Banded Sea Snake: Laticauda laticauda

My first video of an air-breather!  Banded Sea Snakes, a.k.a. Banded Sea Kraits, are active and bold, but docile.  They have one of the deadliest venoms in the world, but reserve it for fish.  They are active foragers, and can be observed for extended periods of time probing reef pockets for cornered fish, rarely surfacing for air. It is widely thought that their mouths are too small to bite humans, but this is not true; however, due to their calm nature, bites are rare and only occur when they are handled. The genus name of "Laticauda" is Latin for "wide tail" -- if you look closely in this video you can see the broad, laterally-flattened tail that improves their swimming ability.  In addition to needing to breathe air, they also need to drink fresh water, and emerge onto land to do so. They also rest, mate and nest on land.  They are common throughout the Indo-Pacific.  This beauty was filmed in Puerto Galera, Philippines.

Special Guest Narration: Dr. James B. Wood on "Octopuses"

This is Macronesia's first narrated video!  Dr. James B. Wood, marine biologist, introduces us to the world of octopuses, with Macronesia video footage from Guam and the Philippines.  

James is also webmsater for The Cephalopod Page and author of Octopus: The Ocean's Intelligent Invertebrate

The beautiful piano music is "Horizon," courtesy of Ralph Zurmühle from the CD "Our Mother," ©2006, www.ralphpiano.com

To dive deeper and leave human voices behind, I've also provided an instrumental version of this video (click the black and white image below):


 

Hairy Squat Lobster: Lauriea siagiani

These flamboyant members of the squat lobster family, Galatheidae, are commensal on large giant barrel sponges Xestospongia muta.  These sponges are filter feeders, drawing nutrient-rich water in through its walls.  The hairy squat lobster appears to feed on nutrient particles collected on the long white bristles covering the body, which are then combed into the mouthparts by the claws and legs.  These video clips were captured in Anilao and Puerto Galera, Philippines.  

Original Soundtrack: Catching Without Touching by Rod Adams

Macronesia is about life.  Life is about friends.  At its best, it's friends creating together.  My friend Rod Adams is a talented guitarist and songwriter (and teacher and urban farmer).  Rod wrote and recorded this fantastic guitar instrumental specifically as a soundtrack for Macronesia videos, and I composed this video to honor this contribution.  

Special Memorial Project: "Their Celebrations" by This Will Destroy You for the Chris Friedrich Memorial Fund

The musical community has been generous in sharing permission to use its art as soundtracks for Macronesia video productions.  The post-rock community was recently shocked by the unexpected death of Caspian bassist Chris Friedrich.  Their friends in This Will Destroy You  have offered an unreleased track, "Their Celebrations",  in exchange for donations to the Chris Friedrich Memorial Fund, benefiting Chris's widowed wife of only four months.

TWDY have agreed to let me use this song as soundtrack to this video project, in hopes that we may bring more support to the Fund.  Please help me give back to the artists who bring added beauty to Macronesia videos.

 

Click the image to hear "Their Celebrations" and donate to the Chris Friedrich Memorial Fund

Click the image to hear "Their Celebrations" and donate to the Chris Friedrich Memorial Fund

Eels: "The Dragon" by The Calm Blue Sea

This music video features moray eels and snake eels from the tropical Pacific, filmed in Guam and the Philippines.  Quite appropriately, it is set to the song "The Dragon" by The Calm Blue Sea (with permission).

Fearsome countenance.  Serpentine form.  Menacing fangs.  Dragons, indeed. 

Despite their snake-like appearances, eels are fishes...predatory bony fishes, with reduced gill openings, and dorsal, anal and caudal fins fused into one long fin running the length of the body.  Most feed on fishes, octopus and squids with sharp knife-like canine teeth, while some (like Echidna nebulosa and Siderea thyrsoidea) crunch crustaceans with short conical teeth.  

Snake eels lack scales and have a hard, pointed finless tail tip that they use to burrow backwards into the sand where they lie in wait for their prey, rarely emerging fully.

Most eels are more active by night. While frightening in appearance, eels are typically docile -- but can inflict serious injuries when threatened.

Here be dragons. 

Much gratitude to The Calm Blue Sea for permission to use their music for Macronesia compositions.  Please explore The Calm Blue Sea's web site and Facebook page.

Reference:  Myers, R. F. 1999. Micronesian Reef Fishes.  Coral Graphics, USA. 

Sea Hare: Phyllaplysia lafonti

Apart from settling back into grad school life, I've been trying to catch up on cataloging all of my videos from my last two-week trip to the Philippines.  It's slow going, and I decided to take a break and edit up a short video late last night on this very unusual little sea hare which I've only seen once. 

Meet Phyllaplysia lafonti (a.k.a. Petalifera lafonti by some, but I have it on authority of my friends at Nudibase that Phyllaplysia is the proper genus).   The sea hares (Anaspidea) are a big group of sea slugs that are widespread and diverse in size and color, but they are all herbivores (plant eaters).  Most of them still have a small internal shell that they retain from their shelled snail-like ancestors, and many of them can spew purple ink as a defense mechanism, much like an octopus.

This subtly pretty hare is found exclusively on Padina brown algae, to which it is well-camouflaged.  They are found in all tropical oceans.  This one was filmed at Piti, Guam, and as I mentioned I have only seen the species this one time.

 

Macronesia on Facebook

Macronesia on Facebook

Soft Coral Crab: Hoplophrys oatesii

In the spiny, colorful spicules of Dendronephthya soft coral, sometimes called "cotton candy corals", lurks the gumdrop-sized Hoplophrys oatesii, clad like a warrior in colorful camouflaged spines.  

Sometimes called the "candy crab", these marvelous little beasts will pinch off clumps of the soft coral and transplant them on their backs to add to their camouflage.  

While they look fierce, they only grow to 20mm (less than one inch) across, and they are hiders, not fighters. 

The genus Hoplophrys is "monotypic"...that means that there is only one species in the genus.  H. oatesii is the only one. 

Flamboyant Cuttlefish: Metasepia pfefferi

The name says it all:  the flamboyant cuttlefish is one of the most striking cephalopods, in appearance and behavior.  Usually no more that 8 cm (3 in), their small stature is offset by their big and bizarre behavior and literally "flashy" coloration.  They usually move around by "walking" along the bottom, waddling by moving the bottom of the mantle back and forth in a comical elephant-like shuffle, while undulating their fins and waving their brightly-colored tentacles.  When startled, they will "gallop" off, darkening in coloration and waving their tentacles wildly.  Most striking is their habit of flashing black and white bars of color along the mantle.  When at rest, they can go light or dark to find camouflage on the ocean bottom.

The flashy color and flagrant behavior is no bluff...they are highly toxic, one of only three poisonous cephalopods. 

Cuttlefish hunt by extending feeding tentacles like a tongue, slowly aiming at their prey then rapidly launching the tentacles for a quick grab.  There's a (shaky) capture of the behavior in this video.

These flamboyant cuttlefish were filmed in Puerto Galera, Philippines.  It was the first time I had ever seen them, after years of anticipation...one of my more thrilling underwater experiences! 

For more info, check out the Wikipedia entry. 

Music:  "Odyssey" by Amethystium...please become a fan... 

 

 

Long-tailed Sea Hare: Stylocheilus longicauda

This flamboyantly-colored sea slug belongs to the family collectively known as "sea hares" (Aplysiidae).  They are herbivores, feeding on algaes and seaweeds.   

This individual was only ~25mm in length, not including the long (longi-) tail (-cauda) for which it is named.  The species is adapted to living on floating seaweed.  Sea hares of this genus can be very numerous, in the thousands, when conditions are right.  

This lone individual was found in Piti Channel, Guam.   In over 60 dives at this site, we have seen it only this once.

Nudibranchs and Sea Slugs of Guam (Part I)

For this inaugural Macronesia post, I'll start off close to home.  I have been living and working on the island of Guam, the largest of the Mariana Islands in the region of the Pacific known as Micronesia, for most of the last 6 years.  Over 485 species of nudibranch and sea slug are known from the waters of the Mariana Islands, though the vast majority are rarely seen and many more certainly remain undiscovered. 

This video portrays a random sampling of nudibranchs and sea slugs from Guam.   The first is a small dorid nudibranch that I have not been able to confidently identify, and have only seen this one time.  Cyerce elegans is an exquisite little sea slug whose body projections, called "cerata", magically camouflage it as tunicates and easily break off to allow it to escape predator attacks.  The fluffier portions of the body appendages along Bornella stellifer act as secondary gills.  Members of the genus Petalifera belong to a group known as "sea hares".  The striking Halgerda guahan is about the size of an egg, and is named for the Chamorro word for Guam, "Guahan".  Nudibranchs of the genus Aldisa are remarkable mimics of the marine sponges that they feed on.  The "spanish dancer", Hexabranchus sanguineus, is one of the largest and best-known nudibranchs, though few ever see them in their juvenile coloration.

You'll see through future posts that I've got an inordinate fondness for nudibranchs and sea slugs. 

 

Nudibranchs and Sea Slugs of Guam (Part II)

We continue with another random selection of nudibranch and sea slug diversity from Guam. 

"Cincta" is Latin for "surrounded" or "encircled"; Glossodoris cincta is surrounded by an attractive margin of yellow and blue along the mantle.   Dollabella auricularia is the largest of the sea slugs known as "sea hares", and can grow as large as a big man's shoe.  Phaneropthalmus smaragdinus is one of the primitive sea slugs that still retains a partial shell inherited from its snail-like ancestors, though it is greatly reduced and hidden by the mass of the body.  Noumea angustolutea is sometimes found under coral rubble on shallow patch reefs.  Phyllidia guamensis is known only from Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, and is one of the area's more commonly seen nudibranchs as it is often exposed on the reef during the daytime.  Hypselodoris maculosa has striking coloration and markings.  Notobryon and other members of this family can swim by laterally flattening and flexing the body, and some live on floating algae drifting with the ocean's currents.  Some primitive sea slugs, like Bullina vitrea, still retain an obvious external shells.  Like many nudibranchs, little is known about the natural history of Noumea norba.  The group of nudibranchs know as Aeolids, like this Aeolidiella sp., are characterized by numerous body projections called cerata.  This lace-like unidentified discodorid may be a form of Halgerda sp.  The magnificent Phyllodesmium magnum feeds on soft corals and is a very rare sighting on Guam.