Marine Life

Who You Calling Shrimp?

Shrimp belong to the Phylum Arthropoda, which means jointed leg and includes 75 percent of all animals. They aren’t all aquatic. Spiders, scorpions, centipedes and millipedes are arthropods that live on land. Shrimp are members not only of the Subphylum Crustacea — which includes crabs, lobsters, barnacles, amphipods and isopods — but also of the Class Malacostraca.   This article discusses three so-called “shrimp.” Only one of them, however, is a true shrimp. Here’s a hint: The “shrimp” are: a Hyperiid (Order Amphipoda), a California […]

The Thrill of the Hunt: A Diver’s Guide to Lobster

Who says we don’t have seasons in California? We most certainly do! There is lobster season and everything else. We’ll keep this simple: California spiny lobsters (“bugs”) are very tasty. They’re also hard to find at local seafood specialty stores and restaurants — and are often outrageously expensive when you can find them. Finally, they are a lot of fun to catch while diving! If you have not already done so, perhaps it is time for you to try lobster hunting. Is it easy? Well, […]

Camouflage and Courtship: The Colorful Lives of California Kelpfish

Giant kelpfish tend to keep their distance. I have many images of them taken from several feet away as they pretend to be part of the scenery. Since they can change colors (red, lime green, yellow and brown) and patterns to match the kelp or algae in which they have chosen to lurk, as long as they remain stationary this camouflage works quite well. It is their surreptitious slinking through the water that brings them to your attention. Years ago while I was diving off […]

SoCal’s Bluewater Sharks: The Blue Shark and Shortfin Mako

The first time I saw a blue shark was during the summer of 1975. I am certain of the timing because that time frame was the first time I dived at the Channel Islands. And when we were on our way to and from the islands during daylight hours we were almost certain to see the dorsal fins of dozens of blue sharks knifing their way along the surface.  That is not the case today. But maybe, just maybe, it can be that way again. […]

The Bizarre World of Pelagic Invertebrates

I have come to view the oceans as an immense bowl of salty soup. Billions of creatures ride its currents, some visible to the naked eye, but many so tiny they can only be seen under a microscope. Some creatures will eventually settle down and live their adult lives far from where they started out. Others will spend their entire lives offshore. The latter — in particular invertebrates that spend their lives adrift in the ocean — is what this article is about. Many are […]

Massive Anchovy School Migrates Off La Jolla

The waters off La Jolla in San Diego were filled with anchovies in early July, as a massive school of the fish migrated near shore, leading to a spectacular sight recorded by researchers from the San Diego-based Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO). The event gained nationwide media attention. According to Scripps, the giant school of California anchovies, also called northern anchovies, Engraulis mordax, formed a dark band off La Jolla, near the Scripps pier, swimming quickly through the area. In an interview with CNN, SIO […]

Swimming, Swirling, Schooling, Shoaling: How Fishes Move About

Taking photos of fish schools is one of my favorite underwater activities. It’s always challenging and getting good photos isn’t easy. Schooling fish tend to move away from you in unison, so it’s hard to get close. Only rarely do they let you into their midst. Like birds in the sky, a fish school acts as one, changing direction in an instant. It seems a miracle individuals don’t collide. The school moves like a river, flowing around objects in its path, while each fish maintains […]

Shell Games: The Curious Habits of Hermit Crabs

While riding an Amtrak train along the coast just south of Santa Barbara I had an epiphany. It was sparked by the neatly parked RVs on the two-lane road along the shore below the train tracks. Are you ready? Here it is: Hermit crabs are the RVers of the crab world. Of course, human RVers can live independently of their vehicles while hermit crabs require a sea shell home for protection because only their heads, part of their carapace and the first three pairs of […]

Giant Kelp: The Mainstay of Our Kelp Forests

Has any well-intentioned person ever told you that giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera, is the world’s fastest growing plant? Unfortunately, if they have, you have been misinformed.  So, does this mean that there is another plant that grows faster than giant kelp? Or was giant kelp never the fastest growing plant? Maybe your informant meant to say that giant kelp is the world’s fastest growing marine plant. Still not true. Confused? Many are. Here’s the skinny: Not too many years ago your informant would have been […]

Hydro-Powered Holothurians: California Sea Cucumbers

During a late afternoon dive several years ago in Fiji, I came across a sea cucumber (Bohadschia graeffei) that was upright and swaying like a cobra dancing to a snake charmer’s tune. That was very strange and I didn’t know what to make of it. I watched for a while, swam away, then came back, intending to photograph the sea cuke’s mouth and the tentacles surrounding it, which were black with flat, leafy white tips.  That’s when things got stranger. Rising in the water from […]

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