Pardon My Tubeworms

Posted in Under the Sea on April 16th, 2010 by MadDog
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You’re going to think that you’re seeing double today. Going through my images from dives at Barracuda Point  and The Eel Garden  last Saturday near Pig Island,  I found some vaguely amusing near-twins. Each pair has similarities, but not the same ones. Stick with me while I build a mountain out of a molehill.

The humble Tubeworm (Sabellastarte sanctijosephi)  is an easy photographic subject unless you get too close. If you do, it will disappear down inside its house more quickly than the human eye can follow. Now it’s there; now it’s not:It seems like the same “now”. All that’s left is a puff of dust.

Here’s another Tubeworm:Both of these shots have nice detail if you click to enlarge. The “feathers” are incredibly complex.

The next twins are of Coral (Acropora hyacinthus).  I think that both species are the same, but some corals are impossible to tell apart without examining the microsopic structure of the skeletal framework:The shot above is from directly overhead. You can see a hint of the spiral growth form which is characteristic of many plate corals.

Here is another colony shown more from the side. Again, you can see vague spirals:The colour of the two colonies was different, as you can see. In the second image you can see the variations of brightness caused by the refraction of sunlight through the waves at the surface of the water. When you see this live, it is constantly changing. It reminds me a little of disco lights.

Lets take a break with a prettier image. This is Kate:Kate lives in Madang and works with the Fred Hollows Foundation the Vision Statement of which reads, “Our vision is for a world where no one is needlessly blind, and Indigenous Australians enjoy the same health and life expectancy as other Australians.” They need to work on that one, as they also do important work in other places.

One of my favourite little critters is the Dwarf Hawkfish (Cirrhitichthys falco).  They are famously cute and give one good fun trying to get them to hold still long enough for a shot. This little fellow seems to be missing his fourth dorsal ray. Maybe it was bitten off. You can see it better in the shot that comes after this one:They scamper about within a small area as their google-eyes stay fixed on you. You end up anchored in the same spot, swinging the camera wildly around hoping for quick snap. The lighting in the shot above was very poor. The sun was behind a cloud and coming slightly from the other side from where I was shooting.

Here is the difference that good light makes:The sun was full on and coming from behind me. Good lighting makes these little jewels glow.

What a difference a ray makes.

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Eat a Pufferfish and Die!

Posted in Under the Sea on December 10th, 2009 by MadDog
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No, I’m not putting a curse on you. Many readers will already be aware that the pufferfishes, among several other varieties of fish, are extremely poisonous when eaten by humans. This is because their bodies contain a deadly poison called tetrodotoxin. There are several dive sites around Madang at which you can usually find a large Fugu,  as they are called in Japan. This one is a Star Pufferfish (Arothron stellatus)  and its name is Elmer Fudd:

Star Pufferfish (Arothron stellatus)
I thought that you might enjoy meeting it. The idea of anything other than a cartoon character being so homely is simply too much to bear.

The Japanese eat these things. Since 1958 one must have a special license to prepare Fugu  for consumption. Apparently, the final exam for potential Fugu  chefs is to eat some of their own dish. If they survive, they pass.

Elmer will demonstrate patience for about thirty seconds, giving the photographer enough time for one or two shots such as the one above. When Elmer has had enough, he’ll turn around, scraping his belly on the sand:Star Pufferfish (Arothron stellatus)

And lumber away in a huff:

Star Pufferfish (Arothron stellatus)

Bye-bye Elmer.

Here is a fish that you’ve seen here before. It’s the Reef Lizardfish (Synodus variegatus):Reef Lizardfish (Synodus variegatus)Tomorrow we’ll be looking at some of the yummy coral at this spot on the South end of Leper Island.  For now, just savor the superb camoflage of this critter.

We’ll finish up with something decidedly non-fishy, a Tubeworm (Sabellastarte sanctijosephi):Tubeworm (Sabellastarte sanctijosephi)It’s worth clicking this shot to enlarge it. I had seen tubeworms for many years before I examined one closely and discovered the conplex organs in the centre. I’m not sure what it all does, but a tubeworm certainly could pass for an extraterrestrial organism.

Aliens in my front yard! Eeeek!

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Ooooo, Yummy Tube Worms for Breakfast

Posted in Under the Sea on October 26th, 2009 by MadDog
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I woke up feeling faintly queasy this morning. Maybe a little too much partying yesterday? Who knows; there are so many bugs here that you could get sick every day of your life with a different one – no repeats! I’ll play the trickster this morning and offer you a breakfast of Tube Worms, specifically, Sabellastarte sanctijosephi: Tube Worm (Sabellastarte sanctijosephi)I don’t know if it is named after St. Joseph (surely there is more than one St. Joseph – hmmm . . . seems there might be five  others) or some person whose surname was Saintjoseph.

Here’s another shot showing the beautiful double-bowl shape of these critters:

Tube Worm (Sabellastarte sanctijosephi)All of these images have excellent detail. Click to enlarge so that you can see the fine, featheryness of the ‘arms’.

Here is another example:

Tube Worm (Sabellastarte sanctijosephi)They are filter feeders, grabbing tasty bits from the water and conducting them down the pipe. In the shot above you can clearly see the tube in which the animal lives. Only the feathery feeding apparatus is exposed. If in the least disturbed, the feathers disappear into the tube faster than you can see.

Premnas biaculeatus,  the Spinecheek Anemonefish is getting to be a regular sight here:

Spinecheek Anemonefish (Premnas biaculeatus)That’s because I’m seeking to capture the definitive specimen shot of this beauty. My theory is that, if I take enough pictures of it, eventually I will have taken the most perfect image of it ever captured. This asssumes, of course, that I’m going to live long enough to manage that trick.

Okay, one more shot for today. This is another frame of a series of a ship coming in to Astrolabe Bay  in the morning sun. I showed you a gloomy image from the series yesterday. Here’s a slightly less gloomy shot:

Sunrise and ShipThe ship look so insignificant on the vast sea. That’s what I was going for in this shot. It’s welcomed safely into port by the rays of the morning sun.

Hmmm . . . waxing rather too poetic this morning.

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More Canon G10 Underwater Goodness

Posted in Under the Sea on July 15th, 2009 by MadDog
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You wouldn’t think that something called a Tubeworm (Sabellastarte sanctijosephi)  could be very pretty. You might be wrong:

Tubeworm (Sabellastarte sanctijosephi)

I shot the one above inside the reef at the west end of Pig Island.  I’m not completely sure of the identification, because there are several that have similar characteristics.

Many of the marine worms are quite beautiful. Have a look at these Christmas Tree Worms (Spirobranchus giganteus):

Christmas Tree Worms (Spirobranchus giganteus)

I showed some Sea Squirts the other day. Here is another shot of Didemnum molle:

Sea Squirts (Didemnum molle)

This is yet another kind of Sea Squirt (Phallusia julinea):

Sea Squirt (Phallusia julinea)

There are so many species of Sea Squirts around this area that I think one could write a book about them. I doubt if it would make any best-seller lists, though. No money there.

I do love patterns. This Coral (Favites sp.)  is one of my favourites:

Coral (Favites sp.)

You have also seen a lot lately of the Spinecheek Anemonefish (Premnas biaculeatus):

Spinecheek anemonefish (Premnas biaculeatus)

The Spinecheek is an easy target for the Canon. It stays close to its anemone and will actually hold still for as much as a half-second, a rare thing for an anemonefish to do. They are among the most nervous and paranoid of fishes. When I’m shooting them, I sometimes imagine Woody Allen dialogue escaping from their tiny, toothy mouths.

The Reef Lizardfish (Synodus variegatus)  is another fishy friend that is easy to shoot:

Reef Lizardfish (Synodus variegatus)

Usually the problem with the Lizardfishes is that it’s a bit difficult to see them in the first place. You have to find one before you can take its photo. What usually happens is that I don’t see it until I’m close enough to make it move. Then, since they are so quick, it’s difficult to see where it went.

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