Common or Odd – Find It At the Eel Garden

Posted in Under the Sea on February 28th, 2009 by MadDog
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I just got around to processing some snaps taken at the Eel Garden near Pig Island a couple of weeks ago. I’ll show you the ones that I like best.

This little guy is one a large group of walking decapods that we commonly call Hermit Crabs. They all have soft abdomens that they must protect from predators. Therefore, each one has to find a house all to itself – thus, the hermit crab who lives all alone in his house. This one is a Calcinus miutus:Hermit Crab (Calcinus minutus)

I enjoy snapping hermit crabs because they are so easy. The don’t move very fast. If you scare it, you just have to wait a minute and it will come back out to see what’s up.

Lizardfish are another of my favourites. The stay put pretty well if you move slowly. If you hold your breath and move very slowly, you can stick the camera right in its face. Here is a Reef Lizardfish (Synodus rubromarmoratus):

Reef Lizardfish (Synodus rubromarmoratus)

It doesn’t look very impressive just laying there on the coral rubble. But, if you move around and shove your camera in his face, it’s another story entirely. It turns into a monster:

Reef Lizardfish (Synodus rubromarmoratus)

Fierce, eh? It’s only about as long as your hand.

Here is a Red and Black Anemonefish (Amphiprion melanopus) to brighten up the page:

Red and Black Anemonefish (Amphiprion melanopus)

I keep finding Anemonefish that I’ve not noticed before. At first they tend to look pretty much alike. New divers tend to call them all “Clownfish”. That’s okay, but when you start to look closely, you see that there are many different varieties of the orange-ish Anemonefish. They have their colours distributed differently, their white bars and black patches in different places, and their fins are different colours.
This sturdy-looking fellow is a Shadowfin Soldierfish ( Myripristis adusta):

Shadowfin Soldierfish (Myripristis adusta)We often see this species and other Soldierfishes with a parasite on its head. Some studies have shown that females are more likely to mate with a male sporting a parasite. Have a look at this.

Finally, I’ll leave you with a puzzle. Here is a close up of a marine critter. It is about 40 cm long. It does not swim, but moves slowly on the bottom. The funny-looking swirly bit in the middle of the image is, I believe, where some predator has bitten a chunk out of it and the wound has left a scar:

Close up of a mystery critter - can you say what it is?Can you say what this creature is?

Leave a comment. I promise to answer each one.

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More Wongat Island Miscellanea

Posted in Under the Sea on February 27th, 2009 by MadDog
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I’m almost finished reminiscing about Wednesday afternoon’s dive. The torture will soon be over.

Amidst the abundant life there is a small anemone that has been near the bow of the Henry Leith   for many years. It is the true home of Nemo and his extended family. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. Nemo lives in Madang and always has. All you kiddies out there, watch Nemo now. In case you are wondering, Nemo is the big one that keeps coming into the middle of the shot:Back over at the Green Dragon B-25 bomber I took this shot of the yoke (the “steering wheel”) with the usual bunch of tiny fish swimming around:

Yoke of the Green Dragon B-25 bomber in Madang, Papua New Guinea
Up on the tip of the port wing, where the giant barrel sponge is, I captured this Pixy Hawkfish [red variation] (Cirrhitichthys oxycephalus):
Pixy Hawkfish (red variation) (Cirrhitichthys oxycephalus)
Much, much too much work at work is driving me crazy. It’s cutting deeply into my playtime. Eunie will be travelling to the USA and Canada during April, May, and half of June. I will be a temporary bachelor – not one my favourite things.

Never mind. I’m planning a trip to the highlands to climb Mt. Wilhelm.  I’ll be writing an article f or Our Way  magazine about an insane Englishman who is planning to jump off of the top (with a parachute, one would assume). I’ll also be going on a research trip to Rabaul to get as close to the volcano as I possibly can. I promise you some interesting shots. I’ll also be doing some diving there and grab more images.

At 65 life is beginning to get interesting.

About time!

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Birds, Trees, Airplanes, Frisky Fish

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on February 26th, 2009 by MadDog
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I’ve got it all for you today.

This morning, my garden was sizzling with warm morning sunshine. I felt like I was 60 again. Whoopee! I was standing on Faded Glory  looking back at the house. I quickly brought my camera up to my eye by instinct and caught this crow flying past. The blue sky, warm orange sunlight on the trunks of the coconut tree, and the ominous black bird make an interesting juxtaposition:

Sky, coconuts, bird
Then I heard an Air Niugini jet about to take off. The runway is close to our house. I snap-shot again, just barely having time to zoom. There is even a small school of fish jumping at the bottom of the frame on the right:
Air Niugini departing Madang
A click on the image to enlarge will give you a view of the logo on the tail.

Lastly, here is an unfortunately green movie clip that I got on our Wednesday dive on the Henry Leith.  It is two Three-spot Dascyllus (Dascyllus trimaculatus)  getting it on (Excuse the minor vulgarity. If I use the word – I’ll spell it out – “esss – eee – exxx” in a post, I’ll be knocked off of millions of computers.):They take turns circling, cleaning, depositing, fertilising, and chasing away potential egg stealers (including myself – they BITE!).

I just noticed while I was checking this post that, if you turn the sound up, you can hear over my breathing the sound that many of these small fishes make (Damselfishes of all kinds, including the Anemonefishes). It is a small, quick grunting sound. Turn your sound up and see if you can pick it up. They most commonly make this sound when they are perturbed. You can hear the sound most clearly starting at about 1:13 into the clip running to about 1:45. It comes back again at about 1:45 and you can hear it on and off until near the end of the clip.

Sorry for the horrible green cast. The water was very green and I haven’t yet figured out how to change the tint of my video clips. If there’s anybody out there with a suggestion how to do that, please leave a comment.

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Weirdness at Wongat Island

Posted in Humor, Under the Sea on February 25th, 2009 by MadDog
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We treated ourselves to a mid-week dive yesterday afternoon. In fact, we did two separate dives on one tank each. We went to the Green Dragon  B-25 bomber first and then to the wreck of the Henry Leith,  both near Wongat Island.

The water was very murky around the bomber, so macro shots were the only option. I found this nudibranch on one of the ammunition boxes in the dorsal gun mount:
Nudibranch on the Green Dragon B-25 bomber at Wongat IslandI can’t find it in my invertebrates book, but it’s pretty common. It always makes me think of a fancy bit of candy that you might find in an expensive sweets shop in Vienna. UPDATE: It is a Pipek’s phyllidiopsis (Phyllidiopsis pipeki),   as if you care.

Anyone who knows Carol Dover understands that she is a natural actress. Point a camera at her and she will start hamming. It’s in her blood. Case in point:

The gang was hanging on the anchor rope above the Henry Leith. As soon as Carol caught sight of the camera, the show was on.

I got a couple of other nice videos that I will post tomorrow. YouTube seems to be slow today processing them.

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Are Aliens Controlling our Behaviour?

Posted in Dangerous, Humor on February 24th, 2009 by MadDog
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I’ve subscribed to two magazines since before I entered puberty. One is Scientific American.   I’ve learned a lot from reading roughly 600 issues over the years. The other magazine that I’ve read all these years is Analog Science Fiction & Fact.   The material is not so difficult. Many famous Science Fiction authors have gotten their start in the pages of Analog:

Analog Science Fiction & Fact
Yesterday evening I was reading an article about a Mars colony where the cats were infested with Taxoplasma gondii.   Taxo-what?   Me too. I had only a dim recollection that it was something that cats carry and humans can get it and it’s not only not very good for you; it has some extremely odd side affects.

T. gondii   is a very peculiar parasite. Cats carry it with little effect. A really good parasite soon learns not to harm its host. Here’s how it works:  (From NPR All Things Considered,   14 April 2007)

When you see a cat pounce on a rat, it seems like a classic story about a predator and prey.

But scientists have recently discovered that sometimes the main actor is actually a tiny parasite in the rat’s brain that makes the normally fearful rat think “oh how nice” when it smells a cat.

The parasite wants the rat to be caught by the cat because it needs to be in the cat’s stomach to reproduce. New research sheds light on how this surprising little organism can manipulate a rodent to do its will.

Well, that is a little simplistic, but nicely put. So, the cat infects the rat (apparently rats find cat turds quite tasty) and T. gondii   begins to rewire the rat’s brain so that it likes the smell of cat pee. Now the rats hang around where the cats like to take a whiz and the cats quickly catch onto this and the rats are soon in the cats’ tummies making more T. gondii.   If that doesn’t show how cool nature is, then I just don’t know what might impress you.

That’s all well and good, but what does it have to do with humans?

Hah!  Humans can get infectd by T. gondii   also. That’s where it gets really interesting.

In humans T. gondii   can cause birth defects, predispose one to mental problems, cause more boys than girls to be born . . . the list goes on. I won’t go into all that. You can read more here and here.

The interesting idea to toy around with is:  Could this be a plan hatched by Aliens to take over the world? Scoff if you like, but this image might just get you to thinking:

Felis domesticus - Alien agents?
How easy would it be for a technologically advanced society to develop a parasite that could infect humans (half the population of earth already, by some reports) and begin to subtly change behaviour? Later, the parasite, if well designed, would follow its programmed evolutionary path and begin modifying humans in more drastic ways. Like similar organisms (malaria being one) it could constantly modify itslef to defend against a cure.

It would be as easy as playing with kittens. And probably as much fun.

I’m not suggesting that this is the case. I’m just saying that it would be the easiest way that I can think of to take over the world.

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Reef Cops! – Whistle-blowers Welcome

Posted in At Sea, Reef Cops!, Under the Sea on February 23rd, 2009 by MadDog
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There is an incredible amount of interest at the present time concerning the condition of tropical coral reefs. It’s about time.

We’re establishing contact with major eco-organisations to attempt to convince them that local divers can be a valuable resource. If you’re studying the transportation system in a big city, who do you consult? Do you talk to the United Nations or the bus drivers? Some of these organisations are beginning to come around.

When situations such as this develop, one begins to wonder what can be done. One thing that we’ve considered is to set up a web site where anybody can report reef or management area abuses.

So, that is exactly what we are doing:  (click on the image to go directly to

The new Reef Cops! web site

At the moment, it doesn’t do anything. Nor does it look as if it has anything to do with coral reef abuse whistle-blowing. We only set it up this morning. Over the next few days and weeks it will be taking shape as I find time to work on it. If anybody out there is interested in how a WordPress site evolves as it is being built, it might be interesting to bookmark it and have a look once in a while.

We’ll be getting information out as soon as possible to everyone we can think of as soon as the site is ready. We want to make Madang a centre of activity for reporting abuses and dispensing rough justice to the reef pirates. Madang is, after all, the centre of the tropical coral reef universe.

Stay tuned. We’ll be shaming the bad guys soon.


Ah, Sweet Saturday

Posted in Under the Sea on February 22nd, 2009 by MadDog
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The weather the last few weeks has been miserable, at least by Madang Standards. I don’t think that there has been a single day without rain. It has also been very cold. You have to remember, of course, that is tropical cold, not regular cold. When the mercury drops below 24°C (75°F), we call it cold.

However, this Saturday was sunny as reasonably warm. We went to Magic Passage. The surface conditions looked good – little current and clear water. Down at the bottom at about 3o metres, though, it was milky. The current was running sluggishly outward, carrying the foggy-looking water from the anchorage out to sea.

I did manage some interesting shots which I’ll give to you in a gallery without a lot of comment for a change:

The Bigeye Trevally shot is interesting. It was so murky at the bottom that there was virtually no colour. I decided to take advantage of this instead of moaning about it. So, I made the shot monochrome.

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