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Critters of the Lembeh Strait | The Hairy Frogfish

The hairy frogfish (Antennarius striatus) has a rounded body and its skin is covered with spinules resembling hairs. These spinules can be copious and long or very short and almost invisible. As with all frogfish, its expandable mouth allows it to swallow prey as large as itself. The color varies from yellow to brownish-orange, almost white, or even completely black with no visible pattern. The modified dorsal spine is used as a fishing rod and the tip of it has a three-pronged, worm-like esca (lure) which is used to attract prey. The worm-like lure is a way to easily distinguish the hairy frogfish from the similar-looking shaggy frogfish (Antennarius hispidus) with which it is sometimes confused, but which has an esca resembling a pom-pom.

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uw Critters of the Lembeh Strait | The Coconut Octopus

Critters of the Lembeh Strait | The Coconut Octopus

 

The coconut octopus or veined octopus (Amphioctopus marginatus) is one of our favorite critters in Lembeh. It uses “tools” like shells and coconuts to build a hiding place and is often seen ‘walking’ on two arms with these tools in the other arms. This behavior is called bipedal locomotion. Some species are very greedy and try to take as many tools as they can carry, which sometimes is just too much to handle. The coconut octopus is a solitary cephalopod.

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uw Critters of the Lembeh Strait | The Mimic Octopus

Critters of the Lembeh Strait | The Mimic Octopus

 

The mimic octopus (Thaumoctopus mimicus) is an Indo-Pacific species of octopus and is able to change skin color and texture in order to blend in with the environment. Like other octopus species, the mimic octopus possesses chromatophores and changes shapes while moving over the sandy bottoms where it is often found. In Lembeh we can watch these amazing critters on the muck dive sites. The mimic octopus is often confused with the Wonderpus (Wunderpus photogenicus) which looks similar, but has a few things which look different to the Mimic, one of the most obvious is the white line all along the underside of the arms on the Mimic, which the Wonderpus doesn’t have.

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Sanddiver (Trichonotus elegans) close-up  in the Lembeh Strait

Critters of the Lembeh Strait | Episode 02 – 2017 | May Highlights

May is associated with flowers, renewal and new life and in Lembeh, May was no exception. This latest highlights video features some extraordinary footage of juvenile sea life like harlequin shrimps and tiger shrimps. We also filmed some unusual scenes with a very fast lens, featuring glass fish swimming behind soft coral (yes there is also beautiful coral in Lembeh!), creating footage that evokes spring-time fireflies in a flower garden. Watch for a close-up shot of an elegant sand diver’s eye which seems to mimic rays of sunshine – catch this rare glimpse of a very shy fish seldom caught on video and enjoy! Best watched in 4K!

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Critters of the Lembeh Strait – The Paddle-flap scorpionfish (Rhinopias eschmeyeri)

Rhinopias belong to the scorpionfish family and are native to the tropical western Indo-Pacific. Like all scorpionfish, they have venomous spines and prefer to rest on the bottom, occasionally walking or ‘hopping’ by pushing off with their pelvic and pectoral fins rather than swimming. Scorpionfish are masters of camouflage, enabling them to lie in wait for their victims to come close, before lunging forward and inhaling their prey with their large mouths.

 

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Critters of the Lembeh Strait | Episode 01 – 2017 | April Highlights

What better way to wake up than with a glorious dive in Lembeh featuring our favorite sea-creatures? If you can’t be here to enjoy today’s sightings in person, then grab a coffee and enjoy this latest video of April highlights including graceful cockatoo waspfishes, a blue-ring octopus and a rare Randall’s frogfish with a brilliant red spot near the base of the tail.

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Critters of the Lembeh Strait | Episode 13 – 2016 | Highlights of the Year

This highlights of 2016 video is a spectacular fireworks-like display of the brightest and best critters in Lembeh. Pulsating blue-ringed octopuses fall upon their crustacean prey, an iridescent bobbit worm shimmering with rainbow colors waits patiently for a meal and a vast array of rare and beautiful nudibranchs all appear, along with one of the cutest and most unexpected buddy pairs you’ve ever seen – see if you can spot it near the end of the video. Enjoy the video and may 2017 bring you great critterful dives, health and happiness!

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Critters of the Lembeh Strait | SEA WARS – The Flamboyant Cuttlefish Strikes Back (Part II)

 

In part I of this series, we saw a newly hatched flamboyant cuttlefish (Metasepia pfefferi) getting snatched up by a small mantis shrimp, a surprising choice of meals since they are widely (but perhaps wrongly) believed to be toxic. In this latest episode II, we see a reversal of roles when an adult flamboyant cuttlefish snatches a mantis shrimp to feed on, so it’s not always predictable who is the hunter and who is the prey between these 2 species! The slow-motion part of this underwater video shows in amazing detail how the flamboyant carefully extends its two feeding arms, then at lightning speed grabs its prey and grips the mantis with its suckers, waiting until the mantis tires before consuming her crispy crustacean meal.

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Critters of the Lembeh Strait | SEA WARS – Flamboyant Cuttlefish vs. Mantis Shrimp (Part 1)

Flamboyant Cuttlefishes have the reputation of being highly toxic, but newer studies show that it might not be true and more research has to be done. Unfortunately the action in this video was so fast and unexpected, that I could not see what happened after the attack.

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How to Photograph ‘Fangblennies’

Fangblennies make interesting subjects as they often can be found in bottles where we can separate them easily from the distracting or unappealing background. They’re often under-appreciated as they’re relatively common in the mucky sites of the Lembeh Strait. Giving them a little bit of time to get used to the camera in front of them, they will pose for the camera very easily. Sometimes they even yawn! There are different opinions on why the yawning happens – either to display the impressively big mouth and scare away possible enemies, or to stretch the jaws, or just because they’re tired.

So here’s how to shoot them: Just get very close to fill the frame with the subject and then wait….at first they might hide in the bottle or hole they hang out in, but after a little while they will come back out. So take some test shots while they’re still in the bottle to get your exposure and background color right, after that is done you just have to wait until they’re in the right spot and then – bang!

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Being patient sometimes pays off – after waiting almost 20 minutes and firing at the exact moment of action, I got the lucky shot…Striped poison-fangblenny (Petroscirtes breviceps) – Canon 7D, 60mm macro, ISO 160, f16, 1/200sec, 1x INON Z-240 with DIY fiber-optic snoot


The two enlarged, grooved canine teeth for which fangblennies get their name are situated in the lower jaw. The fangs can get very large and while not especially dangerous to most people, fang blenny bites can be quite painful. Fortunately, because of its small mouth, envenomation of humans by this animal is unlikely. That being said, some of the species we see here in Lembeh have fangs up to 1cm long – I’m sure you heard that before: look, but don’t touch! The two most common species we have here are the striped fangblenny (Meiacanthus grammistes) and the striped poison-fangblenny (Petroscirtes breviceps), which mimics the former – they look very similar at first sight, but upon closer inspection you can tell the difference. Meiacanthus grammistes has a small blueish-black spot near the head.

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Meiacanthus grammistes (left) and Petroscirtes breviceps (right)


The striped poison-fangblenny (Petroscirtes breviceps) can also change color at will and sometimes you can get different images within seconds:

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Petroscirtes breviceps – Canon 7D, 60mm macro, ISO 160, f11, 1/160sec, 2x L&M SunRay 2000

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Petroscirtes breviceps – 7 seconds later and the yellow coloration is almost gone – same settings as above


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Sometimes fangblennies also make a nice black and white image – The striped poison-fang blenny (Petroscirtes breviceps) yawning for the camera (this is a screen-shot from footage shot with the SONY A7RII, 90mm macro lens)


When diving coral sites in Lembeh, we also often see the “smiling” bluestriped fangblenny (Plagiotremus rhinorhynchos) which mimics cleaner wrasses. This species can also change color at will, and can be orange as in the image below or display black and blue stripes to blend in with the cleaner wrasses. I like to shoot them with narrow depth of fields (low f-numbers) and by moving the strobe around, the coral they sometimes sit in can create dramatic shadows even without snoots.

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Plagiotremus rhinorhynchos – Canon 7D, 100mm macro, ISO100, f2.8, 1/250sec, 1x INON Z-240

Almost all of these fangblennies are not skittish and fairly large (around 10cm/3inches) so pretty much all macro lenses are suitable for getting good shots.

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