Marine Life

Swell Sharks

What can I say? I am a sucker for cute and interesting faces underwater (other than divers, of course). And fortunately, for California underwater photographers we have many. But for me, I am especially drawn to our bottom dwelling sharks, specifically horn sharks and swell sharks. What fascinating faces! Of these two sharks I find the swell sharks to have the most interesting faces. Especially striking is the metallic golden colored eyes. Their flat heads spread out their funny “smiles” underneath. “Nostrils” just above the […]

Bat Rays

One fine summer day years ago, a friend and I took a small boat to a shallow cove off Anacapa, hoping to photograph the large number of bat rays that had gathered there. To avoid spooking the rays, my friend advised me to “slither” into the water as silently as possible. He slipped in first and I followed.  Perhaps our technique needed work. First one, then another, then all of the rays — and there were a lot of them — rose from the bottom […]

Nudis and Branchers

Ever see pictures of a critter that seems to have evolved from that box where all the holiday decorations are stored? Chances are you’re looking at a nudibranch.  Nudibranchs (sometimes affectionately called “nudis”) are members of the opisthobranchs, also known as sea slugs. The name nudibranch literally means “naked gill.” Their body shape ranges from oval to long and tapered. All have some form of rhinophores; think rabbit ears, on their front end. Projections of varying heights may be present on the back.  A group […]

Thornback Rays

I couldn’t believe my luck. I had just reached the bottom at 20 feet and was cruising toward the kelp forest in deeper water when I saw a prehistoric looking creature lounging on the sand. It was light brown, with a distinctive flat, heart shaped head and a long tail. There were three rows of spines on its back. The animal, which reminded me of an armored vehicle, was a thornback.  The creature tolerated having its photo taken for several minutes before moving on. (Yes, […]

Encounters with Pacific Electric Rays Can Be Shocking — But They Don’t Have to Be

Last August, a Pacific electric ray sought out the company of divers on more than one dive on Farnsworth Bank’s high spot. While this didn’t happen to me, it did to several people on my trip. They had photos and video of the ray hovering a few feet away from a diver in a relaxed and nonaggressive way.  While doing internet research in November, I found another report of a ray/diver encounter at Farnsworth that took place several months after my trip. This behavior is […]

Chestnut Cowries

Some shells must be cleaned and polished to reveal their jewel-like qualities, while others are perfect gems just as they are found in the ocean. One of the most beautiful shells found in California is the chestnut cowry, and this shell needs no work to show off its inner beauty. Cowries, in general, and chestnut cowries, specifically, have such stunning beauty that they are both enjoyed by divers and prized by collectors. The chestnut cowry is found from Monterey to Isla Cedros, Baja California. They […]

A Giant (Rock Scallop) Mystery

An ex-boyfriend once complained: “I’ve never met a woman who asked so many questions!” At the time, of course, he was trying to avoid answering one. What can I say? The mysteries of life intrigue me. One of them involves the giant rock scallop (Crassadoma gigantea). Everything I’ve read says they have orange mantles but that’s not always the case. Some have black mantles; others have dark green, cream or beige. I know this because I have at least 80 photographs of scallops taken in […]

Sheephead: The Bold Rogue of the Kelp Forest

When I first came upon a male California sheephead, I thought I had wandered into the neighborhood of the local bully. The adult sheephead (Semicossyphus pulcher) are bigger than many fish of the Central and Southern California rocky reefs and kelp forests. With a big, blunt, black head, red mid-section, and black tail he looks at you with alert eyes, a sense of cool detachment and a mouthful of long, crooked teeth. Itʼs not just his appearance that is a bit intimidating, itʼs his attitude. […]

Seen Any Basking Sharks? Contact NOAA

Basking sharks (Cetorhinus maximus) are one of the largest fish in the sea, second only to whale sharks. They can reach a maximum size of 45 feet, and are distinguished from whale sharks by their pointy snouts, dark grey to brown color, and gill slits that nearly encircle their head. Like whale sharks, as well as all the largest rays and cetaceans, basking sharks are filter feeders foraging near the base of the food-web on krill and other zooplankton. Consequently, they have no interest in […]

California Marine Flatworms

A rather stunning creature grabbed my attention. It was off-white with ostentatious black, purple, and red lines that zigzagged down its back. It looked like and moved like a nudibranch, but lacked the gills and rhinophores of a nudibranch. What could it be? Turns out my mystery critter was a flatworm. Flatworms belong to the Phylum Platyhelminthes, a group that contains some very primitive, and yet very beautiful, animals. This name derives from the Greek and literally translates to “flat worm.” Platyhelminthes have been divided […]

California Diving News © 2016