A seascape of many varieties of hard coral decorated by soft corals crowns the top of a reef.
A Broadclub Cuttlefish, Sepia latimanus, in defensive mode, arches its body backwards, throws up its two front tentacles menacingly, and extends the spikes on the under belly of its body. The Broadclub Cuttlefish gets its common name from the wide pads on the ends of its feeding tentacles that it uses to catch prey.
The Domed Elbow Crab, Aethra edentata, has small eyes and a rather triangular head. It is seen here eating from the tubercle of a starfish.
Feather Stars, Crinoidea, are the delicate flowers of the sea. A Feather Star has only a single opening in its body that functions as both its mouth and its anus. It captures food with its delicate arms and brings it directly to its mouth. It expels waste from its anus.
This T-Bone Nudibranch, Ceratosoma tenue, is tough-bodied, brilliantly colored, and extremely long-tailed. It has side gills that are highly branched and a broad purple border on its mantle. It is a shell-less mollusk that can found travelling along the bottom mostly in rocky areas.
The Tiger Shrimp, Phyllognathia ceratophthalmus, is an exceptionally strange, and outrageously beautiful shrimp. About 1/2” in size, it is covered with sharp spines, and is a very fast and agile runner. Its off-white body has dark blue and orange markings. It is very, very rare and very, very shy.
The juvenile Common Lionfish, Pterios volitans, is known for its 18 venomous spines that advertise its ability to protect itself. Skilled hunters, they have a specialized swim bladder that provides them with exquisite control of their location in the water column. The lionfish spreads its large pectoral fins and swallows its prey in a single motion.
The Blackpotted Sea Cucumber, Bohadschia graeffei, is a cylindrical sea cucumber that grows to about one foot in length. Its mouth is surrounded by up to 24 leaf-like, paddle-shaped tentacles with black stalks that are black on the top and white underneath beneath. A scavenger, it roams the seabed sifting through sediment with its feeding tentacles.
The Train Nudibranch, Risbecia tryoni, is usually found crawling in pairs with one attached to the back of the other in train-like fashion. The reason for this is a mystery. This genus of nudibranch has a high body profile with a mantle edge that is extended well away from the sides of the body.
The Reef Stonefish, Synanceia verrucosa, is the world’s most venomous fish and is a master of camouflage. Via its dorsal fin spines, it can inject venom capable of killing an adult in less than an hour. It does not use its venom to capture prey, but to avoid predation. The white flower-like organ is its eye; its down-turned yellow mouth is on the lower left.
The Green Sea Turtle, Chelonia mydas, is an endangered reptile that has an average life span in the wild of over 80 years. This turtle is an herbivore feeding on grasses and algae that gives its flesh a greenish color. It is a large, weighty turtle that unlike other turtles occasionally clambers onto land to sunbathe.
This Hawksbill Sea Turtle, Eretmochelys imbricta, is critically endangered. Typically, these turtles grow to about 3 feet in length and weigh about 180 pounds. This turtle was resting on a ledge on the wall of the reef when it decided to swim to the open sea.
The 2-inch Hairy Octopus, Octopus sp. (undescribed), is considered to be the “Holy Grail” of weird and wonderful marine critters. Covered with red/orange hair-like protrusions and numerous, long skin flaps, it is often mistaken for turf or sea weed.
Extremely rare and quite difficult to spot, it inhabits sandy/rubble areas.
The Zenia Swimming Crab, Caphyra sp., is a commensal crab that can be found living with xenia soft coral. Its patterns and colors allow it to blend in perfectly with the soft coral with which it is associated.
The juvenile Yellow Boxfish, Ostracion cubicus, is as cute as can be. It will turn from orange to yellow as an adult. When feeding, a boxfish will sometimes squirt a jet of water into the sand to uncover small plants and invertebrates that it then sucks into its mouth.
The Zanzibar Shrimp, Dasycaris zanzibarica, is a pretty, little, commensal shrimp that can only be found in association with the sea whips (antipatharians) on which it lives. The large humps on its thorax and abdomen mimic the polyps of its host sea whip.
The Shortfin Lionfish or Dwarf Lionfish, Dendrochirus brachypterus, rarely grows over 6 inches. It has red, white and black vertical stripes along is body with large, fan-like pectoral fins and tall, quill-like dorsal fins. Its top spines are venomous. Inactive during the day, it feeds mainly on crabs at night.
This Snapping Shrimp, Alpheun eulimene, is capable of producing a loud, snapping sound used for hunting and communication. It snaps its larger, specialized claw shut to produce the snapping sound that stuns its prey. This shrimp competes with the sperm whale and beluga whale for the title of loudest animal in the sea.
The Leaf Scorpionfish, Taenianotus triacanthus, is a small, compressed, very pretty, colorful scorpionfish with a high, long, sail-like dorsal fin that is stands upright. It sways back and forth in the current disguising itself as a leaf while waiting to ambush its prey.
The Barramundi Cod, Cromileptes altivelis, has a small head. It is pale grey in color and has black spots all over its body and fins. Its elongated snout gives it a humpback appearance. This species of grouper is listed as “vulnerable” on the “Threatened List”.
Flatworms have a wafer-thin, oval body and no external gills. Their color patterns are dazzling and advertise their toxic properties to potential predators. Their movement is fast and surprisingly elegant. They glide on the substrate via a self-secreted layer of mucous. This species is not yet described.
Bargibanti’s Pygmy Seahorse, Hippocampus bargibanti, was the first species of pygmy seahorse discovered. Less than ½-inch in size, with a long prehensile tail, it lives exclusively on gorgonian fans. Large, bulbous tubercles cover its body and match the color and shape of the polyps of its host.
The Banded Shrimp, Stenopus hispidus, is a cleaner shrimp that waves its long antennae to entice passing fish to stop by its “cleaning station”. Its spectacular red-and-white coloration also advertises its “cleaner” identity, giving it a degree of safety from roving predators. This one is carrying blue eggs in its abdomen.
The Mandarinfish, Synchiropus splendidus, has a complex, almost fluorescent livery in hues of orange, green, yellow and blue that gave fish its appropriate nickname of “psychedelic fish”. They are small, extremely shy, and hard to find due to their choice of habitat -- broken blocks of coral rubble in shallow water.
Clinging to a wall, this Cushion Sea Star, Choriaster granulatus, is a large sea star that is easily identified by its five distinctive, large, short, thick conical arms. It feeds on algae, detritus and dead animals. One of its predators is the sea snail known as Triton’s Trumpet.
This Scorpion Spider Conch, Lambis scorpius, is large sea snail. It has a beautifully colored, lined, thick shell with long spines resembling a scorpion. This conch lives in the intertidal and shallow subtidal mud, sand, and coral rubble where the surges of waves can be intense. Researchers believe its spines prevent it from rolling on the bottom.
These Porcelain Crabs, Pachycheles sp., are small, usually ½-inch in size. Their bristly bodies are compact and flat enabling them to hide in crevices. They are quite fragile, hence their name, often shedding their limbs to escape predators. They have large claws that are used for territorial struggles, but not for catching food.
Hermit Crabs take refuge in empty shells – which they regularly outgrow – to protect their soft abdomens. This Anemone Hermit Crab, Dardanus pedunculatus, has spiny front claws, green eyes, and red-and-white striped eye stalks. The last two reduced pairs of legs hold the shell that is its home.
This Robe Hem nudibranch, Hypselodoris apolegma, is purple with a speckled white marginal band, orange rhinopores, and a tall, yellow-orange gill. Constantly on the prowl for food, it moves along the bottom quite slowly, making it a target for boisterous fish. All nudibranchs are hermaphrodites.
The Coral Marbled Shrimp, Saron neglectus, typically inhabits stands of finger-like branching hard corals. These unbelievably beautiful shrimp have amazing colors and are curious in shape. They are extremely shy and are seldom observed because of their secretive nature and strictly nocturnal habits.
This Porcelain Crab, Neopetrolisthes maculatus, is commensal with several species of large carpet anemones. Its large front claws are used to fend off predators. Look closely and you can see this one feeding by combing organic particles from the water using its long, feathery, hair-like setae that extend from its mouth.
The Spiny Devilfish, Inimicus didactylus, is so ugly that it is beautiful. Normally, it is at least partially buried in the coarse sand with only its upturned mouth and protruding eyes visible. It “walks” on the finger-like rays of its pectoral fins. A cluster of fringed, disarrayed, long dorsal spines on its back can inflict painful, venomous wounds.
Several species of hard coral decorated with fern-like soft corals provide a wondrous landscape.
A seascape that has it all – hard and soft corals, fans, and schools of small fish, including Anthias.
The Spot-legged Coral Crab, Tralpecia guttata), is found exclusively among Seriotopora hystrix Hard Corals. The top of its carapace is usually white or tan. It is seen here feeding.
The amazingly beautiful Pontohi Pygmy Seahorse, Hippocampus pontohi, is cryptic, carnivorous, and free-living on Halimeda algae. Pygmy seahorses are among the smallest known vertebrates. The Pontohi is smaller than the Barbiganti and Denise species reaching a maximum of 2/3-inch from the base of its tail to the top of its crown.