Time to say “Bye” to 2020 with some of our 2020 social media favorites. We certainly had plenty of time to sift through old files and dabble. I wish we had more to say about diving (sigh), though we did manage to slide in two trips – one to the Philippines before the pandemic lockdown, and a quick, socially distanced trip to West Palm for a few days in July.
A friend recently commented that if we’re posting anything “on the socials”, she doesn’t see it because she isn’t in Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. We aren’t devoted participants – we’re absolutely inconsistent in subject and timing – but over the years, I’ve shared a few things on our BlennyWatcher Facebook page. We started an Instagram page a few months ago that gave me a place to post some of my favorites of Ned’s images from over the years, accompanied by the odd note or two that I stored away for just such a use.
Our 2020 Social Media Favorites:
Not as cute and innocent as they look, Bumblebee Shrimp feed on the tube feet of echinoderms which explains why we find them on sea cucumbers, urchins and starfish. This was photographed in Beangabang Bay, Indonesia at night, on a sea apple (a type of sea cucumber) that had all its feeding tentacles retracted. This photo on the right was taken during the day, and this Sea Apple has its feeding tentacles extended. A type of sea cucumber in the genus Pseudocolochirus, the sea apple uses bushy tentacles that surround its mouth to catch microscopic food as it passes by in the water.
This species, Gnathophyllum americanum, is said to be circumtropical (we’ve also photographed them in Florida and the Caribbean) but it might be a species complex – that is, populations in different geographic areas that are very similar in appearance, but genetically different. Formerly placed in the family Gnathophyllidae, they are now in the family Palaemonidae.
What is this Bumblebee Shrimp doing on an octopus? I posted earlier about them feeding on the tube feet of echinoderms, which explains why we find them on sea cucumbers, urchins and starfish, but an octopus was a first for us. During the course of the dive, we saw six shrimp running all over and under the unperturbed octopus
Photographed in 2015 under the Blue Heron Bridge, Riviera Beach, Florida.
Above Left: The Bignose Unicornfish, Naso vlamingii, photographed on Tania’s Reef in Papua New Guinea. These fairly large members of the surgeonfish family are usually seen feeding out in open water just off the reef. This fish had come down to the reef, presumably to be cleaned. Described by Valenciennes in 1835 and named for Cornelis de Vlamingh, a Dutch explorer (1678-1735) who had mistakenly received credit for the illustrations used by Valenciennes to describe this and other fishes. When I was looking for the original 1835 description of the fish, I ran across a 1990 article in Bulletin du Muséum National d’histoire Naturelle that explains how, in 1959, it was discovered that the illustrations were actually the work of Isaac Johannes Lamotius, governor of Mauritius from 1677 to 1692.
Above Right: Here’s a dose of cute for the day: a tiny unicornfish in the genus Naso, but we’re not sure which species. This fish was only about and inch and half long. Ned saw two of them together, over the sand, just off a reef in Palau.
Got Monday Morning Grumpy Face? Batfish says, “Welcome to my world.”
Do you wonder if they’re venomous? I did, but I guess not: In their 1898 discussion of the genus Ogcocephalus (which were called Sea-Bats back then), Jordan and Evermann wrote, “...small fish of singular form, often regarded by the ignorant as venomous.” They go on to criticize the original author of the genus, over a perceived misspelling: “…properly written Oncocephalus, but Fischer chose the above monstrous spelling.” Yikes! Sounds like they might have been having a grumpy Monday!
This is the Caribbean’s Shortnose Batfish, Ogcocephalus nasutus, photographed in Dominica.
Longhorn Blenny, Hypsoblennius exstochilus ~ How about those cirri! The common name needs no explanation. The protruding flaps on each side of the lower lip distinguish the Longhorn Blenny from other species in the same genus. They are especially noticeable in this head-on shot. The species name, exstochilus, means just that: protruding (exsto) lip (cheilus).
We saw many of these in the surgy hardpan shelf on the east side of Bonaire. We had intended to head out to the reef, but ended up spending three hours in the shallow channel looking at blennies.
The Ninelined Goby, Ginsburgellus novemlineatus. Why do we always see them with the rock boring urchin, Echinometra lucunter? Because they feed on the tube feet and pedicellariae of the urchins (pedicellariae are small structures, made up of a stalk and a jaw-like head, attached to the outer skeleton of the urchin).
We took advantage of a calm day to explore the shallow shelf on the south end of Bonaire. I’ve snorkeled that area extensively over the years but the water is usually too surgy to photograph fishes easily on scuba.
Described and named (novem=nine & linea=line) in 1950 by Henry Fowler, Curator of Fishes at the Academy of Natural Science in Philadelphia, from a specimen collected in 1948 off San Andrés. In 1968, this distinctive fish was placed in its own genus, Ginsburgellus, by Böhlke and Robins, who discussed its close relationship to the genera, Elacatinus and Tigrigobius but noted “most of its distinctive features are associated with its peculiar snout and mouth, which finds no close parallel in either group…” They also noted that the flattened head “is an adaptation for maintaining position on the bottom in the surf”
Ever wonder about how it got its name?
What do the Caribbean’s Sailfin Blenny and the Osprey (bird) have in common?
The first specimen of the Sailfin Blenny was collected in 1899 during an expedition aboard the steamer Fish Hawk.
In 1900, Everman and Marsh described the fish we now commonly call the Sailfin Blenny. They named it Emblemaria pandionis, and in their description said, “Named for the U.S. Fish Commission steamer, Fish Hawk, Pandion being the generic name of the fish-hawk or osprey, Pandion carolinenesis.”
What do the Arrow Blenny and Stan Waterman, celebrated filmmaker and raconteur, have in common? The name, Lucayablennius zingaro.
The fish was described in 1957 by by James Böhlke, who wrote, “..collected by Charles C. G. Chaplin, Stanton Waterman, Edwin Brownrigg and the writer from Sta. 295, about 1/ mile north of the east end of Green Cay, Bahamas:..” and “…collected from Waterman’s boat, the Zingaro, for which the species is named…”
When I contacted Stan years ago for permission to use the photo of him on Zingaro, he wrote that he had originally considered naming his boat, the Polyp but instead chose Zingaro, from the Italian “gypsy”.
What’s in a common name?
Common names that convey a physical characteristic of a fish are helpful for fish watchers. In the case of fangblennies, we don’t often see their fangs. This one was threatened because it was guarding eggs and we got too close. Some, but not all fangblennies have venom glands. This one, the Shorthead Fangblenny, Petroscirtes breviceps, does not.
Another fish with an appropriate common name: A Biglip Damsel, Cheiloprion labiatus – the little fish with the Hollywood lips. The Biglip Damsel feeds on Acropora coral polyps so it has likely developed that fleshy pout to protect itself against the sharp coral skeleton.
Above left: The Anchor Tuskfish, Choerodon anchorago, described by ichthyologist and physician, Marcus Elieser Bloch in 1791, and originally placed it in genus Sparus. We’ve watched these fish move large pieces of coral and rocks with those teeth in order to get to a tasty mollusk. This individual was photographed in Maluku, Indonesia.
Above right: The second image is a beautiful illustration by J.F. Hennig for Bloch’s multi-volume natural history of fishes, Naturgeschichte der ausländischen Fische
Looking forward: 2021
Ned has selected about eight of his favorite natural history stories – all previously published years ago in diving magazines – and is updating them with additional images and notes. Starting next week, and over this coming year, we’ll post them here.
He has written for several diving magazines since the late 1970s, and for a couple of years, served as editor in chief, then co-editor of Ocean Realm Magazine, before the publisher in Jacksonville sold it in the late 80s. He continued to write for the new owners, and starting in 1995, we wrote a regular column there: Underwater Naturalist. Many of those articles became the basis for our Reef Fish Behavior book, first published in 1999. The updated second edition was published in 2019 (available at Fishid.com).
We’ve written Encounters articles for Alert Diver for the past ten years. Most of those are online at AlertDiver.com (see Alert Diver DeLoach), but our bookshelves and cabinets overflow with pre-2010, old print magazines. Spending most of 2020 at home gave me the time to scan those, and I’m at nearly 250 magazine articles, with several healthy stacks yet to do. I’d have them all scanned, but it often takes over an hour per article because I have to read all the other articles and adverts in the old magazine – often quite an entertaining journey back through time.
Our original intention was to load all the scanned articles up on this site, but the scan quality of the older articles isn’t so great, or we have better images now, or we know more about the subject now, or the article had a limit on word count and we had so much more we wanted to say, or… So, we decided to load scans of a few favorite articles here on our Publications page, and as Ned reworks other favorites, we’ll post them here.
Happy 2021, and check back soon.