Monday, July 28, 2008

Weird stuff

355. After adding the seven newly identified species from 9th July 2008, I am now one short of Gerry Allen's 1992 total. (I have yet to cross check our lists but I have no doubt that they don't exactly overlap.) The seven were the Frogfish Antennarius striatus (doing a passably good impression of a black and very spiny - I know, I leaned my thigh onto one and got a nasty surprise - Diadema Sea urchin), the Flounder Bothus pantherinus (one of five of the new species found over sand), a very suspicious and flighty Grouper Epinephelus undulosus, the gorgeous (pity about my poor photo) Fairy wrasse Paracheilinus carpenteri above a reef, a juvenile and an adult of the Damselfish Pomacentrus grammorhynchus (also above the reef), a Dartfish Ptereleotris hanae which likes to live alongside Shrimpgobies, and the Snakefish Trachinocephalus myops.

Back to the 6th of July 2008, on the southeast Mid-reef, I chanced on this coral from (I think) the family FUNGIIDAE. Amazing hues and textures.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Cryptic crustacean

11:46am, 9th July 2008, sands off western Gaya island: what on earth is it? Tell you later.

Another great day of diving. Not so many new fish species (more in a later blog) - it feels like new discoveries are slowing down - but some good stuff none-the-less. First off, some piccies to update existinig ID panels for the Fairy wrasse Cirrhilabrus cyanopleura (Initial Phase), Wrasses Halichoeres scapularis and Stethojulis interrupta (both Terminal Phase), Damselfishes Chrysiptera rollandi and Pomacentrus lepidogenys, Goatfish Parupeneus barberinus (another Goatfish which normally runs when it sees my camera), and Cardinalfish Siphamia versicolor (likes to hide amongst Sea urchin spines). I also stumbled across a gang of curious adult Eeltail catfish (Plotosus lineatus) in an old submerged log, which are sufficiently different from Juveniles to merit their own ID panel. I've updated the links in my checklist.

Well, in case you haven't guessed, my picture today is of a small jellyfish being held upside on the back of a crab (half-buried in the sand, eyes to the right). What a fantastic defence for a daytime foray!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Shrimps and rice: very nice

July 6th 2008 was a fairly poor diving day re: general visibility, but well made up for with a series of astonishing macro-photo opportunities. Take for example the photo here (taken on the eastern Mid-reef) of the Whip coral shrimp (Pontonides unciger, family PALAEMONIDAE) - no bigger than a few rice grains - see if you can find it amongst the coral polyps.

Between dives on 6th and 9th July, during a visit to the Sabah Parks office on Manukan island on the 8th, I happened to snap some shots of another new fish species for my checklist feeding off bread scattered by tourists at the jetty - the Scad Alepes vari. Sleek; and now my total reaches 348 still with two long diving days of photos to process - I feel the 350 barrier fast approaching!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Crazy fool of a fish

It's a quick way to go: July 6th 2008 saw this delicious little Ghost goby (pleurosicya mossambica) off Mamutik island doing the craziest thing; but maybe you should try to see for yourself and I'll tell you at the end in case you haven't got it...

Along the way that day, I was pleased to be able to turn up another three new species for my personal TARP fish checklist (total now 347). These were the Cardinalfish Archamia bleekeri, the venomous-spined Eeltail catfish Paraplotosus albilabris, and the Queenfish Scomberoides lysan. Additionally, I created a new ID panel for the Female Sanddiver Trichonotus elegans, and amended the original to represent only the male. Furthermore (and somewhat embarrassingly) I have revised my ID of Wrasse Leptojulis cyanopleura (misnamed by me Hologymnosus doliatus). Lastly, better examples of previously photographed specimens presented themselves for inspection and have been incorporated into the relevant ID panel: Snake eel Ophichthus altipennis; Gobies Amblyeleotris rubrimarginata, Pleurosicya mossambica, Cryptocentrus inexplicatus (a somewhat different colour morph) and Fusigobius longispinus; Turkeyfish Pterois russelii; Wormfish Gunnellichthys viridescens.

I am gratified by the comments from Tarquin; however I have found the feeds for this blog with both Firefox (at the end of the address bar) and MS Internet Explorer (via a permanently visible portion of the toolbar) so I am not sure why you may not be able to set up a feed to my blog. If necessary, add the blog address to your 'home' addresses to open automatically when you load your browser and you will then be able to see when there is a new contribution.

By the way, the Ghost goby in the photo today is sitting on the nose of one of its worst enemies - an incredibly well camouflaged Scorpionfish!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Ruby Friday

Only its ruby eye betrayed this Lizardfish (family SYNODONTIDAE) lurking in the sand waiting for its next meal to happen by, back on Friday 4th July 2008 off Mamutik island. More clear were another 14 species I saw in TARP for the first time and one I realised was not yet in my checklist from before, bringing my total species checklist to 344 over the last two years.

The list now adds the Shrimpgobies Amblyeleotris latifasciata, Amblyeleotris periophthalma, Cryptocentrus fasciatus and Cryptocentrus inexplicatus. Alongside these is the Scad Atule mate, the Ghoul Inimicus sinensis, the Velvetfish Paraploactis kagoshimensis, the Sweeper Pempheris molucca, the Angelfish Pygoplites diacanthus (amazing to think I have missed it these last two years seeing as it is dazzlingly coloured - it is certainly encouraging to see new Angelfish in TARP), the Cardinalfish Siphamia elongata (which likes to hide amongst the spines of Sea urchins), the Leaf scorpionfish Taenianotus triacanthus, the Sanddivers Trichonotus elegans and Trichonotus setiger, and the Razorfish Xyrichtys melanopus.

Additionally, the Cardinalfish Cheilodipterus intermedius turns out to have been in my database all along but mixed up with Cheilodipterus macrodon. Lastly, I forgot to update my Stonefish picture Synanceia verrucosa yesterday (now I have a full-body ugly-mug shot instead of just its mouth previously), and I didn't realise till processing the photo from 4th July that I now have two Juvenile morphs of Monocle bream Scolopsis affinis to present in a new panel.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

New sites; new fishes

This juvenile Horn-nosed boxfish (Ostracion rhinorhynchos) was enjoying chewing on a Comb jelly (Phylum Ctenophora) on the 4th of July 2008 on The Pyramid off Mamutik island so much that it pretty much ignored me despite being metres up in the open. In the past, I have assigned similar juveniles to the species Ostracion cubicus but I've realised it isn't so it has come off my species checklist today. However, an example of a Scorpionfish pretty much convinced me to reintroduce Scorpaenopsis venosa to my checklist and to firm up my diagnoses of examples of Scorpaenopsis possi, so the total species count remains at 329 (before adding new species from 4th July - more in another blog).

As mentioned, the dives on 4th July included The Pyramid - a nice site in good visibility (my first under such conditions) - and the sand slope east of Mamutik island jetty. Perhaps it was their novelty which handed me a good number of new fish sightings. Anyway, along the way I was able to improve on my photos (and associated ID panels) for Surgeonfish Acanthurus xanthopterus, Damselfish Pomacentrus vaiuli, Anemonefish Amphiprion perideraion (not widely found in TARP), Cardinalfishes Apogon ventrifasciatus (it seems externally indistinguishable from A. moluccensis so I will only report A. ventrifasciatus in my checklist - principally because all examples I have seen have have been much smaller than the larger A. moluccensis size listed in FishBase) and the rare Apogon sealei, and lastly Grouper Epinephelus areolatus. I have also added new colour morphs for Shrimpgoby Cryptocentrus cinctus and Cardinalfish Apogon chrysopomus, and being sufficiently different to merit their own ID panels were the non-breeding Damselfish Chromis cinerascens, the Juvenile Triggerfish Balistoides viridescens, and the Adult form of the Parrotfish Chlorurus bleekeri.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

18 new fish species in 1 day

2nd July 2008 proved an amazing phenomenon. Whatever happened (I only visited familiar dive sites - although the visibility was unusually good), it was a bumper day for new species to add to my checklist - over 5% of my total list added in three dives, 2 years after starting the initiative (now standing at a total of 329 species). This guy was one of them - Pomacentrus nagasakiensis, a plain little damselfish with an unique tail pattern, seen on Hanging Gardens off Gaya island.

The others were: the Cardinalfish Apogon sealei (apparently generally rare); Damselfishes Cheiloprion labiatus (puckered lips), Chrysiptera springeri (dazzlingly blue), Pomacentrus amboinensis (unobtrusive); Parrotfishes Chlorurus bleekeri (an Initial Phase morph), Chlorurus capistratoides (apparently unusually far north), Scarus dimidiatus (another Initial Phase fish); the Dartfish Ptereleotris evides (a gorgeous pair circling high above the reef); the Blenny Salarias obscurus (supposedly localised to the Philippines); my first Wormfish Gunnellichthys viridescens; Wrasses Halichoeres prosopeion (a Juvenile wildly different from its Adult morph), Hemigymnus fasciatus (a Juvenile, barred and buzzing round like a bumblebee), Labrichthys unilineatus (both Adult morphs with their tube-forming lips); Goatfish Mulloidichthys flavolineatus (not uncommon but always previously fleeing as my camera turned towards it); the Goby Oplopomus caninoides (the real one); Ghost pipefish Solenostomus cyanopterus (looking like a dead leaf); last but not least the Triggerfish Sufflamen chrysopterum (it's silhouette an angular mosaic of triangles).

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Three new juvenile fish morphs

Further to yesterday's blog, I'm still not ready to add the new fish species I saw on 2nd July 2008, but I have added some new panels for previously un-seen (by me) Juvenile forms: the Parrotfish Chlorurus sordidus, the Whiptail Pentapodus trivittatus, and the Cardinalfish Apogon compressus. In addition, I forgot yesterday to update the amazingly-coloured Redtail filefish: Pervagor melanocephalus. Lastly, the updated checklist should be uploaded by the time you read this.

As an incidental diversion from the fish, the soft coral in the picture (each polyp has 8 'fingers') which I think is from the family ACANTHOGORGIIDAE, was taken out on Clement's reef in TARP on 17th November 2007.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

It's amazing!

A Robust ghost pipefish Solenostomus cyanopterus (family SOLENOSTOMIDAE) - a gorgeous fish amongst a swathe which I saw for the first time on 2nd July 2008 (this one off Sapi island). I'm still putting together the details, but along the way I also managed to take better pictures and upgrade ID panels for 12 fishes already seen (Acanthurus xanthopterus, Vanderhorstia ambanoro, Vanderhorstia nobilis, Cheilinus trilobatus, Chrysiptera rollandi, Scarus rivulatus - Initial Phase, Apogon chrysopomus, Cheilodipterus artus, Chaetodon trifasciatus, Parapercis clathrata, Balistoides viridescens and Cantherhines pardalis) and add new colour morphs for another 4 (Abudefduf bengalensis, Neopomacentrus cyanomos, Arothron nigropunctatus and Scolopsis monogramma).

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Marine Research at Sabah Parks

Here's a Hawksbill marine turtle who's photo I took on 2nd July 2008 off Sapi island; very relaxed and so without disturbing him I was able to fire off a number of nice shots.

This is exactly the sort of fellow that Irwan Isnain and his colleagues at Sabah Parks are determined to protect; I met with him yesterday at his office on Manukan island and had a really good time - it's fantastic to meet some of the people passionate about TARP and working for the government. It was a great opportunity to compare notes on fish species lists for the park too - including the complete list put together in 1992 during a visit by Gerry Allen. In addition, it turns out that a Japanese researcher has put together a supplementary list based on his own photos taken in the park between 2005 and 2007. As yet, the list is unpublished but it appears to have over 80 additions to Gerry's original - taking his list towards the total he predicted. It's a pity not to have sight now of the supplementary list as it remains confidential for the time being, but in due course I'm sure it will come out; hopefully it will also mention the fishes from Gerry's list which have been seen since as well: when the three lists can come together, I think we will be very close to a comprehensive perspective on all of TARP's fish species ever recorded (though there are indications that the number is less than it used to be).

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Latest dives - 2 fish species re-named

It's taking some time to catch up with all my recent diving - and more to come. A good number of fish species new to me at the park are coming to light: more in due course. However, I have been able to tackle the difficult question of the identity of what I had called Pterois lunulata - now having been able to count the columns of scales I am pretty confident that the species in question should actually be Pterois russelii (the Plaintail Turkeyfish). In addition, I have recently turned up a second species from the Goby genus Oplopomus which I believe is the real Oplopomus caninoides but I am not ready yet to add it to my checklist, so for now I have modified the original mistaken O. caninoides and description to read Oplopomus oplopomus. The checklist has also been modifed.

Incidentally, these two cleaner shrimps (Periclimenes sp. - possibly P. holthuisi) from the family PALAEMONIDAE living in an anemone on the sand off Sapi island's main beach, were very interested in me as I took photos of Nemo fish living with them on 2nd July 2008.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Housekeeping finds 2 fish

Wading through the backlog of unsorted photos in the last few days has led me to 2 fishes I couldn't identify at the time, but with help from Gerry Allen on an analogous example sent to me to identify from Lankayan island off eastern Sabah, I realised I had photographed (and have now added) Chromis cinerascens in its nuptial colours (a somewhat scruffy wedding outfit I have to say). Going way back to only my second day of diving ever at TARP, a new book I got for my birthday (Kuiter & Debelius World Atlas of Marine Fishes) has helped me place an unusual and normally cryptic Grouper - Epinephelus ongus. Neither photo was terribly good, so I have recruited a Map puffer fish (Arothron mappa - family TETRAODONTIDAE) taken the same day (17th May 2006) off Gaya island to play best man.

Incidentally, I have fully updated the species checklist which now lists all 311 TARP fish species logged so far.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

309 fish species; 2 undescribed

Not only a beautiful day, but a productive one for diving; 28th June 2008 revealed 5 species I was previously unaware of in TARP (including a Goby Asterropteryx striata, a Wrasse Macropharyngodon meleagris, a resplendant Bicolor Angelfish - only the fourth type I've seen in the park - Centropyge bicolor, and the largest variety of reef Filefish - Aluterus scriptus. Of even greater interest was a second species of Goby new to me, this one from the Genus Cryptocentrus which after discussion with Gerry Allen turns out to be as yet undescribed by Biologists (though Gerry and others have seen examples now in various places, not least off nearby Palawan island in the Philippines). In summary, I have now recorded & photographed 309 species of fish in TARP, including 2 species of Goby not yet scientifically described.

An encounter with one of the park's resident stingrays also gave me a much better photo than previously, causing me to change my original diagnosis of Himantura granulata to Himantura fai.

In addition, I was able to capture pictures for the first time (adding relevant panels to my ID album) an Initial Phase form of the Yellowtail tubelip (Diproctacanthus xanthurus) and similarly of the Bird Wrasse (Gomphosus varius).

Lastly, better photos have allowed me to upgrade the ID panels for the Squirrelfish Myripristis hexagona, the Surgeonfish Ctenochaetus binotatus, the Goby Amblyeleotris diagonalis, the Slingjaw wrasse Epibulus insidiator (Initial Phase), the Bird wrasse Gomphosus varius (Terminal Phase), another Wrasse Oxycheilinus digramma, the Puffer fish Arothron nigropunctatus, and the Toby Canthigaster papua.

This cute little fellow (Arothron nigropunctatus) from the family TETRAODONTIDAE is yet another colour form of this extraordinarily varied species; he appeared on the day in question whilst I was diving at the Hanging Gardens off Gaya island.