Coral All Around

Posted in Under the Sea on October 25th, 2009 by MadDog
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On a dive at a healthy reef, what dominates your view? Well, it’s not fish, let me tell you. It’s coral. Just because it doesn’t move or have garishly bright colours doesn’t mean that it’s not interesting. I’ve had some emails from people who keep live coral in their saltwater tanks. We tried this a few times here with our tanks, but quickly found that it is very risky business. Corals are more difficult to keep alive. If a few polyps die, your entire tank will be dead the next morning.

Still, I like to photograph corals. It’s fun to look for the most representative specimens. What’s more fun is to look for the weird ones.

Here’s what I would call a specimen shot of a Coral (Acropora robusta): 

Coral (Acropora robusta)

As you can see, I’m not going for dazzling beauty or perfect composition. My goal is to show a typical specimen in a typical habitat using my very best efforts to show it as it actually appears to a diver so that other divers and collectors can easily and positively identify the species. That assumes, of course, that I myself have correctly identified it. That’s where the rub comes in and that’s why I’m hoping to get some feedback from readers. I’m 90% positive of the identification of the robusta  above, but the next few are, to one degree or another, doubtful.

Here is a close up of a Favites  species that I can’t identify positively. If reptilian aliens landed on our planet, I imagine that their skin would look like this:

Coral - Alien Skin (Favites sp.) You’ve seen this pattern before here.

I find this one quite pretty, though I’m not positive of the identification? I’m pretty sure,  but not really sure.  How’s that for a scientific identification. Sounds like something a doctor would tell you. I guess it depends on what is wrong with you. If it seems to be not-so-bad, you want really sure.  If it might be fatal, you’ll hope for only pretty sure.  (maybe  would be better or probably not  would be best)

Coral (Lobophyllia hemprichii [young_stage])

Anyway, I’m identifying it as Coral (sure about that), Lobophyllia hemprichii  [young_stage].

This specimen is even prettier, but I’m even less sure about the identification. I think  it might  be a young stage of Pectinia lactuca,  but please don’t quote me on that:Coral (Pectinia lactuca [young stage ?]) [doubtful]

Actually, it looks like a fancy bow tie to me.

All of the shots above look very nice when you click to enlarge them. I’m getting beautiful shots from my Canon G10. I wish I had some extra bread to buy a new G11 with the factory housing. I’ve recommended that combination to several correspondents and I’m hoping to get some images from them soon to show to you.

Let’s step back from the bright colours for a minute for something a little more sombre:

Dull Sky and ShipI nearly deleted this image.

I’m glad that I didn’t.

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Batfish or Spadefish – Who Cares?

Posted in Under the Sea on September 1st, 2009 by MadDog
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I had too many nice shots from Saturday’s dive at Magic Passage  to dump them all on you at once. So, today and probably tomorrow, I’ll finish them up.

Just as we went down over the edge of the seaward end of the passage there was a small gang of Batfish gliding along. Group sizes vary widely, from three or four to over a hundred. This little mob was the perfect size for my camera:

Circular Spadefish (or Batfish) - Platax orbicularis

It’s always difficult for me to figure out what to call the fish that I show to you. Common names vary wildly around the world. In my reference book, Reef Fish Identification – Tropical Pacific  (Allen, Steene, Humann, DeLoach), this fish is called the Circular Spadefish. If one wants to do a proper job of presenting fish, it requires the use of the taxonomic names. That’s why I tell you that this is the Platax orbicularis.  I also do this so that people looking for images of fish and information about them can find my site more easily using search engines such as Google.

For example, if you Google:   “Caranx sexfasciatus” madang

You will see:

Caranx Sexfasciatus  | Madang – Ples Bilong Mi 
Bigeye Trevally (Caranx sexfasciatus)  form a solid mass of fish. This creates a mesmerizing pattern that looks artificial:
www.messersmith.name/wordpress/tag/caranx-sexfasciatus/ – CachedSimilar

at the very top of the Google search results (unless someone else rises above me somehow). This link will take you to all of the posts on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi  that feature images of the fish. This is handy for searchers and it gets me a large number of hits on my site. By the way, the Caranx Sexfasciatus  is commonly called the Big-eye Trevally.

Well, enough of that.

Here is something that I like to show once in a while – nothing. I’m pointing my camera in a random direction and snapping away. Sometimes the “waterscape” is as amusing as the details. What you see here is what you would see just about anywhere on the top of our reefs. Think of it as a rainforest underwater:

Reef community

When I see an image such as the one above, I am reminded that it is something that few people ever view with their own eyes on the spot. If everyone could take just one dive on a tropical reef, there would be far less difficulty getting people to understand why we need to protect them. From above, it just looks like a lot of water. Think of flying over a rainforest at ten thousand metres. It just looks like a lot of trees. You can’t even see the individual trees. But, if you walk around down there, you will see that it is jam-packed full of life. It’s a carnival of creation.

Here’s another typical reef scene:

Reticulated Dascyllus (Dascyllus reticulatus)

The fish are Reticulated Dascyllus (Dascyllus reticulatus).  The coral is Acropora robusta.

This is my pick of the day:

Amanda Watson on the edge!

It’s the extremely rare Amandanas watsoni,  commonly known as Amanda Watson swimming behind a lovely school of Anthea on the edge of the passage. She’s been sick, so she looks a little undernourished. We need to fatten her up.

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