Side by Side

Side by Side

It has been a while, but I am back…and with a treat!

On this picture we see a beautiful Hypselodoris tryoni (formerly known as Risbecia tryoni) nudibranch having dinner.
Right beside its host’s head is an emperor shrimp (Periclimenes imperator) enjoying the same buffet.
This is one of the most wonderful relationships to be found in nature: a pure example of mutualism.
While the shrimp, living on the nudibranch, crawls all over it from head to tail, it controls parasite infestations.
The shrimp -on the other hand- saves energy, covering a larger distance then it would on its own, searching for food.
If you take a careful look you notice that the purple colour of the shrimp’s legs, joints and rostrum edge exactly matches the colour of the nudi’s mantle edge. This results in an improved camouflage for the hitchhiker that will be better protected from potential predators.
A match made in heaven…. traveling along…. side by side!

Look at me I am a nudi!

Look at me I am a nudi!

Believe it or not but this is a sea cucumber. To be more accurate: a juvenile Blackspotted sea cucumber (Pearsonothuria graeffei). This beautiful little thing mimics a Phyllidia nudibranch in order to be thought equally distasteful by potential predators. Interestingly, the less colourful adult form of this species possesses toxins that do make it unpalatable to eat. Juveniles however lack this kind of defense and are forced to be resourceful in order to stay alive long enough to develop this chemical protection.

When a completely harmless species mimics a toxic or distasteful species it is called Batesian mimicry, of which this juvenile sea cucumber is a great example!

The Underwater Christmas Spirit

The Underwater Christmas Spirit

Who says that the Christmas atmosphere cannot be found in tropical places where it is always sunny (or should I say ‘always warm’, it has been pouring cats and dogs this whole week after all)?
To be honest: I do.
Beaches, 30-degree temperatures and palm trees just don’t match with “cozy family gatherings by the fire or under the Christmas tree”.
So I went looking for the Christmas feeling below the ocean surface. Camera in hand I was determined to shoot every scenery that reminded me of all things related to this holidays season.
I actually had a lot of fun and was even surprised by how many subjects I found, I just could not stop taking pictures! I spend four dives shooting just that: Christmas-like sceneries. I even found a ‘snowy landscape’ and a Christmas Angel (which is in fact a feather duster worm spreading its golden ‘wings’)!
One of my favorites you see here.
This beam of ‘heavenly light shining down onto the innocent crinoid’ is actually taken with a snoot. My first snoot ever. And I really like the effect it gives in this picture.

I used the best images to make original underwater Christmas cards. I think especially divers will like them. At least I hope that will be the case 😉
For those who are interested all these images I took and the Christmas cards are to be found on my website:


Portrait of an Alien

Portrait of an Alien

People have not been very original when naming this species. Nor have they been very consistent either. Because this shrimp has long, thin arms ending in red claws it has been named: Thin-arm Shrimp, Long-arm Shrimp and Red-scissor Commensal Shrimp. Since most of its body is completely see-trough it is also known as Ghost Shrimp, Glass Shrimp, Transparent Commensal Shrimp and Invisible Shrimp. Even the scientific name it is not entirely unequivocal. Is it Cuapetes or Periclimenes tenuipes?
Anyway, I do not think this mother-to-be has any sleepless nights over how she is called; she has obviously more important things on her mind right now, like protecting the eggs she is carrying….
Cuapetes (or Periclimenes) tenuipes individuals are free-living on sandy bottoms or in holes. Sometimes they are found on sea anemones and sponges. Presumably looking for food as they feed on parasites, algae and plankton.
Apparently they sometimes live together with mantis shrimps as well as these predators are found sharing their hole with one of these tiny aliens.

Jungle Crab

Jungle Crab

Not so long ago we came across this woolly peculiarity.
Aptly named after the orange coloured acrobats of the rainforest, the Orangutan crab is characterized by long legs covered with hairs and debris.
The species belongs to the family of the decorator crabs (Inachidae) but the genus identification (Oncinopus sp.1, formerly classified as Achaeus japonicus) is still uncertain.
While often spotted on bubble corals, this individual was balancing on the thin branches of a hydroid colony.

Pikachu of the sea

Pikachu of the sea

This strange looking nudibranch is known in Japan as the Pikachu sea slug.
Amongst the Japanese it is very popular and believed to be the inspiration to create Pikachu, the beloved Pokémon.
In Thailand dive guides refer to it as ‘Bugs bunny’ because of the ear-like appendages: the extrabranchial and extrarhinophoral processes.
The proper name of this beauty however is Thecacera pacifica.
A member of a genus with many undescribed species!

Giant Fan of Black-blotched Marble!

Giant Fan of Black-blotched Marble!

The islands south of Bali, that is where the big fish are. And that is where we were going. We planned three days of diving, hoping it would be enough to capture the majestic Mola mola on film. Since there is no Mola, also known as Ocean Sunfish, displayed above you might suspect we did not succeed. Indeed, no Mola ever presented itself to us. Nonetheless we did some magnificent diving: We have seen turtles, lots of schooling fish, a bamboo shark passed me by and marbled stingrays showed up from the deep. Like the one you see on this picture: As we were scanning the barren depths, hoping for something big to show up, we got lucky. Not before long this Giant Reef Ray gently glided through the water. Even better: It swam straight towards me. This was it. I knew I had one chance, 1 shot. I waited for it to swim into the right composition and pushed the shutter. It was rather dark as you can see. I was close to a depth of 37 metres, in unpredictable waters known for its crazy strong currents, down currents and washing machines.
On previous dives we witnessed vortices being formed, swirling up the sand in no time. It was very surreal. We were keen not to get into that kind of mess especially while holding our cameras, with no hands free to handle our BCD or even to hold on to something.
That is why, after the one shot I was able to take, I looked at the ray and bid him farewell.
“This will have to do”, I thought, and started to ascent.