Friday, February 04, 2011

Jan Dive Trip to Mindoro "Cleaning Station for Fish & An ethereal Sea Fan" Day 6.3`

January dive trip
Day 6.3

Interesting fish behavior:

A tiny two inch blue and white striped fish apparently grooming a juvenile puffer fish with a comical dog face before moving on to groom another species of colorful fish that I haven't ID'd yet, and then moving back to grooming the dogfaced one.

I watched the video below with my wife and step daughter and we all laughed at the show. Then, back here at the house I watched it once again with my little boy, only this time I provided the appropriate cartoon "fish voices narrative," and he could not stop laughing. As you can see, the little blue and white fish, a type of wrasse, really seems to be providing a service to the other fish species and does so with a lot of enthusiasm. Notice that due to the odd shape of its caudal fin it's very difficult to tell from its head or its tail. Then again, most wrasses have this distinguishing feature.

This time, when I did my research based on what I saw in that video I got lucky and immediatey came across something called a fish cleaning station. I kid you not. I typed in "cleaning fish" into the search engine and "cleaning station" popped right up on wikipedia and even included a picture of the Bluestreak cleaner wrasse that I filmed in the video.

After leaving the tiny cleaner wrasse to flit about its cleaning duties we followed the face of the precipice, basically heading east, and came to a white curtain of a creature with the just a hint of purple tinge. Before I learned better about these things I would have sworn something like this ghostly being must be some kind of giant sea plant, but I've long since learned otherwise. Perhaps it’s what they call fan coral, and in fact, after doing my research back here at the house it is indeed a type of soft coral called a Gorgonian also known as a sea fan.

To me it looks like the cross-section of a large round bush, at least it does from the side anyway. The one in my video is huge, maybe eight feet or more across. In silhouette the branches and sub-branches of this "fan" looks like an intricate web of light purple blood vessels, like a super high-definition of a cat scan image of a human's lungs. It’s one of the most ethereal sights I’ve seen down there.

In the video you can see that it is only a few inches deep; in proportion to its size it’s a very flat creature obviously oriented to catch the full effect of anything carried past the cliff face in any moving water current. Now admit it, for all you who don't know that these things are fauna wouldn't you assume that they are a type of flora?

In all the dives I've done in that area, and i've now done more than 40 now, I've only seen one other sea fan that even approaches a quarter of this one's size. This particular one, because it is so majestically peculiar and so easily seen from afar, makes the perfect reference marker. Once we catch a glimpse of it we know that we are only down the hill and a little to the southeast of the dive site buoy in front of the hotel pier.

Like all other types of corals the sea fan is not a single animal but a colony of thousands of individual polyp entities. Can you imagine? How the heck do these "individuals" figure out what their place and function is within the whole? The more I learn about the incredible life forms I observe down there the more amazed I become. If you ever have any doubts about God's existence, go diving in such a place and have your faith completely restored. Well, if you're an atheist it just might sew the seeds of doubt, eh?

No comments: