Photo Synthesis

Archives for August, 2009

Scleractinian corals in many forms

Scleractinian corals, also known as stony corals — or just hard corals — are the primary reef builders in the oceans. Their polyps secrete calcium carbonate to form a skeleton. A minority of species live as single polyps, but most stony coral species are colonial, and the structures they build ‘grow’ over time. They form…

Many animals in the sea have evolved colors and forms that allow them to blend in with their surroundings. Some animals use their camouflage to hide from predators — and some predators use camouflage to fool their prey. It can be difficult to photograph such animals, partly because it’s often hard to find them in…

They look like a cross between a caterpillar and a tricked out centipede. They crawl about with considerable agility, they are voracious feeders, and they certainly know how to defend themselves. Meet the Bearded Fireworm (Hermodice carunculata), a free-moving marine Polychaete worm. This species is widely distributed from the Caribbean, throughout the warmer waters of…

When is an anemone not an anemone?

The pretty creatures pictured here look like anemones, but they are not true anemones. They are Cerianthids, commonly referred to as ‘tube anemones’, which are taxonomically quite distinct from true anemones. Cerianthids and true anemones do belong to the same phylum, Cnidaria, and the same class, Anthozoa, but tube anemones belong to the subclass Ceriantipatharia,…

Sea fans are among the most beautiful sights seen by divers. Gorgonian sea fans are Cnidarians that build colonies in branching formations that usually are fan-shaped, thus the common name. Like the Nephtheid soft corals I wrote about recently here on Photo Synthesis, Gorgonians are octocorals: each polyp has eight pinnate tentacles which it uses…

Nudibranchs — marine snails without shells — make wonderful photo subjects for the macro photographer. They are small, colorful, and they move slowly (as snails are wont to do). That last characteristic is particularly welcome. Most fishes are in motion almost constantly, and non-sessile invertebrates tend to scurry hither and thither. It’s nice to find…

Gimme shelter!

Many animals in the ocean seek shelter from predators by living on or among other animals. Among fishes, members of the Damselfish family (Pomacentridae) often seek protection this way. Some of these relationships also are commensal or even symbiotic. One of the most well known symbiotic relationships in the marine world is that between anemones…

Crinoids on the night shift

Everyone knows that some terrestrial animals are active primarily at night and sleep most of the day, while others go about their business during daylight hours and rest when it’s dark. For some reason, many people are surprised to learn that the same thing holds true for animals that live in the sea. One of…

Crinoids, a class of marine animals in the phylum Echinodermata, are pretty creatures. The photo at right shows a crinoid perched on a Malaysian reef with its fluffy arms extended for feeding. Looking at the photo, it’s easy to see how they acquired their common name, Feather Stars. This is how divers usually see crinoids,…

Hello, Fish Face!

I like to photograph the faces of creatures that live in the sea. Here is a sampler of fish faces. All of these individuals belong to the Wrasse (Labridae) family. Most wrasses seem to have attractive markings on their faces, which show up well in close-up images like these. Shown above: Thalassoma klunzingeri, from the…