Catching Up With the Fish

Posted in Under the Sea on January 20th, 2010 by MadDog
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I’ll begin the day’s foolishness with a puzzle fish. By browsing my big fish book and the web, I can usually identify nearly everything that I photograph. Sometimes it comes down to whether I have the time to search diligently. I am now overcome by hopeless despair, because I cannot identify this fish:I know that it is a Shrimpgoby, but I haven’t been able to find an exact match. There are a few wanna-be candidates, but with each there is some feature that does not match. I’m very happy with the image, as it is the first time that I have spotted this species. However, I’m frustrated that I can’t identify it.

You’ve seen the Reef Lizardfish (Synodus variegatus)  here many times. I often present it as a “find the fish” puzzle. It is superbly camouflaged:I captured the image of this one because of its stubbornness in the face of danger. They are usually quick to scoot away if you approach too closely. This one, however, was determined to occupy its favourite perch, even though I was fooling around with the anchor chain at the end of the dive and nearly dropped it right on its tail.

The Sandperches and Lizardfishes share many commonalities. You can easily see how a beginner might confuse this Latticed Sandperch [female] (Parapercis clathrata) with a Lizardfish:If you want to see a male of this species, you can find one here.  It looks pretty much like the female, except that it has a black spot on it’s head and a big orange lower lip making him look a bit like Rachel Uchitel.

Here’s an image with which I am very happy, It nearly (I said nearly ) makes up for the wretchedness demonstrated by my inability to find that cursed Shrimpgoby. This is a beautiful Humphead Wrasse (Cheilinus undulatus):Wrasses, in general, go through dramatic changes of appearance as they progress through life. There is usually a Juvenile Phase (JP), an Initial Phase (IP – sometimes called the Intermediate Phase) and a Terminal Phase (TP). This individual is in the Initial Phase. That means that it is reproductively mature, but has not yet assumed the body form of a fully mature adult. For instance, its hump head will become much more pronounced as it ages.

The Humphead Wrasse is sometimes called the Māori wrasse, Napoleon wrasse or Napoleonfish. Japanese divers invariably call it the Naporean Fis.  I should also mention that this is a huge  fish, compared to the specimens which you usually see here. I guess that this individual is about 1.5 metres long and weighs a couple of hundred kilos. In some areas they have become locally extinct, because they have the unfortunate attribute of being extremely  tasty.

Since I have some nudibranch lovers out there I’ll throw in this (Fryeria menindie):I fear my ID here may be a little shaky. If anybody cares to venture another guess, I’ll surrender without a struggle.

Finally, let’s retreat to a far corner of the saloon for a little giggle. Deep in the bowels of The Coral Queen,  we found the sink where the beleaguered sailors could refresh themselves.The light was so poor here that I had to resort to monochrome to get a usable image.

Now you have it. Everything and  the bathroom sink.

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Wrapping Up a Week of Diving

Posted in Under the Sea on January 17th, 2010 by MadDog
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We ended up a week of diving, bush trips and industrial-strength socializing with Anita, Wouter and Anita’s father, Jos, today. It’s been a pleasure having them with us. Yesterday I realized that I had no photos of Jos. So, I took this shot of him steering Faded Glory:

Jos turned out to be very handy with a boat. On our last day, he handled the boat while the rest of us did a drift dive at Magic Passage. Communications were a little light, as we do not speak each others’ languages, but he is a very pleasant fellow. I wish that we could have had some heart-to-heart conversations.

Here is a shot of Anita and Swami Monty in the water at Magic Passage with Faded Glory,  Jos at the wheel, coming up in the distance:Anita, Jos and Wouter are leaving tomorrow morning. Wouter is an avid diver and runs with a crowd of dedicated techno-human-dolphins in the North Sea. I wouldn’t be surprised if we begin to get applications for diving here in Madang. It’s an entirely different experience from their normal dives. I think that Wouter found it a pleasant break from the adrenaline-drenched sport as it is enjoyed off the coast of Belgium.

Among the critters that we saw on our last two dives at Magic Passage  and Rasch Passage  was this Starfish (Nardoa rosea)  practicing Extreme Yoga:I am able to contort my body like this, having practiced yoga since I was a pre-teen. Okay, okay, I’m not as nimble and Gumby-like as I once was. However, I’ve not yet reached the point, at sixty-six, at which I need to ask myself, “Can I still do that?” This is a great blessing for me, as the physical activities (yeah, all  of them) are important keys to my well-being. I owe much of this to my Dad, an accomplished athlete, acrobat and dancer who taught me the principles of physical fitness as a life-goal and the concept of the body-aware spirit.

We may as well have a look at another starfish. This one, I think, is a Fromia nodosa  with its little toes curled up very cutely: You can’t swing a dead cat here without smashing a starfish. We have many different species and I have neglected them severely. I’m certain that their tiny little feelings are hurt. I’ll fix that in the future.

I got a bit of a “wow” experience from this huge mob of Reticulated Dascyllus (Dascyllus reticulatus):We would normally see a dozen or two in a plate coral. This was a huge plate and was home to a couple of hundreds of these lovely little purple-lipped fish. I love to play “scare the fish” with the Dascyllus.  If you slowly stretch your arm out over the plate with your hand closed in a fist and then quickly open your hand the entire gaggle will dive simultaneously into the coral and disappear. It’s like magic. Now they’re here – now they’re not. If you look closely, you can see them trembling in their little nooks and crannies where they hide from predators.

Barrel Sponges fascinate me. Some of them are huge. This Xestospongia testudinaria  is about two metres from bottom to top. Some are much larger:

You can see a few Purple Anthea (Psudanthias tuka)  swimming in front of the sponge. The “purple” in the common name is a relative term. As with many fish, the colour that you see underwater is radically dependent on the depth, the colour of the sky and the condition and tint of the water. Sometimes P. tuka  appears purple and sometimes blue. The yellow dorsal fin edging and caudal fin are constant. The fish appear a bit motion blurred, because I was forced to a slow shutter speed by the low light level.

I am exceedingly happy, nay, overjoyed by this image:As you may gather, I’m easily aroused from my usual “so what” attitude. When I saw this fish, I became terribly excited. That will give you an idea of what a fish geek that I am. The reason for my shaking hands and fumbling fingers is that I have never seen this fish before; it was my first sighting. It is a species of Shrimpgoby (Ctenogobiops tangaroi).  There are several fortuitous aspects of this shot, aside from the novelty factor. First, there is the brevity of the sighting. I barely had time to raise my camera, hold my breath for a few seconds and fire off a shot before it disappeared down its hidey-hole.

Another lucky aspect of this image is that I caught the fish’s partner, a commensal shrimp (Alpheus ochrostriatus)  bulldozing a load of sand out of the shared shelter.

I’m not looking a gift fish in the mouth.

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Obie Goby

Posted in Under the Sea on October 8th, 2009 by MadDog
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Today was a Tsunami Day in Madang. It started out with a rather unremarkable sunrise. I staggered out to the water’s edge dragging my tripod behind me like a broken crutch and sat down to wait. This was as good as it got:

A Sunrise Panorama with glassy water (15 second exposure)

That shot was stitched together from three frames of fifteen-second exposures. The water is nicely flattened out and glassy. Too bad the sunrise itself was so flaccid. Otherwise, it might have been perfect. Story of our lives, eh?

We heard the tsunami warning on CNN. However, as usual, CNN was not aware of the existence of Papua New Guinea. Sometimes I imagine imaginary conversations in the CNN studio:

ANCHOR:  What’s this blobby looking thing here on top of . . . what is that, Austria?

CAMERAMAN:  Uh, no. That’s AustrALIA, not AustrIA.

ANCHOR:  Yeah, yeah, but what’s the blobby thing?

CAMERAMAN:  Dunno.

ANCHOR:  Let’s get rid of it.

Do you suppose that we would all disappear?

Anyway, when I got to work I had an email from Kyle Harris, our official science dude and tsunami watcher. He said that it was going to arrive at 11:25 or thereabouts. I looked at the clock and calculated just how much time I could waste writing in my journal before I needed to get into the truck and go over to Coronation Drive with my camera to see if I could get a cool shot of a giant wave curling over the top of my head. I got all excited just thinking about it.

At about 10:30 we got news that the warning had been cancelled. The tsunami was a little weak in the knees and got all tired out before it could get to us. This, of course, did not in any way affect the unrolling of a normal Tsunami Day in Madang. I heard that government offices and business were all closing. I suppose that there was a big traffic jam on Modolin Road as everybody at once decided to head for Nob Nob Mountain. I say, “I heard – I suppose” ,because I never left the office. I was still thinking about the incredible shots that I missed. Tsunami Days are getting to be like spur-of-the-moment holidays in Madang.

Hey, I’m not complaining. I’d rather see folks get a hundred days off for false alarms than see one poor schmuck get washed off the beach while pointing his camera straight up at the water. Especially if that schmuck is me!

So. How about some fish?

This is a Five-Bar Shrimpgoby, some species of Amblyeleotris,  I think. My reference book is a little vague on this one:

Five-Bar Shrimpgoby (Amblyeleotris sp.)

Here’s another individual under different lighting conditions on the same dive:Five-Bar Shrimpgoby (Amblyeleotris sp.)

These little guys have about 2,000 relatives that are also classed as Gobies. The family includes some of the smallest vertebrates on the planet – tiny adult fishes no bigger than the diameter of a pencil.

Spotted Shrimpgoby (Amblyeleotris guttata)

The one above is a Spotted Shrimpgoby (Amblyeleotris guttata).  They are not called Shrimpgobies because they are small, though small they are. They are usually partnered up with a small shrimp which lives in the same hole and keeps the house tidy by pushing all of the loose gravel out. The shrimp feeds on tidbits rejected by the goby and the Goby’s poo. Yes, poo. Little goes to waste in the ocean.

Now that I think of it, I have a shot from about five years ago of a Spotted Shrimpgoby with its little buddy (Alpheus ochrostriatus): 

Spotted Shrimpgoby (Amblyeleotris guttata) and commensal shrimp Alpheus ochrostriatus

This is a kind of Sea Squirt (Polycarpa aurata)  that you’ve seen here before. When I see a nice one, I can’t pass it up. It looks like some kind of joke to me:

Sea Squirt (Polycarpa aurata)

This character is a Pennant Bannerfish (Heniochus chrysostomus):

Pennant Bannerfish (Heniochus chrysostomus)It’s another of those pesky critters that stay just beyond the effective range of your camera. Pfffft! Psychic fish; who needs them? This is the best shot that I’ve managed yet of one of these snooty little creeps with the redundant name. Hey, a pennant is a banner, right? Okay, but it’s like  a banner.

Never mind.

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