At night in Ambon Harbor: a soccer ball-sized jellyfish pulsed upward from the depths
April 2013, Ambon Indonesia ~ Ned loves night dives. I do not. So when Marcel Hagendijk, manager of Maluku Divers, started talking about the cool creatures that drift through the harbor at night, I started sliding down into my chair. ”You know we could put you out there on a line and let you drift,” said Marcel casually. Ned perked up; that was all he needed to hear. The next night, he and our guide, Semuel Bukasiang, drifted in the middle of Ambon harbor, hanging at a depth of 65 feet on a line tied to the boat, aided only by the small beams of their dive lights. I spent the two hours trying to eat dinner with friends but jumping up intermittently to gaze out into the darkness, looking for the distant running lights of their boat. Ned returned with the photos but his tale of having to let go of the line every time something interesting drifted by, swimming to keep up (jellies move quickly), trying to focus (he uses manual focus), then looking for Semuel’s light (to guide him back to the safety of the line), confirmed that I had no business out there – but I’m glad he likes it – and I think his results are beautiful.
Less than 2 inches across, an unidentified drifter swept through
Another, inch and a half long, unidentified drifter in the night
A pelagic ctenophore; we had seen many similar to this during the day
..And a little shrimp, riding along on one of the ctenophores
Artificial light is essential for underwater photographs and video. Water absorbs light, starting with reds then oranges, yellows and on through the color spectrum. Even at a shallow depth of 10 feet, you can see that the reds have disappeared, rendering everything a monochromatic greenish blue; it took the light from an underwater strobe to light this sea lion mother and pup.
April 2013, Indonesia ~ There is great excitement this morning – Claire Davies has surfaced reporting that she has seen “Lynne’s Pipefish”, so now there is no question where we’ll be making the next dive. Lynne and Roger Van Dok are on high alert as Claire describes not one, but four of the tiny, red fish nestled around a small patch of algae, tunicates, hydroids and sponge – exactly the habitat in which Lynne found her first in Papua New Guinea over four years ago.
It was during the first week of our month long stay in Papua New Guinea that Lynne confided that she had seen something interesting but was not quite ready to share it because she wanted to make sure she could repeat the find. For the next few days, she and Roger spent their dives, heads down, slowly moving along the reefs and walls. Finally, during a dive along a small wall, she called us over, gesturing to a small clump of reddish sponge, which, because of its size, might be called “toothpick” sponge. Nestled among the tiny projections were two pipefish that, on an unlighted reef, were the exact color of the sponge. The moment we switched on our dive lights, the color of the pipefish was a popping red. It was the first time our guides had ever seen it too.
I blogged about it in our trip report and Ned sent his photo to Rudy Kuiter, one of the world’s pipefish experts, who responded that he thought it was a color form of the Pygmy Pipefish, Micrognathus pygmaeus. He explained that the species has several forms. Based on his opinion, we included it as a color form of M. pygmaeus in our Reef Fish Identification: Tropical Pacific and supplied the photo for Allen and Erdmann’s recent Reef Fishes of the East Indies.
Since those first sightings on Cheri’s Reef and Barracuda Reef in November 2008, Lynne, Roger and anyone else they can enlist in the search, have looked for the pipefish on our cruises from Komodo to Alor, all through Raja Ampat, across the Solomons, and now on our month long cruise aboard the Dewi Nusantara from Sorong through Halmahera and down to Ambon. They have found them in the Solomons, Bali and now with Claire’s sighting, in Seram. None of our dive guides in those areas had seen the fish before they learned about them from Lynne and Roger. Lynne is a retired biology teacher with a keen eye for spotting cryptic animals underwater and a sense of the importance in noting details such as habitat, depth, etc. Although she and Roger search everywhere, they have always found the pipefish on wall outcroppings at depths between 13 and 18 meters (which is deeper than reported for the other M. pygmaeus form) and always in association with the small, tight tunicate and sponge clumps. Maybe at some point, the species will be studied more completely but for now, this particular color form, in this habitat has among our group, affectionately become known as “Lynne’s Pipefish.” Have you seen this pipefish? We’d love to hear the details. I have merged some of my video with additional photographs of the pipefish from each of the locations into a video on our BlennyWatcher YouTube channel:
Male Striated Frogfish pushes egg-laden female up into water column
This image of spawning Striated Frogfish is not new. We wrote about our 2009 Blue Heron Bridge adventure in Alert Diver Magazine in an article we called “Caught in the Act” (you can click here to read it online). We were lucky to get the photos and video – it was a combination of being in the right place at the right time and recognizing what was about to happen. I’m posting it here because I just created a Blennywatcher video channel over on Vimeo, to share some of my favorite videos in HD.
While preparing the video I started looking at it frame by frame. Although courtship had been going on for a while and the spawning rise was fairly slow, once the female began to expel her egg raft, the little male started spinning to fertilize the eggs and the action was over – fast. It is really interesting that he seems to be wrapping himself in the egg raft, I suppose to maximize fertilization. The following set of images are frame captures from the video, where you can get some idea of how it happened. Don’t forget to check out the Vimeo version of the video at the end of this post – I re-edited it to slow down the actual spawn.
The female begins to expel her egg raft (video frame capture)
The male starts to spin as he fertilizes the eggs
He seems to be wrapping himself in the extruding egg raft
And the female spins in the opposite direction
Just for my Vimeo channel, I re-edited the video and slowed down the spawning part. Check it out here: