Having bashed out my brains against a wall of Windows 2008 servers, I’m in no state to be witty or even intelligible, so it’s time for more fish. If you’re still uttering, “Errrrrp . . . ” from the last meal, excuse me please.
We’ll start off with something nearly indigestible, nevertheless recognisable. Everyone has seen a Giant Clam (Tridacna maxima), at least in any movie featuring divers. Some hapless fool is always getting a leg or arm caught in one. Here’s the man-eating beast slobbering in wait for the unwary:
Of course, that’s all Hollywood silliness, a commodity that is never in short supply. A Giant Clam couldn’t eat you if it wanted to. It hasn’t got a brain, so it doesn’t “want” to do anything at all. It’s a filter-feeder. It sucks in water at one end, runs it through some fancy lace work to strain out the goodies, and ejects the useless salt water out the other end.
It’s hard to believe that some slugs that call themselves humans kill these huge creatures for a fist-sized ball of muscle that pulls the shells together if the clam sees a threat. Yes, it does have eyes – hundreds of them all around the margins. Just swimming over the top of one will make it close its shell. Can it hold onto you? No.
Here’s something also familiar, but even less edible. The humble Starfish (Fromia milleporella):
You’ve seen this image before, but I’ve dolled it up for publication and the image is much better, so I’m dishing it out again – makes a great screen saver or desktop background image. The thing about starfish is that they don’t move very fast. I guess that that is an understatement. I reckon that top-speed for this little hand-sized fellow is about a kilometre per year. If you look at one from the side, you can see the hundreds of tiny “feet” that they walk on. The feet are moving very quickly, but the steps are teensy-weensy.
Moving toward the unfamiliar (not to mention less edible) here is a magnificent Spotfin Lionfish (Pterois antennata):
This image is easily the best that I’ve ever gotten of this critter. It’s a perfect example of what we call a “specimen shot”. I wish I had gotten the same individual from the side also, but it would have involved some serious coral scrapes, something to be avoided if at all possible. Aside from the fact that it’s not good for the coral (we’re covered with deadly bacteria and fungi), a coral scrape itches beyond belief and keeps on itching for several days while it exudes stickiness that is disgusting. It can also easily become infected. You’ve probably seen this image here before. I can’t remember for certain.
Ending up with something edible (if it doesn’t eat you first), but uncommonly seen by anyone but divers, feast your eyes on this terror:
This image has appeared here before, but I reworked it extensively for the magazine article, so I’m dishing it out again. The toothy menace is a Yellowmargin Triggerfish, sometimes known as a Green Triggerfish (Pseudobalistes flavimarginatus).
What makes them so interesting, aside from the pit-bull face is that they are exactly that – the pit-bulls of the sea. I’ve seen a lot of scary things in my 2,000 or so dives, but I’ve never been as disconcerted (okay, scared into a panic mode) by anything more that one of these charging at full speed (pretty fast) straight at me. They don’t turn away as a shark normally would. They just keep right on coming unless you do something to stop them. One of these little beasties can take a sizeable chunk out of you, even through a wet suit. I’ve seen divers lose bits of their swim fins when a Yellowmargin bit some off and promptly spit it out.
We don’t tease them.