WET PIXEL FULL FRAME Warren Baverstock: Djibouti whale sharks


Here’s a great and informative article about Whale Sharks. It interests me because I will soon be visiting the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico to photograph these beauties. Click on the link at the end of the article for some fabulous images!

warrenbaverstock.com

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Along a small stretch of uninhabitable coastline off the coast of Djibouti lies one of natures treasures which up until now, few have been privileged to witness. During the months of October through to February, large aggregations of young whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) visit the Gulf of Tadjoura to feed on the plankton rich waters within the Gulf of Aden. Little is known about where the sharks come from, but local reports from ecotourism operators suggest that during the months of October to February, large aggregations of mostly juvenile male sharks move around a small area of coastline in search of food. Luckily, during this time of year food is plentiful and at certain times of the day, dense blooms of plankton are brought to the surface, which the whale sharks seem to find.

Plankton is made up of small or microscopic organisms such as fish eggs, tiny…

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Are You My Mother?


Spring is in the air and it seems like all the little animals are twitterpated.  Outside my kitchen window, two sparrows are building a nest, and a robin has already laid eggs in my wisteria bush.  Under water, similar developments are taking place.  Each time I dive, I look for animals with eggs, or nests of eggs.  The attraction of documenting new life is irresistible to me.  Perhaps it is my maternal instincts, but I often wonder if these little creatures ever know who their mother is?

Cardinal fish with fresh eggs
Cardinal fish with fresh eggs

Cardinal fish are fascinating in that the male fish will gather all the eggs in his mouth and brood them until they hatch.  He will periodically open his mouth wide, and aerate the eggs.  When they are pink, as in the image above, they are newly laid.  Later, the eggs will turn silvery and the eyes of the fry will be visible, as in the image below.  In this case, the babies may hatch to discover who their father is, but wonder about mommy.

Cardinal fish with well developed eggs

Cardinal fish with well developed eggs

Another parent who stays with its eggs until they hatch is this tiny goby.  Sometimes, both parents will care for the eggs, aerating them with their fins.

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Both male and female yellow bearded gobies stay with their eggs until they hatch as well.  These fish lay their eggs deep inside the hard corals where they live to help protect them from predators.

Yellow bearded goby with eggs

Yellow bearded goby with eggs

And in the image below, a male and female robust ghost pipe fish await the arrival of their brood which are developing inside a pouch which the female has made between her pelvic fins.  The interesting thing here is that after the eggs have been deposited into this pouch, small branches will grow from her skin and attach to the eggs.  It is thought this acts as a sort of umbilical cord.  Although the robust ghost pipe fish is related to other pipefishes such as sea horses, it is the female, not the male who has the brooding pouch.

A male and female Robush Ghost Pipefish with eggs.

A male and female Robush Ghost Pipefish with eggs.

Clearly, there are responsible mothers AND fathers in the kingdom of the fishes.  We may never read about the tiny newborn fish who wandered around asking the kitten, the hen, and the dog, the cow and the snort, “Are You My Mother?”

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 All images are copyrighted by Brook Peterson and may only be used with written permission.  Please do not copy or print them.  To discuss terms for using these images, please contact me

 

Mushroom Coral Pipefish


“Mushroom.”  “Coral.”  “Pipefish.”  It sounds like three random words thrown out there in a Pictionary game.  As unprofessional as it sounds, it took me several days of repeating the name to remember what these unusual, snakelike, wormy thingies were called.  They are so named because they belong to the pipefish family and live in mushroom coral.  They are very small, but move very fast.  In fact, the following images are three of only a few I was able to salvage out of 126 images taken of the little beasts.  The second they come into focus, they are gone again from the frame.

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When I first saw these guys, they were happily swimming around their little mushroom coral home, dodging in and out of the tentacles, hoping to get a meal.  I spent about fifteen minutes photographing them, but it was toward the end of my dive, and I didn’t have enough air to stay longer.

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A few days later I returned to the same dive site and asked the guide to find that mushroom coral for me so I could spend my dive photographing the pipefish.  I spent another forty five minutes snapping away and leaving the scene hoping I got at least a few shots in focus.

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After spending so much time with one subject (well, two in this case,) I fell in love as I usually do.  They are so cute with their mad little old man frowns.  I hope to cross paths with them again someday.

 All images are copyrighted by Brook Peterson and may only be used with written permission.  Please do not copy or print them.  To discuss terms for using these images, please contact me.

The Night Before Fishmas


I subscribe to a local newsletter for divers and this was published there this week.  It is a lot of fun, so I thought I would share it here.  Courtesy of Ken Kurtis, Owner, Reef Seekers Dive Co.

With inspiration from (and apologies to) Clement Clarke Moore . . .

‘TWARS the days before Christmas, and all through the sea
not a creature was stirring, with the exception of me.
The stockings were hung on the kelp fronds with care,
in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would swim there.

The fish were nestled all snug in their cracks,
while visions of baitballs called to them as snacks.
And Mama in her beanie, and I in my hood,
were entering for a dive we thought would be good.

When off in the distance there arose such a splash,
I  parked Mama on shore so I could make a dash.
Inflated my BC, I kicked on out,
squinted my eyes to see what this was about.

The moon on the breast of the rippling waves
gave the luster of shimmer above the fish caves.
When, what to my salt-stung eyes should appear,
but eight Black Sea Bass with a boat in the rear.

With a little old diver, gearing up lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
Down went the anchor and up went the flag,
and Nick arranged fish toys inside his bag.

But Nick had no buddy, and then he saw me,
when he motioned to join him, I accepted with glee.
We completed a buddy check and started on down,
following the kelp to the bottom we did bound.

He was dressed in a drysuit, from his neck to his foot,
but his fins were all ratty from the pounding they took.
A bundle of fish treats he had in his sack,
plus bigger gifts that would keep things on track.

He was chubby and plump, as we all get with age,
but I was happy to join him on this aquatic stage.
A wink of his eye meant we had to run
because there was so much work to be done.

He spoke not a word, since we were underwater,
and left gifts for the fish, not missing a quarter.
But I could tell from his demeanor, he wasn’t quite done,
of the gifts to the fish, there was an additional one.

So he gave me a sign and lay his finger to his nose,
and giving a nod, to the surface we rose.
As he surveyed the water, he gave me a smile,
and I had a good feeling we’d be done in a while.

Nick took off his mask, and waved his right hand,
water bubbling and shimmering above the calm sand.
He had just created the best gift of all,
a Marine Protected Area, and the fish were enthralled.

Now they could swim, and with much less fear,
of the bubble-blowers descending in new diving gear.
Fish stocks would be healthy, their numbers would grow,
St. Nick works his wonders in water and snow.

With his task completed, Nick kicked to his boat,
Got out of his dive gear, and put on his coat.
Up came the anchor and down came the flag,
He’d done good work but he didn’t brag.

His eyes gave a twinkle, to his Sea Bass he whistled,
And away they all jetted, with the speed of a missile.
But I heard him exclaim, as he slipped out of sight,
“Merry Fish-mas to all, and to all a good night!”

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Love Affair, A Nudiphile Episode


I am having a love affair with this tiny little Sacoglassan sea slug called Placida cremoniana.  I know, it all sounds like scientific jibberish, so putting all the big words aside, I’ll just call it PC.

In the past few weeks, I have made several trips out to Catalina Island to search for the tiny beast.  It was necessary to collect some specimen so that their DNA could be analyzed, as they have never been found in California.  This will tell us whether PC came from the bilge of a passing ship, or if it has spread slowly from the south, or if it is an entirely new critter altogether. Interestingly enough, the slug seems to be plentiful in numbers.  I found them as small as 1mm and as large as about 6mm in length.

Placida cremoniana

Placida cremoniana

The unusually warm waters along the Pacific coast for the past year or more have encouraged many warm water life forms to journey north.  Most of the sightings have been of very large creatures such as a Whale Shark, Sperm Whales, Hammerhead sharks, and a plethora of fish such as yellowfin Tuna, Mahi Mahi, and even Ono.  I was lamenting the fact that I haven’t seen any of these southern visitors yet, when I found this very tiny sea slug.  I guess I should have set my sights smaller in the first place!

Placida cremoniana.  As it turned around, it reared up and showed it's underside.

Placida cremoniana. As it turned around, it reared up and showed it’s underside.

If it is just a warm water visitor, then it may be a temporary condition.  Kinda sad, when you think about it.  If it cannot survive in California’s usually temperate water, then an entire population may disappear from our waters.  When you consider that I have been able to find them on every dive I have been on since I first found one, that becomes a very large population.   I hope to be able to report soon where this critter has come from.  If it truly is Placida cremoniana, then it is thought to have originated in the Mediterranean and spread to the western Pacific from Japan all the way to Australia.  Several years ago, one was found in Baja, so the possibility of it coming up from the south is an interesting one.  Stay tuned….

Just for the sake of size context:  the bottom right corner is the texture of the skin on my finger.

Just for the sake of size context: the bottom right corner is the texture of the skin on my finger.

All images are copyrighted by Brook Peterson and may only be used with written permission.  Please do not copy or print them.  To discuss terms for using these images, please use the contact form below.

 

Slug Bug! Another Nudiphile Episode


Introducing P. cremoniana!  While on a dive, searching for tiny critters, I came across this little fella, the likes of which I have never seen before.

Placida cremoniana

Placida cremoniana

Just in time for Halloween, this tiny critter makes its appearance in Southern California!  I have written an article that has been published in California Diver Magazine, so rather than reiterate the entire story here, I will refer you to the magazine, where you can read it in its entirety.  Suffice it to say that I am very pleased to have found the very first sea slug of it’s kind in Southern California.  This little guy originated in the Medeteranian, and has been found in the Western Pacific and also Mexico, but never as far north as California.

Placida cremoniana

My obsession with nudibranchs continues, even though this guy isn’t technically a nudibranch.  (It’s a sea slug)  It still has the beautiful colors that are typical of nudibranchs and the fascinating cerata and rhinophores, but lacks a gill plume.  It is unique.  And tiny.  It was no larger than the head of a pin, about 3 or 4 mm, although I have read they can get twice that size.  Still.  T  I  N  Y!

Placida Cremoniana

All images are copyrighted by Brook Peterson, and may only be used with written permission.  Please do not copy or print them.

A Bit of Philosophy, Mingled With Picture


The past few days I have been deeply impressed by some beautiful people who are living their final days with cancer. Last night, one of my dear friends succumbed to this disease, and yet instead of feeling overwhelmed by grief, I am lifted up by her lovely spirit and encouraged by her life FULLY lived. Although she suffered for many years, this particular friend sought and found peace in the love of her family. She served them and strengthened them even while her strength failed her.

I have also been following a virtual friend who goes by PTS. (You can view her blog HERE.)  She has a website dedicated to her dives complete with pictures and the most descriptive and deeply thought out narratives I have ever read. She is also a terminal cancer patient. What makes these women so special is that they have been able to look at the time they have left on this earth, and focused on the thing that fulfills them the most. Then they took action to make that thing happen.

Life's Symbol

It has given me some food for thought. Although I have not ever suffered a debilitating disease, I can’t help but wonder how I would respond to my life if I knew what my expiration date was. I would like to believe that I would live the time I had left to the fullest, without grief for the days that would be lost. I would like to believe that I would still spend time discovering God’s creations both above and below the water line. But regardless of whether or not I “know” when my time is coming, I hope to honor the beautiful people I know who have passed too soon by living. Truly living. For me, that means exploring my world. It means exploring the talents I have, the limitlessness of my intellect, the vastness of my potential, and all my capabilities; physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. For truly, I believe that my purpose for living at all is to discover who I am.

Thank you to my dearly departed and also to my cherished living for your daily reminders of the precious life we have. You have inspired me.

Just Pulling Your Leg


A few years ago Octomom was all the rage in our news.  Can you imagine?  A woman gives birth to octuplets!  Then last May we heard about Octogoat, a young goat born with eight legs in Croatia!  It all seems too crazy to be true.  Now, thanks to Disney Jr., we have the Octonauts; a group of quirky characters dedicated to rescuing amazing sea creatures and  protecting the ocean.  Now these guys are the real deal.  Or am I just pulling your leg?  Well, legs seem to be the order of the day for the Octopus whose eight appendages aid it’s every move from feeding to locomotion to camouflage.

Mimic Octopus

Mimic Octopus

These amazing cephalopods are interesting in every way.  The Mimic Octopus (above) pulsates with color when agitated, turning from dark brown to light with striped legs.  The octopus below, is the same octopus only a few seconds later.  It is trying to make itself look more threatening by spreading out.

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One of the things that really fascinates me is the Octopus’s ability to camouflage itself.  This one imitates the sand that it lives in.

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This one looks very much like a rock.

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This one imitates the colors of the corals it inhabits,

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And this one blends in with the surrounding fauna.

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There are many different kinds of Octopus, and this tiny Pygmy Octopus was a riot to watch.  It has the tiniest little short legs which it hides underneath it’s body (while they are actually digging away the sand beneath)  Then Poof!  It disappears into the hole it was hiding with it’s body.

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Here is another Pygmy who’s body is disproportionate to it’s legs.  This one was also digging a hole to hide in, but rather than hiding that process under it’s body, it’s legs threw “handfuls” of sand out as it dug.

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The Pacific octopus takes on the greenish and reddish tint of the algae around it’s den, not to mention the rough terrain, and loves to wrap itself up in it’s own legs.

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Nothing is more surprising than watching an octopus slip into a space that is a fraction of it’s size, or hide inside an empty beer bottle. The octopus’s remarkable ability to change its appearance makes it seem like one of those far fetched octo-tales we hear about in the tabloids, but in this case, I am not pulling your leg!

My top 10 Things That go “Bump” in the Night


When I was a child I remember having a nightmare about ghosts coming out in the night. My father told me there wasn’t anything in my room at night that wasn’t there during the day. Well, I might have to argue that point when it comes to the ocean at night. Diving at night is one of the greatest pleasures I enjoy, and yet, that is when all the creepy, crawly critters come out that definitely aren’t there during the day. Perhaps it is my fascination with seeing things that few others have the opportunity to see that attracts me to diving at night. Perhaps it is just the creatures ability to camouflage during the day (and sometimes at night) that make them so interesting to see. Whatever it is, I can’t seem to get enough of the ocean at night.  So here is my countdown of my top 10:

 

No. 10.  The Mimic Octopus.  It pulsates with color and changes shape as it is threatened or excited.

Mimic Octopus

Mimic Octopus

No. 9.  Squid, and Pygmy Squid.  (They differ in that the squid are about two or three inches long, and the Pygmy squid is about the size of my pinky fingernail.)

Squid

Squid

Pygmy  squid with fish

Squid with fish

Pygmy Squid

Pygmy Squid

No. 8.   Mandarin Fish which mate every evening at dusk.

Mandarin Fish with Eggs

Mandarin Fish with Eggs

No. 7.  The Porcelain Crab.  It feeds by sifting the water with it’s feather duster arms.

Porcelain shrimp

Porcelain shrimp

No. 6.  The Creepy Crawly Sea Spider.  (Yeah, they kind of give me the heebie jeebies)

Sea Spider

Sea Spider

No 5.  The Box fish, or Cowfish.  (Sometimes seen during the daytime, they are most active at night.)

Boxfish

Boxfish

No. 4. The Pygmy Cuttlefish.  These guys are only about an inch long, and love to bury themselves in the sand.

Pygmy Cuttlefish

Pygmy Cuttlefish

Pygmy cuttlefish

Pygmy cuttlefish

No. 3.   Well, speaking of cuttlefish, the big guys are cool too.  This one was more like a foot long.

Cuttle fish

Cuttle fish

No. 2.  The Skeleton Shrimp.  These are the quirkiest critters I’ve ever seen.  They are full of personality and character and are only about half an inch long.

Skeleton shrimp

Skeleton shrimp

No. 1.  The Stargazer.  These are truly creepy fish that hide under the sand until their prey comes by.

Stargazer

Stargazer