I Bet That You Have Never Eaten One of These

Posted in Under the Sea on December 17th, 2009 by MadDog
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Not much is happening here in Madang. That’s just as well, since the mood here this year is distinctly sour. Town is crowded with people moving from place to place and the tension in the air is electric. There is a liquor ban in place until at least after New Year, some say until March. It won’t do a lot of good, since there is plenty of bootleg beer and weed available. Like the Chinese say, the next month or so will be “interesting times”.

Anyway, to prepare your palate for the holidays, I’ll show you some items that I am nearly certain will not be showing up on your menu.

This is a familiar character on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi,  Mr. Lizardfish. Its given name is Reef – that’s Reef Lizardfish. Does that sound like a good name for a Hollywood actor? It’s a stage name, anyway. Who would buy tickets to see someone named Synodus variegatus  in a movie?Reef Lizardfish (Synodus variegatus)

Never mind. I took an extra silly pill this morning.

This adorable little thing has the equally adorable common name of the Papuan Toby (Canthigaster papua):Papuan Toby (Canthigaster papua)It’s a flash-lit shot that I got at the B-25 bomber The Green Dragon.  The colours are slightly oversaturated by the flash, but it’s so pretty that I’m not going to complain. Sometimes I prefer to forget my fussiness about getting things accurate and go for the gorgeous. This little sweetie persuaded me to let it shine.

Here is a tasty little Nudibranch. It’s a shame that they don’t make candy that looks this pretty. It’s a Phyllidia coelestis:Nudibranch (Phyllidia coelestis)

Nudibranchs are becoming strangely scarce around Madang. I am very suspicious about the pollution level in Astrolabe Bay.  First the sharks disappear and now the Nudibranchs. What’s going on?

This little beauty is a Latticed Sandperch (Parapercis clathrata):Latticed Sandperch (Parapercis clathrata)

I shot it on the top of the reef at Magic Passage  last Saturday. The light was very good. In this shot I deliberately oversaturaded the colours of the fish. It’s a trick that I use to remind myself of the colours that I saw. Fortunately I have an excellent visual memory. Unfortunately, I can barely remember my name, or anybody else’s. I can remember a face for a decade. Five minutes after coming aboard Faded Glory  and introducing themselves, I have to ask new divers to remind me of their names.

I had the brilliant idea of showing you a different coloured Christmas Tree Worm (Spirobranchus giganteus)  every day until Christmas:Christmas Tree Worm (Spirobranchus giganteus)

I don’t know how that is going to play out. I’m running out good images in my accumulation. I’ll have to get a lot of shots on Saturday.

Finally, the least likely to show up on your plate are these miniscule, but undoubtedly yummy shrimp:Shrimp in fungiform (Heliofungia actiniformis) coral (species unknown, possibly Periclimenes holthuisi)
These are tiny, nearly transparent commensal shrimp that live in a fungiform coral (Heliofungia actiniformis).  The species here is the problem – identifying it. It could be Periclimenes holthuisi  or possibly P. venustus,  though there are specific markings on each of those species that are missing or distorted in these specimens.

The interesting thing here is that it is possible  that you are looking at an undescribed species. It happens all the time here. Every year species formerly undescribed are discovered near Madang. This could  be one.

Anybody out there want to check this one out?

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Bigger and Smaller – UW Macros

Posted in Under the Sea on December 16th, 2009 by MadDog
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My Grandmother’s house was full of treasures. I was allowed to play with some of them. Going to Grandma’s was like getting out of jail. I could “express myself” ’til the cows came home. While other boys were playing with dump trucks and fire engines (small ones, of course) my favorite toys were a pen knife and a magnifying glass. You don’t need much imagination to understand that Grandma’s yard was a dangerous place for insects and other small organisms.

I can’t say how many ants were mercilessly torched by that magnifying glass. Many fat grasshoppers fell under the knife and were dissected for the sake of knowledge. I honestly don’t know if insects suffer while undergoing such treatment; it can’t be much fun for them. I’d like to think that I’ve made amends as an adult. Since I stopped hunting (with a gun) years ago, I’ve made it a point to harm nothing. I’ve grown to enjoy the tickley sensation of a spider navigating the forest on my arm. My motto is, if it doesn’t try to hurt me, I won’t try to hurt it. Mosquitoes beware!

All that claptrap was just to get to this. Little things are fun to examine, if you can get them big enough to see. For example:  here is a slightly larger-than-life image of a colony of the Organ Pipe Coral (Tubipora musica):Organ Pipe Coral (Tubipora musica)Each individual polyp is about half of the diameter of a pencil eraser.

Now, let’s blow them up to see how they are made:Organ Pipe Coral (Tubipora musica) [enlarged]Hmmm . . . quite a revelation. All of that detail is hidden from our knowledge without the aid of something more powerful than the Mark I Eyeball. We wouldn’t know about the delicate fringes around the ‘petals’ and the oddly shaped yellow doohicky in the centre. We can only wonder what they are for, but now we can at least see them. Knowing a little about invertebrates, I can tell you that form follows function. Everything you see there has to do with eating, excreting or making more polyps. That’s about it for coral. It’s a simple life. No big brain to get bored. No brain at all!

Here is another coral (Pachyseris speciosa)  that is mildly amusing, in a very wrinkly way, but not likely to inspire a sonnet:Coral (Pachyseris speciosa)Oh, wrinkly, wrinkly coral. Your colour unlike sorrel. Not thought to be immoral. blah blah blah – you get the picture. It’s a long reach.

But wait! If you blow it up . . .Coral (Pachyseris speciosa) [enlarged]Now it’s getting more interesting. What the heck is  that? You could write something creepy about that. It’s like a million wiry snakes all making love to each other (where did that  come from?). Anyway, it’s more interesting.

Here is another specimen of Pachyseris speciosa  with Seriatopora caliendrum  towering over it:

Coral (Pachyseris speciosa)
There is quite a bit of colour variation between specimens. I’ve seen a few that were green, but that may be from algal contamination.

I’ll finish up with one of my favourite little things, the lovely Christmas Tree Worm (Spirobranchus giganteus):Christmas Tree Worms (Spirobranchus giganteus)Pure white ones, such as this are not common. There are about a zillion base colours and a gozillion ways to mix them up. The little parasols come in pairs, as they are both appendages of the same individual worm.

To annoy you further, I cheerfully ripped this section from Wikipedia so that you may be fully informed.

The worm is aptly named; Both its common and Latin names refer to the two, chromatically-hued spiral structures that are most commonly what is seen of the worm by divers. In actuality, these multicolored spirals are merely the worm’s highly-derived respiratory structures.

S. giganteus  appears like most tube-building polychaetes. It has a tubular, segmented body lined with chaeta, small appendages that aids the worm with its mobility. As it does not move outside its tube, this worm does not have any specialized appendages for movement or swimming.

The worm’s most distinct features are the two “crowns” that are shaped like Christmas-trees. These “crowns” are actually highly modified prostomial palps which are specialized mouth appendages of the worm. Each spiral is actually composed of feather-like tentacles called radioles, which are heavily ciliated which allows any prey that are trapped in them to be transported straight towards the worm’s mouth. While they are primarily feeding structures, S. giganteus  also uses its radioles for respiration. It is because of this that the structures are commonly called “gills”

Now, when Santa comes, you can engage him in a conversation that will daze and confuse him.

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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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Good Golly, Guttata!

Posted in Under the Sea on December 6th, 2009 by MadDog
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I sometimes enjoy musing that I have some smidgen of artistic talent. Not so. I can’t draw water. There are so many things that I would love to be able to do, but I’m simply too bone lazy to expend the effort. Man, I would love  to be able to play the piano. I’ve taken countless lessons, some recently, but I have no discipline to practice, therefore my keyboard skills suck swamp water. I’d also love to paint; it looks so easy! Alas, it’s beyond my reach. But, I can  Photoshop!

This nice sunrise shot seemed born to be a watercolour. So, I turned it into one in a couple of minutes:Watercolour SunriseIt’s so easy that it’s embarrassing. I suppose that Turner laboured for days to get something that looks roughly (very  roughly) like this.

Ah yes, were not here today to talk about art. A few days ago, I gave you Bite Me Red Fish featuring the Scarlet Soldierfish (Myripristis pralinia).  As I was mining the folder if images from that day, I came across a couple of more that are worth a peek. Here’s one of three of them crowded into the little passageway between the rocks where they were vainly attempting to hide from me:Scarlet Soldierfish - Myripristis pralinia

It seems to be getting a little crowded in there.

Here is the interesting shot. There are some species of  creatures called isopods that parasitise fish. The one that you see here, Anilocra laticaudata,  specialises in Soldierfish:Scarlet Soldierfish - Myripristis pralinia with isopod parasite Anilocra laticaudata

I’ve shown you this before in this post. As I mention there, the males that wear an isopod have more luck breeding; the females seem to prefer them over unadorned mates. Well, that’s the strange world of fish for you.

Now I shall inflict upon you yet another image of  Christmas Tree Worms (Spirobranchus giganteus):Christmas Tree Worms - Spirobranchus giganteusIf you think that there will be relief from Christmas Tree Worms in the near future, think again. Xmas is coming soon; you’ll be seeing more of thes curious little decorations.

Okay, okay, but what about the guttata? That’s another critter that you have seen here recently. That’s because it is a fish high on my list for exploitation. I have a few species which I am determined to photograph to the best of my ability with the gear that I own (New Canon G11 coming soon! Whoopee!). This is the very pretty fish the Spotted Shrimpgoby (Amblyeleotris guttata):Spotted Shrimpgoby - Amblyeleotris guttata
And, I think that the shot above is probably about as good as I can do with the Canon G10. It’s fun to take inexpensive gear such as the Canon G series underwater and run it ragged. It’s like squeezing a lemon hard to get the last drops of juice for that one last glass of lemonade.

I like squeezing lemons.

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The Big Blue Finger

Posted in Under the Sea on December 2nd, 2009 by MadDog
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I’m sitting here wondering what to say while I listen to some very cool East London Jazz from Seal, which dates my taste in music somewhere in the Early Bronze Age. Later I’m going to do some Steely Dan, maybe Babylon Sisters.  So, I’m all moody and overworked and and I had a bad night walking around in the dark at a friend’s house with a big rock in each hand while attending to an armed robbery. More about that later. So, right now I’m in the frame of mind to give the world The Big Blue Finger!

And (brace yourself)  here it is:

Blue Starfish - Linckia laevigata

Regular readers will recognise one of God’s funnier jokes:  the wonderfully whimsical Blue Starfish (Linckia laevigata).  Actually not all of them are blue. Most are a sort of dull green or yellowish brown colour. I can never help laughing when I see one. I think to myself, “Yeah, I can dig it.”

Since my mood is wandering, let’s look ahead to our next Pagan-Turned-Christian holiday by absorbing the lemony wonderfulness of these Christmas Tree Worms (Spirobranchus giganteus):Christmas Tree Worms - Spirobranchus giganteusThese are among the amazing tiny creatures that I never tire of seeing. It’s fun to see how close you can get to them before pop back into their holes and disappear.

Since I have a few live coral keepers out there who watch this space for mouth-watering samples of what they could be playing with, if they only had a big enough tank, here’s a nice little coral community:Coral CommunityI’m no expert, for pity’s sake, but I think that I can see seven different species of coral in this area which would measure about one square metre.

Here’s one of the better shots that I have managed of Clark’s Anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkii):Clark's Anemonefish - Amphiprion clarkiiIt’s not much good as a specimen shot, because you can hardly see the second white bar which is an identifying feature of this fish, as is the white bar in front of the yellow caudal fin. What you can  see, however are its tiny, razor sharp teeth (and they do  bite!), the clear cornea of his right eye, and a lot of detail in the front white band, which is very difficult to capture, because of the huge difference in brightness between the black and the white. Click to get a larger image.

Now, since I”m not feeling quite so grumpy as before, I shall show you a grumpy fish:Coral Grouper - Cephalopholis miniataThis Coral Grouper (Cephalopholis miniatafdsa)  clearly did not care to be bothered.

That’s pretty much the way I feel today. Eunie has gone to Port Moresby to do battle with the Department of Immigration and Naturalisation concerning her Permanent Residency. I can hardly think about anything else. I told her to not return to Madang until she had it in hand (as if I could order her around . . . makes me giggle just to think of it). I told her very sternly.

She gave me that smile. You know, the one that Mona Lisa did so well.

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More of Magic Passage

Posted in Under the Sea on October 6th, 2009 by MadDog
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I’m about to run dry of images from last Saturday’s dive at Magic Passage. I have just a few more. I have to admit that I often take the easy route of showing pretty fish pictures instead of actually writing,  which is the whole point of this journal, at least for me. However, coming up every day with something interesting to write about is a heavy load. It would be so  easy to turn the journal into a soapbox for my increasingly unstable thought processes and poorly thought out plans for saving the world. Believe me. You don’t want  to know.

So, let me do it to you again, one more time.

I’ll start with something that is so pretty and so absurdly flamboyant, that it gives me a little hiccough of a chuckle every time I see one – the Christmas Tree Worm (Spirobranchus giganteus):

Christmas Tree Worm (Spirobranchus giganteus)

You’ve seen them many times here. This one is so pink and frilly that it makes me think of teenage girl heading off the the Junior Prom. I should mention that the last time I saw a girl heading off to the Junior Prom was in about 1960. I have no idea what they wear now.

This is just a little throw-away shot of a reef community on the top of the barrier reef at Magic Passage. My theory is that I should toss these shots in occasionally so that you can get an idea of the general habitat appearance:

Reef Community

These have no common name. They are a kind of Sea Squirt (Atriolum robustum):

Sea Squirt (Atriolum robustum)

They always make me think of little alien houses.

You’ve seen it before and you’ll see it again until you can’t eat fish any more – the wonderfully peaceful Silver Sweetlips sub-adult (Diagramma pictum):

Silver Sweetlips (Diagramma pictum)

Compare this shot with the one from a couple of days ago. You’ll see it’s a much better exposure. I have many better ones than this. I think that this one shows the silvery tone of the skin better than some of my shots.

These little mates are Bluestreak Gobies (Valenciennea strigata):

Bluestreak Goby (Valenciennea strigata)

I spent maybe ten minutes shooting thes two. They are forever darting about and keeping a wary eye on you. They don’t want to hide, because that would put a serious crimp in their play time. But, if you get too close, they will dart in to a hole quicker that you can see. It’s just a puff of sand.

I got this nice shot when the pair swam in front of an overturned Trochus  shell. The play of light and colour in this shot pleases me greatly:

Bluestreak Goby (Valenciennea strigata)

Though I seem to be here today, I’m really not. I’ve scheduled this post to go out automatically. I’ve gone out to the bush to start a little fire-fight with Sanguma.  I’m taking my sword and armor with me. If you don’t know what that means, then stay tuned. If you do, then wish me luck or, if you’ve a mind to, say a little prayer.

Risky business, man. I’d rather swim with the sharks.

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Sky – Water

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on September 2nd, 2009 by MadDog
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I know that I show probably more sunrises than any other web site on the planet. No, wait, I’m sure there must be a “Just Sunrises” web site somewhere.

Uh, strike that. I just Googled “just sunrises” and didn’t find any sites with that title. I did find a nice Flickr set by Sparky Leigh which has some great ones taken from his house at East Point  of the island of Hawaii.

Anyway, since some suspicion has been cast in my direction for the oddly huge quantity of gorgeous sunrises emanating from this site, I’ll now prove that not every day starts with one. Have a look at this morning’s sunrise:

Not ALL of our sunrises are spectacular

Not exactly Heaven’s Gate, eh?

This post is titled Sky – Water. Get ready to get wet. I love Christmas Tree Worms. Even the name is cute – cuter than Spirobranchus giganteus,  which is what they really are:

Christmas Tree Worms (Spirobranchus giganteus)

They are  fun to photograph, because it’s a challenge to get up close so that your lens is only two or three centimetres or so away. That’s where you get the good shots. Unfortunately, if they suspect that something fishy is going on, they disappear into their holes quicker than Jumpin’ Jack Flash. The little hole down on the lower left is where one vanished just before I clicked the shutter.

Okay, back to a sunrise. Not getting dizzy, are you? This is a strange one. I almost deleted it, then I gave it ten minutes. I’m glad that I was merciful. It’s not going on a calendar any time soon, but it does have some interesting features:

Another mediocre sunrise

The faint rays captivate me. I think that there is an optical illusion going on here. My eyes keep trying to follow the rays up into the blue area. The seem to extend, but when you look at the area by itself, there are no rays there. Strange . . . You may have to click to enlarge to see the effect, if any.

Okay, hold your nose, we’re going under. Here is some coral, Porites solida,  to be exact, with some strange marks on it. Can you guess what caused them?

Coral - Porites Solida, showing bite marks

Since this coral is about as hard as cement (just try banging your head into it, if you don’t believe me), it’s hard to believe that these are bite marks. The first time you see a big parrot fish come up to a bit of coral like this (about the size of  your fist) and take a bite out of it, it sort of takes your breath away. That’s not a particularly good thing when you are underwater. The bite marks are about two centimetres long.

Let’s come up for air again. This sunrise shot is not of the usual ilk:

Flying Fox at sunrise

This is another one that I nearly tossed. I was just about to abandon a mediocre sunrise when a Flying Fox flew overhead. You learn to look out for them, because they like to drop little presents on you. Flying Fox poop is strange stuff. I looks almost like some kind of jam. Some of it doesn’t even smell too bad. It varies in colour, texture and aroma depending on what kind of fruit that the lovely critter has been dining.

I do publicly admit that what comes out of the tail end of the Flying Fox is the only faecal matter that I’ve ever had the slightest temptation to taste.  I know that that must sound terribly weird, but it is, after all, just fermented fruit. Right? I mean, if one never tries new things, one never learns. Right? It’s just curiosity. Eh?

I remember standing on the overhead veranda downtown at our office with John Pryor. We were watching the Flying Foxes clustering heavily, screeching like banshees just over our heads. John said, “Wouldn’t it be funny if . . .”  That’s as far as he got. A big mashed-banana coloured blob plopped down on his white shirt. We nearly fell off of the veranda laughing.

I know you’re wondering. The answer is no, I’ve never tasted it.

Not yet.

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