Over the last weeks, we posted pictures with scientific explanations on classifications of marine life on Instagram and Facebook. As not everybody is (regularly) on social media, I am happily putting it all together in one post now: Let’s talk scientific!

Let’s talk scientific!

Tiger cowrie

Photographing Art by nature: Underwater close-up of a Tiger Cowry having the striped mantel obver the white shell with black and brown dots.

When looking only at the hard shell, one wonders why these beautiful sea snails are called tiger cowries. This picture reveals, however, as soon as the mantle is closing over the top, there are stripes visible. In addition to the tiger pattern, there are pin-like projections with white tips (more Art by nature here). This creature is one of the many species that have been described by Carl Linnaeus in the 18th century: Cypraea tigris (1758). His systema naturae formed the scientific basis to classify species (taxonomy) we still use today. Sometimes, he used pictures and drawings to find the most fitting scientific classifications for marine and terrestrial life.

For all of us marine biology nerds and ocean lovers, in this case, the classification goes as follows:
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Mollusca
Class: Gastropoda
Family: Cypraeidae
Genus: Cypraea
Species: C. tigris

Devil’s eye

Underwater close-up (crop) of the eye of an devil scorpionfish (Wakatobi, Indonesia) showing how the camouflage continues of this ambush predator continues into the eye.

The camouflage of this ambush predator continues over its eye. These fringes of skin break up the outline of the eye, concealing the Devil Scorpionfish (Scorpaenopsis diabolus) even better while it sits and waits for prey. Common names vary, some call this creature a False Stonefish. Looking at the scientific name reveals it is classified as a diabolic scorpion whereas stonefish belong to the family of Synanceiidae.
We just started a series presenting different species of ambush predators in stories and pictures on our website starting with the look in their eyes: „They got the look„.  

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Scorpaeniformes
Family: Scorpaenidae
Genus: Scorpaenopsis
Species: S. diabolus

Mimic Octopus

Underwater macro shot of Mimic Octopus (Thaumoctopus mimicus) in Amed (Bali, Indonesia): brown body with white to beige stripes. Only the head with the eyes sticking out high and the small horns protrude from each eyes being washed to the left by the current. The head is laying in the sand and only one arm is out of the hole in the brown sand floor.

Octopuses are not only masters of disguise, but also intelligent and even have different personalities within the same species of octopus. The Mimic Octopus (Thaumoctopus mimicus) is the only animal capable of mimicking various other animals. However, this one was more hiding from the current – or from us … The plural of octopus is octopuses and not octopi as quite some people say. The origin of the word is greek: okto = eight and pod = foot, even though we call them arms these days.

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Mollusca
Class: Cephalopoda
Order: Octopoda
Family: Octopodidae
Genus: Thaumoctopus
Species: T . mimicus

Tenellia sp.

Let's talk scientific: Underwater macro shot of Tenellia sp. crawling towards the viewer (big round black rhinophores, whitish body and cerata in blue with black band before golden/orange tips). Aeolid nudibranch.

The characteristic of aeolid nudibranch like this Tenellia sp. are long, narrow bodies with numerous horn-like extensions 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 significantly and is also used for defense. Tenellia feed on hydroids and their stinging cells (nematocysts) pass through the digestive system of some aeolids and are built into the tips of their cerata. Not only cute but feisty!

Tenellia sp. (sp. is short for species when there is no scientific description of the species yet). Formerly listed as Cuthona sp., the classification of the genus changed in 2016 when all species of Cuthona were transferred to Tenellia. The whole family of Trinchesiidae is still further investigated to clarify the species and genus of many group members (genus and species). Scientific knowledge is ever-expanding!

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Mollusca
Class: Gastropoda
Order: Nudibranchia
Family: Trinchesiidae
Genus: Tenellia
Species: sp.


Cackatoo (Ablabys taenianotus) and white-faced waspfish (Richardsonichthys leucogaster) are living proof that punk is not dead. Just look at them! More detailed information on these two guys is in their own entry here. Looking at them scientifically speaking reveals that common names can be misleading. They are in the same order Scorpaeniforms, but with different families and genus (see classifications below). Both can be found in sand, rubble, or mud in particular in the evening and night. These guys were shot in Lembeh.

Cackatoo waspfish
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Scorpaeniforms
Family: Scorpaenidae
Genus: Ablabys
Species: A. taenianotus

White face waspfish
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Scorpaeniforms
Family: Tetrarogidae
Genus: Richardsonichthys
Species: R. leucogaster

Longhorn cowfish

Underwater macro shot: Longhorn cowfish, Lactoria cornuta is also sometimes called horned boxfish. Green-yellow with dark and blue spots horns are raised right towards the camera.

Lactoria cornuta is also sometimes called horned boxfish. This one is still a teenager, but a feisty one. It didn’t try to avoid the focus light on our night dive, though it also didn’t really stay in the spotlight precisely, playing rather bull than a cow. It took a particular liking to Yoeri and his equipment, the preferred spot, however, was under the port.
In any case a real cutie: Fishes are part of the phylum Chordata, meaning they are vertebrates. Invertebrate sums up everything else in the Kingdom Animalia with a total of 34 Phyla of which 9 include most of the animals. One of these nine is Chordata. Invertebrate, therefore, isn’t a scientific classification. It simply throws all other animals of 33 Phyla, from Cnideria (e.g. corals) to Mollusca (e.g. nudibranchs), into the same pot. Let’s look at the final scientific classifications based on my marine pictures.

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Tetradontiformes
Family: Ostraciidae
Genus: Lactoria
Species: L. cornuta

In conclusion on classifications of marine life

We hope our pictures and classifications of marine life made it evident why it is called let’s talk scientifically. Even though a lot of the names derive from Latin, it is not the only source for scientific names. However, the endings of the words are put into Latin, even if the word originates in Greek. Confusing? That’s science for you! One of the latest new species we read about was Eurythenes plasticus (in Dive Magazine). This amphipod has been discovered by a team of scientists from Newcastle University in the UK. The specimen was collected during an expedition to the Sirena Deep, the third-deepest known part of the Mariana trench, in November 2014 and showed to have microplastic fibre in its hindgut (Plastic Planet: Minimising plastic pollution). That’s humanity for you, no matter where you go (Karibische Strände: Mehr Sein als Schein) …

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