Pic ‘o the week – yellownose gobies & brain coral

A healthy coral reef can be one of the most colorful places on earth: here, a pair of curious yellownose gobies gaze out from their refuge of richly textured bolder brain coral.

Todd Mintz snapped this stunning photo in of yellownose gobies, Elacatinus randalli, and bolder brain coral in Bonaire, Dutch Caribbean.

This pic won First Place, Macro in the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science’s annual amateur underwater photography contest. Check out the other winners here – and get your underwater photog vibe on — there’s plenty of time to grab some award-winning ocean pics for next year.

Pic o’ the week – snacking sand perch

It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. Or in this case, a fish-eat-crab world.

Ocean photographer Steve Kovacs captured snacktime for a sand perch (Diplectrum formosum), as it dined on a crab.

This moment in nature was snapped at in the Atlantic Ocean off Florida’s Riviera Beach. Check out his pics – beautiful and a study in the behaviors of many undersea creatures.

Spotlight: the coelacanth

To kick off a new year, we’re revisiting one of our favorite creatures of the sea. A hollow-spined fish species dating from  a zillion years ago, coelacanths were thought to be extinct until 1938, when one was caught by fishermen off South Africa’s coast and pulled off the docks by Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer, curator at a small museum there. The story of how she persevered to get the 127 lb fish ID’d is fascinating – the museum chairman dismissed it as “nothing but a rock cod.”

She described it as having “four limb-like fins and a strange puppy-dog tail” and as “the most beautiful fish I had ever seen”.

This discovery made news ’round the world, sparked ongoing research and expeditions to Continue reading “Spotlight: the coelacanth”

Spotlight: bluefin tuna on the verge

Photo by Tom Puchner

Growing up to 10 feet long and up to 1,400 pounds, with retractable fins and a bullet-shaped body for faster speed, bluefin tuna are among the largest, fastest , most wondrous migratory finfish in the world. They’re also one of the most prized and pricey fish for sushi lovers around the globe.

Thanks to booming consumer demand and overfishing in the Atlantic and Mediterranean, bluefin tuna stocks have plummeted to what scientists and researchers say is the point of collapse. It’s been a quick trip to decimation for this species — bluefin tuna wasn’t fished much commercially until the 1950s, and was so unpopular as late as the 1970s that it was often just bothersome bycatch sold for pet food.

The group that sets bluefin tuna fishing quotas,  ICCAT, is holding its annual meetings next week. Advocacy groups, scientists and others are pushing for drastic cuts in the quotas.

Meanwhile, as Scientific American reports, the tiny Mediterranean principality of Monaco has submitted a formal bid to the UN under CITES, asking that bluefin Continue reading “Spotlight: bluefin tuna on the verge”

Pic o’ the week – unidentified deep sea fish

This curious creature, seen in Indonesian waters in the Sangihe Talaud Region, has not yet
been definitively identified by scientists.

The Little Hercules ROV captured this image of what scientists think is an anglerfish during dives from NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer in Indonesia. Scientists are working to further identify this creature and many others they encountered this summer during the INDEX 2010 Exploration – a joint expedition between American and Indonesian researchers.

As expedition coordinator Jeremy Potter wrote,

“We expect to make discoveries that will advance our understanding of undersea ecosystems, particularly those associated with submarine volcanoes and hydrothermal vents. The geographical area of operation is located entirely within the ‘Coral Triangle Region’, the global heart of shallow-water marine biodiversity. This will also be the first time scientists use a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to get even a glimpse of deepwater biodiversity in the waters of the Sangihe Talaud Region.”

The folks at NOAA also sent us this close-up photo, which shows this expedition’s remarkable photography capabilities:

Images courtesy of NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program, INDEX-SATAL 2010

Pic o’ the week – spotted scorpionfish

Spotted scorpionfish (Scorpaena plumieri), Florida Keys

Can you tell where the oceanfloor ends and the fish begins? Terrific camouflage.

Students from Missouri’s Saint Joseph School District encountered this creature during their spring field study in the Florida Keys. In their words –

“This spotted scorpionfish was photographed in shallow water off Burnt Point in the Florida Keys. The three bands on the tail help to ID this fish. He ignored us for a good ten minutes while we took all the photographs we cared to.

This well-camouflaged fish can deliver serious puncture wounds with its dorsal spines that cause severe pain and illness.”

Here’s another pic of the fish moving that helps you see it a little more clearly:

Photos courtesy Sean Nash