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.
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 with fish
No. 8. Mandarin Fish which mate every evening at dusk.
Mandarin Fish with Eggs
No. 7. The Porcelain Crab. It feeds by sifting the water with it’s feather duster arms.
No. 6. The Creepy Crawly Sea Spider. (Yeah, they kind of give me the heebie jeebies)
No 5. The Box fish, or Cowfish. (Sometimes seen during the daytime, they are most active at night.)
No. 4. The Pygmy Cuttlefish. These guys are only about an inch long, and love to bury themselves in the sand.
No. 3. Well, speaking of cuttlefish, the big guys are cool too. This one was more like a foot long.
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.
No. 1. The Stargazer. These are truly creepy fish that hide under the sand until their prey comes by.
Sometimes a photographer gets lucky and the shot of a lifetime appears right before her eyes. Most of the time, however, it takes a great deal of planning, patience, and hard work to get that perfect shot. I recently returned from the Philippines where I planned to find and photograph creatures that were brooding eggs. I was fairly lucky, as I found so many beasties with eggs, that I will have to split this post in to two parts! The images that follow are a combination of luck, patience, planning, and even a little courage and prayer.
Anemone Fish Eggs
Truly, anemone fish make the most beautiful babies! It turns out that those cute little Nemos are fiercely protective of their brood. I was bitten at least four times as I got in close to photograph the nest. Fortunately for me, anemone fish have small mouths, and I was wearing a wetsuit, so it was all in good fun. (At least from my perspective)
In contrast to a nest of tiny anemone fish eggs, is this relatively huge (about the size of a marble) cuttlefish egg. The interesting thing about this egg is that the cuttlefish inside is nearly developed and ready to hatch. What a roomy apartment he has!
Surprisingly, the colorful Clownfish produces rather plain children. In the image above, an isopod is attempting to feed on one of the eggs.
Jawfish with eggs
The Jawfish above has eggs that are new. She carries the eggs in her mouth and lives in a tunnel in the sand. The Jawfish below has eggs that are more developed. You can begin to see the eyes of her babies appearing. This jawfish tested my patience as I waited nearly forty-five minutes for her to poke her head out of her hole. When she finally did, it was only to pull a piece of coral over the opening so I couldn’t see her anymore. I guess I wasn’t welcome.
Jawfish with eggs
I hunted for this cardinal fish for several days. They typically stay in a school just hovering under a ledge or table coral. In the school, there will be one fish that has a triangular shaped jaw and that is the one that is brooding the eggs in it’s mouth. Once spotted, I had to wait for the fish to aerate the eggs so I could take a photograph. They move the eggs around in their mouth which causes them to extrude a little. This process only lasts a few seconds, so I was only able to get one shot. This fish’s eggs are new and yolky. They have not developed eyes yet.
Cardinal fish with eggs
Of course, the beautiful Mandarin fish deserve an encore for their mating dance. Their eggs are not brooded, but simply float into the water column, or settle down into the coral.
–To be continued… Please stay tuned for part-two of this post which will focus on invertebrates and crustaceans with eggs!