text and photos
Photo© 2005 Janna Nichols
Gunnel (Apodichthys flavidus)
Gunnels are elongated, eel like fishes that are often found mixing in
with the bottom debris and marine plants. The thin black bar through
the eye and dark and or pale spots in a row along the mid body are good
visual clues for this species. No ventral fins. Reaction to divers is
to remain still relying on camouflage. Easy critters to photograph.
- contributed by Mark Dixon
Lined Dirona (Dirona albolineata)
names: Alabaster Nudibranch, Frosted
Nudibranch, Chalk-Line Dirona
- Text and photo contributed by Claude Nichols
Kelp Greenling (Hexagrammos decagrammus)
names: greenling sea trout, speckled
sea trout, rock trout, bluefish, tommy cod
- Contributed by Georgia Arrow
Leather Star (Dermasterias imbricata)
This particular sea star is easy to identify and spot, since it looks so different from the other sea stars. Typically, these are found on rocky surfaces at all recreational diving depths. The Leather Star is named such because its top surface is soft, like suede leather. The coloration is gray with brownish - orangish patches. It has 5 arms, with a bit of webbing in between, and each arm can be up to about 6" long. Leather stars eat sea pens, anemones, sea cucumbers and sea urchins. When removed from the water, they smell like garlic.
Now, if you really want to see some action, watch what happens when a Leather Star gets near a Swimming Anemone (Stomphia). Whoa!! You'll see an escape response like no other, with the Swimming Anemone gyrating and flopping back and forth, attempting to sting the Leather star, and then simply lifting off its perch, swimming away in the water.
We've seen large numbers of juvenile Leather Stars in the eelgrass at Twanoh State Park. Not exactly rocky habitat, eh?
- Contributed by Janna Nichols
The tube-snout is a species that is easy to identify. The tube-snout has
a slender elongated body with a single triangular dorsal fin preceded
by many small spines. The fish has a long tubular snout with a tiny mouth.
The body is fairly rigid. Normal movement is slow and uneven; achieved
by rapid fin movement. Occasional lunges are made while feeding on planktonic
prey. The fish are sometimes found in large schools.
Breeding: During spring and early summer breeding and spawning take place. Careful observers may see territorial behavior by the males. The males develop a fluorescent blue snout and flash an orange patch near the pectoral fins as a display while defending their turf. Up to 60 dark honey colored eggs are deposited on a nest of strands of sticky material built by the male. A favorite nest site seems to be at the top of the bulb like air bladder on a stalk of kelp where the blades attach. Schools of juvenile tube-snouts can be seen at this time of year around structures close to the bottom.
Hints: One possible identification trap is the similarity to
the bay pipefish, another fish with an elongated body. The ID tip is that
if the fish is horizontal, it's a tube-snout. If it is vertical, it's
a pipefish; pipefish are usually found near eel grass which they use as
camouflage in their vertical position.
- Contributed by Kirby Johnson
A Twofer this time around - two jellies for the price of one. Learn to tell them apart. (Jellies, not Jellyfish as they are not fish!)
Mane (Sea Blubber) first photo
in telling these jellies apart is the number of lobes along the margin,
and color. The Lion's Mane jelly, which can give you a nasty sting, has
eight large lobes and generally a purplish to red color - the egg yolk
jelly has 20 lobes and is light yellow in color.
Mane Jelly or Sea Blubber
Nearly transparent bell with margin divided into 8 large lobes. Large
central mass of frilly oral lobes or arms around the gastric cavity -
often hang down below the bell. These lobes can be extended. They have
8 clusters of tentacles, each of which may have up to 150 tentacles. The
tentacles are armed with nematocysts - stinging cells. These are the most
commonly encountered jellies that can give you a bad sting.
Yolk Jelly or Fried Egg Jelly
Nearly transparent whitish or yellowish bell with margin divided into
16 large lobes that alternate with small lobes. Large central light yellow
to yellow mass of gonads and frilly oral lobes or arms around the gastric
cavity - often hang down below the bell. They have 16 clusters of tentacles.
The tentacles are armed with nematocysts - stinging cells.
- Contributed by Wes Nicholson
Critter has a round snout and large head with a prominent pair of spines
on gill cover. The top one pointed up and back and the lower flattened
and pointed down. There are also raised plates along the lateral line.
- Contributed by Mark Dixon
Names: Spider Crab
- Contributed by Claude Nichols
Names: Bolina, Chocolate Bass, Brown Bass,
Brown Rock Cod
- Contributed by Georgia Arrow
Giant Pacific Octopus on the top,
In honor of the Seattle Aquarium Annual Octopus Survey this month, we want to point out some of the differences between the two common types of octopuses in our area. We do encourage all of you to participate in the survey!
Since the Giant Pacific Octopus grows to much larger sizes than the Red Octopus, it's easy to rule out the Red Octo simply by size if you happen upon a large critter. However, the tricky part is when you come across a small octopus - how do you tell which one it is?
Dr. Roland Anderson, of the Seattle Aquarium, and founder/manager of the Annual Octopus Surveys, has graciously given us lots of clues to help ID the little buggers. Check out the boxes below and compare to the photos above.
Good luck! And you can also check out this page that Dr. Anderson created for field ID of octopuses.
- Contributed by Janna Nichols
The C-O Sole is one of the flat fish that divers can readily identify. The fish has an oval shaped body and often is colored in rich brown tones; the color varies to blend with the habitat. The eyes are large, closely spaced and protruding.
The most prominent identifying features are; a dark spot, about the same size as the eye, located in the middle of the back, a second sometimes not quite so prominent spot in the center of the caudal (tail) fin, and a dark band at the base of the same fin. The band and spot on the tail resemble the letters "C-O", hence the name. Not only easy to ID, but the name is written right on the fish! Who could ask for more?
[Maybe the fish could fill out the scan forms.]
The C-O Sole ranges from Baja California to southeastern Alaska and is found in water less than 50 ft (15 m) deep to well beyond safe diving limits. They can reach a length of 14 inches (36 cm).
These fish are often found where sandy areas abut rocky reef. If coralline algae is present on the reef, observers may be treated to seeing the same purple hue in the color pattern of the fish.
The C-O Sole eggs are pelagic, drifting in the water column and hatching after about a week. The larvae begin life near the surface like other fish. As the young fish settle to the bottom they undergo a change where the left eye shifts across the head to the right side. The now sightless left side is protected by proximity to the bottom and swimming becomes the undulating movement we associate with flat fish. The skin pigmentation is entirely on the right side.
C-O Sole belong to the family of flat fish known as Right Eyed Flounders because of this trait. This turns out not to be very useful characteristic for identification because most of the common flat fish in our waters are right eyed.
For something a little bit different, find the website of Dr. Stephen Palumbi from Stanford University's Hopkins Marine Station. Select music on the webpage and listen his recording of " Sustainable Sole".
- Writeup contributed by Kirby Johnson