Sunday, August 31, 2008

Happy Birthday Malaysia!

Sincere words from a Brit. It's not often that I can get close up to, and auto-focus on a fish's face, but perhaps in celebratation of Merdeka day, this Damselfish (Dischistodus prosopotaenia) gave me a flash on Saturday 30th of August 2008 whilst diving off Sapi island. Let's hope there'll still be somewhere beautiful for his descendents (and perhaps ours) in TARP in 2057 when Malaysia reaches a century.

The last week has seen me snorkelling or diving in the park three times and I hope soon to get an update on several new species I've noted.

Snowflakes and sunshine

Another great day for snorkelling - Thursday off Sapi island saw the emergence in shallow water of a Snowflake moray eel (Echidna nebulosa) on a feeding frenzy - only to slither off into hiding when it was all over. Still, it attracted some interesting scavenging hangers-on which would normally have skittered off at my appearance, the Bluelined hind (Cephalopholis formosa) being their cheerleader.

Friday morning was also encouraging, with more interest expressed in the possibility of publishing my guide to the fishes of TARP. Watch this space.

Today's photo is of a beautifully convoluted Hard coral from the family AGARICIIDAE, taken off Gaya island's southeast side on 27th October 2007.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Looking good!

I have a strange red/white transition on the backs of my calves; some kind of vitamin deficiency perhaps? No - too much snorkelling in booties off Sapi island yesterday with insufficient thought given to suncream. It was worth it though, being a lovely day to snap loads of pics. Still analysing them, but one particularly caught my eye: a juvenile Butterflyfish Chaetodon rafflesi - I've only seen adults in TARP and then only twice in two years so it's rather pleasing to see that such a beautiful fish must still be breeding in the area.

By the way, my photo also taken off Sapi island back on 19th March 2007, appears to show a specimen of coral from the Family ANTIPATHIDAE. To put it more bluntly, I think we have Black coral growing in the park!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Shock & Awe

My youngest son and I were glued to the television last Sunday, watching the first of the BBC's new three part series called 'Pacific Abyss'. Stunning and inspiring to say the least! Diving to the so-called 'Twilight zone' between 60 and 150 metres, it was astonishing to me that so much reef life - and several new fish species - could aggregate so far down. Talk about jealous! And for my 11 year old, hugely keen as he is on natural history, came fighting talk about becoming a marine biologist... Hopefully we'll find a way to watch the second in the series next Sunday.

My picture today is more mundane, but striking none-the-less: it is a series of pipes laid down by a Sponge which I think can be located in the family THEONELLIDAE, found back on 23rd June 2007 near the Hanging Garden off Gaya island.

Incidentally, I have withdrawn my experimental TARP fish identification key website for the time being - after reviewing it, I don't think it is fit for purpose and I will ponder its replacement further. The checklist and album remain in place.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Names and Nemo crabs

This Porcelain crab Neopetrolisthes maculatus (family PORCELLANIDAE) was interested enough in our visit to its home anemone at southeast Mid-reef on 6th July 2008, that it chose not to flee but pose (perhaps it thought it was being menacing?!) Beautiful anyway.

Having now had a chance to review the checklist of marine fishes in TARP produced by Gerry Allen on a visit to Sabah in February 1992, I have made a few more alterations to my checklist (the other day, I added a Stingray as an initial result). This time around, I have re-named the Spinefoot Siganus canaliculatus as Siganus fuscescens (Gerry noted the latter was common but made no mention of the former, both of which are very similar, so I have changed my diagnosis in deference). I have done the same for the Goby Amblygobius albimaculatus (was A. phalaena in my old scheme) and Dischistodus chrysopoecilus (I had it listed previously as D. pseudochrysopoecilus).

I'm also taking the opportunity to bring the Genus up to date for the Cardinalfish Nectamia savayensis (until January 2008 it was still generally known as Apogon savayensis and the amended FishBase reference has only recently come to my attention).

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Checklist with a sting in its tail

Believe it or not, the picture is of a hard coral - I think it is from the Genus Goniopora (Family PORITIDAE). It was taken on Plate Coral reef off Sapi island on 19th March 2008.

This is by way of diverting you from my embarrassment at mis-identifying a new (for me) Stingray (Dasyatis kuhlii) back on 9th July 2008. This allows me to increase my TARP checklist to 361 species. It came about as I was cross-checking against Gerry Allen's checklist from 1992 and I realised my mistake.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Ghosts and butterflies

The last day of my intensive diving holiday - 11th July 2008 - brought several beauties into my life: Perhaps the most beguiling was the white Ghost goby Pleurosicya boldinghi - found on a lonely white soft coral sprouting on a broad expanse of mud in the dusky gloom of a late afternoon; a rainstorm on the surface. (Being partially translucent, one photo has the flash diffusely reflected off its swim bladder like a soft pearly inner light. As my son would say: "Sweet!") Add to this a couple of fishes only described in the last few years - the Sand-goby Fusigobius melacron and the Sandperch Parapercis lineopunctata. Lastly (for new species) the Butterflyfish Chaetodon baronessa (a real surprise given how unusual it is to see such spectacular large fish for the first time after two years) and the Cardinalfish Apogon multilineatus. So, this brings me finally to a total of 360 fish species logged in TARP. Next task will be to cross-check with Gerry Allen's 1992 list and see what our combined total comes to.

Of course, I'm still picking up the odd new colour morph - in this case the Initial Phase form of Parrotfish Chlorurus capistratoides - and better photos of previously seen fish (Parrotfish Scarus ghobban, Snapper Lutjanus quinquelineatus, Frogfish Antennarius striatus and Dartfish Ptereleotris hanae).

And the last (but not least) beauty of the day - the Nudibranch in the photo, from the family PHYLLIDIIDAE, seen on Plate Coral Reef off the back of Sapi island.