Octocoral polyps - Little flowers of the sea

Open polyps on a Nephtheid soft coral
Open polyps on a Nephtheid soft coral

by B. N. Sullivan

Octocorals (Octocorallia) are a subclass of corals whose polyps have eight tentacles.  The name Octocoral derives from this morphological feature [in Greek, "okto" means "eight"].

When the polyps are feeding, the feathery tentacles are spread wide to capture passing bits of nutrients.  In macro photos of Octocorals, like the one above, the open polyps look like a dense garden of little flowers.

When the coral polyps are not feeding, the tentacles retract into little balls, like an open hand closing into a fist.  To see what I mean, look at these recently posted macro photos of another soft coral with closed polyps.

The Octocoral species pictured above is a a Nephtheid soft coral.  I took the photo at Indonesia's Bunaken National Park, a lush marine preserve near the northern tip of Sulawesi Island.

Ocellaris Clownfish -- The Model for Nemo

Clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris)
Clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris) - Pulau Sipadan, Malaysia

by B. N. Sullivan

The clownfish species in the photo on this page is Amphiprion ocellaris.  This species was the model for the Disney/Pixar animated character Nemo, although there are some 30 species of clownfish living in the tropical seas of the Indo-Pacific region.

Clownfish are known also as Amemonefish, after their habit of making their homes among the tentacles of sea anemones.  Each species of clownfish lives preferentially in certain anemone species.   The Ocellaris clownfish in the photo above is snuggled into an anemone called Heteractis magnifica. This anemone appears to be the preferred abode of this fish species, although some Ocellaris clownfish can be found living in anemones of the genus Stichodactyla.  

At Peace in the Deep Blue

Diver swimming along a deep wall in the Red Sea

Looking through some old underwater photos, I came across the evocative image above. The photo had been squirreled away for years, but the moment I looked at it  memories of the peace and serenity of deep dives flooded my mind.  It's quiet down there in the deep blue.