For almost 3 years now, I have been surveying semi-cryptic critters living inside cauliflower corals, Pocillopora meandrina. Glimpses of claws, legs, fins, eyes – I have known these critters in the light glow of a flashlight. Some of them are bolder than others and have swum outside the coral branches in full view or stood near the edges of the coral branches and even tried to pinch at my gloves to defend their coral from me. For the most part, I have known them from hints of their existence observed in the shadows between the coral branches.
This month I have been setting up a field experiment to better understand community interactions. To do this, I needed to remove some critters from the corals to establish sets of corals with similar communities. As part of this process, the critters that I had been enjoying glimpses of were exposed, and wow – they were spectacular!!!
My amazing field assistant, Debra Ford, and I tried to capture our own photos of these critters. We also invited Keoki Stender, a local celebrity when it comes to species IDs and photos, to get some shots of these critters outside of their normal coral shelter.
Resources like Keoki’s webpage are invaluable for people to learn about and identify critters in our oceans. Also – shameless plug – you can order copies of his beautiful prints! It was incredible to see these critters out of their normal shelters and we are so happy Keoki was able to help capture them. I am excited to announce that we were even able to add 3 species to Keoki’s Marine Life Photography Webpage!