Who are you calling a worm?!

by B. N. Sullivan

What the heck is that thing? A caterpillar? A centipede? Nope, it's a marine worm called a Bearded Fireworm (Hermodice carunculata). I wrote an article about this critter for Photo Synthesis, and it includes some ultra-close-up shots of this mean-looking creature. Be sure to go and have a look.

Hermodice carunculataLong-time readers of The Right Blue might recognize this creature. H. carunculata was the 'model' for an article I wrote back in 2007 about photographing critters on different backgrounds. The one pictured here, at right was, was photographed in the Aegean Sea, near Cape Sounion, Greece. [Click on the photo to enlarge, if you dare.]

Also posted on Photo Synthesis this past week was an article -- titled Gimme shelter! -- about creatures that live on or among sea anemones and corals for protection. The article is illustrated with some of my photos of clownfish, including the species that was the model for the cartoon movie character, Nemo.

Another Photo Synthesis article was about photographing feeding records of nudibranchs. Readers of The Right Blue already have seen quite a few of my nudibranch photos, I know, but go and have a look there if you'd like to see a few more.

Next was a photo essay featuring Gorgonian sea fans, including macro photos of several different types. Finally, I posted an article about Cerianthid tube anemones on Photo Synthesis, a topic I wrote about here on The Right Blue just about a year ago. Remember Cerianthid Tube Anemones - Flowers of the Deep?

This is my final week of writing for Photo Synthesis. Just a few more posts there, and I will be back to publishing my underwater photos exclusively here on The Right Blue. Stay tuned...

"Does this pose make my butt look big??"

What: The critter asking the question is a Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas).
The diver is Jerry, of course.

Where: I took this photo at Pulau Sipadan, Malaysia.

Chelonia mydas
Click on the photo to enlarge -- turtle butt and all!

Crinoids, fish faces and backscatter - oh my!

CrinoidsBobbie has been busy over at PhotoSynthesis this past week, posting close-up protraits of Wrasses, showing and writing about Crinoids, and suggesting ways for underwater photographers to cope with the problem of backscatter.

What's backscatter, you ask? It's the stuff that all too frequently spoils underwater photos that were taken in water that's not exactly clear. For an explanation, check out Backscatter: The bane of underwater photography, in which Bobbie holds forth about matters of physics and light, but also includes a handful of really nice critter photos.

The photo on this page shows some Crinoids on a reef in the Celebes Sea. Remember them? Long time readers may recall that Bobbie wrote about Crinoids -- also known as Feather Stars -- here on The Right Blue more than a year ago. This week she wrote about Crinoids on PhotoSynthesis, so if you find these Echinoderms interesting, or you like to see pictures of them (including some pretty amazing macros), check out Getting to know crinoids through close-up photography, and then Crinoids on the night shift. (Yep, a two-parter.)

And finally, do have a look at Hello, Fish Face -- four in-your-face close-ups of pretty fishies from the Wrasse family.

Video: Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles

The folks over at JournOwl.com have put together this very nice video about Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles, one of our favorite ocean creatures. The narration of the video echoes much of what we said in our earlier article about Hawaiian green sea turtles.

P.S. There are many more sea turtle articles and photos on The Right Blue.

If the video does not play or display properly above, click here to view it on YouTube.

The Right Blue is the 'flavor of the month' at Photo Synthesis

Gymnothorax meleagrisSeveral months ago the folks over at ScienceBlogs.com launched a new project -- a blog called Photo Synthesis. The idea was to showcase science-related photography and provide a platform for discussing it.

Here's how they describe it:
The internet is home to a wealth of captivating science images, from the many microscopic components of a cell to the remote corners of the universe captured by Hubble. On Photo Synthesis, we aim to bring you the best of what's out there. Every month we will feature the work of a different photoblogger, exposing worlds both small and large, familiar and exotic. We will let the power of the lens take us where we ourselves are not able to go.
Shortly after Photo Synthesis was launched, we were asked if we would like to take a turn there. Long story short: Bobbie agreed to post some of her underwater photos there, and to write about the photo subjects and the process of taking pictures underwater -- just like she does here on The Right Blue.

This month -- August -- is Bobbie's month at Photo Synthesis, so we'd like to invite our readers to visit there and say hello. Just think: If you like what you see at The Right Blue, this month you can have a double dose!

Here's the link to Photo Synthesis, and here is what Bobbie has posted there so far:We'll keep you posted on what else Bobbie publishes at Photo Synthesis.

About the photo on this page: Bobbie photographed this Whitemouth Moray eel (Gymnothorax meleagris) in its hiding place in a bed of Plate-and-Pillar Coral (Porites rus) at Honaunau Bay, Hawaii.

Leviathan cowries: Becoming scarce in Hawaii?

by B. N. Sullivan

Cypraea leviathan
Here is another favorite from our seashell collection. One of the larger cowries found in Hawaii, its name is apt: Leviathan (Cypraea leviathan).

This one has been in our collection for a long time. I found it in the mid-1980s at Pupukea on the north shore of the island of Oahu. This one is 6.6 cm in length (roughly 2.5 in).

We used to see Leviathan cowries quite regularly, but we haven't seen any at all in quite awhile, alive or empty. These guys live in relatively shallow water, so they are (or were) relatively easy for snorkelers, divers -- and even waders -- to spot. We fear that we're not seeing them these days because too many live ones have been taken by collectors, leaving too few to reproduce and maintain the population.

Older reference books about seashells list Leviathan cowries as endemic to Hawaii. More recently these shells have been recorded in a number of other locations in the Indo-Pacific region, so while we still can say that they are indigenous to Hawaii, they are no longer considered to be Hawaiian endemics.

Leviathan cowries are heavy shells; they definitely are not fragile. And like almost all cowries, they have a wonderful china-like look to them.

Cypraea leviathan
One of the distinctive features of the shells of Leviathan cowries is a row of violet teeth bordering each side of the aperture on the underside of the shell. You can see those unusual violet teeth clearly in the second photo on this page. There are several other cowries in Hawaii that have marking similar to the Leviathan, but they are smaller -- and they do not have those wonderful violet teeth!

Another distinctive feature of Leviathan cowries has nothing to do with the shell, but rather with the snail that secretes and inhabits the shell. Readers may recall the photos of a live Tiger cowrie that we posted here on The Right Blue earlier this year. When the creature's mantle was extended over the shell, you could see that it had rubbery-looking thingies sticking out all over it. Those are called papillae. Well, the papillae of Leviathan cowries are quite different. They are spiky clumps that look like little bushes!

The papillae on the mantle of the Leviathan are difficult to describe, and I don't have a photo of a live one to post. Fortunately there is a video on YouTube that shows a live Leviathan with its mantle extended over the shell. You can see the weirdly shaped papillae on the mantle.

Here is makuabob's video, Meet Cypraea leviathan:

If the video does not play or display properly above, click here to view it on YouTube.