Video series: Take a Minute

In this video series, we invite you to “Take a Minute” to relax and refresh your mind and soul with visual meditation. Take a 1-minute break from whatever you are doing to immerse yourself in the beauty of our blue planet. For this minute, Yoeri selects one long shot to allow you to fully focus on one creature or seascape. Dive into the scene, feel the energy, open your heart, connect to the subject, look for details or simply get carried away!

Be here now. Take this one minute to be fully present, instead of analysing the past or planning the future. It is quite interesting to see how long and relaxing one minute can be as soon as we stay in that moment - fully aware, fully present, fully relaxed. Observing one long scene, in contrary to the bombardment of pictures, news and fast cuts we are getting on a daily basis, helps to calm us down, to ground and centre us. Sometimes all it takes is 1 minute to recharge.

Diving is our form of active meditation. Underwater we find happiness in the present moment. There are so many healing and soothing factors to the ocean. There is so much we love about diving and nature.

We will get to that. For now, enjoy!

Video gallery of the entire clip collection

Further down there are the separate clips with full descriptions listed - have it your way.

Take a Minute I: Reef top with batfish (Platax)
Voriges 1 von 2 Nächstes
Voriges 1 von 2 Nächstes

Single video clips with full descriptions

Take a Minute to Relax I

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This shallow and sheltered part of the reef is perfect to start or or end a dive. Take a minute to let your eyes wander over the healthy and abundant corals. Gently moving closer to examine a group a Batfish (Platax) hanging out in one corner of the reef - simply taking their time to relax. Over the years we saw members this group of Batfish (also called Spadefish) growing up. So beautiful to continuously be one with nature - diving rules. So wonderful to see the positive impact of protected marine areas in Wakatobi.

Enjoy Sulawesi Splendour for more beautiful underwater videography.

Take a Minute to Relax II

We happily present our second clip of“Take a Minute”, a series of short films created to relax and refresh your mind and soul with visual meditation (longer description below). This 1-minute clip is featuring a nudibranch, an underwater sea slug, called Coryphellina rubrolineata. Take a Minute to look at all the beautiful details on this creature and how it eats this hydroid. Can you see the bite it took passing through the digestive tract?

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We tell ourselves to be mindful, even when doing regular things in life, like eating. However, truly living in the moment, becomes so much easier underwater, not only is the marine life right there and then, but also we are more focused and aware of ourselves and our bodies. All our worries and (self-)doubts stay at the surface and hopefully you'll take your time to look and really observe the world around you. The overall picture (like the video clip two weeks ago: Take a Minute I) invites you to dream away. Details, like of this nudibranch, really lure you into the scene. Observing creatures and their behaviour is beautiful and relaxing in itself, but it becomes even more rewarding when we know their names and understand what they are doing.

The characteristic of aeolid nudibranchs like this Coryphellina rubrolineata are long, narrow bodies with numerous horn-like extension which are called cerata and serve as gills of these sea slugs. Nudibranch originates from the Latin word nudus meaning naked and Ancient Greek bránkhia for gills as nudibranchs have their gills exposed on their backs. The form of the cerata extends the surface for respiration (breathing) significantly, but the cerata is also used for defence. Like shown in this clip many aeolid nudibranchs feed on hydroids and their stinging cells (nematocysts) pass through the digestive system of some aeolids unharmed and are built into the tips of the cerata.

For more weird and wonderful clips, pictures and information on nudibranchs visit our website and take a look at the entry “Nudibranchs: Everybody’s darling” or watch more of the underwater clips Yoeri filmed for Devocean Pictures in the section videography or on our YouTube Channel.

Take a Minute to Relax III

It’s time to to relax again, and “Take a Minute” with the third clip of our series for visual meditation (longer description below). This 1-minute film is a visual treat on multiple levels. Beautifully captured, you can focus on the eyes of a purple-blotched mantis shrimp (Odontodactylus latirostris) and slowly discover more and more of this fascinating marine creature while the camera is zooming out.

Take a Minute to look deep into the eyes of this juvenile mantis shrimp. Mantis shrimps have the most complex eyes and visual system so far discovered in the animal kingdom. It’s almost like they can look into another dimension. 😉

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The eyes on long stalks can be moved individually resulting in almost 360°view. Each eye can gauge depth and distance on its own by focusing on objects with three separate regions (trinocular vision). While human eyes have three types of photoreceptor cells, they have between 12 and 16 types. Mantis shrimp can perceive wavelengths of light ranging from deep ultraviolet (UVB) to far-red (300 to 720 nm), including fluorescent and polarized light.

This creature does not only amaze divers and photographers alike, but also scientists and engineers as they are learning more about the way these eyes function:

“Six species of mantis shrimp have been reported to be able to detect circularly polarized light, which has not been documented in any other animal, and whether it is present across all species is unknown. Some of their biological quarter-waveplates perform more uniformly over the visual spectrum than any current man-made polarising optics, and this could inspire new types of optical media that would outperform the current generation of Blu-ray Disc technology.” Wikipedia: Mantis shrimp

This juvenile purple-blotched mantis shrimp is a smasher. With their two raptorial appendages or clubs they can punch with the speed of a gunshot from a .22 calibre rifle. This rapid strike generates vapour-filled bubbles in the water between the appendage and the striking surface, called cavitation bubbles. These bubbles collapse and produce a measurable second hit after the instant forces of 1,500 newtons of the punch itself. Even if the initial blow misses the target, the shock wave of the collapsing cavitation bubble can be strong enough to stun or kill the prey.

This sequence was filmed in February 2020. We found this stunning critter in the bay of Amed on Bali (Indonesia). More to come! So please visit our channel and subscribe. Thank you!

Take a Minute to Relax IV

It’s time to “Take a Minute” again and to broaden the perspective on (marine) life with some visual meditation. Get into the groove and swing with this relaxed colony of garden eels. Unfortunately, worries and anxieties are on the rise. We do believe that nature is a beautiful way to calm the body and mind and nourish the soul. Luckily, in most countries, you are still allowed to leave the house for a walk in the woods. Our equivalent is a night dive tonight and, same as watching these garden eels dance, it will put a smile on our faces.

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Garden eels (Heteroconger) are in favour of a sessile lifestyle. They only get out of their house to change over to another burrow. Anchored in their holes in the sand they live in colonies. In calm waters they go about their business, moving in any direction they like. The stronger the current the more the are forced to follow the same approach to conserve energy: Face into current and form their bodies into a question mark. As you can see we had a pretty relaxed end of the dive at the Liberty wreck in Tulamben, Bali (Indonesia), in February 2020.

If you can’t get into nature yourself, watch some more of our underwater clips, nature documentaries or put on some music to sing and dance your troubles away. After home office make time for some home disco! There is an added bonus to both of these approaches. Hopefully they put a smile on your face. A psychological study has shown that holding a smile during brief and acute periods of stress helps to reduce the body’s stress response, such as a higher heartbeat. For this effect to work the person doesn’t even have to feel happy, though we truly hope smiling in times of social distance actually contributes to everybody’s health and happiness. And the best: Smiling is contagious!

Take a Minute to Relax V

In this edition of the visual meditation sessions "Take a Minute", we would like to focus your attention on the skeleton shrimp. Although commonly named that way, they are in fact no shrimps at all. Caprellidae, as is their actual scientific name, are a Family within the Order of amphipods. Caprellids are easily distinguishable from other amphipods by their slender, elongated bodies, which allows them to virtually blend into their habitat consisting of fine filaments of seaweed, hydroids and bryozoans. With this ability, they also earned the nick name of "ghost shrimp". They are omnivores that often like to stand upright to catch their food floating by in the current, whilst anchoring themselves to something with 3 pairs of appendages, named pereopods. Most Caprellids are sexually dimorphic, with the males usually being far larger than the females.

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In this particular shot, we see a male giving a "piggyback ride" to a female. They are about 2 cm in size. We thought this "uplifting" behaviour to be perhaps an example for us all during this difficult time, showing us that we should stand by, and help each other to get through this current situation ...

Take a Minute to Relax VI

In this visual meditation session of “Take a Minute”, we invite you to have a look at this “giant” among the little fellows. The Costasiella kuroshimae is a species of opisthobranch that is categorized as a sacoglossan sea slug, or sap sucking slug, due to its feeding behaviour. They can be found “grazing” on algae leaves, which earned them the nick name “Leaf Sheep”. Although most people these days know this creature under the name “Shaun the Sheep”, due to the uncanny likeness in “facial” expressions to the famous TV animation character. It is this adorable likeness that makes them one of the most famous nudibranchs today. This big superstar can grow up to a whopping 5 mm in size! So in order to fully enjoy an encounter with this aquatic “Shaun the Sheep”, one is advised to bring a magnifying glass. Otherwise one might be left with the same blank “Shaun the Sheep” expression on one’s face, when a dive guide points happily to a greenish speck on a leaf of algae. This tiny creature has the ability to extract the chloroplasts from the food it eats, and store them in its appendages, also known as cerata. This process is called kleptoplasty, and it enables “Shaun” to harvest/feed of the energy that is released by the photosynthesis of these accumulated chloroplasts . Pretty clever way to go about it, as you’re never really sure when the next meal will be!

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In this clip we see that the life of a superstar is far from easy. Since they usually live in shallow waters, there is a real chance that water conditions, like waves, currents, or surge, might quite literally throw them of their game …

Take a Minute to Relax VII

In this episode of visual meditation, we take you for a minute long swim over a healthy reef, with an abundance in marine life. Coral reefs make up less than 1% of the ocean's floor, yet are home to more than 25% of all marine life. The oceans depend on healthy coral reefs for its inhabitants, but so do we ... Coral reefs protect the land above the surface from the full force of the oceans. So, by protecting the reefs, we are in fact protecting ourselves! Enjoy the energy of a healthy reef, and the feeling of weightlessness ...

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Take a Minute to Relax VIII

The setting of this episode of visual meditation, is the Liberty Wreck in Bali. Here on a cloudy day in February, a Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) indifferently passes by, in search of food. She has learned over time that divers pose no threat to her, and comfortably swims around. Unfortunately, like all other sea turtles, the Hawksbill is an endangered species. Many of them drown when stuck in ghost nets, or other plastic rubbish. Although increased boat traffic, as well as human encroachment on their nesting beaches, aren't helping much either...

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The Hawksbill is rather aptly named, since it has a very pronounced beak resembling that of the bird of prey. An easy way to distinguish between the sexes, is the size of their "tail". When it's large it's a male, and when it's short it's a female. In this (butt)shot, it's quite easy to determine the sex of this particular Hawksbill. On top of that, during these complicated times it's nice to watch a sea turtle's butt for a while! 🙂

Take a Minute to Relax IX

In this episode of underwater meditation, we would like to introduce you to a creature whose scientific name does it much more justice than the common names it goes by. Known by divers and snorkellers as a Seamoth, Pegasus, or Dragonfish, its scientific name has it all: Eurypegasus draconis. The Greek word "eury" meaning long, "pegasus" after the legendary winged horse, and the Latin word "draconis" meaning dragon. This beautiful little critter is an ancient relative of the seahorse, and it too has an exoskeleton made of interlocking bony plates. They're actually able to change the colour of their suit of armour to better blend into their environment. Interestingly, unlike many other fish, this creature sheds its scales all in one go, leaving a cast much like a snake or crustacean. This is done as often as every 5 days, and is believed to be linked to achieving the perfect camouflage for this bottom-dwelling fish.

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It has a short squat body with a tail roughly the size of its upper body. It also possesses beautiful wing-like pectoral fins, which it uses to crawl along the seafloor with. Although, when one looks closer, one can see that it also has 2 adapted anal fins that are the main contributing source of its movement. Another distinguishing feature is its long rostrum, or snout, with which it can dig in the sand to find food. The mouth of this creature is actually underneath the rostrum, rather than on the tip of it.
Eurypegasus draconis mate for life, and can therefore often be found roaming the seabed together. Unlike its distant relative the seahorse, they are broadcast spawners. This means they glide up to about 50cm of the bottom in a dance like display, with their undersides pressed closely together, to release their eggs and sperm in the water column where they can mix freely before drifting away. It is the weird and wonderful creatures, like the Eurypegasus draconis, that make diving, and in fact life itself, such an interesting experience!

Take a Minute to Relax X

In this 10th episode of visual meditation, we'd like to introduce you to the elegant squat lobster (Allogalathea elegans). This curious creature is actually closer related to hermit crabs than to lobsters, as the name might suggest. It lives in a symbiotic relationship with crinoids (featherstars), and are therefore also known as Crinoid Squat Lobsters.
Crinoids themselves are often mistaken by divers and snorkellers as being a plant. They are in fact animals classified as "Echinoderms", members of the phylum Echinodermata, which roughly translated means "spiny skin", and includes seastars, sea cucumbers, and sea urchins. The elegant squat lobsters find protection from predators in the arms of the crinoid. They can live without the crinoid, however, its life expectancy would be a lot shorter.

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So, understandably they like to stay with their hosts. To further increase their chances of survival, they adapt their colour to that of their hosts, making it even harder for potential predators to spot them. The elegant squad lobster, as well as its host the crinoid, both feed on the same plankton diet. Another great benefit for the squat lobster, since its host will always try to find the best place possible to catch food in the passing currents.
Females are larger than their male counterparts and can grow to about 2.5 cm. This gorgeous little creature can be found in the warm waters of the Indo-Pacific region, including the Red Sea. So, good luck finding them next time you're in the ocean!

Take a Minute to Relax XI

In this episode of visual meditation, we invite you to fly with us over a beautiful coral reef. As mentioned before in “Take a Minute VII”, healthy coral reefs play a vital role in the overall condition of the oceans at large. However, senseless destruction, fuelled by ignorance and greed, has left the majority of reefs worldwide dead or dying.

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Fortunately, there are some that have understood the value of coral reefs and have started projects to protect them. But protecting the reefs is difficult without the support of the local communities. Many of the richest reef systems on this planet are located in regions where people are most dependent on the ocean and reefs for their food. Unlike the fishing industry, these people are not so much fishing for profit, as they are for survival.

It is therefore not an easy task to start a conservation project and to make it understood to the local population that it would be in their best interest to participate. After all, most of the time there are no immediate results for them to profit from. Understanding that inhabitants of a region have to profit more directly from such conservation efforts, has led Lorenz Mäder (owner/founder of Wakatobi Dive Resort), together with the population of Tomia and Lintea islands in the region of Wakatobi, to come up with the “Collaborative Reef Protection Program”.

With this program, the resort basically leases the use of the reefs of the local villages, and pays them fees/financial aid, under the condition that destructive fishing practices are no longer permitted. Restrictions on how and where one can fish, as well as agreements on particular “No Take” zones, are also included in this program. To make sure these agreements are adhered to, the reefs are “patrolled” by the boats of the resort, as well as by boats from the local communities (Patroli).

The program doesn’t end there. Besides the sustainable income to the local villages in the form of these “lease” fees, Wakatobi Dive Resort also provides electricity, helps with education projects, provides infrastructure, supplies the local hospital with necessities when needed, but most importantly the resort provides over 200 local people with a job! This is a place where jobs are hard to find, or come by. This program has led to a sort of mutually beneficial symbiosis (Mutualism) between the Wakatobi Dive Resort and the surrounding villages on Tomia and Lintea, whereby both profit from this “Collaborative Reef Protection Program”.

For the people of the region, there’s a steady sustainable income, as well as the before mentioned benefits. But because of the reef protection efforts, there is an increasing amount of fish, and in larger sizes. This means that it has become much easier for the population to catch the fish needed to support their families. All of this has led to a higher standard of living for the villagers on these islands and made the people believe that conservation is more profitable than destruction.

On the other hand, the resort benefits from this arrangement as well. The reefs around Tomia and Lintea, as well as the Sawa reef system, are a sight to behold! Kilometre after kilometre of unspoiled reefs with a mind-blowing abundance of marine life. That combined with an impeccable service, Wakatobi Dive Resort draws in people from all over the world. And even though the resort can most definitely not be described as a budget destination, the number of repeat guests is very high. Which is of course great news for all that are a part of this “symbiosis”.

But the resort takes its conservation efforts a step further. Apart from installing/maintaining moorings for their dive operations, as well as regular reef monitoring and cleaning when needed, the resort also treats its wastewater in biological ways, to prevent nutrients from entering the ocean. But most of all, and this is something that is often overlooked in other dive operations, it implements strict rules to minimise diver impact. All guests have to agree to the resort’s dive conduct regulations during their diving activities, and failure to comply can lead to exclusion from diving without a refund. In our opinion, this is a vital step in reef conservation, because the dive industry is responsible for a large part in the destruction of reefs worldwide, through its unregulated tourism.

The “Collaborative Reef Protection Program” has been a great success, and now has over 30 km of reef under its protection. The reef systems around Wakatobi Dive Resort are one of the few places in the world where the quality and diversity of the reefs, that are already stunning, are actually getting better by the year! A great example of how conservation can, and perhaps should be done, on a larger scale. After all, conservation is only possible if everybody profits from it.

Take a Minute to Relax XII

In this episode of underwater meditation, we would like to introduce you to "Bryaninops natans". These members of the large family of Gobiidae, are better known as the "Hovering -, or Pink Eye Gobies". This rather aptly named creature can grow to a maximum size of around 2,5 cm, and seem to prefer living in Acropora hard corals, that offer them some shelter from predators. They can be found hovering above these corals in groups, as they dart backwards and forwards to catch their food in the passing currents.

These small fish are fairly widely spread throughout the tropical waters of the Indo-Pacific and have even been found in the Red Sea. These interesting gobies have translucent bodies, not just as juveniles but for their entire lives! It is therefore only natural to see this remarkable feature is rewarded with some bright yellow insides, which really compliments the colour of their eyes. 🙂

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Nature can be so entertaining. Studies have shown, that Pink Eye Gobies are not suffering from conjunctivitis, as was previously suspected. As it turns out, when most of one's body is transparent, one resorts to some drastic measures with the few remaining visible parts one has left. In the end, it's all about creating the right look ...

Take a Minute to Relax XIII

A very warm welcome to another session of "Take a Minute" to relax. Dive right into our visual meditation and watch this adorable creature in all its glory for one minute. Hummingbird bobtail squids, also known as Berry's bobtail squids (Euprymna berry) grow only up to 3 cm (male) and 5 cm (female). During the day they stay buried in the ground and come out to hunt at night.

Bobtail squids have 2 tentacles and 8 suckered arms and also possess a special light organ, where bioluminescent bacteria lives in a symbiotic relationship. Fed by sugar and amino acids, they hide the silhouette of the squid when viewed from below by matching the amount of light hitting the top of the mantle. Counter-illumination is one of the methods of camouflage used in the animal kingdom.

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In the case of the little guy (maybe 2.5 cm), it didn't keep those pesky divers away and so it buried itself again. Please, never stress them by forcing them back out again. That's part of reef protection. Respect nature - below and above the surface!

Take a Minute to Relax XIV

In this episode of visual meditation, we'd like to introduce you to the Longhorn Cowfish (Lactoria cornuta). This curious-looking creature has 2 spine-like horns growing from the front of its head, and 2 more from the back of its body. These make it harder for any would-be predator to swallow them. Their body has plate-like scales that are fused together to form a solid box-like carapace and the fins, tail, eyes, and mouth protrude from this. Due to their armour, these fish are slow-moving and rely on their pectoral fins for propulsion.

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Cowfish are closely related to Pufferfish, and although they don't have the ability to puff themselves up, they do have a symbiotic relationship with types of toxic bacteria similar to the Pufferfish. These bacteria produce ostracitoxin which is a powerful neurotoxin. The ostracitoxin’s are found in their skin and internal organs. In addition to being poisonous, they have the ability to secrete the ostracitoxins into the water when stressed. This acts as a chemical defence when they are attacked by predators.

To the dismay of many an aquarist who thought this funny looking creature would be a great addition to their tank, when stressed the Longhorn Cowfish is capable of killing every fish in an aquarium, including itself. An unfortunate case of murder-suicide, that once again shows us that creatures should not be imprisoned for our own entertainment.

Take a Minute to Relax XV

In this session of our visual meditation series, we'd like to bring the Trumpetfish, in this case Aulostomus chinesis, to your attention. Their scientific name "Aulostomus" is derived from the Greek words for flute (aulos), and mouth (stoma). Looking at the creature, one can sort of understand how they got to this name. Worldwide there are 3 species of Trumpetfishes, namely A. maculatus which can be found in the Caribbean Sea and Northern parts of South America. A. strigosus, which inhabits the Atlantic coastal waters of Africa and South America. And lastly, the leading actor of this episode, A. chinesis, which lives in the Indo-Pacific region.

Trumpetfish are easily recognizable by their long elongated bodies, and long heads with compressed snouts. At the tip of these elongated snouts, is a single prominent barbell, which can be used for defence. Their dorsal and anal fins are small, reduced, and set very far back on the fish’s body, lending an almost snake-like appearance. Their dorsal fins are preceded by twelve dorsal spines, and the caudal (tail) fin is small and highly rounded. All of these adaptations have led to the fact that the Trumpetfish is not a great swimmer.

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They like to inhabit the seagrass beds, coral reefs and reef flats of the tropical and sub-tropical waters in their particular areas, where they can be found in areas with abundant vertical structures, like whip corals, sponges, and fan corals, in which they can easily blend in. From these places of concealment, they hunt for small fish and crustaceans, usually approaching their prey slowly from above, in a vertical manner. They have also been known to use larger fish, or even divers, as camouflage in their search for food. Although most of their food consists of small prey, they have been known to occasionally dine on larger fish as well, like grunts and surgeonfish. When hunting, Trumpetfish are able to open their mouths wider than the diameter of its own body, facilitated by elastic mouth tissues, creating a vacuum that sucks the prey into the fishes mouth.

The intricacies of Trumpetfish reproduction are not well studied, but it is known that they use their chromatophore colour changing abilities to conduct elaborate mating display rituals. These courtship rituals occur near the surface, then, as in their close relatives the seahorses, the burden of caring for the eggs is given to the male, who fertilizes them and carries them in a special pouch until they hatch. What an amazing creature!

Take a Minute to Relax XVI

The guest star in this Minute of visual meditation is the Halimeda ghost pipefish (Solenostomus halimeda). The name of this creature is derived from the Greek words soleno, meaning tube-like, and stoma, meaning mouth. Whereas the word “Halimeda” comes from the green calcareous algae, in which this creature can most often be found.

Although they’re closely related to pipefishes and seahorses of the family Syngnathidae, they differ from Syngnathids in both structure and behaviour. Instead of armoured rings, ghost pipefish are covered with large bony plates. They tend to swim upside down through their preferred habitat, which makes them very difficult to spot. Feeding on tiny crustaceans, especially mysids, which are rapidly sucked in through the long tubular snout, ghost pipefish are ambush predators, that stealthily approach their unsuspecting prey from above, in this head-down position.

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Unlike Syngnathids, where the males take care of the fertilised eggs in a special pouch, with Solenostomidea it’s the female who carries the eggs in a brood pouch formed by the fusion of her pelvic fins, which are continuously fanning fresh water over the eggs. Most species of ghost pipefish spent a relatively long period floating around in the ocean as plankton, reaching almost adult length before they finally settle onto the reef. This means that they have a wide geographic range since they can travel long distances after they are born. However, since they only spend the adult/reproductive part of their lives on the reef, it also means that divers have a very short time frame to find this creature in a particular spot before they disappear. This time frame is no doubt made even shorter by the large number of predators inhabiting the reefs.

They're generally found living in pairs with the smaller, skinnier of the two male and the larger individual, with bigger fins the female. The Halimeda ghost pipefish is with its maximum of 7 cm, the smallest of the 6 scientifically recognized species of Solenostomidea. As their name suggests, they’re to be found among Halimeda algae growing on the reef. The head of a Halimeda ghost pipefish is almost equal to the length of the body. Their rounded fins are perfectly resembling the growth segments of the Halimeda algae it prefers to inhabit. The species is highly variable in colour (from bright green or red to white) and is sometimes covered with fine filaments that give the fish a 'hairy' appearance.

A very special little critter that is worth spending some time with. Should one be fortunate enough to come across one ...

Take a Minute to Relax XVII

Our creature of interest in this one-minute episode of visual meditation goes by many names. Squat shrimp, anemone shrimp, dancing shrimp, sexy shrimp, just to name a few. Thor ambionensis has a maximum body length of 13 millimetres. Their base body colour varies from red/orange to light brown, and even green. They have irregular blue/white circular marks on the body. In the centre of these marks, there are yellow lines and dots. On the brown coloured specimens, the colours in the centre of these marks are slightly different.

There are two or sometimes three similar coloured bands around the tail area and the tail fan has similar coloured markings on the top and the bottom. There are three sets of walking legs and a set of legs with small pincers known as chelipeds and a proportionally longer set of feelers. They have a habit of holding their abdomen above their head and wagging the tail giving them one of their common names.

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Though it is named after Ambon, or Amboyna Island, one of the Maluku Islands in Indonesia, Thor amboinensis has a pantropical distribution and can be found in the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, and even at the Atlantic islands of Madeira and the Canaries. They prefer to live in a symbiotic relationship with anemones, but when none are around, can also be found in certain species of corals.

Living among the tentacles of their preferred host, the voracious anemone offers them a safe home from which they can feed on tentacle tissue, as well as on the mucus-trapped planktonic particles adhering to it.

The female Thor amboinensis carries the fertilised eggs under her abdomen until they are ready to hatch. The zoea larvae pass through several stages and, before undergoing a metamorphosis, are attracted by both chemical and visual cues which cause them to settle near potential host anemones. Researchers found that the larvae of Thor amboinensis were generalists, being attracted by and accepting several different species of anemone as hosts. In some experiments, they had a preference for the species of anemone from which the parent shrimp had been collected.

It’s always fun to spend some time with these little fellows and watch them dance around, shaking that booty.

Take a Minute to Relax XVIII

In this minute of visual meditation, we invite you to glide with a school of round batfish over a beautiful reef in Wakatobi. To avoid confusion with the other batfish of the family Ogcocephalidae, members of the group known as anglerfish, these round batfish are often referred to as spadefish, or platax.

The body of Platax orbicularis is almost disc-shaped, and very thin. Its tail, about 20% of the body length, is fan-shaped and is taller than it is long. Males can grow to up around 50 cm (20 inch) in length. This species has a wide range that extends from the Red Sea, Indian Ocean, all the way to the Pacific Ocean. They have been recorded off the coast of Florida as well, although this is thought to be the result of dumping of aquarium specimens.

These fish can be found singly, in small groups, and occasionally in large schools around reefs and wrecks, at depths ranging from 5-30 meters. Small juveniles are yellowish to reddish-brown and resemble leaves drifting amongst flotsam at the surface or moving along the bottom in the current. Platax orbicularis normally feeds on algae, invertebrates and small fishes, but has been known to spice their diet up at times with the occasional anemone.

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What is lesser known, is that this species is a singer! Though their calls are not quite as melodic, as say that of birds, they are certainly diverse. Like with birds, their choruses occur mostly at sunrise or sunset, and sometimes both. Why they perform these serenades is still up for debate, but their songs seem to have a distinct staccato beat to them. Although the acoustic abilities of certain fish species still needs further research, the benefits of it are pretty clear. Singing offers considerable advantages as it means the fish can communicate at night, when predators can’t see them, and due to the density of the water, it allows them to communicate over long distances and bring animals together for spawning events. All species of fish can make sounds, but only some can sing. This evolutionary talent occurs in the‘swim bladder’, a large bubble of gas inside most fish that is used to control their buoyancy. Singing fish can control the muscles of their swim bladder, driving it to create sound. This makes Platax orbicularis an even more interesting creature, than it already was.

Enjoy your swim with these beautiful shiny, silvery, musical fish.

Take a Minute to Relax XIX

In this minute of relaxation, we’d like to focus your attention on a curious-looking sea creature digging in the sand, named the “Moon-headed sidegill slug” (Euselenops luniceps). Euselenops luniceps is a species of sea slug, a pleurobranchomorph gastropod mollusc in the family Pleurobranchaeidae. This family of sea slugs is known as "side-gilled slugs" since they have their gills hidden on the right side of the body under the mantle (the body edge). This slug is perfectly adapted for living in a sandy environment.

In most pleurobranchs, the foot and mantle are of similar size but in Euselenops the foot is much larger, which makes it easier to crawl over sand, or burrowing underneath it. Posterior, the mantle folds into a relatively long siphon or tube, which allows the mantle cavity and gills to remain in contact with fresh seawater while the animal is buried in the sand. With the incoming seawater, the animal can also sense chemical released by potential prey nearby. It has a large oral veil fringed with lots of sensory 'hairs' on the underside to detect prey.

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This unique looking creature roams along sandy and silty sea bottoms for food with a very pronounced large oral veil, which underneath is fringed with tiny sensory "hairs" (papillae), to help it detect prey. Although it is a predator, little is known about what it eats. It appears they have a particular fondness for anemones, however, they have also been observed on sand flats at low tide, where they hunt and swallow whole any invertebrates that they touch with their large oral veil.

While most sea slugs move quite slowly, Euselenops with their active food gathering approach can move surprisingly fast. Not only does it have speed, but this slug can also actually swim for some distance by flapping the sides of its body, much in the same way as its more famous cousin, the “Spanish Dancer” (Hexabranchus sanguineus) does. Despite the fact that many websites claim the maximum size of this creature is approximately 7cm, this particular specimen filmed in Amed (Bali), was closer to 20cm.

We hope you’ll enjoy your Minute with this weird and wonderful creature...

Take a Minute to Relax XX

The star of this week’s episode of “Take a Minute” goes by many names, of which "Yellow pygmy goby" is just one. Since the name so perfectly describes this creature, I could’ve probably just left that… Anyway, Lubricogobius exiguus is a member of the family of Gobiidae. This family is tremendously large, comprising of over 2000 species in more than 200 genera, spread over 6 subfamilies. And yet none of them can be considered big. This cute little creature can grow to a maximum size of about 4cm. They prefer to inhabit muddy substrates, usually with rocky outcrops of rubble and/or debris, and can often be found in pairs, living in empty shells, holes, or in between the branches of hard coral, like Acropora, that provide them with a safe place for their eggs, as well as themselves.

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Lubricogobius exiguus is one of those species that seems to have made the best of a bad situation, by seeing the ever-increasing amount of man-made rubbish coming into the ocean, as new real estate opportunities! These days, this species can often be found in discarded bottles, cans, and other trash with small openings. They feed on a variety of algae, plankton, and small invertebrates. This particular species of bright yellow fish doesn’t exactly blend into it’s preferred habitat of drabby dark colours. Thereby creating a contrast that seems irresistible to underwater photographers, and “critter enthusiasts” alike.

Take a Minute to Relax XXI

In this minute of relaxation, we invite you to look deep into the eyes of this beautiful creature and let it take you on a journey through time and space. Amphioctopus marginatus, also known as the “coconut octopus” and “veined octopus”, is a medium-sized cephalopod belonging to the genus Amphioctopus. Meeting any octopus is as close as we can currently get to an alien encounter. Their physiology is truly otherworldly!

They have a large brain that extends into the nervous system of their arms! Which means that its brain is not in 1 particular place, as with most other creatures, but has more of a “Multiverse” approach to brain function. Lacking skeletal support, this creature’s arms work as muscular hydrostats and contain longitudinal, transverse and circular muscles around a central axial nerve. Which basically means that they can extend/contract their arms, twist left or right, bend at any place in any direction and/or be held rigid. Each arm has a multitude of muscle controlled suction cups, that can grab, feel, manipulate, and even taste objects. Octopuses are basically “brains with arms”, or “thinking muscles”, that can control their bodies to such an extent, that they’ll fit through any opening the size of their beak. The parrot-like beak of all octopus species contain venomous saliva and is the only hard part of their bodies.

Octopuses, as well as some other cephalopods, are capable of greater RNA editing (which involves changes to the nucleic acid sequence of the primary transcript of RNA molecules) than any other organism. More than 60% of RNA transcripts for their brains are re-coded by editing, compared to less than 1% for that of a human’s. This allows the octopus to evolve/adapt/learn from the experiences of previous generations, without actually being taught.

Octopuses have 3 hearts and depend on the copper-rich protein, haemocyanin, for oxygen transport throughout the body. Although in cold conditions and with low oxygen levels, haemocyanin transports oxygen more efficiently than haemoglobin, it also tends to make the blood thicker, resulting in blood pressures that can exceed 75 mmHg (10 kPa). But, with 3 hearts, the octopus isn’t really worried about high blood pressure. As an added bonus, the haemocyanin makes the octopus’s blood look blue-ish. True royalty!

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Named for their use of coconuts as tools for defence, the coconut octopus can also use clamshells, or these days a variety of plastic rubbish, depending on their size. Although they have the ability to burrow and hide in the sand, they prefer the extra security these tools are giving them. Often the shells and husks that the coconut octopus gathers, will be used for dens or “defensive fortresses”.

Amphioctopus marginatus is even capable of bipedal (2 legged) movement and slit-walking, which allows them to carry the coconut or clamshells, with the remaining 6 arms. The octopus will carry a shell with it while searching for another, testing several as it scavenges as a hermit crab might. Coconut octopuses are commonly found throughout the tropical Pacific and the Indian Ocean. Their main body is normally around 8 centimetres (3”) tall and including the arms, approximately 15 centimetres (6”) long.

Their diet includes invertebrates such as shrimp, crabs and clams, although they will also eat small fish if they can catch them. With three to five years the coconut octopus has one of the longer life spans for octopuses. The primary contributing factor to determining their life span is when they decide to mate. The coconut octopus reaches sexual maturity between 18 and 24 months of age. Once a male mates he will die within weeks, sometimes days thereafter. The female will die only after she has laid her eggs and they have hatched.

The mating ritual of the coconut octopus is a “fast and furious” affair. Males prefer to insert their sperm packet with their specialized “sex arm” into the mantle of the female as quickly as possible. It has been observed in the wild that the females often strangle the males that hang around too long, and then eat them. Not quite the preferred dinner date ... To avoid being eaten, male coconut octopuses employ the “mate and dash” technique. Some also disguise themselves as females in order to stand a chance while approaching.

Since the mating style of the coconut octopus is designed to be as fast and as distant as possible, there have been observations of a female octopus “entertaining” two or more male suitors at once. Yes, a saucy coconut octopus underwater orgy, so to say. Since the female carries the sperm packets in her mantle until she is ready to lay her eggs, having sperm packets from multiple males is not a problem. Consequently, the hatchlings that emerge from a specific brood can have multiple fathers. What a fascinating alien creature this octopus is!

Take a Minute to Relax XXII

In this episode of underwater relaxation, we would like to introduce you to this beautiful little Xmas creature that is dressed for the occasion. Primovula roseomaculata, also known as a Soft coral cowrie, Allied Cowrie, or False Cowrie, is a species of sea snail, a marine gastropod mollusc in the family Ovulidae.
Molluscs are a big and very diverse group of creatures consisting of animals as different as mussels and octopuses! Most colourful and strikingly patterned among the molluscs are the cowries. Their shells were used as currency in different cultures throughout history and are now prized collector items, due to their shining and often brightly coloured and patterned shell.
However, what we as ocean enthusiasts see, is not the shell itself, but rather the soft mantle of the animal, wrapped around the shell. The mantle is even more beautiful than the shell itself, often bearing a striking resemblance to the soft coral that these cowries prey on, even including tentacle-like protrusions, to completely blend in with its coral host. These branching papillae on their mantle are not only there to complete the finishing touch on their extravagant camouflage, but assist in the respiration of the cowrie as well.

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Primovula roseomaculata usually live and feed on soft corals of the genus Dendronephtya. Due to the potent toxins used by these corals to deter predators, these cowries have adapted to only a single coral species. This behaviour has led to the rise of one of their common names, the “Allied Cowrie”. However, “Allied cowries” are in fact parasites, that harm their hosts. They feed on the coral’s tissues, mucus and polyps, and are able to absorb the pigments of their coral host, which enables these cowries to match their host's colour so well. Not only that, but Primovula roseomaculata has the ability to even extract the defensive chemicals of the coral host, and store them in the skin of its own mantle, where they can protect the snail from fish predation! The host coral will continually regrow the lost tissue, so the cowrie never runs out of food, and or ammo!

They start off their lives as free-swimming post-larval juveniles and probably detect chemical clues that signal a potential host is nearby. Hosts are often home to several individuals. When settled, cowries graze up and down the coral and eventually deposit their eggs on a bare branch, beginning the cycle all over again.

Take a Minute to Relax XXIII

In this first minute of relaxation of the new year, we’d like to focus your attention on this gorgeous, but voracious little hunter. A juvenile Harlequin Shrimp. There are two types of harlequin shrimp. Hymenocera elegans, is native to the Indo-Pacific region, and hymenocera picta, which is specific to Hawaii. The name of the genus Hymenocera is derived from the Greek words “hymen” (membrane) and “keras” (horn, or in this case antennae), indicating that this crustacean has lamina-shaped antennae. Whereas both “elegans”, as well as “picta” refer to the beautiful coloured spots adorning the exoskeleton of this decapod.
They are reef dwellers, preferring water temperatures of 24-29 degrees Celcius, and are especially partial to a habitat with spaces for them to retreat into, like branched corals or rock formations. Their eyes are positioned on stalks, and they have two giant flat claws that serve as snipping tools while harvesting their prey. Females are generally larger than males and can grow up to around 5cm.

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Harlequin shrimp are white to light pink in colour, with splashes of bright coloured spots on their entire body, usually red, purple, orange, and blue. Despite their relatively small size, they have few natural predators. This is thanks to their markings and colouration. Like on land, in the ocean bright patterns are a red flag to predators of toxicity. In addition, their colouration serves as a wonderful camouflage when moving along a coral reef, mimicking the bright lights and shadows produced by the overhead sun.
What’s curious about the Hymenocera is that they live almost exclusively on a diet of sea stars. Some have been observed munching on sea urchins, but generally speaking, sea stars are their comfort food. The harlequin shrimp has two flat antennae that are used for detecting the scent of sea star prey. They will often hunt as mating pairs, and work together to overtake and devour their prey. One shrimp will use its claws to clip the soft tube feet attaching the sea star to its surface, while the other then pulls the creature away from the surface and onto its back.
Some harlequin shrimp will then drag the sea star to its lair, and feed on its tube feet and soft tissues. Unable to right itself, the starfish will then endure being eaten alive for a period of days to weeks, depending on the size of the starfish. Harlequin shrimp have been observed feeding the starfish to keep it alive for their consumption.
Harlequin shrimp mate for life, and are fiercely protective of their family territory. Once the pair finds a suitable home within the reef, they are known to stay within the area for months or even years. The pair mate after the female moulds, and can produce anywhere from 100 to 5,000 eggs per breeding season. This may seem like a lot of offspring, but the high demand for harlequin shrimp in the aquarium trade has made them rarer in the wild.
Since Hymenocera has a symbiotic relation with corals, this isn’t exactly good news for coral reefs! Hymenocera preys on sea stars that would otherwise eat the corals, and in return for its efforts, it gets a safe place to live. Without the help of these little creatures, the future of the reef as a whole is at risk.

Take a Minute to Relax XXIV

In this Minute of tranquillity, we’d like to introduce you to one of the ocean’s most recognisable icons, the reef manta ray. The species was described in 1868 by Gerard Krefft, the director of the Australian Museum. He named it M. alfredi in honour of Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, the first member of the British royal family to visit Australia. It was originally described as part of the genus Manta but in 2017 was changed, along with the other manta species, to be included as part of the genus Mobula. The artist formerly known as Manta alfredi, is as famous, as it is graceful. This gentle giant is the smaller of the two manta species currently known to science.

Despite their distinctive flattened body, this fish is closely related to sharks. At the front, it has a pair of cephalic fins which are forward extensions of the pectoral fins. These can be rolled up in a spiral for swimming or can be flared out to channel water into the large, forward-pointing, rectangular mouth when the animal is feeding. The eyes and the spiracles are on the side of the head behind the cephalic fins, and the five gill slits are on the ventral (under) surface. It has a small dorsal fin and the tail is long and whip-like. The manta ray does not have a spiny tail as do their close relatives, the devil rays (Mobula spp.). The colour of the dorsal side is dark black to midnight blue with scattered whitish and greyish areas on the top head. The ventral surface is white, sometimes with dark spots and blotches. The markings can often be used to recognise individual fish. Mobula alfredi is similar in appearance to Mobula birostris and the two species may be confused as their distribution overlaps. However, there are distinguishing features.

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The first difference is the size. M. birostris is bigger than the reef M. alfredi, 4 to 6 m on average vs. 3 to 4 m. However, when they’re young specimens telling them apart becomes somewhat difficult, in which case only the colour pattern remains an effective way to distinguish them. The reef manta has a dark dorsal side with usually two lighter areas on top of the head, looking like a nuanced gradient of its dark dominating back colouration and whitish to greyish, the longitudinal separation between these two lighter areas forms a kind of “Y”. While for the oceanic manta, the dorsal surface is deep dark and the two white areas are well marked without gradient effect. Meanwhile, the line of separation between these two white areas forms a "T". Also, the reef manta ray has a white belly with often spots between the branchial gill slits and other spots spread across trailing edge of pectoral fins and abdominal region. The oceanic manta has also a white ventral colouration with spots clustered around lower region of its abdomen. Its cephalic fins, inside of its mouth and its gill slits are often black.

Both species have the largest brain of all know fish species and are very curious and intelligent. Because of its large size and velocity in case of danger (24 km/h escape speed), the reef manta has very few natural predators which can be fatal to it, apart from some large shark species and orcas. Since there’s so much to tell about this beautiful creature, more info will follow in future Manta Minutes …

Take a Minute to Relax XXV

In this session of tranquillity, we would like you to focus on the living art that is the coral reef and its protection. This particular reef, named Fan 38, is located at Wakatobi Dive Resort and is one of our favourite reefs on this beautiful Blue Planet. Reef-building corals consist of colonies of tiny animals, all sharing the same genes. In other words, any particular hard coral is one creature, as well as many creatures at the same time … When the conditions are just right, these animals can grow prolifically, albeit at a very slow pace, creating the cathedral-like structures we love so much.

These days, pretty much all of the coral reefs worldwide are under threat. Luckily, some localized conservation efforts are paying off, and allow the reefs there to recover. Coral reefs are pretty much a symbiotic organism in itself, depending on all the lifeforms that inhabit them, as well as those that visit temporarily, for survival. A technique that is used by pretty much everything in the natural world. Everything is connected …

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Therefore, every action is affecting everything else. So, in nature there is no good or bad, there are only consequences. Unfortunately, our species seem to have forgotten this fact. Which is somewhat strange, since we ourselves are also symbiotic creatures of sorts, who depend not only on the world around us for sustenance, but on the amount and health, of all the bacteria, viruses, and other life forms that share our bodies with us. Take one away, or let another grow out of control, and we get sick as a result.

Same goes for coral reefs, which makes protection and conservation rather difficult, when dealing with a species like ourselves, temporarily claiming dominance over this planet, whilst being conditioned to forget about life’s equilibrium and focus on a fictitious monetary and power system instead. But try as we might, we can not change the fact that we are indivisibly linked to the world around us …

Many of the current reef conservation efforts around the world, like the one in Wakatobi, are private initiatives funded by NGO’s and/or tourism, and as such they’ve had a very difficult time over the last year. There are many people that believe that 2020 has been a good year for nature, and the planet as a whole, due to lockdowns and travel restrictions, but this is certainly not the case for the world’s oceans. Less supervision in protected areas has led to an increase in fishing activities there.

As the world is hopefully opening up again somewhat this year, these conservation efforts are in need of your assistance. Our advice would be to look at the projects one can support when deciding their next holiday destination. Luckily for Fan 38, as well as the many other spectacular coral reefs in the region, Wakatobi Dive Resort has kept a skeleton crew on site, that together with the local authorities, has patrolled and protected the reefs that are part of their conservation efforts. So that when the first guests return to the resort, underwater paradise awaits them!

Take a Minute XXVI: Solar Powered Melibe (Melibe engeli)

In this Minute of Relaxation, we would like to introduce you to one of the most interesting species of Nudibranch, named Melibe engeli. Nudibranchs are molluscs in the class Gastropoda, which includes snails, slugs, and sea hares. Many gastropods have a shell. Nudibranchs have a shell in their larval stage, but it disappears in the process of becoming an adult.

Nudibranchs can thrive nearly everywhere, from shallow, temperate, and tropic reefs to Antarctica and even hydrothermal vents. At present, there are well over 3000 species of nudibranchs known to science, but new species are still being discovered. They come in all shapes and sizes, not to mention wild colour pattern variations, which makes them so popular with divers and snorkellers. The word nudibranch comes from the Latin word nudus (naked) and Greek branchiae (gills), which refers to the gill-like appendages which protrude from the backs of many nudibranchs.

Although they possess eyes, their eyesight is thought to be limited to picking up only light and dark shapes. They view the world through chemical receptors in the shape of tentacles on their heads. These tentacles are called rhinophores and they allow nudibranchs to smell food, find potential mates, predators and provides them with some sort of situational awareness.

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However strange it may seem, this colourful family of sea slugs are carnivores, whose prey consists of sponges, coral, anemones, hydroids, barnacles, fish eggs, sea slugs, and other nudibranchs. To eat their food, most nudibranchs possess a radula, which is a toothed structure that they use to “chew” their food up. Some species suck out their prey after predigesting their tissue with selected enzymes, rather like a spider. Nudibranchs are very picky about what they eat, individual species or families of nudibranchs may eat only one kind of prey. Nudibranchs get their vivid colours from the food they eat, which in turn advertises to would-be predators, that they are poisonous, or at the very least foul-tasting. In any case, enough to be left alone by most.

With so many vibrantly coloured and interesting family members, what makes the Melibe engeli stand out? It’s not its size, this creature grows up to around 5cm. And this Melibe doesn’t have any bright colour patterns. But where its carnivorous cousins are going mostly after static prey, this particular species of Melibe is an active hunter, feeding on shrimps, crabs and other small crustacea which they catch by throwing the inflated oral hood over the substrate like a fisherman casting his net. This active “fishing” practice is a joy to observe. However, they lack a radula, which means that their swallowed prey remains alive in the gut until killed by digestive juices.

But what makes this creature even more special, is that it doesn’t rely only on catching its prey for sustenance, it also hosts algae farms in its tissues, that through photosynthesis produce nutrients for the Melibe in situations when food is scarce. The mutualistic symbiosis between different species of nudibranchs and unicellular photosynthetic dinoflagellates of the genus Symbiodinium (often known as ‘zooxanthellae’) has been known to science for quite some time.

Most “solar-powered” nudibranch species take up Symbiodinium from their prey of soft or hard corals and cultivate them inside the cells of their digestive glands. But since Melibe engeli feeds exclusively on small crustaceans, science is still baffled as to how this nudibranch picks up the symbiont zooxanthellae for its emergency solar farms. What a beautiful world we live in, and how fortunate we are to be able to observe all these different adaptations to life on it!

Take a Minute XXVII: Bigeye Trevally (Caranx sexfasciatus)

In this episode of underwater relaxation, we would like to become a part of this immense living silver cloud, and simply go with the flow: Bigeye trevally (Caranx sexfasciatus).

A school of fish this size can literally block out the sun. These Bigeye trevallies (Caranx sexfasciatus) have come together in impressive numbers, to cruise over this beautiful sunlit reef. Bigeye trevallies are currently classified within the genus Caranx, one of the groups known as Jacks or Trevallies. This genus itself is part of the larger mackerel family Carangidae. It’s specific epithet (the second part of the scientific name), roughly translates to “six banded”, and refers to the creature’s juvenile colouration. This species of trevally is rather easily identified due to its big eyes, and are one of the most widespread species of them all.

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A tornado of bigeye trevallies (Caranx sexfasciatus) at Balicasag island close to Panglao, Visayas, The Philippines.

They can be found in massive schools in the tropical waters from the western shores of Central America, all the way to the east of Africa. Actually, the only place they can’t be found is in the Atlantic Ocean. Bigeye trevally normally live close to shore, down to a depth of around 150 metres. However, they do venture out to make offshore seamounts their home as well. They can even make their way upriver into freshwater. As they reach their adult size of about 80 cm, they can easily weigh 10kg.

Caranx sexfasciatus is a voracious predator that relies predominantly on its speed to overpower and surprise its prey. Their diet consists of other fish and crustaceans, which are mainly caught at night. During the day they like to come together to relax. After all, many big eyes see more than one, and in the ocean one always needs to keep an eye out for a bigger fish. This gives them the chance to visit cleaning stations and enjoy their Spa treatment to the fullest extend. An interesting side note about this creature is that although they usually appear silvery and shiny, like many other species of fish they are capable of changing their colour, all the way to a dark black. It is thought that this capability to change colour is helping them to communicate more efficiently amongst themselves, as well as with other species.

Although Caranx sexfasciatus is quite a common sight around the tropical waters of this planet, it is clearly not a boring creature. And when they come together in large numbers, they’re a sight to behold. Not only taking the light but also one’s breath away.

Take a Minute XXIX: Nudibranchs

In this minute of visual meditation, we would like to focus on nudibranchs in general instead of going into the specifics of the two species filmed in the waters of Bali (Indonesia). Divers lovingly call them nudis, short for nudibranchs, which makes them even cuter and brings out their true nature: beautiful, colourful, and exotic on the one hand, mysterious, bizarre and toxic on the other.

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Different families of nudibranchs (further split into genus and species) form the order Nudibranchia within the large taxonomic class Gastropoda, commonly known as snails and slugs. While all nudibranchs are sea slugs, not all sea slugs are nudibranchs. The name nudibranch originates from the Latin „nudus“, meaning „naked“, and the Ancient Greek βράγχια (bránkhia) for „gills“, referring to the gill-like appendages which protrude from the backs of many nudibranchs.

Although they possess eyes, their eyesight is thought to be limited to picking up light and dark shapes only. They view the world through chemical receptors in the shape of tentacles on their heads. These tentacles are called rhinophores and they allow nudibranchs to smell food, find potential mates, predators and provides them with some sort of situational awareness.

Nudibranchs can thrive nearly everywhere, from shallow, temperate, and tropic reefs to Antarctica and even hydrothermal vents. At present, there are well over 3,000 species of nudibranchs known to science, but new species are still found. Discoveries of large numbers of bioactive compounds suggest that sea slugs are an excellent biomedicine source which has fueled the research into this order within the animal kingdom.

However strange it may seem, these colourful families of sea slugs are carnivores, whose prey consists of sponges, coral, anemones, hydroids, barnacles, fish eggs, sea slugs, and other nudibranchs. To eat their food, most nudibranchs possess a radula, which is a toothed structure that they use to “chew” their food up. Some species suck out their prey after predigesting their tissue with selected enzymes, rather like a spider. Nudibranchs are very picky about what they eat, individual species or families of nudibranchs may eat only one kind of prey. Nudibranchs get their vivid colours from the food they eat, which in turn advertises to would-be predators, that they are poisonous, or at the very least foul-tasting. In any case, enough to be left alone by most.

The characteristic of aeolid nudibranchs, like the ones in this clip, are long, narrow bodies with numerous horn-like extension which are called cerata and serve as gills. The form of the cerata extends the surface for respiration significantly and is also used for defence. Various species feed on hydroids and their stinging cells (nematocysts) pass through the digestive system of some aeolids and are build into the tips of their cerata (watch “Take a Minute II” for more details).

Nudibranchs have a shell in their larval stage, but it disappears in the process of becoming an adult. They come in all shapes and sizes, not to mention wild colour pattern variations, which makes them so popular with divers and snorkellers. Some are very hard to tell apart, others strikingly different from anything you have ever seen before. Some stand out, others are highly camouflaged.

They also vary in sizes from massive beasts such as the“Moon-headed sidegill slug” (Euselenops luniceps) presented in „Take a Minute XIX“ to tiny speaks of some millimetres, like Costasiella kuroshimae a.k.a. “Shaun the Sheep” (shown in „Take a Minute VI“). This tiny creature has the ability to extract the chloroplasts from the food it eats and stores them in its cerata. This process is called kleptoplasty, and it enables “Shaun” to harvest/feed the energy that is released by the photosynthesis of these accumulated chloroplasts.

This is also the second feeding strategy of Melibe engeli („Take a Minute XXVI“). Through photosynthesis, the algae farms in its tissues produce nutrients for the Melibe in situations when food is scarce. The mutualistic symbiosis between different species of nudibranchs and unicellular photosynthetic dinoflagellates of the genus Symbiodinium (often known as ‘zooxanthellae’) has been known to science for quite some time. Most “solar-powered” nudibranch species take up Symbiodinium from their prey of soft or hard corals and cultivate them inside the cells of their digestive glands. But since Melibe engeli feeds exclusively on small crustaceans, science is still baffled as to how this nudibranch picks up the symbiont zooxanthellae for its emergency solar farms.

The search is on - not only for divers and snorkelers.