This colorful parrotfish living amongst the reef in Belize, flashed me a giant smile, showing me some bright white teeth. They use these teeth to scrape algae off corals and rocks, thus preventing algae overgrowth in the reef. This harsh treatment on their teeth as they eat means that they grow continuously throughout their life. I must say that it is a totally different felling getting a toothy smile from a parrotfish compared to a toothy grin from a shark!
A gorgeous school of Blue Tang fish swimming through the corals around South Water Caye island in Belize. These fish swim across you in undulating waves, and it’s very soothing and relaxing to watch them. They mostly swim in a large school of fish, moving through the water as if they are a single large organism, all connected and communicating. They seem so peaceful, as if no predators exist in the world, and for those moments I wish that could be true for us all.
Would you even know you were looking at one of the worlds most venomous fish? Anyone would be grumpy with a face like this one. This is a stonefish and as you can imagine is easily stepped on by people due to the fact that it is not easily distinguished from its surroundings. The venom from this fish is extremely painful and can be lethal, so of course (like most venomous things) it lives in waters around Australia. If you are unfortunate enough to be stung by this fish, heat treatment of the site can be used to destroy the venom. For more severe cases antivenom is administered. The moral of this story is that when snorkeling do not pick up or touch anything….. even something as harmless looking as a stone can kill you.
For other snorkeling posts please click here.
This week I wanted to continue the theme of spotted sea creatures. This is a spotted eagle ray, also seen while snorkeling off the beach in Jamaica. They live in tropical waters and have one of the longest tails compared to other sting rays. Unlike most other fish they give birth to live baby sting rays. I must apologize for the bad photography, this ray did not make things easy for me at all. He instantly knew the second I had spotted him (pun intended) and took off so fast that I had to channel my inner Olympic swimmer to get any photo at all! These beautiful underwater creatures are named eagles for a reason, they truly do appear as though they are flying underwater with no resistance at all…. the absolute opposite of my clumsy thrashing and getting nowhere at all.
This beautiful Squirrelfish was spotted (with quite a few others) whilst recently snorkeling in Jamaica. These fish chose a home amongst the corals and rock crevices which they become very territorial about. They get incredibly defensive when someone infringes upon their space and will issue warnings by grunting and making other high pitched noises (which I obviously cannot hear underwater). For those of us who are hard of hearing, this fish also threateningly raised the spines along its back to let me know that I got too close. Once it realised I was a friend it went back to happily swimming laps around the coral and posing for some more friendly photos too. Because this fish stays close to its territory all the time it meant that I could find the exact same fish in the same location the next day. Click here for other underwater posts.
This gorgeous and very large clam was photographed while swimming off a beach on Fitzroy Island, Australia. This beautiful island is situated just off the coast of Queensland about a 45 minute boat ride from Cairns. It is surrounded by coral reef that is part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, where you can see many different corals, clams, fish and even turtles. Clams are incredibly fascinating creatures especially in regards to their life cycle and reproductive habits. They are born male and remain so for the first few years of life and produce sperm to reproduce. Once mature they also develop ovaries and produce eggs making them hermaphrodites. To maintain genetic diversity, clams living in the same area will spawn at the same time. Clam spawning, along with many corals takes place when sea temperatures rise and the moon is at the correct phase. Once spawning has begun they simultaneously release reproductive pheromones telling other nearby clams to spawn. First they release sperm which gets moved away by the current (hopefully to meet another clams eggs), and then they release eggs (to hopefully meet another clams sperm). After fertilization takes place the baby clam passes through a mobile larval stage (which sadly many do not survive), before finally settling on a permanent home and growing into the beautiful, colorful clams that we see amongst the corals.
For other underwater posts, please click here.
This past trip to Mexico we made sure we went when the whale sharks are known to migrate to the warmer waters of the Mexican-Caribbean Sea, usually mid May to September. This photograph was taken by our guide from Ocean Tours, of my husband next to one of these gentle and giant whale sharks. Unfortunately I didn’t make it into many photos because every time I jumped into the water, I was immediately transfixed by the majestic creature in front of me, that I would forget to channel my inner Olympic swimmer to keep up with them! The bus-sized whale sharks were slowly cruising through the water, sucking up plankton without a care in sight, and even with their slow motions easily outswam us. I really enjoyed going on this tour because it felt like Mexican authorities really care about these mysterious beauties. There are many rules and regulations in place to make sure that people are not infringing on the whale sharks natural behaviors, feeding and migratory habits. They limit the season length, the number of boats, and allow only two people with a guide in the water with the shark at any time. They really want to make this a sustainable attraction, and I feel that many countries could use this as a great example that nature should be prioritized over fast monetary gain. Although I am not in any way a comfortable boat person, and after a while was “feeding the fishes” rather than swimming with them, I would recommend this fantastic experience to anyone.
Please click here to see my other underwater posts.
I can say that I have been a truly lucky human being to have had the opportunity to swim with sea turtles on quite a few occasions. This turtle was photographed while snorkeling at a beach on Fitzroy Island, a beautiful tropical paradise near Cairns (in Queensland, Australia). A lazy afternoon, just myself, my husband and several turtles… and we watched as they went about their daily munching on sea grasses. To swim with these beautiful reptiles makes you appreciate how graceful they are at moving under the water, and they are quite content to have you swimming nearby. You’d think that for an animal which has outlived the dinosaurs, they should be happy, but instead they always look sad. Actually many of them are now listed on the endangered species list, which also makes me incredibly sad. I especially get upset when people think that rather than just observing wildlife, they interfere with it. I have seen this happen to turtles in Hawaii, where divers or snorkelers will grab onto them. This is NOT ok, and more respect should be given to these ancient and incredible creatures.
So these little fish are more amazing than I ever knew. They live amongst anemone tentacles protected by a layer of mucous that covers their body. This symbiotic relationship means that clownfish are protected from predators, and get left over scraps of food from the anemone. In exchange the clownfish drive off intruders and keep the anemone clean of parasites. Interestingly all clownfish are born male, but the largest clownfish in a group is female. If she dies, her mate increases in size and transforms into a female and subsequently mates with the next largest male. It is thought that because adult clownfish rarely stray from their homes, this evolutionary trait ensures that there is always a female and a male in the small group.
For my other post on clownfish Click here.
This small coral structure looks like a beautiful underwater castle. It is a hard coral which is home to millions of teeny tiny individual polyps in a castle constructed out of calcium carbonate. Other likely residents within this castle are single-celled algae. The algae use energy from the sun to make sugars and fats which they share with the coral allowing it to grow faster. The coral animals also make waste which feeds the algae. Together they make a very large and happy family of teeny residents in a beautiful castle. They even have a blue Christmas tree worm as a pet in the yard!