I spent 10 days in Lembeh Strait, North Sulawesi, Indonesia over Christmas 2010.  It is one of the best places in the world for Muck Diving, which doesn’t sound too glamorous but isn’t quite as it sounds.  Basically this type of diving is spent looking around ostensibly barren areas of sand and silt for cryptic creatures.  Every dive is like a treasure hunt.

I have been to Lembeh Strait several times now and the thing that keeps bringing me back is the high chance of seeing something new, be it a new species or behaviour.  One of the new and exciting finds of this trip was a fish I had no idea of what it was when I saw it.  I had literally no idea of even what group to place it, which doesn’t happen very often!  The 15 cm or so long fish was sitting out in the open at 5 m depth on a black sand slope.  After my guide, Indra of Kasawari Resort, pointed it out to me I wrote on my slate ‘massive head fish’.  The fish seemed to be a large head with a huge mouth attached. 

On surfacing our other guide, Nonsix, identified it as the Dampier Stonefish (Dampierosa daruma, which now seems to have been reclassified as Erosa daruma) and after checking the Tropical Pacific fish book this was the only animal that at all resembled Indra’s find.  I was happy with this, although in the book the geographic range was listed as NW Australia.  The geographic ranges are poorly known for many fish so this is often not a good indicator. 

It has since been brought to my attention that there is another member of this genus that is a more likely candidate in Lembeh.  The Pacific Monkeyfish or Pitted Stonefish (Erosa erosa) is reported from Lembeh but it’s hard to know whether these identifications were correct.  I plan to do some digging in the scientific literature but until then if you have any thoughts or comments on the ID of this bizarre fish please let me know!

More images from this trip to Lembeh Strait, including my first ever Longfin Waspfish (Apistus carinatus), Pacific Triplefin (Lobotes pacificus) and Radial Filefish (Acreichthys radiatus), can be seen in my Lembeh 2010 gallery