Bird’s Head Seascape – Natural History Notes (PT 1: In Appreciation of Damsels)

Bird’s Head Seascape – Natural History Notes (PT 1: In Appreciation of Damsels)

Damselfishes are a ubiquitous, but often overlooked, member of the Indo-Pacific reef fish community.  Around two hundred and fifty species, three quarters of the world’s damsels, are known to live in the Indo-West Pacific.  With the world’s highest marine biodiversity, where better to enjoy these fishes first hand than Raja Ampat?

Spawning blue green chromisDamselfishes are egg layers, most often laying their clutch on a pre-prepared nest site somewhere on the reef.  When their eggs hatch, the majority of species’ fry will immediately be swept off in the currents to disperse around the ocean.  Whilst the parents of these young fishes will never see the fruits of their reproductive endeavours, others raise young that never seem to leave home: the ‘Gen Y’ of the fish world. Over the past eleven days, I have been exploring the northern islands of Raja Ampat aboard Dewi Nusantara observing this unassuming group of fishes and their array of reproductive strategies.

Ecosystem Engineers

Many of us have had personal experience of a damselfish protecting its eggs.  Sergeant Majors, anemonefishes and golden damsels are amongst a few of the common damsels that will not hesitate to take on us bubble blowers, seemingly unperturbed by our comparatively massive size.  These demersal spawners, lay their eggs directly onto the substrate.  Sergeant Majors nest en masse, with dozens of individuals making a wasteland of a few square metres of the reef, laying their purplish spawn that they enthusiastically protect from marauders.  As such they are a kind of ecosystem engineer, altering the habitat for their own benefit but changing it for others too.

Spiny Chromis parent with frySpiny Chromis parent with frySwimming along a reef in northern Batanta Island, I came across a honeyhead damsel that had also strikingly altered its local environment.  Rather than denuding it to lay its eggs, it had encouraged verdant algal growth within the square metre or so of its territory that it enthusiastically warded me away from.  Like a disgruntled farmer it chased off any other creatures that tried to enter the confines of its little farmyard.  Within the allotment honeyheads farm filamentous algae, which act as their primary food source. Their agricultural proclivities, and the exclusion of other herbivores and corallivores, alter the composition of species within these plots.  By changing patches of the reef, these damsels are altering it for other species too. Their influences having a disproportionately large reach given their size.

Golden damsels on the other hand, usually lay their clutch of bright pink eggs on a whip coral or some other such protuberance coming off the reef.  You’ll often see the diligent parent tending to their clutch.  By aerating and removing infertile or spoiled eggs, they remove a reservoir of infection for others in the clutch.  Like the eggs of many fishes, the initially vivid fresh eggs soon become grey in colour as they mature and the fry develop within.  Just prior to hatching you can even see the reflective eyes of the tiny fish within.

Doting Parents

Juvenile spiny chromisOne of the more extreme parental investments of a damselfish is found in spiny chromis.  These inconspicuous damsels lay few large eggs, which both parents tend for an extended period until the relatively large fry hatch.  They are rare amongst reef fishes, in that the fry lack a pelagic larval stage and remain close to where they were born their entire life.  Although adults aren’t as protective of their fry as some other damsels, they keep an ever-watchful eye over the brood from hatching until they are quite large in size.  When small the fry are almost transparent, but take on a faint yellow stripe as they grow.  Adult spiny chromis have quite pointed fins and although variable in colour geographically, they are more often than not dark in colour, especially in the West Papua region.  Finally the youngsters darken to become miniature versions of their parents, and even at this late stage remain in a loose school casually overseen by their parents.

Changing Colours

A final quirk of damselfish reproduction, which for me makes them one of the most beautiful reef fish groups, is the diversity of their juvenile forms.  Adult black damsels, for instance, are midnight black in colour whereas their juveniles are almost indistinguishable as the same species.  They are unexpectedly white and bright yellow, with bluey black ventral and anal fins.  The leading theory for the dramatic change in colour or pattern from juvenile to adult in reef fishes is to reduce territorial aggression from adults.  If juveniles appear completely different, the adults are less likely to hound them out of their territory and the two can coexist amicably.

Damselfishes are a group that many divers seem to overlook.  I hope that I’ve convinced you to spare these unassuming fishes a thought on your next visit to the Bird’s Head. The more you learn about these abundant fishes the more fascinating they become, adding both to the diversity of the region and your diving experience.

Links to Previous Blogs:

PART TWO | Craving Cryptic Crustaceans

PART THREE |Sinister Hitchhikers

PART FOUR | The Pygmy Seahorses of Raja Ampat

PART FIVE | Raja Rarities

By Dr Richard Smith Originally written for BirdsHeadSeascape.com Science & Conservation Blog

BIOGRAPHY: Richard Smith, a British underwater photographer and writer, aspires to promote an appreciation for the ocean’s inhabitants and raise awareness of marine conservation issues through his images.  A marine biologist by training, Richard’s pioneering research on the biology and conservation of pygmy seahorses, led to the first PhD on these enigmatic fishes.  Over the past decade, Richard’s photographs and marine life focused features have appeared in a wide variety of publications around the world. Richard leads expeditions where the aim is for participants to get more from their diving and photography by learning about the marine environment through marine biology lectures:  www.OceanRealmImages.com | Facebook.com/OceanRealmImages

Ocean Realm Images FLOW – Newsletter 2015

Ocean Realm Images FLOW – Newsletter 2015

I really don’t know what happened to 2015, but what a great years it’s been! There have been lots of amazing expeditions, creatures and publications to my name.  I hope you’ve all had a brilliant 2015 and looking forward to 2016 and beyond.  Here’s is a little run down of what I’ve been up to over the past 6 months:

Completed Trips

Leopard anemone shrimpApart from some non-group expeditions, in the six months since my last blog I’ve run trips to Atlantis Dumaguete Resort and aboard Atlantis’ Azores liveaboard around Cebu Island in the Philippines.  Most of the guests joined us for the entire 18 days and we saw such amazing creatures as 18 seahorses on one dive, 11 frogfishes on another, thresher sharks, whale sharks, Lembeh seadragons (Kyonemichthys rumengani) plus many more.  As always, we donated some of the proceeds from the trip to a conservation organisation.  In this case we chose the Marine Megafauna Foundation, who strive to protect the world’s biggest marine fishes.

Lynne's pipefishJust recently also I completed a trip aboard the Bilikiki in the Solomon Islands.  I am always blown away by the remoteness of the Solomons. The reefs are pristine and full of life, whilst on land, we went to a village that had never been visited by foreigners in the 60 years since it was founded.  I can’t imagine that’s true of many places in the world these days.  My underwater highlight was certainly Lynne’s pipefish (Festucalex rufus), which I have been looking for for sometime but had never seen before.

 

Upcoming Trips

I have recently added four brand new expeditions to the 2018 roster.  I know this seems terribly far away, but time flies! Our 2016 is basically full and 2017 is going the same way, so we figured it was time.  There are more details about trips below, alternatively keep an eye on my website, which I keep up to date: OceanRealmImages.com/Expeditions

2016 | I’ve been very fortunate with my trips filling up very quickly and there are only a couple of spots remaining to join my expeditions in 2016.  These last spaces are on the trip I’m leading for Dive Worldwide to Atmosphere Resort, Dumaguete in the Philippines.  To read more about this expert led ‘Dumaguete Dive Festival‘ please follow the link above or contact Reservations@DiveWorldwide.com

2017

2-12th March 2017 (10 nights) | All of Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia.  Indo-Siren Liveaboard. ‘Four Kings Expedition‘ as an expert led group tour for Dive Worldwide.  For more information please follow the link
above or contact Reservations@DiveWorldwide.com

23rd June – 3rd July 2017 (10 nights) | Underwater Photography Workshop at Siladen Resort, North Sulawesi, Indonesia. For more information please follow the link above or contact Ana@Siladen.com

Giant clam dottybackNEW | 22 – 31st August 2017 (9 nights) | Muck Magic Trip 1 – Sangeang Island & Bima Bay aboard Damai II (Labuan Bajo to Bima).  This ‘Our Beloved Seas’ trip is a joint trip between Wendy Brown and myself.  We have recently added this and the trip directly following it, but the second trip filled in minutes! If you’d like to join us in these exceedingly rich and rarely visited areas for critter hunting please contact Wendy or myself(Richard@OceanRealmImages.com) for more information. We expect space to fill fast.

 

2018

Hammerhead sharks in Galapagos IslandsNEW | Galapagos Islands aboard Galapagos Sky

25th February – 4th March 2018 (7 nights) | Trip 1

4-11th March 2018 (7 nights) | Trip 2

Wendy and I have repeatedly been asked by our guests to plan some trips to destinations outside the Coral Triangle. However, knowing how our regular guests love that area’s warm waters we have planned back to back trips to the Galapagos Islands in February/March when the waters of these mystical and historic islands tends to be warmer and clearer – whilst maintaining their renowned bounty.  As always, I’ll be giving talks and this will be the perfect place to share my passion for evolutionary biology, which was the subject of my Master’s degree.

NEW | 23rd July – 1st August 2018 (9 nights) | North Cenderawasih Bay & Mapia Island aboard Dewi Nusantara(Manokwari to Manokwari).  This first trip aboard Dewi Nusantara will take us to new ground.  Whilst we will start and end the trip in Cenderawasih Bay, we will take this opportunity to visit Mapia and its surrounding islands 100NM north of the bay, and the equator.  Here the remote and very rarely visited reefs are bustling with life and ripe to be explored.

NEW | 3 – 13th August 2018 (10 nights) | Classic Cenderawasih Bay aboard Dewi Nusantara (Manokwari to Sorong).  Starting in Manokwari, we will sail to the southern reaches of the bay in search of the area’s world renowned whale sharks.  We plan to spend a couple of mornings face to face with the sharks before continuing our search for other amazing fishes found only in the bay.  It is well know for the high numbers of endemics, which you’ll learn all about in my talks!

 

Publications

Sport Diving coverI haven’t only been underwater since my last update; I’ve been busy writing too.  I’ve continued with my regular series in both American and British Sport Diver Magazines, with ‘Get More from your Diving: Critter Hunting’ and ‘Species’ respectively.  I’ve also written the following stand-alone features:

‘Titillating Twilight – The Lure of North Sulawesi’ – Asian Diver

‘A Japanese Spin on the Night Dive – Hot Ke Night’ – Asian Diver

‘Changing Seas: Evolution in the Ocean’ – Scuba Diver AustralAsia

‘Solomon Islands: Reefs at the Edge of the World’ – Scuba Diver – Ocean Planet

‘Shooting for Science’ – Scuba Diver – Ocean Planet

‘Diving Mini Breaks: Australia’ – Sport Diving

‘Diving Mini Breaks: South Pacific’ – Sport Diving

‘Bird’s Head Natural History Notes part 1: In Appreciation of Damsels’ – Bird’s Head Seascape website. A new series about my adventures in the BHS.

Asian Diver coverI’ve also had a couple of cover shots for Asian Diver and Sport Diving magazines as well as having my shot ‘Whip Gobies and Eggs’ judged as a finalist in the ANZANG Nature Photographer of the Year.

Thinking ahead, I will also be speaking at the ADEX dive show in Singapore from 15-17 April 2016, so come along if you can!

 

 

Five Favourite Firsts of 2015

– I am always on the hunt for new and exciting beasties under the sea, so I thought as a final whimsy I would share my top five new finds of 2015.  After 3,000 plus dives there’s still so much to see.  This is why I keep diving and we always donate what we can to help preserve the amazing oceans.

1. Leopard Anemone Shrimp (Izucaris masudai) – Raja Ampat

2. Giant Clam Shrimps (Anchistus demani and Conchodytes tridacnae) – Wakatobi Dive Resort & Raja Ampat

3. Lynne’s Pipefish (Festucalex rufus) – Solomon Islands

Red Sea Longnose Filefish4. Red Sea Longnose Filefish (Oxymonacanthus halli) – Egyptian Red Sea

5. John Dory (Zeus faber) – Izu Peninsula, Japan

Finally, if you’d like to hear what I’m up to on a more regular basis, I suggest you check out my FaceBook page | www.facebook.com/OceanRealmImages

 

 

 

 

OUR BELOVED SEAS TRIP REPORT | NORTH RAJA AMPAT, INDONESIA

OUR BELOVED SEAS TRIP REPORT | NORTH RAJA AMPAT, INDONESIA

In the darkened salon of Dewi Nusantara on the last evening of the trip, Martin and Kelly were sharing their fantastic images taken over the past eleven days.  Having this opportunity to see a collection of pictures from the trip gave me a real sense of the amazing diving we’d been lucky enough to experience.  Among his pictures, there were many unusual nudibranchs (several of which I’d never seen before), shrimps such as the elusive harlequin and Coleman’s species, pristine reefs and blue-ringed octopuses – to name just a few.Our Beloved Seas Raja Ampat marine life trip

Richard Smith and Wendy Brown Our Beloved SeasWendy and I, who together make up ‘Our Beloved Seas’, had tailored this trip to explore northern Raja Ampat.  As with all our trips, we planned to dig a little deeper and get off the beaten path with our voyage.  We visited only the northern two ‘Kings’ of Raja Ampat: Batanta and Waigeo Islands.  Usually, charters also head far south to visit Misool Island too, so this gave us much more time to visit some sites we’d had on our radar in the north for a while.

Picturesque dragonet - Synchiropus picturatusThe trip was off to a bang in northern Batanta.  Our quarry in the small and unassuming bay, which was our first stop, was a very special fish indeed.  The picturesque dragonet (Synchiropus picturatus) is, in my opinion, the more beautiful cousin of the mandarinfish.  Whilst the ostentatious mandarin is most well known for its coital displays that take place at dusk each day, there was none of this lewdness with our picturesques.  These turquoise fish, covered in psychedelic rings, were going about their business on a rubble and coral slope.  Although I haven’t seen one in eight years, I must have seen at least a dozen in the hour we spent scouring the slope.  We then surfaced to another natural spectacle as dozens, well 140 by our count, of Papuan or Blyth’s hornbills (Aceros plicatus) came to roost on the island adjacent to where we’d been diving.  We could hear the characteristic whooshing of these huge birds as they flew overhead in pairs and small groups.

Penemu Raja Ampat, IndonesiaOur next day was spent with equal numbers of special fishes; they were just several orders of magnitude larger than those from the previous day.  Wendy had found a new manta cleaning station and we spent two dives cruising between the coral outcrops that accommodated the cleaner wrasses that drew the mantas to the site.  It must have been manta rush hour at the site, there was an almost incessant stream coming to be cleaned.  At one point I was buzzed by a squadron of five pure black ‘Darth Vadar’ mantas.  Whilst the black form isn’t uncommon, I had never seen so many at one time.

Black coral whip coralHeading further north, we spent a couple of days in the bountiful Dampier Strait area, diving the world’s most biodiverse coral reef (well, that is according to a fish species count undertaken by Dr Gerry Allen a few years ago).  We saw white tip, black tip, grey and wobbegong sharks, which is sadly quite an extraordinary species count for anywhere in southeast Asia these days.  Turtles and large clouds of fishes complemented the little creatures such as Pontoh’s and Severn’s pygmy seahorses, flamboyant cuttlefish and ghost pipefishes.

Next was Aljui Bay, one of my favourite places to dive in Raja Ampat, if not the world.  The topside scenery is extraordinary and the underwater world is equally unexpected.  I have seen several unique Denise’s pygmy seahorse associations with the gorgonians here.  On this trip we saw Denise living on an Echinogorgi gorgonian in a colour form that I hadn’t seen previously.  The pygmy was bright red and white, much like the form of Denise seen more commonly in the south of Raja Ampat.  The ever-rewarding night dive at Cendana Dock pearl farm didn’t disappoint.  Between us, we had many cephalopods such as white-v octopus, bobtail and bottletail squids, as well as other treasures including toadfish singing and waspfishes.

Wayag Raja Ampat, West PapuaDuring the night after leaving Aljui, we passed over the equator into the northern hemisphere on our way up to Wayag.  This beautiful island group is the poster child for the whole of Raja Ampat.  The view from the top of one of the hills across the islands is stunning, as are the islands at sea level.  After three current charged dives, where I saw bigger schools of trevally than I’ve ever seen anywhere before, we went on a little boat trip round the islands.  Out of the azure waters burst steep limestone mountains covered in spartan tropical growth.

Several days’ diving and cruising southwards found us finally sitting back in the waters off Batanta Island, with just two muck dives remaining on a site called Algae Patch.  Although the currents into the channel between Batanta and Salawati were ripping, we had nice calm conditions for our dives.  The list of critters clocked up by the whole group during these two dives was outstanding.  Many amazing nudibranchs were firsts for most of our guests, ghost pipefishes and hoards of unusual shrimps made up the roster.

Although the trip absolutely flew by, I’m pleased to be diving with many of our guests again very soon.  The Philippines trip is just round the corner in September, which many are joining.  Although the next trip with spaces isn’t until March 2017, when we will be sailing from Sorong to Kaimana taking in the rarely explored highlights of the Fakfak coast and Triton Bay.  For more information about our upcoming trips check out my expeditions page, or contact me. For images from this trip, check out my album.

 

 

 

 

First Quarter Review 2014

First Quarter Review 2014

We are already more than a quarter of the way through 2014…. how did that happen?! It’s been a busy few months here at Ocean Realm Images with group trips to Socorro Island, Mexico and the Philippines, plenty of published articles and exciting new ventures in TV and film.

Diver and big eye trevally schoolGroup Expeditions

Socorro :: January 2014 | The year kicked off to a great start in January with my group trip to Socorro Island, Mexico aboard Solmar V.  We spent eight days diving this remote island group 250 miles from the Mexican mainland. It truly lived up to the name ‘Manta Capital of the World’, but there were many more creatures than just mantas with amazing shark, dolphin and interesting endemic fish encounters. I’ve posted some images from the trip here.

Some of the group at the end of our Dumaguete stayPhilippines :: March 2014 | I have just finished an amazing trip, with a brilliant group of people to the Philippines.  Sixteen of us spent a week at the remote Tubbataha Reef in the middle of the Sulu Sea, followed by 5-8 days (some people chose to extend) at Dumaguete Resort.  Dumaguete offered a perfect contrast to the pristine reefs of Tubbataha, with amazing muck diving where we saw all the top wishlist critters you could possibly hope for! For shots from the trip check out my Tubbataha and Dumaguete galleries.

I am really blessed to travel with such great folk on my group trips.  We have shared so many laughs and amazing experiences, but I am most pleased to see such enthusiasm for the marine life and a passion to preserve and interact respectfully with them. Here are just a few testimonials from recent trip participants:

“AMAZING! Richard is able to make scientific talks hugely entertaining.  I learnt so much, and every dive after the talks I found myself on the hunt for the new critters I had just learnt all about.  Brilliant!” Madeleine, Australia.

“The talks enchance the diving experience and encourage new interest outside the obviously spectacular! Friendly, approachable organisation” Martin, UK.

“We joined Richard’s group tour in Fiji and found the whole experience to be enjoyable and very informative.  We can highly recommend any future tours.” Maurice, Australia.

“As a non-diver I enjoyed the talks so much and learnt a lot.  Thank you so much Richard.” Kaye, Australia.

“A great experience to share our diving with Dr Richard – an inspiration, who gave another perspective to my view of the ocean realm” John, UK.

“Rich’s talks were an added bonus to the trip. Very clear, informative and although I have been diving for years I learnt new information. Encouraged lots of discussions within the group and made one more aware of reef creature’s behaviours.” Mary, UK.

Upcoming Expeditions

Whale Shark on the Philippines 2015 tripMy expeditions aren’t the ordinary run-of-the-mill dive trips.  I aim to share the wonder of the marine environment by diving the world’s best locations with daily marine life presentations to help you get more from your diving.  Learn about reef behaviour, critter hunting tips and more from beneath the waves. Please click the links below for info on these upcoming trips, contact me through my contact page or email me directly Richard@OceanRealmImages.com

 

• Indonesia – Dewi Nusantara (liveaboard)

Trip 1 – Flores, Alor & Wetar – 13-24th August 2014 (last two cabins remain)

Trip 2 – Flores & Alor to Wakatobi – 25th August – 5th September 2014 (LAST SPOT: female share)

 

• Philippines – Azores (liveaboard)

Cebu and Malapascua itinerary including thresher and whale sharks! – 19-28th September 2015

Starting and ending right in front of Atlantis Resort Dumaguete, this is the perfect place to sneak in a few additional days of amazing muck at the beginning or end of your trip!

 

• Indonesia – Arenui (liveaboard)

Special Pygmy Seahorse Cruise, Raja Ampat – 5-16th February 2016

 

DIVE magazine pygmy seahorse cover Richard SmithPublications

I have been busy as ever writing articles for various publications around the world, four continents so far this year! I’m very excited about my new series ‘Get more from your Underwater Photography’, which started in the March Underwater Photography section of Sport Diver UK.  I was also pleased to see my picture of the Japanese pygmy seahorse ‘Japapigu’ gracing the cover of DIVE magazine.  I had a slight change of pace for my article in Asian Geographic, which was an oceanography piece about the Coriolis Effect and its influence on polar seas.  Online, I also had the website of the week with the British Society of Underwater Photographer’s (BSOUP) and a featured album and blog for Wakatobi Dive Resort about my work on pygmy seahorses.

Asian Diver – ‘On the Sea Shores – A Diver’s Guide to Tides’ (Issue 1, 2014)

Asian Geographic – ‘Considering Coriolis’ (Issue 1, 2014)

Depth Magazine – ‘Exploring Australia’s Southern Seas’ (March/April 2014)

DIVE – ‘The Mysterious and Intimate World of Pygmy Seahorses’ article and cover shot (March 2014)

Sport Diver Photographing Behaviour articleSport Diver UK – ‘Get More from your Underwater Photography’ (March 2014) which was about me and the origins of my marine life passion, and ‘Get More from your Underwater Photography: Photographing Behaviour – Where to Start ‘ (May 2014)

Underwater Journal – ‘The Mysterious Pygmy Seahorse’ (Issue 31)

BSOUP (British Society of Underwater Photographers) website of the week

Wakatobi Dive Resort Facebook album and blog post

 

TV and Film Work

Still from 'Natural History Museum Alive'Over the past year or so I have worked on various TV and Natural History films along side 3D timelapse specialist Robert Hollingworth.  Many of these projects came to fruition at the start of this year and the tail end of last with ‘David Attenborough’s Natural History Museum Alive’ (Sky), ‘Mysteries of the Unseen World’ (National Geographic 3D Imax film) and ‘Jimmy Doherty’s: Food Prices the Shocking Truth’ (Channel 4 – UK) all showing recently.

These projects took me from studios in the Cotswolds to chicken hatcheries in Holland and allowed me unprecedented access to explore the deserted halls of London’s Natural History Museum through the dead of night (which, I’m not going to lie, was absolutely terrifying).

2014 Marches On!

There will be lots of adventures over the coming months.  I am about to head to Indonesia where I will be joining fish gurus Paul Humann, Ned and Anna DeLoach on their two trips aboard Dewi Nusantara.  We start in Ambon and will sail through the Banda Sea to explore the southern islands of Flores, Alor and Wetar.  It will be these islands that we visit during my own trips in August, so we’ll know all the best places to take you!

If you’d like to get more up to date info from myself and my adventures over the coming months, head over to Facebook and ‘Like’ my page Richard Smith – Ocean Realm Images!

Last Quarter Review 2013

Last Quarter Review 2013

It has been a very busy few months since my last blog update so I thought a last quarter review style blog would be the easiest way to cover everything.  Since my last update I have led a group trip to Fiji, dived in Nelson Bay, Australia with let’s Go Adventures and in Lembeh Strait, Indonesia and attended the world’s largest dive trade show in Orlando, as well as having numerous publications around the world.

Publications

I realised recently that my first published piece was over six years ago. How time flies!  I still regularly write for Australasia’s Sport Diving magazine, but I’m now also writing for many other publications.  Over the past few months since my last update, I have published eleven articles in eight different publications (listed below, with links where applicable).

I have many features coming in the New Year too, including a new series starting in Sport Diver UK’s Underwater Photography section, which I’m very excited about, so keep your eyes peeled for that one.  In the meantime, you can follow the various links below to read some of my publications from the past couple of months.

Richard Smith Scuba Diver Australasia article

Australian Geographic – ‘Weird and Wonderful: Japan’s Underwater Life

Asian Diver – in issue 6, 2013 I had two feature articles ‘The Coral Triangle Species Factory’ and ‘Cenderawasih’s Secrets

Dive Photo Guide – ‘Photographing Reef Fish‘ and ‘The Ultimate Guide to Photographing Pygmy Seahorses

Scuba Diver AustralAsia – ‘The Life and Times of Hippocampus’ and ‘Japan’s Underwater Jewels’

Richard Smith Asian Diver Cenderawasih articleScuba Diver – Through The Lens – ‘Photographing Reef Fish’

Sport Diver (UK) – Seahorse conservation interview in ‘The Conservation Diaries’

Sport Diving – ‘Raja Ampat – A Biologist’s Perspective’

UltraMarine – ‘Ocean Oddities’

 

Expeditions

Dr Richard Smith marine life expedition Indonesia

I have recently put several new trips on the books, taking us all the way through to 2016! I’ll be visiting some of my favourite areas doing some fantastic diving, whilst also learning about the creatures we’re seeing, so why not join me?!

I’ve revamped my website’s Expeditions page where you can read more about these trips and link through to their very own pages.  The trips are getting very busy, and one trip sold out in less than three hours! If you’d like to join any of the following trips, please contact me:

 

Indonesia – Dewi Nusantara (liveaboard)

Trip 1 – Flores, Alor & Wetar – 13-24th August 2014

Trip 2 – Flore, Alor & Wakatobi – 25th August – 5th September 2014

 

Join Dr Richard Smith to learn about marine life and dive with whale sharksPhilippines – Azores (liveaboard)

Cebu itinerary including thresher and whale sharks! – 19-28th September 2015

 

Indonesia – Arenui (liveaboard)

Special pygmy seahorse cruise in Raja Ampat – 5-16th February 2016

Finally, if you’d like to get more up to date info from me and my adventures I suggest you head over to Facebook and ‘Like’ my page Richard Smith – Ocean Realm Images.  That way you’ll see lots of lovely photos and stay up to date on trips and publications in real time!

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

The Japanese Pygmy Seahorse – Hippocampus sp.

The Japanese Pygmy Seahorse – Hippocampus sp.

The Japanese pygmy seahorse, Hippocampus sp, (known locally as 日本のピグミータツノオトシゴ or Japapigu) is an, as yet, undescribed species of true pygmy seahorse found, as the name suggests, in Japan.  They appear to be closely related to Coleman’s, Pontoh’s and Severn’s species, and like these other species, are not found living in close association with a specific host such as a gorgonian or soft coral.

The species is characterised, and distinguished from the other free-living pygmies, by a reticulate pattern of white lattice over the body, which often has a black spot within it.  The body colouration is brown, beige, to pink and whitish.

They inhabit subtropical and temperate reefs from southern to the central west of Japan.  The Izu islands of Miyake and Hachijo are good locations to find these elusive seahorses, as well as Kushimoto and Sagami Bay.  I saw many in the 8-15 metre range in protected areas, where they were living amongst the algal turf and small hydroids.

Given that they are yet to receive a scientific name, it is unsurprising that very little is known about their biology or conservation.  This is true of all the free-living pygmy seahorses, which are yet to receive a research focus.  My work on the gorgonian-associated pygmy seahorses is the only research on these species’ biology yet to be carried out.

You can see some of my Japanese pygmy seahorses by following this link.