Filed Under: Animals

Back to the Fuchsia

Everything came together. I navigated through crappy visibility. I clambered around in surge that felt like the spin cycle. I stared at rocks until my vision focused on tiny fuchsia Spanish Shawls, my favorite nudibranch. I shed the responsibility of someone else’s good time, and all I had was my own.

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Dead dolphin at La Jolla Shores, San Diego, California

Throwback Thursday: Dead Dolphins and Live Whale Sharks

It was with a smug superiority that I returned to vacation: living it up while climbing ruins, rafting rivers, and stalking whale sharks was the name of the game. To summarize:

The Belizean landscape was raw and rife with exotic wildlife.

The Mayan ruins were breathtaking and fabulous.

The whale sharks were one of the bigger disappointments of my diving career.

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Mexichromis porterae nudibranch with Podocerus cristatus amphipod hitchhiker

Photo of the Week: The Hitchhiker

If I’d had the ocular fortitude to spot the microscopic amphipod hitchhiking a ride on this nudibranch’s back, I would have spent all damn day shooting those two little guys. However, I never even saw it until I was home, my gear was rinsed and drying, and I was on the computer, heavily cropping this shot.

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Sunset at Key West, Florida

Back in Sun Diego: Solar-powered sea critters

Yesterday, while enjoying the heat at the pool, I briefly considered the possibility that maybe I was actually solar-powered. I don’t need food anymore, I thought, All I need is warmth.

This of course was incorrect, and I shuffled my flip-flops home almost immediately thereafter and ate some soup.

But it reminded me of critters that actually are solar-powered. Sea slugs, specifically.

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Anker's Whip Coral Shrimp (Pontonides ankeri)

This Shrimp is the Tiniest Sea Creature You’ve Never Seen

It’s easy for divers to get stoked on seeing the big-ticket critters. Manta rays? Majestic. Sharks? Spellbinding.

So far, we’re all on the same page here.

There’s this cognitive leap, though, that occurs for divers when they learn to find and appreciate the nudibranch. It’s a bit of a chicken and egg scenario, but this leap happens around the same time as divers learn to slow down and control their air consumption. Tiny things become cool, dives get longer, and there’s of course the self-satisfaction that comes out of being able to find and recognize the more obscure creatures.

But it takes a special breed to go for the borderline microscopic stuff. It’s possible they’ve taken the obscure critter-finding obsession too far: if you can barely see the thing without a magnifying glass, and your dive buddies can’t see it at all, are you really in your right mind?

Probably not, but that doesn’t seem to stop me, now does it?

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Ringed or Banded Pipefish (Dunckerocampus dactyliophorus), another member of the Syngnathidae family

The Reproductive Habits of the Ghost Pipefish (A Limerick)

When asked of his ties to the seahorse,

the ghost pipefish replied in due course:

“Though I lack a pouch,

“our girls are no slouch,

“and they tend to their eggs without remorse.”

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Why the Mantis Shrimp Rocks

Although named for its resemblance to both praying mantis and shrimp, the mantis shrimp is neither; it’s a stomatopod, in fact only a distant relative of crabs, shrimps, and lobsters. Stomatopods can be loosely divided into two groups based on how they kill prey with their raptorial appendages (I just want to say that over and over again, it sounds so badass). But just wait: the badassery gets better.

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A Limerick about the Ornate Ghost Pipefish

There once was a pipefish so ornate,

the crinoid it lived in seemed cut-rate.

“This feather star’s plain,”

said the fish, “I’d not deign

“to inhabit so homely an estate.”

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Catalina Island, California: Red Octopus

When the Red Octopus Isn’t: Cephalopod Camouflage in Catalina

More camouflage today–this time from the cephalopods. Red octopus ran rampant at Catalina Island last weekend, scavenging on the discarded squid egg cases littering the seafloor. As they passed over kelp, seagrass, sand, rubble, and the egg cases in various shades of white and brown, their skin color and texture shifted to blend the animal into its surroundings.

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Elysia crispata sea slug

Wednesday Roundup: “Vegetarian” Vampire Squid, Solar Powered Nudibranchs, and a SEA TURTLE in San Diego!

Happy New Year! In case you need a break from the endless reruns of the Rose Parade, you’re killing time until the football game starts, or you’re just plain too hung over to do anything but mindlessly click links on the Web, I’m here for you.

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Obligatory End-of-Year Post (A Summary of 2013)

Because (a) It’s pretty much in the rules of blogging to make an end-of-year summary post, and (b) 2013 was full of great diving and photo ops. From technical wrecks to nudibranchs: a photographic summary of my underwater exploits in 2013.

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Feather star (crinoid) in Anilao, Philippines

Creepy crinoids and the camouflaged critters that colonize them

What stalks across the seafloor and ripples around the reef?

What looks like a plant, but then GRABS you when you swim past?

What has no brain, an anus next to its mouth, and a bunch of sticky arms that reach out and attach to you?

What’s beautiful and terrifying all at once? The crinoid.

What’s underwater and creepier than a crinoid? NOTHING.

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