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Marine Life & Conservation

Is it anenome or anemone?

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Plenty of tongue-twisting words for underwater creatures exist.  Somehow mine for most of my life was simply anemone.  Even as I write this, spell correct just corrected the word anemone.  For me, it remains a conscious effort to say or write this word correctly.  Eventually I realized my mistake but it was only after moving to Norway and while I was learning Norwegian.  I am not exactly sure why I would have ever used the word before I started to scuba dive.  Anemones were not necessarily in my conscience prior to diving, and it was in a pre-Finding Nemo era.   Even then instead of calling him an anemonefish, most people just call him a clownfish, which he is also.

Anemone, however, is not the kind of word that comes up in casual conversation, nor are you going to learn it in language class, not ever.  When you are trying to learn a new language, you will read anything to become proficient (even advertisements are suddenly interesting) but luckily, a Norwegian diving magazine exists.  One of the ways that I would work on trying to learn Norwegian was to read the magazine.  Honestly, I learned some useful words from “Dykking” and among them was anemone.  It was then that I finally learned how to really say the word in English (which is easier to pronounce in Norwegian because of the syllable accent), and if you look at the name Nemo it is in fact a part of the right way to say the word.  In my dictionary it would have been Neno, which of course makes no sense at all.

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I really do not know how my obsession with anemones developed.  I suppose they are easy targets for photography because you can readily identify them on your own as a new diver.  And because of the anemonefish, although it is nearly impossible to take the fish photos as they constantly move.  I like the fish, but I am more enamored of the anemone.  Any kind of anemone.  I will spot anemonefish hanging midwater and feel compelled to see the anemone over which they play.  It must be entirely annoying to the dive guides who are working feverishly to find rare, micro-macroscopic creatures to show me.   At the same time, I am easy to please.  I am probably the only person who has ever shouted anemonefish (rather than whaleshark or manta) at the end of a dive on approach to the liveaboard boat.

Anyone who knows me, knows of my obsession.  “Always looking at anemones,” a guide once said to me.  But even he admitted that they are beautiful.  I am constantly taking photos of them, and yet dive guides will still humor me by pointing out even more.  Sometimes there are some simple scientific principles that I do like to test on them – for example, that color diminishes with depth-because anemones exhibit such natural variation in it.  The strobe will change this depth effect, but by the time I reach the surface, I have often forgotten what their color was at depth!  You can also test your skills at taking dramatic, abstract shots by photographing the mouth because of shadows and variation in color.   Many of these photos end up not so innocent looking though, like a giant Georgia O’Keefe painting of a flower.

The underside scientifically referred to as the column (skirt in common use) of the anemone can be the biggest photographic surprise of all.  Textures are fascinating, and colors defy your imagination.  Sometimes they are even polka-dotted.  Other times the column is wildly uncoordinated with the color of the tentacles.  Purple column, red tentacles; yes, I saw this combination in Panglao Beach in the Philippines.  How does this color combination evolve and who is this anemone trying to attract or distract?

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But what do I really know about anemones?  Not a whole lot apparently.  I only recently discovered that they are related to coral and that like coral, they also have a symbiotic relationship with algae, one that gives them their color.  I was shocked on a second cruise to Komodo within a two-month timeframe, to find a large proportion of “white anemones”.  A cruise director informed me that they were not new anemones (because anemones are known to live a long time – as long as 100 years) but instead bleached anemones.  Bleaching is the loss of symbiotic algae, which in addition to giving anemones color, produce nutrients for them.  I am in complete awe of the array of tentacle colors (even pink, orange, and red), but the color of the column is animal pigment so it is all in the DNA of the anemone.  Not only are anemones a mini-habitat to many different crabs, shrimp, and anemonefish, but a photosynthetic factory contributes to the support of all of it.

For all of that natural beauty though, an anemone is not exactly a hospitable habitat.  Anemones are animals that sting.  They harbor special miniature harpoon-like structures called nematocysts which inject poison/toxin into the flesh of prey, predators, and even other anemones where there are territorial disputes.  The anemonefish, however, manages to live amongst the tentacles unharmed as do a variety of crustaceans.  This ability is currently attributed to the mucus covering the skin of animals, and it is thought to prevent the triggering of the nematocysts.  What magic ingredient within the mucous prevents discharge of the nematocyst remains a secret.  Where the mucus comes from is even of controversy, probably because different species of anemonefish and anemones behave differently, but the protective mucus appears to originate from either the fish or the anemone.  However, it might be a bit like superman and Planet Krypton because the mucus shield is not an all for one.  In the right anemone, fish are protected, and in the wrong one, they can be just as vulnerable as another fish.

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How anemonefish find an anemone to live in is another question with diverse answers.  In fact, some anemonefish are less discriminating in terms of which type of anemone they can live in, whereas others have a distinct species that they inhabit.  It seems that to some degree the fish are attracted by specific chemical signals originating from the anemone and less so by visual cues.  This ability seems to be partly due to genetics, which is greatly enhanced if fertilized eggs are located within close proximity of their typical anemone home.  It is believed then that the anemone makes factors that subtly influence the eggs predisposing them to responding to the cues and thus, finding a similar home when they grow up.

When you look at an anemone, you do not have to think too much about why the fish might want to live there.  It is a beautiful house, you can easily hide in it, and if there is a real threat, the anemone can close itself around you.  But anemones also look like they could just feel nice… as long as you are able to avoid the problem of engaging the nematocysts.  Research actually shows that fish may engage in certain hedonistic behaviors.   Anemonefish in a tank, when isolated from the anemone, for example, will bathe in the bubbles originating from the aerator.  Real scientific measurements have been made, however.  Cortisol, which is an indicator of stress, is actually found to be decreased in fish that are in contact with certain tactile sensations.

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What exactly does an anemonefish do for the anemone?  Apparently other people have had the same question (and fortunately got grant money to study it).  I had zero ideas for the answer to this question so I did what we all do, I literally typed that question into Google.com.  The first link that popped up was “Dancing Nemo: Clownfish wiggles do an anemone good”.  No joke and who could resist reading an article with a title like that?  This short paragraph led me to the real research article, which has the title “Anemonefish oxygenate their anemone hosts at night”.  The bottom line is that the movement of the fish, which are especially active at night, keeps nutrient and gas flow (oxygen) constant over the anemone.  Hmm, so maybe as an underwater photographer I may actually be helping the anemone because the fish move constantly when I try to take a photo.

Additional reasons have been proposed for why the fish is beneficial to the anemone as well.  The anemone can snack on scraps from the fish, and it is even thought that nutrients from the fish waste are also good for the anemone.  Furthermore, the fish protect the anemone from predators, that I would never have guessed, are the lovely butterfly fish.  Apparently these fish are also impervious to the stinging by anemones, and without the anemonefish, anemones are quite vulnerable in the natural coral reef habitat.  I have myself undergone direct attack by anemonefish (very scary), but I always thought they were protecting their eggs.

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There are a thousand lessons to learn about relationships in nature just by looking at an anemone.   And I am sure there are many others that we can not see.  But this is why there has been so much research performed on them.

The fact that some very violent stuff is taking place within anemones does not change my opinion about them.  Perhaps, their beauty is also viewed by other fish, and it is one of their ways to attract prey.  It seems like that would be enough to attract me to an anemone, but maybe I was just an anenomefish in another life…

What burning question do you have about symbiotic relationships of sealife???

Janice Nigro is an avid scuba diver with a PhD in biology.  She is a scientist who has studied the development of human cancer at universities in the USA and Norway, and has discovered the benefits of artistic expression through underwater photography and story writing of her travel adventures.

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Diving with Frogfish in Costa Rica: A Hidden Gem Underwater

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frogfish

In the vast and vibrant underwater world of Costa Rica, there’s a peculiar creature that often goes unnoticed but holds a special place in the hearts of divers: the frogfish. This enigmatic and somewhat odd-looking species is a master of camouflage and a marvel of marine life. Diving with frogfish in Costa Rica is not just a dive; it’s an adventurous treasure hunt that rewards the patient and observant with unforgettable encounters. Let’s dive into the world of frogfish and discover what makes these creatures so fascinating and where you can find them in Costa Rica.

The Mystique of Frogfish

Frogfish belong to the family Antennariidae, a group of marine fish known for their incredible ability to blend into their surroundings. They can be found in a variety of colors, including yellow, pink, red, green, black, and white, and they often have unique spots and textures that mimic the coral and sponges around them. This camouflage isn’t just for show; it’s a critical survival tactic that helps them ambush prey and avoid predators.

One of the most remarkable features of the frogfish is its modified dorsal fin, which has evolved into a luring appendage called an esca. The frogfish uses this esca to mimic prey, such as small fish or crustaceans, enticing unsuspecting victims close enough to be engulfed by its surprisingly large mouth in a fraction of a second. This method of hunting is a fascinating spectacle that few divers forget once witnessed.

Where to Find Frogfish in Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s Pacific coast is dotted with dive sites that offer the chance to encounter these intriguing creatures. Bat Islands (Islas Murciélagos), Catalina Islands (Islas Catalinas), and the area around the Gulf of Papagayo are renowned for their rich marine life, including frogfish. These sites vary in depth and conditions, catering to both novice and experienced divers.

The key to spotting frogfish is to dive with a knowledgeable guide who can point out these master camouflagers hiding in plain sight. They’re often found perched on rocky outcroppings, nestled within coral, or even hiding among debris, perfectly mimicking their surroundings.

frogfish

Diving Tips for Spotting Frogfish

Go Slow: The secret to spotting frogfish is to move slowly and scan carefully. Their camouflage is so effective that they can be right in front of you without being noticed.

Look for Details: Pay attention to the small details. A slightly different texture or an out-of-place color can be the clue you need.

Dive with Local Experts: Local dive guides have an eagle eye for spotting wildlife, including frogfish. Their expertise can significantly increase your chances of an encounter.

Practice Buoyancy Control: Good buoyancy control is essential not just for safety and coral preservation but also for getting a closer look without disturbing these delicate creatures.

Be Patient: Patience is key. Frogfish aren’t known for their speed, and sometimes staying in one spot and observing can yield the best sightings.

Conservation and Respect

While the excitement of spotting a frogfish can be thrilling, it’s crucial to approach all marine life with respect and care. Maintain a safe distance, resist the urge to touch or provoke, and take only photos, leaving behind nothing but bubbles. Remember, the health of the reef and its inhabitants ensures future divers can enjoy these incredible encounters as much as you do.

Join the Adventure

Diving with frogfish in Costa Rica is just one of the many underwater adventures that await in this biodiverse paradise. Whether you’re a seasoned diver or taking your first plunge, the waters here offer an unparalleled experience filled with wonders at every turn. Beyond the thrill of the hunt for frogfish, you’ll be treated to a world teeming with incredible marine life, majestic rays, playful dolphins, and so much more.

So, gear up, dive in, and let the mysteries of Costa Rica’s underwater realm unfold before your eyes. With every dive, you’re not just exploring the ocean; you’re embarking on an adventure that highlights the beauty, complexity, and fragility of our marine ecosystems. And who knows? Your next dive might just be the one where you come face-to-face with the elusive and captivating frogfish. Join us at Rocket Frog Divers for the dive of a lifetime, where the marvels of the ocean are waiting to be discovered.

About the Author: Jonathan Rowe

Are you looking to make a splash online? As a seasoned diver and digital marketer, I specialize in crafting bespoke websites and innovative marketing strategies for dive shops worldwide. With my expertise, your business will not only be seen but also remembered.

From deep-sea to digital depths, I navigate the complex waters of web development and online marketing, ensuring your dive shop stands out in the vast ocean of the internet. Contact Scuba Dive Marketing for more information.

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Marine Life & Conservation

Save the Manatee Club launches brand new webcams at Silver Springs State Park, Florida

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manatee

Save the Manatee® Club has launched a brand-new set of underwater and above-water webcams at Silver Springs State Park in Ocala, FL. These new cameras add to our existing cameras at Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, Florida, and Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, in Homosassa, Florida, which are viewed by millions of people worldwide. The cameras are a collaboration between Save the Manatee Club, Explore.org, and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, who made the new live streaming collaboration possible via support of their interpretative program.

The above-water camera is a stationary pan/tilt/zoom camera that will show manatees and other wildlife from above water, while the new underwater camera provides the viewer with a brand new, exciting 180-degree viewing experience. Viewers can move the cameras around, trying to spot various fish and manatees.

The Silver River, which originates at Silver Springs, provides important habitat for manatees and many other species of wildlife. Over recent years, more manatees have been seen utilizing the Silver and Ocklawaha rivers. “The webcams provide a wonderful entertainment and educational tool to the general public, but they also help us with the manatee research,” says Patrick Rose, Executive Director of Save the Manatee Club. “We have learned so much through observing manatees on our existing webcams, and the new cameras at Silver Spring can add to the existing manatee photo-ID research conducted in this area, as well as highlighting Silver Springs and the Silver River as an important natural habitat for manatees.”

The webcams are streaming live during the daytime, with highlights playing at night, and can be viewed on Explore.org and on Save the Manatee Club’s website at ManaTV.org.

Save the Manatee Club, established in 1981 by the late renowned singer-songwriter, author, and entrepreneur Jimmy Buffett, along with former Florida Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham, is dedicated to safeguarding manatees and preserving their aquatic habitat. For more information about manatees and the Club’s efforts, visit savethemanatee.org or call 1-800-432-JOIN (5646).

Photo: www.avalon.red

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Experience the Red Sea in May with Bella Eriny Liveaboard! As the weather warms up, there’s no better time to dive into the crystal clear waters of the Red Sea. Join us on Bella Eriny, your premier choice for Red Sea liveaboards, this May for an unforgettable underwater adventure. Explore vibrant marine life and stunning coral reefs Enjoy comfortable accommodation in our spacious cabins Savor delicious meals prepared by our onboard chef Benefit from the expertise of our professional dive guides Visit our website for more information and to secure your spot: www.scubatravel.com/BellaEriny or call 01483 411590 More Less

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