Smart Corals and Dumb Corals

Posted in Under the Sea on February 22nd, 2010 by MadDog
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First I’ll deliver the latest dispatch from the MadDog/TELIKOM War. Today’s skirmish was a brief exchange of peace offerings which occurred at my house. Two technicians came and got my Internet connection going again. As a peace offering, I agreed that, as long as it worked, I’ll not display any more images of shoddy workmanship, no matter how many I find. I think that’s pretty fair. We’ll see how long that cease-fire lasts. One of the technicians promised to come to do data error tests from my office to the exchange this afternoon. He has not shown up yet. I may have to fire another volley to get some action going again. UPDATE: He is here now, but I had to go pick him up in my car, as you will note below.

I must admit that my ring of spies in TELEKOM is growing nicely. In return for anonymity, I’m getting surprising information and remarks. Today’s revelation, from three independent sources, is that some genius at TELIKOM has forgotten, refused, or otherwise failed to release funds to register all of the TELIKOM vehicles. Therefore, TELIKOM workers are obliged to hoof it to their work locations. Needless to say, some sorry customers will not receive service as walking distance to and from will exceed the six or seven hours usually allotted to a working day.

Another tidbit that delighted me was a remark by a TELIKOM technician concerning management. “They’re making us look stupid!” His  words, not mine!  It came as a response to my comment that I believed that the technicians were willing and capable to do first-rate work if given the proper equipment and supplies.

Okay, enough of that.

Why are some corals considered brainy and others not so? Maybe it has to do with the general appearance. They all have that squirmy, vaguely disgusting look about them. We’re not really supposed  to actually see  our brains, are we? So, of course, they’re not designed to be attractive, unlike other body parts I could  name, but probably won’t. For instance this Brain Coral (Goniastrea australensis)  is sort of brainy looking, but more like the brain of the alien from Alien,  if you know what I mean:

Sigourney Weaver would squish this with her boot wearing her long-johns, if she got the chance.

This is still brainy looking, but somewhat less disgusting. It’s a Leptoria phrygia  brain coral, which means absolutely nothing to me. I looked it up in a book – probably incorrectly:It looks as if it may have been removed from a Conehead. Possibly Dan Aykroyd, who is now, not coincidentally, a minor wine producer in Canada. I’ve tasted his plonk. It’s quite drinkable.

Now this is a brain! Mister Spock would have had such a magnificently squiggly nugget in his noggin. It’s a Platygyra lamellina.  and a fine one, at that.I’d be proud to have such a well-rounded and obviously classically educated brain. I’d be proud to have a brain at all.

But, what about the less mentally nimble corals? Need we dismiss them? No, of course not! For, like blondes (there, I’ve finally said it and my wife will have my hide for it), corals need not be excessively bright to have their . . . attributes. For instance, this young Acropora cerealis  is as pretty as a picture (nasty pun there – sorry) and need not fear for its future because of a lack of mental acuity:Likewise, this very young and most rare Solitary Coral (Fungia costulata)  possesses an ethereal beauty that far exceeds its more intelligent cousins:The identification as a little tricky here. The colouration had me stumped. It wasn’t until I noticed that the radiating ridges (each called a septum, if you care) are considerably thicker in the center that I was able to pin it down. With other Solitary Corals, this is not the case. I’m such a clever boy, I am.

Finally, we have the dumb corals and the dumber corals. The one which is being engulfed is some kind of Acropora,  I think. I don’t know what the one which is encasing it is, but I’d give it the edge in wit:So, there we have it. We’ve covered the entire spectrum of intelligence of corals in one simple, easy to remember lesson.

All that need be remembered is that they are all as stupid as stones.

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Coral Lovers Only

Posted in Under the Sea on December 11th, 2009 by MadDog
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Today we’re looking at coral pictures (mostly). But first I want to tell you about the most beautiful screen saver on the planet. Understand, that’s just one man’s opinion. It developed as an homage to Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.  You can find it here. You have to sign up for an account, but there’s no money involved. It does require an Internet connection occasionally to give the full effect of evolvement, but it works fine without one. Here’s a screen shot of the home page. If you like to fool around with screen savers, give this one a shot.The electricsheep.org siteNow, on to the coral and whatever.

Wouldn’t you know that the first one up is a species that I can’t find. I tried Googling “cup coral” which is the obvious name for this, but I couldn’t find anything like it. My invertebrates book is of no help. If you know the genus and species of this thing, please leave a comment:Cup coral (species unknown)It is about six or seven centimetres in diameter.

I am pretty sure about the identification of this coral (Acropora cerealis): Coral (Acropora cerealis)It is one of the most common species here. It is very delicate. A brush of a fin can knock off a huge chunk.

This one is quite beautiful when the sun is shining down through the water. It is a species of the Montipora  genus:Coral (Montipora species)It has many tubeworms embedded in it. None of them came out to play.

This is another very pretty coral (Pachyseris speciosa).  Both this and the one above are massive. They are often over two metres across:Coral (Pachyseris speciosa)Sometimes what is growing on, in or near the coral is just as interesting. Here Sea Squirts (Atriolum robustum)  grow surrounded by Porites  coral:Sea Squirt (Atriolum robustum)Well, they obviously don’t grow on the coral, but on a bit of dead coral that is embedded in the Porites. 

I’m a bit of a fan of Sea Squirts. This one you’ve seen several times before. You can enter ‘molle’ in the search box to see previous posts. This one is Didemnum molle.  It has a nice coral, which I think is Goniastrea australensis  in the background:

Sea Squirt (Didemnum molle)The shading on the molle  is hard to get right.

Here’s another molle  with several species of coral in the background:

Sea Squirt (Didemnum molle)The molle  is about five centimetres across. You can also see a couple of Dascyllus reticulatus  in the background.

Did I mention that I’ve never been bored on a dive?

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The Secrets of Leper Island

Posted in Under the Sea on December 7th, 2009 by MadDog
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There are, so far as I know, no secrets of Leper Island.  I’m just reaching for a title. There’s little mystery concerning it, other than the fact that there were no lepers on Leper Island  (they were actually on nearby Pig Island  or Tab Island  as it is more properly called) . Yes, the lepers were on Pig Island  and Leper Island  was the place where they raised pigs to feed the lepers. Confused? Join the club. I got that information from Tamlong Tab, a man who should know.

What has all that got to do with today’s malarkey? Absolutely nothing. I’m just filling space here. Anyway, here are the lovely Finisterre Mountains  in the background with Leper Island  on the right and Little Pig Island  (which also has another name, but I can’t remember it now) on the left:

Finisterre Mountain Panorama
The big strip of land in the mid distance is Kranket Island.

We had an excellent dive in a spot on the North end of Leper Island  on Saturday. I hadn’t dived this spot for some time, so I had forgotten how rich it is in coral species. Here is a Porites  coral with a couple of very nice Christmas Tree Worms (Spirobranchus giganteus):

Christmas Tree Worms (Spirobranchus giganteus)

That’s probably my best Christmas Tree Worm shot yet. I’m very happy with it. To give you an idea of the scale, the two worms together would be about as wide as the width of your eye.

This flaccid looking spiky thing is a Divaricate Tree Coral, (a species of Dendronephthya (Roxasia)):

Divaricate Tree Coral (Dendronephthya [Roxasia] sp.)

These things are fantastic at night. I think that the structure must be similar to optical fibre. If you shine a strong light into the base, the whole thing lights up like some kind of crazy lava lamp.

I’ll throw this bone to the coral freaks out there and hope that I’ve identified correctly. I’m not positive about the Acropora cerealis  in the foreground, but I am pretty certain about the Seriatopora hystrix  in the background:

Coral - Acropora cerealis (foreground), Seriatopora hystrix (background)

I need to find myself a better invertebrates resource. My book is pretty thin.

This is the Common Lionfish (Pterois volitans):

Common Lionfish (Pterois volitans)
They are usually fairly imperturbable. It won’t move much unless you poke your camera (not  your hand) right in its face and waggle it around. You’d be imperturbable too, if you had thirteen very poisonous spines sticking out of your back. This one, however, got into some kind a weird panic that I haven’t seen before. It started running away from me. When it swims fast, the delicate feather-like fins wave like pennants in a most beautiful display of the flight response. In the shot above, it is just about to swim under a ledge of coral.

In the morning we had all been complaining how hot it was. While we were down on the dive, I noticed that the light was getting dimmer. When we approached the surface we could see that rain was pouring down:

Raindrops from belowIf you click to enlarge, you’ll see some tiny little splash rings where individual drops are hitting the surface of the water.

When we got back on the boat, the temperature had dropped about ten degrees C. Now we were all complaining about being cold.

Spome people are never satisfied.

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