Monday, September 29, 2008

Hotlips and a purple sponge

20th September 2008 was a low visibility, somewhat tired kind of a day. I missed a photo of a new Angelfish to TARP - Centropyge vroliki - so I haven't yet added it to my Checklist; also an unusual Grouper and some kind of Pipefish which had disappeared by the time our dive leader could attract my attention. But lunch on Sapi island brought to the attention of my camera a pair of strange leaf-like fish in only a few centimetres of water which Gerry Allen later helped me to identify as a juvenile of Plectorhynchus gibbosus (better known as 'Harry hotlips'!) I also photographed a Wrasse new to me: Pteragogus cryptus, and the Rabbitfish Siganus corallinus, bringing me up to 377 fish species in the Park. (I also managed to replace my embarrassing splodge of a picture of Emperor Lethrinus erythropterus.)

As always in low vis, I fall back on close-ups such as this strikingly contrasted Comatulid Feather star on a purple sponge background, taken on the same day at Agil reef off Gaya island.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Fairies & Fangs

A beautiful Boxfish (Family OSTRACIIDAE) - Ostracion cubicus; new to me in the Park back on 11th September this year at Hanging garden off Gaya island, this one being cleaned by a juvenile Cleaner wrasse. A couple of other new fishes too: the Damselfish Neopomacentrus azysron and Wrasse Macropharyngodon negrosensis taking me to a total of 374 species in the Park.

Thanks to Dr Hioyuki Tanaka too for help in identifying the Juvenile Fairy wrasse Cirrhilabrus cyanopleura with its little white nose spot. The day also saw access to better shots to update or add slight colour variations to Fangblenny Plagiotremus rhinorhynchos (the blue form which likes to mimic the Cleaner wrasse seen in today's picture), Goby Amblygobius hectori, Damselfish Hemiglyphidodon plagiometopon, Blenny Salarias obscurus, and the initial phase of Wrasse Labrichthys unilineatus.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Cleaner shrimps & fish bombs

9th September 2008 saw this cleaner shrimp (Family PALAEMONIDAE, Genus Urocaridella) leave the resident Stingray in the tyres off the south side of Sapi island, and make his way hopefully towards my camera housing. Pretty. Pity about the poor visibility in the park though, which below 18 metres off Sapi got down to only 2 metres! Anyway, above that, it was a nice enough couple of dives involving a new Boxfish species, for my checklist. Including the return to Agil reef off the west end of Gaya island where I picked up a couple of new species of fish (more in a later blog), and some nicer photos of some rarer stuff previously seen, it turned out to be a productive day.

Incidentally, an alleged fish bomber was recently arrested in KK.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Mind-googling technology

My friend Marc is an Orangutan specialist here in Sabah; he loved this crab when we came across a similar one whilst diving together (Achaeus japonicus commonly known as an Orangutan crab) from the Family MAJIDAE. I took this photo on Bubble coral between Sulug and Manukan islands on 23rd June 2007.

I'm beginning the task of modifying my fish identification on-line, to include an example of every photographed sighting I have logged in the park. It allows me to locate each photo too (if you have Google Earth then a simple button allows you to see the photos dotted around the park to show actual distributions). It also makes it easier for others to double-check and question my identifications (go right ahead) and hopefully will provide a more meaningful legacy for future researchers into the fishes in TARP. Not wanting to pay Google anything, I am limited to 250 'albums' per log-in ID (I have over 370 species with 400+ colour morphs) so I am starting with an ID for 'Sinkers' - fish which tend to sink if not swimming, as opposed to 'Swimmers' (I didn't have the heart to call them 'Floaters') who find it hard to sink except when asleep at night. I've already uploaded material for 9 species, for example Gymnothorax javanicus; go ahead and hit the 'View in Google Earth' button in the bottom right of the screen to see the distribution of my sightings, with the details on any one if clicked. It will also provide a gallery to locate other peoples sightings if they send them to me with or for identification and permission for me to add them.

I'm making changes to the checklist off-line to provide the relevant links too, but this is incremental and I'll only upload it when I next upload substantive changes to it.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Dive-in Saturday (apologies to David Bowie)

Are any readers aware of the new Underwater Channel which has opened with free viewing? Some fascinating stuff and well worth uploading their viewer for. (I'm not just saying this because their Forum Editor liked this blog!)

I was surprised when reviewing my photos from my last dive on 31st August, to discover that I had photographed 5 new species, taking my total to 371 in the park (Checklist now updated). The cutest has got to be the Cardinalfish Apogon nigrofasciatus who's little red and yellow candy-cane nose appeared between Staghorn coral tips in a blurred photo of a blenny which I was about to discard, not having noticed the Cardinalfish whilst diving. Next is a tiny Whipcoral goby Bryaninops loki. A big snapper Lutjanus argentimaculatus proved momentarily obliging, as did a Sand flounder Pseudorhombus cinnamoneus from a new Family for me. Lastly I'm adding a new Scorpionfish Scorpaenopsis oxycephala although its differentiation from other Genus members underwater will be next-to-impossible; you'll need a good quality side-on photo and well spread pectoral fins to examine later.

Along the way, I picked up better photos of the Juvenile Hogfish Bodianus mesothorax, the Initial Phase Parrotfish Scarus hypselopterus (at least - it showed a previously hidden diagnostic feature although being more out of focus than the existing photo), and a rare Grouper Epinephelus ongus (I'd only seen it once before, in April 2006).

Lastly, some gorgeous fish just asking to be photographed - like the Damselfish illustrated here on Agil reef off Gaya island: Pomacentrus vaiuli.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


It could be blood vessels on the surface of the heart. In fact, it is a form of Sponge from the Family CRAMBEIDAE (possibly Genus Monanchora) taken on 6th July 2008 off Mamutik island.

Further to my second snorkelling session last week (28th July), I can now report back on two new species of fish uploaded to my Album and Checklist (totalling 366 species now), namely: The Moral eel I mentioned in an earlier blog (Echidna nebulosa), and an apparent predation escapee in the form of a small roughed up Rainbow runner - Elagatis bipinnulata.

I've also uploaded the panel for the Trevally - Caranx melampygus - from 26th July with the better photos from the 28th. Additionally, I've added panels for the Adult of Damselfish Neoglyphidodon oxyodon (modifying the Juvenile panel along the way) and the Initial Phase form of Parrotfish Scarus psittacus. Lastly, I've modified the panel for Lutjanus carponotatus having photographed a Juvenile (not sufficiently different to merit its own panel but confusingly different if seen small to merit inclusion alongside a parent).

Monday, September 1, 2008

A fish a day...

I mentioned some new fish species seen in the last week and I'm starting to get them up into my album. From the 26th of August whilst snorkelling off Sapi island, come three new species: the Goby Istigobius ornatus, the Emperor Lethrinus erythropterus (apologies for the illustration since it was a long way away and moving fast so an out-of-focus blob is all I got to show for it, but its key feature - white tail rings - are obvious), and the Trevally Caranx melampygus (no illustration yet since I got a better photo on 28th August but I haven't processed those yet). I haven't updated the Checklist yet either because of this but suffice to say for now the total of fish species I've logged in TARP is 364.

In addition, I have uploaded an ID panel for the diagnostic Juvenile of Damselfish Dischistodus chrysopoecilus (which justifies my renaming it in my list a few weeks ago from D. pseudochrysopoecilus), and I have added a better photo for the Butterflyfish Chaetodon rafflesii.

On 31st March 2007, I found the iridescent lip of this Sea squirt mouth at Hanging gardens off Gaya island irresistibly photogenic, so I went ahead; I believe it to be a member of the Genus Herdmania in the Family PYURIDAE.