Sponge Crab – By Jonathan Broadbent TG4: 1/100, F18, ISO200
Sponge Crabs are a shallow water species of crustaceans. They live in a cavity which they create on the underside of their host sponge. They cut out a fragment from the sponge and trim it to their own shape using their claws. Their last two pairs of legs are shorter than the other legs and bend upward over their shell, to hold the sponge in place. The sponge grows along with the crab, providing a consistent shelter – and protection. Because they are almost completely concealed by the sponge, they can be tricky to spot. The best time for finding this species is during night dives when they are most active.
Hairy Red Hermit Crab by Marc Broadbent DSC-RX100M4: 1/40. F4, ISO100
The Hairy Red Hermit Crab has adapted to occupy empty scavenged mollusc shells to protect their fragile exoskeletons. There are over 800 species of hermit crab, most of which possess an asymmetric abdomen concealed by a snug-fitting shell. Hermit crabs must occupy shelter produced by other organisms, or risk being defenceless. Most species have long, spirally curved abdomens, which are soft, unlike the hard, calcified abdomens seen in related crustaceans. Most frequently, hermit crabs use the shells of sea snails. Most hermit crabs are nocturnal.
Giant Spotted Hermit Crab by Marc Broadbent DSC-RX100M4: 1/100, F5.6, ISO100
Giant Spotted Hermit Crabs are easily recognisable by having a bright red or orange body and legs. These are covered in small black ringed white spots. The body and legs are covered in light brown coloured bristles. Like the spiny lobsters, they have two sets of antennae, one short pair in the middle with sensory organs on it and the other longer and extendable outwards. Usually only the legs and head are seen protruding from the shell. The first set of legs has claws, one being larger than the other and these are usually used to seal themselves into their shell when threatened. The second and third legs are used for walking. The rear of the body is adapted to fold into the shell. The giant spotted hermit crab grows up to 25 cm in width but are usually around 10 to 12 cm. Giant hermit crabs have a lot of character, sometimes they are quite fearless of divers and will sit and preen themselves out in the open not at all bothered by the diver. As they grow larger, so they need larger shells which are often in short supply. They are carnivorous and although they are mainly scavengers, they will break open and eat any mollusc that they can open. The males chemically detect when a female is fertile and approach them, often holding onto the female until she is ready to mate with them. Once the eggs are fertilised, they are kept on the underside of the female inside their shell. When the eggs hatch the larvae are planktonic until they are large enough to find small shells.
Giant Frogfish by Marc Broadbent G11: 1/125, F2.8, ISO100
Giant Frogfish grow up to 38 cm. The soft skin is covered with small dermal spinules. Its skin is partially covered with a few small, wartlike protuberances, some variably shaped, scab-like blotches, and a few, small eye spots (ocelli) reminiscent of the holes in sponges. Its large mouth allows it to consume prey as large as itself. Their coloration is extremely variable, as they tend to match their environments. Frogfish can change their coloration in a few weeks. However, the dominant coloration goes from grey to black, passing through a whole range of related hues, such as cream, pink, yellow, red, and brown, and also usually with circular eye spots or blotches that are darker than the background.
Freckled Frog Fish by Marc Broadbent DSC-RX100M4: 1/250, F9, ISO200
The Freckled Frog Fish is a well-camouflaged anglerfish that is highly variable in colour, ranging from a mottled bright red to pale brown, yellow, green and black, with 5 bands of spots on the tail, and often with a faint to well-developed ocellated spot on the back behind the dorsal-fin base. These ambush predators rely on their excellent camouflage and ‘fishing lure' to attract prey. The anglerfish lies motionless, waving its lure to attract unwary fish which are rapidly engulfed with a lightning strike.
Striated Frog Fish by Marc Broadbent DSC-RX100M4: 1/500, F4, ISO80
The Striated Frog Fish is also known as an Anglerfish. Found singly, in pairs or trios, sitting amongst corals, sponges on jetties, pylons ropes etc, they are camouflaged with the colour and pattern of their surroundings. They feed on crustaceans and small fish. They lure their prey with a stalk between their eyes that copies the movements of its prey. Their mouth can open and expand to the width of their bodies to engulf prey.
Striated Frog Fish Frogfish by Marc Broadbent DSC-RX100M4: 1/500, F10, ISO100
Ocellated Flounder by Marc Broadbent DSC-RX100M4: 1/500, F10, ISO100
Ocellated Flounder are found singly on sand and muddy bottoms over coastal waters and deeper waters over the continental shelf. They feed on benthic crustaceans and worms. They are 40cm long, and widespread in Indo-West Pacific at depths of 10 - 150m. Flatfish, Soles and Flounders are placed in their families by location of their eyes. There are both left eye and right eye dominant families. Flatfish bury themselves in sand to hide from predators and use their eyes as periscopes as these can rotate 180 degrees. During the larval stage these fish are not flat but become so as they grow, their bodies flatten, and one eye migrates across the head next to the other eye. They feed on fish and small benthic animals.
Shortfin Lionfish by Marc Broadbent DSC-RX100M4: 1/1000, F11, ISO100
Shortfin Lionfish are found singly or in small schools, sometimes hiding in sponges or over mud, weedy rocks and sandy areas of reef flats and shallow lagoons. They feed nocturnally on crustaceans. They are 17cm long, widespread Indo-West Pacific at depths of 3 - 80m. Lionfish can be found during the day, hovering often upside-down above the ground, in caves or crevices. At night they are out in the open hunting. When disturbed they raise their feathery fins as a warning and will usually move off out of harm’s way. However, if cornered, they are able to charge at considerable speed. Their beautiful feathery pectoral and dorsal Fins are highly venomous.
Spiny Wasp Fish by Marc Broadbent DSC-RX100M4: 1/1000, F11, ISO100
Spiny Wasp Fish is also known as Spiny Cockatoo, Spiny Cockatoo Waspfish, Spiny Leaf Fish. They are found singly or in pairs rocking in the current during the day over sand, rubble and weed bottoms of shallow reefs. They feed nocturnally on tiny crustaceans by ambushing their prey pretending to be a dead leaf. They are 20cm long, widespread Indo-West Pacific at depths of 1 - 20m. Waspfish can be distinguished from the Leaf Fish that belongs to the Scorpionfish family, by the dorsal Fins that begin above or in the front of the eyes. Most species sway back and forth to mimic debris as they wait for their victims to venture close. Extremely venomous.
Sculptured Slipper Lobster by Marc Broadbent DSC-RX100M4: 1/40, F5.6, ISO8100
Sculptured Slipper Lobsters have a somewhat flattened appearance and a horseshoe-shaped shell. This makes them look like camouflaged walking tanks. Slipper lobsters have no claws. They are nocturnal feeders and hide in recesses and caves in the reefs during the day. The slipper lobster digs into sand to hide and perhaps also sniff out buried worms and molluscs that make up its diet. Those same 10 legs that let them cling to the ground with such tenacity are also used to pry open bivalve shells. The sculptured slipper lobster has numerous spikes projecting from the edges of the plate-like antennae. The shell is relatively smooth with numerous bristle-like hairs on the body, especially along its sides. The body color is usually tan to yellowish brown. They grow to 7 or 8 inches in length. They are a bit skittish. If threatened, they will propel themselves backward by rapidly flapping their tails.
Crocodile Flathead by Marc Broadbent DSC-RX100M4: 1/100, F8, ISO80
Crocodile Flathead is found singly resting and camouflaged during the day on coarse rubble, sand and seagrass beds around mangroves and shallow semi-exposed fringing coral reefs dispersing at night to feed. They feed nocturnally on fish. They are 47cms long and are widespread in the Western Pacific at depths of 1 - 12m. Flatheads are closely related to Scorpionfish. Their eyes are covered by a tasselled curtain which helps disguise them from predators. The tassels expand and contract with the intensity of light.
Crocodile Flathead by Marc Broadbent DSC-RX100M4: 1/100, F8, ISO80
Flasher Scorpion Fish by Marc Broadbent DSC-RX100M4: 1/100, F8, ISO100
The Flasher Scorpion Fish has a broad, spiny head with a wide space between the eyes, a highly arched back, and a divided upper opercular spine. It has 12 spines in its dorsal fin and nine soft rays and the anal fin has three spines and five soft rays. The general color of this fish is brown mottled with white, and it can grow to a length of 13 cm. The large pectoral fin is flushed with yellow and orange on its inside and has a complete, broad black band near its margin and no large back spots. This fish is one of five very similar species of humpback scorpionfish and can be distinguished by the markings on the inside of the pectoral fin. it can also be differentiated by the presence of two to six points on the nasal spine.
Tasseled Scorpion Fish by Marc Broadbent DSC-RX100M4: 1/200, F6.3, ISO200
The Tasseled Scorpionfish is also known as the small-scaled scorpionfish. They are ambush predators which rely on very colorful camouflage. In the deeper waters where there is no red light their camouflage is exceptionally good. Tasseled scorpionfish are one of the larger members of the scorpionfish family, growing up to 36 cm in length. The fish are highly variable in color and size. Blotches of a variety of reds, oranges, browns, and whites are spread across the body and no one fish appears to have the same camouflage patterns. Although the colors sound bright, the camouflage is extremely effective because as red light disappears as it moves deeper, the red on it becomes black. The head and body are decorated with many tassels, specifically shaped to resemble seaweed. Some of which even protrude from the lips. The fish has a slightly humped snout. The Tasseled Scorpionfish are generally easy to approach particularly when they feel their camouflage is working. Because of their poisonous spines, they have few predators and they take advantage of this and studiously ignore a diver. If they feel uncomfortable, they will raise their pectoral fins as if in warning and will then wait to see what happens. If a diver does not retreat, they will do a short hop a few feet away. They are found across the Indo Pacific area, all the way up the East coast of Africa to the Red sea, usually on rubble or in amongst weeds. The best time to see them is on a night dive when they are more conspicuous. When in shallow waters, swimmers can easily tread on their spines. They prey on fishes and crustaceans and pretty much anything that fits in their mouth. The fish in the image above ate the pipefish a few seconds after I took the image. They use their large mouths to create a vacuum and suck in and swallow the prey. Scorpionfish females produce eggs that when fertilized are released and float near the surface. Little else is known about scorpionfish reproduction.
Indian Lionfish by Jonathan Broadbent YG4: 1/200, F5.3, ISO200
There are 9 or 10 species of this genus. They have a pair of fan-shaped pectoral fins and a spiky first dorsal fin. The dorsal, anal and pelvic fin spines are all highly venomous, unlike the pectoral and caudal fins which contain no spine. The venom is potent, and a lionfish sting constitutes a serious health emergency. Symptoms of poisoning include intense throbbing, sharp pain, tingling sensations, sweatiness, and blistering. Lionfish can be aggressive, even engaging potential threats with a 'spines forward' approach; they should be always treated with caution. For most of their adult lives, lionfish are solitary and will fiercely defend their home range against other individuals of both the same and different species, using their poisonous dorsal spines. Males are more aggressive than females. As their name suggests, they are fearsome predators. Hunting mostly at night, the lionfish will eat just about any crustacean or fish it can catch. Normally sluggish fish, they expend a lot of energy hunting and must therefore eat a considerable amount; so much of this fish's behaviour is dictated by hunger. Although most of the lionfish's feeding is completed within the first hour of night, it will remain out in the open until daylight. When the sun comes up, they retreat to their shadowy homes among the corals, rocks, and overhangs. They tend to corner prey using their large fins and then use a lightning-fast gulp to swallow it whole, much like the gulping attack of a frogfish. It is believed that they usually approach their prey slowly from below, their splayed fins shielding the movement of their caudal fin so that their prey will not be alarmed. Their bizarre striped coloration may be an especially useful pattern to disguise it in a reef environment, which also assists in the hunt. However, much like the stripes of the African zebra, the true reason is open to conjecture. When hunting for crustaceans, they glide over the reef, vibrating their fin rays to encourage potential prey to emerge from safety. Lionfish have also been known to adopt an entirely different hunting strategy. They hover in open water just below the surface, watching for schools of small fish jumping out of the water to avoid another predator. As soon as the smaller fish break the surface and re-enter the water, they suddenly find themselves inside the belly of a grateful lionfish. While courting, a single male will form a group of between 3 and 8 with several females, and it will become particularly aggressive. When another male lionfish enters the territory of a courting male, the agitated male will approach the invader with widely spread fins, swimming back and forth, while pointing its poisonous dorsal spines forward. The courting male will charge and bite the intruder violently. Sometimes this clash can lead to either fish becoming impaled, but the action will only stop once the intruder has retreated. Lionfish need not worry about interpreting body language to know when the time is right for mating, since the physical signals are obvious. The male becomes darker and their stripes are much less visible, and any female whose eggs are ripe takes on a much paler hue with many areas of the body becoming silvery white. The male will sidle up the female and sit with her on the substrate, looking up at the surface and propped up on his ventral fins. After circling the female several times, he rises to the surface pursued by the now eager female. At the surface she will tremble her pectoral fins, and this rising and sinking process is repeated several times until she spawns, and he releases his sperm to fertilise the 4,000 to 30,000 eggs. The embryo of the lionfish begins to form around 12 hours after fertilisation, with a developing head and eyes becoming apparent after 18 hours. The mucus walls of the encasing eggs become invaded by microbes, and deteriorate around 36 hours after fertilisation, when the planktonic larvae hatch. Life Cycle They learn quickly and are useful swimmers and hunters of small ciliates within 4 days of conception. The larvae settle out of the water column after a period of approximately 25 to 40 days, at a size of 10-12 mm in length. Lionfish very quickly bulk up and develop a large body size early in their life cycle. This makes them more likely to avoid attack by predators and increases the chances of them mating successfully. Depending on species, they live from 5 to 15 years, but the vast majority do perish in the wild early in life. Undocumented predators might include sharks since many sharks are known to consume venomous organisms without suffering any obvious ill effects. They seem to prefer still waters shielded from current, in quieter and darker parts of reef and wrecks, where they hover almost motionless with their head titled slightly downward. They are also known to exist in bays, estuaries, and harbours.
White Margin Star Gazer by Jonathan Broadbent YG4: 1/200, F6.3, ISO200
The White Margin Star Gazer is also known as Marbled Stargazer, Popeye Fish, Pop-eyed Fish, Tube-nosed Stargazer. It can be found singly buried in the sand with just the mouth and eyes showing, wiggling its lure to attract its prey over coastal reef flats. They feed on fish. They are 45cm long and are widespread in the Indo-Pacific at depths of 5 - 350m. The name stargazer comes from the fact the eyes are positioned on top of their heads! They are usually found buried in the sand with just their heads showing waiting to ambush their unsuspecting prey as they swim passed! Stargazer possess electric organs located in a specialized pouch behind the eyes and can discharge up to 50 volts, depending on the temperature of the water at the time!
Striped Catfish by Jonathan Broadbent YG4: 1/100, F6.3, ISO100
Striped Catfish can reach a maximum length of 32 cm. The body is brown with cream-colored or white longitudinal bands. The most striking feature of this species is in the fins, in fact the second dorsal, caudal and anal are fused together as in eels. In the rest of the body is quite similar to a freshwater catfish: the mouth is surrounded by four pairs of barbels, four on the upper jaw and four on the lower jaw. The first dorsal and each of the pectoral fins have a highly venomous spine. They may even be fatal. Juveniles form dense ball-shaped schools of about 100 fish, while adults are solitary or occur in smaller groups of around 20 and are known to hide under ledges during the day. Adults search and stir the sand incessantly for crustaceans, molluscs, worms, and sometimes fish. It is an oviparous fish; this species has demersal eggs and planktonic larvae. It has evolved long ampullary canals in its electrosensory organs (originally termed "ampullae of Lorenzini").
Orbicular Burrfish by Jonathan Broadbent YG4: 1/100, F18, ISO400
Orbicular Burrfish is commonly as the Birdbeak burrfish, is a species of marine fish in the family Diodontidae. The Birdbeak burrfish is widespread throughout the tropical waters of the Indo-West Pacific region from Red Sea to the Philippines. The Birdbeak burrfish is a medium size fish and can reach a maximum size of 30 cm length.
Devil Scorpionfish by Jonathan Broadbent YG4: 1/100, F6.3, ISO100
Devil Scorpionfish is also known as Devil Goblinfish, Devil Stonefish, False Firefish, False Goblinfish, False Rockfish, False Scorpionfish, False Stonefish, Hump-backed Scorpionfish, Stonefish. Found singly or in pairs blending into their surrounds over coral, rock, rubble and weedy bottoms of reef flats, lagoons and seaward reefs. They feed on small fish. This Scorpionfish has a large head that merges into the landscape very well. This tiny Stonefish was about 5cm in length! They feed on small fish. Length - 28cm Depth - 1-70m Widespread Indo-Pacific Scorpionfish are masters of camouflage, enabling them to lie in wait for their victims to come close, before lunging forward and inhaling their prey with their large mouths. When disturbed they raise the spines along their backs and will usually move off out of harm’s way, however, if cornered they are able to charge at considerable speed. Highly dangerous and poisonous with venomous spines along its back if trodden on etc.
Spiny Devil Fish by Marc Broadbent DSC-RX100M4: 1/1000, F11, ISO100
Spiny Devil Fish is also known as Bearded Ghoul, Bearded Ghoulfish, Demon Goblinfish, Demon Rockfish, Demon Stinger, Demon Stinger Scorpionfish, Devilfish, Devil Scorpionfish, Devil Stinger, Devil Stinger Scorpionfish, Indian Walkman, Longsnout Stinger, Longsnout Stingerfish, Pop-eyed Sea Goblin, Red Sea Walkman, Sea Goblin, Stingfish. Found singly sometimes half buried and blending in with silty mud and sand bottoms over lagoons and seaward reefs. They feed on crustaceans and small fish. Walks rather than swims. Length - 25cmDepth - 1-80m Widespread Indo-West Pacific Scorpionfish are masters of camouflage, enabling them to lie in wait for their victims to come close, before lunging forward and inhaling their prey with their large mouths. When disturbed they raise the spines along their backs and will usually move off out of harm’s way, however, if cornered they are able to charge at considerable speed. Highly dangerous and poisonous with venomous spines along its back if trodden on etc.
Cockatoo Flounder Marc Broadbent ILCE-7M3: 1/250, F8, ISO3200
Cockatoo Flounder has a series of blotches along dorsal and ventral body margins; elongated anterior dorsal-fin rays white, remainder of dorsal fin, anal fin, and caudal fin brown; pectoral fin dark. Blind side of body whitish. First 12-15 (rarely 10-11) dorsal- fin rays greatly elongated. Pectoral fin on blind side absent or rudimentary. Pelvic fin on eyed side elongated. Caudal fin with 16 unbranched rays and rounded margin. Inhabits silty sand or mud bottoms. Feeds on benthic animals. Flicks the long dorsal filaments on the front of the head when alarmed, looking just like the sticky threads that are produced by a holothurian when handled.