Lembeh 2015 Portfolio – Part 2

Mandarinfish trio in Lembeh Strait, Indonesia

A seemingly congenial afternoon gathering of male Mandarinfish precedes their nightly ritual of highly competitive courtship confrontations.

Lembeh Strait Part Two, November 2015 ~ Here is the second installment of favorite photos from our two-week stay at Eco Divers Resort Lembeh. Friends who visited Lembeh earlier reported unseasonably cold water and strong winds so we were bracing for the worst but as luck would have it, the wind died and water warmed just before we arrived at the end of October.  We have dived here in every month of the year but this month the bottom seemed more interesting than usual – maybe it was the cooler summer. Just coming off the publication of the second edition of Reef Fish Identification: Tropical Pacific, Ned was tuned into fishes but there seemed to be more octopuses and nudibranchs too. We left in the best way to leave a place: wishing we had one more day to go back and see that jawfish/blenny/flasher wrasse just one more time.

A thumb-sized Poisonous Ocellate Octopus, Amphioctopus siamensis, on high alert as an Algae Octopus approaches:

Poisonous Ocellate Octopus on high alert


The Algae Octopus, Abdopus aculeatus, dancing across the bottom:

Algae Octopus, abdopus aculeatus


The Ocellate Octopus flees…

Poisonous Ocellate Octopus flees from another octopus


… to safer terrain:

Poisonous Ocellate Octopus lands after fleeing from another octopus


A scientifically undescribed one-inch jawfish leaps from its sand burrow. Although we could see these tiny jawfish jumping all around him, Ned had decided, after watching them on an earlier dive, that he had to just select one individual and work it. He spent an hour with this little fish:

Undescribed jawfish in Lembeh Strait


A scientifically undescribed Flabellina nudibranch:

A scientifically undescribed Flabellina nudibranch


A scientifically undescribed Godiva nudibranch:

A scientifically undescribed Godiva nudibranch


Funeral Jorunna, Jorunna funebris, nudibranch:

Funeral Jorunna, Jorunna funebris


Instead of the traditional topknot of sponge, this Redspot Sponge Crab, Lewindromia unidentata, was carrying a clipped piece of soft coral:

Redspot Sponge Crab, Lewindromia unidentata


At the base of a soft coral, a squat lobster:

Squat lobster


A decorator crab adorned with hydroid polyps:

Fairy decorator crab


A Whitebelly Toby inflates with water to thwart being swallowed by a lizardfish:

Lizardfish trying to eat a toby


Over the years of watching the behavior of squid and cuttlefishes, we’ve never actually made physical contact with one. After being followed almost the entire dive by an overly friendly Broadclub Cuttlefish, Anna extended her hand and much to our surprise, it eased forward and stroked her hand:

A cuttlefish touching diver's hand


A False Cleanerfish, Aspidontus taeniatus, exposes its fangs in an effort to deter predators from its egg nest:

False Cleanerfish, Aspidontus taeniatus


A sesame seed-sized mysid (Crustacea: Mysida):

Mysid (Crustacea: Mysida)

We’ll be back soon with more favorites from our travel this year. Be sure to “like” our Blennywatcher Facebook page and check out our Blennywatcher YouTube Channel.

Lembeh 2015 Portfolio – Part 1

Coconut octopus, Amphioctopus marginatus

Coconut Octopus— a Lembeh classic—curls inside a large bivalve shell.

Lembeh Strait—Once Again! Part One, October 2015 ~ The narrow 12-mile stretch of water separating Lembeh Island from the large island of Sulawesi in Indonesia is home to one of the Earth’s most diverse displays of natural selection and symbiosis above or below water. Even after more than 20 visits spanning 16 years, the ever-changing carnival of creatures inhabiting the black sand bottom never ceases to surprise, delight and astound us.

Making our two-week stay at Eco-Divers Resort Lembeh even better, we were joined by divers from Germany, Australia, Spain, Russia, the US and England who, like us, are irrepressibly drawn to the living world. And, of course, Lembeh, once again came through in gangbuster fashion.

This gallery of favorites will be followed by a second installment from our Lembeh trip, and in a later post we will detail the flasher wrasse currently hybridizing in the Strait.  If you haven’t already done so, please be sure to “Like” our Blennywatcher Facebook page for more images and videos from our dives.

With its yolk sac nearly depleted and chromatophores beginning to appear, a larval squid, the size of a grape seed, prepares to enter the world:

Unidentified squid embryo in egg case, Lembeh, Indonesia


A Cockatoo Waspfish nestles in the bed of scroll algae blanketing the shallows at Serena Besar:

Cockatoo Waspfish, Ablabys taenianotus


The aptly-named Big-Lip Damsel plucks polyps from Acropora coral thickets where it makes its home:

Big-lip Damsel, Cheiloprion labiatus


A well-camouflaged Warty Frogfish yawns for the camera:

Warty Frogfish, Antennarius maculatus


The headshield slug, Micromelo undata—a circumtropical bubble snail we’ve been hunting for years:

Miniature Melo, Micromelo undata


At night a Spanish Dancer nudibranch, the size of a platter, comes out of hiding and slips across the bottom at Nudi Falls:

Spanish Dancer nudibranch, Hexabranchus sanguineus

When not hanging over the side of the Spanish Dancer grabbing bits of detritus, three hitchiking Emperor Shrimp rest in their host’s gill structure:

Emperor Shrimp, Periclimenes imperator on a Spanish Dancer nudibranch


A Grape Doto nudibrach with eggs ribbons—another first sighting for us:

Doto nudibranch with eggs


An undescribed sand octopus:

Unidentified octopus in Lembeh Strait, Indonesia


A quarter inch of cute in the form of a sand-dwelling Siphopteron:

Unidentified Siphopteron in Lembeh Strait, Indonesia


A Filamented Flasher Wrasse pauses during the frantic throes of courtship to have parasites plucked by a juvenile Bluestreak Cleaner Wrasse:

Filamented Flasher Wrasse, Paracheilinus filamentosus


A wary young Comet Fish caught in the open quickly slips back into the shadows of a crevice:

Comet, Calloplesiops altivelis


A Morrison’s Dragonet flushes red from combat:

Morrison's Dragonet, Synchiropus morrisoni

Male Morrison’s Dragonets resort to a mouth-to-mouth brawl after repeated, side-by-side fin displays failed to establish dominance:

Dragonet fight! Morrison's Dragonet, Synchiropus morrisoni


A Sea Pen Crab watches the world go by:

Porcelain crab on a sea pen

We’ll be back later this week with Part 2 of our Lembeh 2015 Portfolio.


Raja Ampat Blenny Portfolio

Throatspot Blenny, Nannosalarias nativitatus head close-up

Indonesia, October 2015 ~ Here is our latest Raja Ampat Blenny Portfolio. We just returned from a dive trip aboard the Dewi Nusantara in Raja Ampat in eastern Indonesia, where we photographed some old favorites and added a few species to our life lists, like the very cool Throatspot Blenny, Nannosalarias nativitatus (above) and the Spotted and Barred Blenny, Mimoblennius atrocinctus (below). These blennies like areas of high current and/or surge and we found them at depths ranging from 3 to 15 meters.Spotted and Barred Blenny, Mimoblennius atrocinctus


After our guide Yan found the Spotted and Barred Blenny, we decided to get out of our comfort zone and spend most of a dive in raging current and strong surge up on the tops of bommies at a depth of 1 to 2 meters – that’s where some of these little cuties make their homes.  The lead photo in this post is a Throatspot Blenny and we didn’t really understand the common name until Ned shot the one below and we could really see the spot:Throatspot Blenny, Nannosalarias nativitatus portrait


On a morning dive near the Equator islands, I spotted a pair of courting Largemouth Triplefins, Ucla xenogrammus. The female is rather nondescript but the male, in its courting colors is quite remarkable:Largemouth Triplefin, Ucla xenogrammus in courting colors


This young Bluestriped Fangblenny, Plagiotremus rhinorhynchos, mimics the Bluestriped Cleaner Wrasse. They become markedly more yellow as they mature:Bluestriped fangblenny, Plagiotremus rhinorhynchos


When I first saw this group of Striped Fangblennies, Meiacanthus grammistes, I thought there might be some courtship going on but after following them for a while, it looks like they were just being social. We don’t often see them in tight groups like this:Striped Fangblenny, Meiacanthus grammistes


I found this very large (5 inches/ 12.5 cm) Ceram blenny, Salarias ceramensis, at Pulau Dayang near Batanta in only one meter of water. It took most of a dive for it to get used to us so Ned could take this shot. I guess a blenny doesn’t get to be that big unless it is very wary or very lucky. While we were waiting for Ned to get the shot, Yan and I scrutinized every bit of rubble nearby and Yan found two very tiny blennies of the same species – they were so cute –  only an inch long.Ceram blenny, Salarias ceramensis


The very beautiful and animated Tailspot Coralblenny, Ecsenius stigmatura. We saw so many of these on one dive site in Wofo that we named the site, 10,000 Tailspots:Tailspot Coralblenny, Ecsenius stigmatura


It was fun to see an Earred Blenny, Cirripectes auritus. We saw this same species in Japan this past summer:Earred Blenny, Cirripectes auritus


The Rhinoceros Triplefin, Helcogramma rhinoceros, has a very descriptive name: Rhinoceros triplefin, Helcogramma rhinoceros close-up


Our friend Lynne Van Dok found this outrageous Triplespot Blenny, Crossosalarias macrospilus, on the famous Bird Wall in Aljui Bay, Waigeo. This is not a particularly rare blenny but this one is one of the most beautiful ones we’ve seen this year:Triplespot Blenny, Crossosalarias macrospilus portrait


We close with one of Ned’s favorite blennies, the Redspotted Blenny, Blenniella chrysospilos. Just like the ones we shot in Fiji earlier this year, this blenny was high up on a shallow bommie in an impossible surge:Redspotted Blenny, Blenniella chrysospilos

Raja Ampat 2015

Two-inch conchOctober 2015 ~ We are ashore in Sorong, Indonesia for 24 hours, between dive trips through Raja Ampat aboard the Dewi Nusantara dive boat. What a difference ten years makes! Our overnight stay in 2005 was in Sorong’s finest hotel (which shall remain nameless here), a friendly place with a lovely marble entrance…but that was about it. The rest of the building was a strange combination of musty, old rooms and unfinished stairwells (a plastic potted palm blocked the door to the out-of-service elevator). The smell of raw concrete and insecticide was memorable as was the 2-hour wait for meals. Ned just commented that “those were NOT the good ol’ days!” Here we sit today, in a brand new hotel, loading images to our blogs with a wireless Internet connection, from the comfort of air conditioned rooms. We’re a lot more comfortable but won’t have nearly the stories to tell! School of snappers off Gam Island, Indonesia

The south wind in Raja Ampat has been unseasonably strong for this time of year, forcing Wendy Brown, our cruise director, and the dive team to seek out protected dive sites on the north sides of the islands. They’ve managed to get us to some of the old favorites and tried a few new sites that were off the charts good. We had a couple of not-so-great dives too, but considering that the rough seas narrowed down the choices, we did all right.

Tasselled wobbegong, Eucrossorhinus dasypogon

The cutest fish ever: a 6-inch baby Tasselled Wobbegong shark sitting in a sponge

A few years ago, I found a tiny 6-inch Wobbegong Shark that looked exactly like the 5 to 6 foot adults. After the dive, I lamented that I should have put my hand down next to it when I shot the video, to give some perspective of its size. This time, as soon as our dive guide, Yan, called us over to look at another little baby, he immediately put his hand next to it – he remembered!

Baby Wobbegong Shark

Yan’s hand next to the baby wobbegong shark

On a night dive last week, I happened upon a large hermit crab holding onto a smaller one. I saw this behavior a few years ago in Lembeh Strait and the smaller crab turned out to be a female releasing hatching larvae. I was afraid if I got too close, she would stop, so I waited until it looked like most of the eggs had hatched before I moved close enough to zoom in. The whole thing lasted about 90 seconds before she moved off, the larger male chasing close behind:


Ever since he saw Dr. Richard Smith’s (Ocean Realm Images) photos of the shrimp that live in giant clams, Ned has wanted to see them for himself. This gave Yan and him a mission for the week – they searched for giant clams and if one was positioned in a way that they could kneel (no hovering for 70 minutes like Richard did to get his shot), they would wait for the fleeting moment that the shrimp appeared. They found a matched pair but a different species than the ones Richard shot, so the hunt continues.

Giant clam shrimp

A very cryptic shrimp living in the mantle of a giant clam

This is one of Ned’s favorite shots of the week: an Irian Jaya Fairy Wrasse being cleaned by a cleaner wrasse. Fairy wrasses become very brightly colored and move very fast when they are courting females.  It is the oddest thing to see one stop suddenly to allow a cleaner wrasse to pick a parasite, then take off again in a split second:

Irian Jaya Fairy Wrasse being cleaned

Irian Jaya Fairy Wrasse stops for a split second to be cleaned

Another cleaning behavior: a moray being cleaned by Scarlet Lady cleaning shrimp:Moray eel being cleaned by shrimp

Found on a night dive, this was the largest Saron shrimp – about two inches long:

Saron shrimp

A saron shrimp: what on earth is the purpose of all those hairs and bristles?!

Another night dive find: a sap sucking slug sitting on grape algae:

Sap sucking slug on grape algae

A 1/8-inch sap sucking slug

One of the prettiest dottybacks, a Firetail Dottyback:Firetail Dottyback

One of the first dives we ever made in Raja Ampat was on Cape Kri, one of the fishiest dive sites in the world. It was great to see the site ten years later – still amazing:Sweetlips on Cape Kri

I’ve been obsessed with Convict Fish (Pholidichthys leucotaenia) for years and have spent hours watching and filming them. The very large adults are extremely shy, so it has always been difficult to get a good image. Ned spent about 30 minutes getting a shot of an adult as it was cleaning the burrow. The striped juveniles, pictured all around the adult, leave the burrow during the day to pick plankton, but the adults never leave the burrow:

Convict fish adult, Pholidichthys leucotaenia

Adult convict fish spitting a mouthful of sand.

We’ll be boarding the boat again in a few hours for another trip. I’ll post our favorite blenny shots when we return to shore in two weeks.