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:
The Algae Octopus, Abdopus aculeatus, dancing across the bottom:
The Ocellate Octopus flees…
… to safer terrain:
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:
A scientifically undescribed Flabellina nudibranch:
A scientifically undescribed Godiva nudibranch:
Funeral Jorunna, Jorunna funebris, nudibranch:
Instead of the traditional topknot of sponge, this Redspot Sponge Crab, Lewindromia unidentata, was carrying a clipped piece of soft coral:
At the base of a soft coral, a squat lobster:
A decorator crab adorned with hydroid polyps:
A Whitebelly Toby inflates with water to thwart being swallowed by a lizardfish:
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 False Cleanerfish, Aspidontus taeniatus, exposes its fangs in an effort to deter predators from its egg nest:
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:
A Cockatoo Waspfish nestles in the bed of scroll algae blanketing the shallows at Serena Besar:
The aptly-named Big-Lip Damsel plucks polyps from Acropora coral thickets where it makes its home:
A well-camouflaged Warty Frogfish yawns for the camera:
The headshield slug, Micromelo undata—a circumtropical bubble snail we’ve been hunting for years:
At night a Spanish Dancer nudibranch, the size of a platter, comes out of hiding and slips across the bottom at Nudi Falls:
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:
A Grape Doto nudibrach with eggs ribbons—another first sighting for us:
An undescribed sand octopus:
A quarter inch of cute in the form of a sand-dwelling Siphopteron:
A Filamented Flasher Wrasse pauses during the frantic throes of courtship to have parasites plucked by a juvenile Bluestreak Cleaner Wrasse:
A wary young Comet Fish caught in the open quickly slips back into the shadows of a crevice:
A Morrison’s Dragonet flushes red from combat:
Male Morrison’s Dragonets resort to a mouth-to-mouth brawl after repeated, side-by-side fin displays failed to establish dominance:
A Sea Pen Crab watches the world go by:
We’ll be back later this week with Part 2 of our Lembeh 2015 Portfolio.
In May 2012, Ned returned from a dive in Lembeh, Indonesia, with images of this tiny, clear Melibe nudibranch. He had been working the very shallow black sand shelf with our guide, while I was below them at 60 feet, taking video of another, much larger species of Melibe. I was pretty satisfied with my Melibe -until I saw the image of his, which happened to be a species neither of us had ever seen before. I managed to talk them into going back to the dive site the next day on the off chance that we might find it again. Ned and our guide valiantly hunted for about 15 minutes before they abandoned me to my hopeless quest but I stayed with it for 90 minutes with no luck. Ned sent his photo off to Dr. Terry Gosliner who identified it as Melibe megaceras, a species he had described in 1987.
Video frame capture – you can see the size next to our guide’s 1/4-inch wide pointer.
May 2014 found us back in Lembeh Strait and on this particular dive, over on the opposite side of the bay at a famed site called Hairball. Our goal was a pair of Ambon Scorpionfish known to be in the area but another boat was positioned where we wanted to drop, so we opted for a fairly bare patch of shallow black sand nearby. Almost within a minute, our guide Man, motioned me over, pointing to the black sand, where I saw absolutely nothing. It took several iterations of the point-shrug-can’t see-show me again-pantomime before I realized that he had found another Melibe megaceras! It was so tiny (see in the video frame capture above how it sizes up to Man’s pointer) and clear but this time I could add one more Melibe to my life list! Video below:
Banda Sea, April 2014 ~ This algae covered decorator crab, found by Ned on a night dive off Pantar, Indonesia, is one of my favorite images from our April trip around the Banda Sea. We boarded the Dewi Nusantara in Ambon and dived our way down through and around the southern perimeter of the Banda Sea and across through the Alor region, ending in Flores. And oh, what a trip!
Last year, I posted about the little bryozoan goby that Graham Abbott found in Ambon. We looked for it all the way down from Halmahera to Ambon, but only found it in Ambon at the end of our cruise. This year, our trip started in Ambon, so we searched for it as we traveled south but didn’t find it until we reached Alor. After we blogged about it last year, the fish became quite an attraction with the dive operators in Ambon and I shared information about how to find these tiny, cryptic fish with others. I am pleased to say that one of them found the goby in Lembeh a few months ago, so it is now known from Ambon, Alor and Lembeh. I can understand Ambon and Alor, but I find it interesting this fish wasn’t seen earlier in Lembeh, a muck diving mecca visited by thousands of divers. Just shows how knowing something exists can often be the key to more sightings.
Another fish that we have been searching for is Cirrhilabrus humanni, a fairy wrasse I discovered in 2010 off Pura Island and formally described by Dr. Gerry Allen in 2012. During our 2010 trip, I only saw the one male with a harem of many females so we were keen to know more about its range. This time our friend, Dr. Richard Smith, was the first to find one. Alerted to its presence by Richard, we found a couple more on the dive site off Alor. Richard’s wonderful shot is posted on his site, Oceanrealmimages.com.
I have seen many Midas Blennies, but never one in its courting colors. The banded pattern caught my attention but it took a while to realize which blenny it was because it was so large. I pestered Ned until he went back with me to take photos. One shallow outcropping sported a highly motivated population of at least eight males.
On an early morning dive, our guide Yann pointed out Red-margined Wrasse, also flashing bright courting colors.
I found this stunner, a flasher wrasse (possibly undescribed), on a late afternoon dive and finally got the attention of Ned, our guide Yann and our friend Dave Dempsey, who were equally impressed! We were able to return the next day so everyone else could see these beauties.
Night dives almost always yield fabulous creatures like this bumblebee shrimp perched on a brightly colored sea apple. Bumblebee shrimp feed on the tube feet of echinoderms, which is why we often find them on sea cucumbers and urchins.
You can get an idea of how small this Bobtail squid is by comparing it to the shrimp it is holding. Ned shot this photo as the squid was capturing its dinner.
Who can resist a teddy bear? During a mucky night dive, Ned found this Teddy Bear Crab out bimbling around. I touched it – couldn’t resist – it was so soft.
It is hard to believe that this tiny Pinnate Batfish grows up to be a large, rather nondescript silver-gray fish.
This cuttlefish was not impressed with Ned and his camera. Here, it exhibits what I think is a threat display.
It isn’t uncommon to see Fire Dartfish singly or in pairs, but just outside of Banda, I found a group of almost 20! True to their name, they darted into their holes when we approached but Ned caught a respectable number in his shot.
We close with happy bees of Banda – we had a lovely morning walking tour of a nutmeg plantation and fort on Banda Neira.