and dirty! After their baths,(which one of them really hates) these two lucky dogs lay in the comfort of an air conditioned room and snooze the afternoon away, sounds great right! A friend of ours once said…”I want to come back in my second life as one of your dogs” hah, that’s for sure!

Yesterday morning I rode my bike to Saint Joris Bay and collected driftwood inside the mangroves all by my little self for around 3 hours. For those of you who remember our driftwood Christmas tree that we have had now for a few years… well, I’m building a bigger one. The wood used for these trees has to be super smooth, beautiful pieces and here in Curacao these are getting very hard to find. So, I’m resorting to drastic measures and swimming inside the mangroves to look for trapped pieces that will never make it to the shore of any beach. This is a very dirty task which involves crawling and contorting your body in a million different positions kind of like the game of “Twister” but only inside mangroves! I ended up finding so much great material that I was unable to get any of it back on the bike, we came back with the dogs in the evening and loaded up! Once I get the new tree built I will send you a photo, it’s going to be beautiful!

I was underwater most of the morning photographing our mini-submersible, mondays are usually very busy around here.

Curacao is under a high-wind advisory and I think Dolphin Academy had to cancel programs due to big waves pounding the rocky shoreline!

Your photo above is a giant school of Black Margates that I found on the rough side of Bonaire a few years back, sorry the photo is so small.

I have to run, that’s it for today..

Barry

Apr 30, 15     Comments Off

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Good afternoon from the windiest place on earth! I’m not kidding you when I say the wind is blowing like a hurricane, our normal blue sky is gone and has been replaced by a cloud of dust creating an island wide haze and it’s crazy hot! Aimee and I commented today that in the years we have been here we have never seen it quite this bad…. and to think I have to go biking in this tonight, boy I can hardy wait!

I have a little 5 inch long juvenile trumpetfish hiding in some gorgonians for you all today that I found a few days ago before this wind started. Around here baby trumpetfish are hard to find, maybe because they are masters at hiding and blending in. Without the use of my flashes you would have a hard time finding this guy on the reef as he just drifts vertically and really never moves. This fish can grow to be over 3 feet in length so finding one this small is quite a rare find.

Not much to report, everyone is inside hiding from this wind and from what I just heard, next week will be even worse??

We have another island holiday tomorrow, have a wonderful weekend all!!

Barry

Apr 28, 15     Comments Off

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Good morning from Curacao! Sorry for the lack of blogs these past few days but we had another three day weekend due to another holiday and I was no where near my computer. Yesterday was “Kings Day”, one of the biggest holidays of the year, and NO Curacao does not have a King but the Netherlands does. Kings Day is the Kings birthday and is celebrated with everyone wearing orange, (the Netherlands national colors), wild non-stop parties and live events all day long, I stayed home!

I have two Slender Filefish for you all today in their pre-mating mode. This means the larger filefish on the left with his head spine erect and his large dewlap (belly appendage) is trying to court this lovely female. I watched this for quite awhile and wished I would have had a video camera. The male swims around and follows the female in hopes of some kind of reaction, he even nudges her with his nose at times and he can be quite persistent. These little three inch fish have the ability to change colors to match the environment they are living in and I swear if you take your eyes off them for a second you will have a hard time finding them again, their camouflage ability makes them difficult to spot. They seem to love gorgonians the most and swim or should I say drift vertically from one to another all day long changing colors to match the environment they are entering, it’s really one of the most amazing things I have ever seen in the sea.

Our island continues to be stuck in this drought and the wind is blowing non-stop! Aimee and I are taking water and food out to the trails around the clock to do our small part in helping to keep some of the animals alive, I don’t know how these survive through these horrible months!

I spent the last three days doing long morning dog walks, a little bike riding and getting a bunch of stuff done around the house.

Hope all is well out there…

Barry

Apr 23, 15     Comments Off

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Good morning, I have a very gentle, super fun to watch, reef fish for you all today called a Banded Butterflyfish or Chaetodon striatus. The name is derived from the dark vertical bands on the fish’s body. This, combined with a vertical, black bar through the eye, is an adaptation that can confuse predators. These fish are around five inches in length, can be found easily in the 10-60 foot zone and  are usually always found in pairs. These two here can always be found in the same area and I have been swimming with them for years so they are more or less pretty used to me and my giant camera. As I was taking my pictures one of them (top photo) left the safety of the gorgonian and swam right up to the front of my camera and proceeded to just hang out there without a care in the World, it was great! Encounters like this allow me to get many hard to get shots like the straight on face shot which is usually the hardest of all shots to get. 

Aimee and I did a fun 20 mile mountain bike ride last night through the wilds of Curacao, it was hot, windy and dry but we had a great time!

We have two sub dives today, one at 11:00 and the next at 1:30, will be a busy day!

See you again soon…..

Barry

Apr 22, 15     Comments Off

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Hi all, I have fresh fish for you all today meaning I just took these photos about 30 minutes ago! This is a foot long Glasseye Snapper, Heteropriacanthus cruentatus that I found under a rocky ledge waiting for his photo to be taken. The top photo shows a perfect face shot dripping with expression and the second photo is the same fish stretching his mouth or yawning, talk about a big mouth!! The bottom photo shows our snapper in parked position where he will hang out for most of the day. At dusk these snappers will leave the safety of the rocks and head out onto the reef to hunt, thus the big eyes which helps them to navigate the reef at night, sure wish they would eat the lionfish!

Glasseye Snappers are common in lagoons and seaward reefs primarily around islands, down to 15 m. They generally prefer shallow reefs (a clue in distinguishing them from similar Bigeye, Priacanthus arenatus that prefer deep reef tops). Often hide in dark recesses of reefs by day, but occasionally drift out into the open near bottom. Nocturnal, feeding mainly on octopuses, pelagic shrimps, stomatopods, crabs, small fish and polychaetes. During the day usually singly or in small groups under or near ledges, but at dusk it may gather in large numbers.

Curacao is back to being BONE DRY with no rain in sight, I don’t understand how anything can survive out there, we really need rain!

Have a great day!

Barry

Apr 21, 15     Comments Off

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Good morning from a tiny island in the Caribbean called Curacao!

I have a super cool fish for you all today called a Whitespotted Filefish, Cantherhines macrocerus, it’s one of our personal favorites! This fish has so many unique built-in features, it reminds me of a swimming Swiss Army knife! This fish has the ability to change and flash colors, it has a super cool retractable spine on top of it’s head, it can puff up it’s belly to look bigger and to lock itself into a crevice for protection and it has wild looking spines at the base of it’s tail, talk about cool!!!

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.

Have a great day friends, I am off to the sea…

Barry

Apr 17, 15     Comments Off

BAR-

Good morning from the Caribbean. I just got out from a long, cold hour and a half dive with my macro lens and other than my freezing cold hands it was great! Here’s one of the many fun shots I took this morning. This is a Sand Diver, Synodus intermedius with just his or her head showing and the rest of it’s body cleverly concealed beneath the sand patiently waiting for some poor unaware fish to swim by. This fish is around 12 inches in length but can be found up to around 18 inches. These fish are some of the most aggressive hunters on the reef equipped with hundreds of razor-sharp teeth and a body that is built for speed! I personally have never observed any fish that moves faster in attack-mode then these lizardfish, they go from 0-60 in the blink of an eye, they need to renamed and called a “Rocketfish”. Countless times I have been laying on the sand photographing some beautiful baby tropical fish unaware of the buried danger next to me. Then in the blink of an eye (or faster) this fish explodes out of the sand like a rocket, grabs my baby fish and leaves me feeling horrible for the rest of the dive! One time in Bonaire I had laid on the sand for 30 minutes shooting a baby razorfish when “POOF” out of no where he was eaten by this guy above and I remember almost being in tears when I got out of the water, it was very upsetting not to mention it scared the heck out of me! Now when I lay on the sand I do a complete check to make sure no danger is lurking, these fish just plain scare me!

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend…..

Barry

Apr 10, 15     Comments Off

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Hello all, we are busy again today taking paid guests down in the submersible so I don’t have much time to blog. I had a request for a tarpon photo and I know I have a bunch but with 25 hard-drives full of photos that request could take some time. I had this shot already on my desktop as I had sent some photos to Sport Diver this week but like always I missed their deadline, there’s just too much to do! Tarpons are super large fish we have here in the Caribbean that can grow to eight feet in length, this one here was around six. 

The two species of tarpons are Megalops atlanticus (Atlantic tarpon), seen above and the Megalops cyprinoides (Indo-Pacific tarpon). M. atlanticus is found on the western Atlantic coast from Virginia to Brazil, throughout the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, and throughout the Caribbean. Tarpons are also found along the eastern Atlantic coast from Senegal to South Angola. M. cyprinoides is found along the eastern African coast, throughout southeast Asia, Japan, Tahiti, and Australia. Both species are found in both saltwater and freshwater habitats, usually ascending rivers to access freshwater marshes. They are able to survive in brackish water, waters of varying pH, and habitats with low dissolved O2 content due to their swim bladders, which they use primarily to breathe. They are also able to rise to the surface and take gulps of air, which gives them a short burst of energy. The habitats of tarpons vary greatly with their developmental stages. Stage-one larvae are usually found in clear, warm, oceanic waters, relatively close to the surface. Stage-two and -three larvae are found in salt marshes, tidal pools, creeks, and rivers. The habitats are characteristically warm, shallow, dark bodies of water with sandy mud bottoms. Tarpons commonly ascend rivers into freshwater. As they progress from the juvenile stage to adulthood, they move back to the open waters of the ocean, though many remain in freshwater habitats.

One of the unique features of Megalops is the swim bladder, which functions as a respiratory pseudo-organ. These gas structures can be used for buoyancy, as an accessory respiratory organ, or both. In Megalops, this unpaired air-holding structure arises dorsally from the posterior pharynx. Megalops uses the swim bladder as a respiratory organ and the respiratory surface is coated with blood capillaries with a thin epithelium over the top. This is the basis of the alveolar tissue found in the swim bladder, and is believed to be one of the primary methods by which Megalops “breathes”. These fish are obligate air breathers, and if they are not allowed to access the surface, they will die. The exchange of gas occurs at the surface through a rolling motion that is commonly associated with Megalops sightings. This “breathing” is believed to be mediated by visual cues, and the frequency of breathing is inversely correlated to the dissolved O2 content of the water in which they live.

Have a wonderful fun filled weekend out there!!

Barry

Apr 8, 15     Comments Off

Hi friends, I have another fun video for you all today of a big adult Stoplight Parrotfish sleeping with his head propped up on a rock and his body laying in the sand. Aimee and I never get tired of seeing this, I mean who would have even guessed that fish sleep?? On any given night dive we see about 20-30 parrotfish, all different species and sizes fast asleep in the weirdest of places! For instance we usually see parrotfish stuck in tube sponges or laying flat up against rocks and it’s not uncommon to find them inside barrel sponges and hidden under algae, honestly if you really look they are everywhere! When I find them out in the open like this one they can be very hard to approach as light will scare them. I’ve learned that coming in very slowly with a non-threatening approach usually works, just be calm and quiet, get in and get out! What cracks me up the most about these sleeping fish is…during the day you can wear yourself out trying to get close enough for a photo but at night they just lay all over the reef, it’s really quite the sight to behold!

I have a big bike ride tonight and tomorrow and friday we are running the submersible non-stop, it will be a busy 2 days!

Hope all is well out there…

Barry

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