I am extremely pleased to announce that my image of mating Denise’s pygmy seahorses (Hippocampus denise) taken at Wakatobi Dive Resort is the ‘Parting Shot’ in the new issue (Winter 2012) of Alert Diver magazine (see attachment below).
Alert Diver, as many of you will know, is the quarterly publication of the Divers Alert Network (DAN) in the USA and regularly features the biggest names in underwater photography. I am honoured to have my image in print alongside the work of Brian Skerry, Flip Nicklin, Ned and Anna DeLoach, Michelle Westmorland, Keri Wilk and Amos Nachoum – all under the editorial eye of Stephen Frink!
The image of mating Denise’s pygmy seahorses was taken during my PhD research on the biology and conservation of pygmy seahorses. I spent hundreds of hours observing and recording the social and reproductive behaviours of these animals for one part of my study and was lucky enough to watch them giving birth and mating on several occasions.
One pygmy birth that I witnessed was particularly memorable due to a pair of titan triggerfish choosing to lay their own clutch of eggs at the exact same time that the pygmies were giving birth. Triggers are notorious for their bad temper when nesting and I can confirm that their excitement is amplified when actually laying their eggs. Somehow I managed to scribble down my notes during the incessant onslaught, with my buddy acting as a bodyguard, and witnessed the 3 mm baby pygmies being released into the world.
Another focus of my research was the interaction between divers and pygmy seahorses. By observing many such interactions I was able to pinpoint certain diver actions that resulted in the seahorses exhibiting stressed behaviours. This culminated in Code of Conduct guidelines to help educate divers on which actions to avoid whilst photographing and observing these amazing animals. You can read more about the code and a download a version in various languages by following this link.