In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Close Up.”
It is no secret that I enjoy photographing the little things. This hydro-sapien loves being able to see and share, the almost microscopic world that exists under water, with land dwellers. I have a deep appreciation for all creatures, and so, as I have been contemplating how to share some of the tiny critters I recently encountered, Cecil Frances Alexander’s words keep coming to mind.
All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.–Cecil Frances Alexander
“All things bright and beautiful, All creatures great and small” immediately brings to mind the fabulous nudibranchs that I search for on every dive. Lately, in California, we have seen a scarcity of these critters. In the past few weeks, however, I have seen lots of nudibranch eggs, and lots of tiny nudibranchs. The image above is of a Hopkins Rose (Okenia rosacea, a nudibranch measuring about 1cm. It is not the most common, but I definitely think it is one of the most beautiful. Below is a Porter’s Chromodorid (Mexichromis porterae about 2cm long).
Since there are many very small nudibranchs right now, I have mostly photographed critters less than 1cm. This tiny Three -lined Aeolid (Flabellina trilineata) was only 5 or 6 millimeters long.
And its look-alike cousin, the Horned Aeolid (Hermissendra crassicornis,) was about the same size, although both species can get up to 36mm or larger.
And on an even smaller scale, I have spent a good amount of time looking through the seaweed for isopods and larvae. This tiny critter is just a few millimeters.
Some of my favorites are the skeleton shrimp, isopods that aren’t really shrimp, but bear the nickname because of their hilarious antics and the way they move around. They look like animated skeletons. This one is pregnant with eggs, and when they hatch, the babies will cling to her body until they are nearly half her size.
You may have to look closely to see them in the image below; Momma is covered with her offspring clinging to her antenea, back, jaw, and every other appendage.
Another fun find for me this week was a family of decorator crabs. They were very hard to photograph because of the movement of the water, and all the fish that were desperately trying to take a bite of them while I exposed them to the camera. They are covered in all kinds of growth such as sponges, anemones and hydroids. You can see the one below if you look for it’s eye which is about a third of the way down and a third of the way over from the right. It looks like it has a long nose made of a white flowering plant with a brown leaf. This one was less than a square centimeter.
With the exception of the skeleton shrimp with all her babies, all these images were taken in the last few weeks in California. The ocean is coming alive again after several months of quiet time. I am thrilled to see all the new life and awed by the creatures great and small living in the waters of the California coast.
As always, if you enjoy my images please visit my website, waterdogphotography.com, or give me a like on facebook at Waterdog Photography Brook Peterson. Don’t forget to follow me here atwaterdogphotographyblog!
My photographs are taken with a Nikon D7000 in Sea and Sea Housing using two YS-D1 Strobes.
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
In the early months of this blog, I wrote about my obsession with nudibranchs. I had discovered that I favored browsing the internet for photographs of nudibranchs, which led to the realization that I was a nudiphile. Since that time, I have gone into underwater therapy a number of times to see if perhaps I could be persuaded by other critters. But no, the tendency only worsened. The sluggish things are so colorful and charming. They seem to smile at the camera and I just can’t help but stop to photograph them.
This little lovely (above) is known as a Pokeman or Pikachu nudibranch. It belongs to the Dorid family. They are about an inch long and are one of the more interesting slugs in the sea.
This colorful Hypselodoris was the only one of it’s kind to grace me with it’s presence. For some reason, it reminds me of a clown, although less humorous and more refined. Perhaps it is a French clown.
Here a Chromodoris appears to be wearing a jeweled crown.
One of the amazing things about nudibranchs is their ability to blend in with their environment, or their ability to stand out in their environment. This Batangas Halgerda does a little of both. It’s body stands out, while it’s rhinophores and gill branches resemble plants in it’s environment.
These two breeding hypselodoris are wonderful to photograph because of their creamy pinkish coloring that looks like glass.
Unfortunately for this Yellow-Tipped Phyllodesmium, it is a tasty meal for fish. Most nudibranchs seem to be left alone perhaps because their remarkable coloring announces they might sting or be poisonous.
Here’s an interesting specimen. Hey, you got a bug on your face!
Here’s another example of a “blender.” It looks so much like the soft corals in it’s environment, that you have to search for the rhinophores to determine if it is a coral or nudibranch. Of course, the corals don’t crawl.
This guy has a mantle that flaps up and down as it crawls across the sea bed. So intriguing to watch, it is no wonder my fetish for sea slugs is only growing. Admit it. You are a closet nudiphile too.
A Hydro-Sapien is an advanced species that thrives in water and on land. I think I have evolved into one of these during the last few years. I definitely thrive in water. The most exciting thing about this is discovering all the things that have evolved under water that the land dwelling Homo-Sapiens are unaware of. Some of these critters are so indistinct, that my photographs of them are meaningless to the common land-dweller. I will attempt to educate the waterless by taking you on an underwater photo-safari of some of the more obscure creatures.
The shrimp family is truly vast. And weird. They are colorful and full of character. The Crinoid shrimp (above) is hosted on another animal called a Crinoid. Crinoids come in many colors, and the shrimp that inhabit their tentacles match their color. They are very small, growing up to 1.5 cm.
The Skeleton shrimp is one of my favorite. It is actually an amphipod, whose slender body makes it look like a filament of seaweed. The female will carry her babies all over her body which makes them look like a creepy mass of claws and legs. (below)
The skeleton shrimp below appears to be riding on a nudibranch. She reminds me of a queen riding on a float, waving at her underlings. They are very entertaining to watch. They move somewhat like an inchworm and spark the imagination with their unique character.
Next is the Ornate Ghost Pipefish. These small fish come in a lot of different colors. The one below is a male, black, Ornate Ghost Pipefish. They often hide among plants that look just like them.
Just to satisfy your curiosity, a few other ghost pipefish are the Robust and Halemida (below)
The Paddle-Flap Scorpionfish (below) is a rare and odd shaped fish. It has a false “eye” (the white spot below it’s real eye), to trick it’s prey into thinking it isn’t watching when it really is.
Here’s a tiny little, uh, thing: They do have a scientific name; Idiomysis. They are called sea owls by the locals. They hover above anemones and are about the size of an ant.
The Homosapien in me is pretty creeped out by spiders. But, it turns out, spiders inhabit the sea too. This one was one of many that inhabited some seaweed. After the “photo shoot” I had the heebie jeebies for hours.
The electric file clam (below) is hard to describe. It would look better in video. The iridescent blue that lines it’s mantle actually looks like light or electricity moving across it.
These are only a few examples of the unique aquatic beasties under the sea. With thousands more to see, it’s no wonder I’ve developed gills. Don’t you wish you were a Hydrosapien too?
The eggs featured in this post come from a variety of sea beasties. The interesting critter below, is a Hairy Shrimp. The first time I encountered one, a guide was pointing it out to me. I looked at the end of his pointy stick only to see a tiny bit of moss (no bigger than half my pinky fingernail) floating around some leaves. I looked closer at the leaves, and rocks, thinking he meant something hiding underneath. The guide tapped my shoulder and again pointed at the bit of moss. So I shrugged and took a photograph of the moss, just to make him happy. Later, when I looked at the image on my computer, I noticed there was an eye in that bit of moss. I asked another photographer what it was and was shocked to find out it was a Hairy Shrimp. Needless to say, I began hunting for the furry bug, and soon found this one, which has a clutch of eggs filling her back half.
In keeping with the “shrimp” theme, I found several other types of shrimp with eggs. These two are glass shrimp. One has a tight round whitish ball of eggs, while the other has a more developed pinkish clutch.
The largest shrimp I have ever encountered is this Peacock Mantis Shrimp. She was about 7 inches long and carries her eggs in between her front legs. She was not happy about being photographed, and tried to flee and hide under rocks and coral.
This one simply stayed put in her burrow, and showed me her babies from her front door.
Here a Coral Crab shows off a carapace full of eggs.
This Simnia from Southern California is busy laying her egg sacs on this Red Gorgonian.
Nudibranch eggs are commonly seen on reefs where Nudis are found. They are often laid in a spiral pattern. These Nudibranchs were “holding hands” near a spiral of nudibranch eggs.
The world under water is full of fascinating behavior. I am particularly interested in how diversely aquatic creatures reproduce. So how would I like MY eggs? With salt water of course!