I’ve been giving wide berth to the urchins. The needles are sharp! How sharp? They can easily pierce my 3mm wet suit. Have you ever seen or heard a grown man cry underwater. Don’t try this at home! The first time was when I put my hand down to steady my camera. Yup! The needles went through my glove and into my hand. Damage done, I debated whether to take the picture or to pull the needles. I took the picture, of course. It was a puffer fish that our dive instructor trapped and thereby caused it to puff out. It was impressive to me as a novice diver. And then, when I went to get the needles out, I brushed my wet suit to scrape them off. The other end of the needle is just as sharp. Damn! Pain and then again, I was crying except you cannot really cry underwater. Laughing yet? When we emerged everyone had a good laugh. I threw out the glove. The wet suit still stung for a while but I had to keep it. And my hand was tattooed with lots of needles embedded. You don’t remove them. They eventually dissolve. I am not one to wait. So the next day my assistant and I were in the operating room with the Zeiss operating microscope removing the needles under high magnification. It was my left hand. I’m left handed. No easy task, except, that I had trained myself to use both hands to operate. But it was still not easy.
This disco thing? Well, for the first time I noticed the anatomy of the urchin. It has a disco ball that wave/rotates. Don’t know why, but, it is colorful. And colorful is what is interesting in underwater photography. I got a couple – well, more than a couple – shots. It seems that this is standard anatomy. Where have I been? Yes! Neat. Another detail underwater from an unexpected subject and I didn’t even have to get hurt doing it.
The problem with things that camouflage well, is that there is not much to capture on your image. There’s no eye to really see. But if you imagine how much fun it is to discover one underwater it would sure help this post. It helps to know where to look and what to look for. So first, I discovered – just now – that urchins are the big protectors of small creatures. Urchins are chicken too, as in the sense of being timid, not as in, “tastes like chicken.” Moving the urchins around annoys them. Sorry! But it also allows me to see what is hiding nearby. You can’t do this with shrimp. They are way too skittish.
But the purpose of the camouflage is that you don’t see them. Standing still is a key to that. I suppose there is also something to be said for, “Don’t let ‘em see you blink.” I don’t see eyes (theirs) too well. If I did know all of this, it would be really easy to miss this tiny creature and mistake it for debris. The juveniles are not that good at all of this. So they stay for a while and move off like a shot. I got two shots of two different baby cuttlefish. And the third got away. That percentage of success gave me very few choices in deciding which pictures to post…. All of them!
This is a shrimp that is associated with the urchins common to our reef. Urchins come out at night. And so, too, the shrimp appear. This guy was out during the day. Brave fellow. People like to eat shrimp. I suppose other fish do too. Getting the shot was hell. The shrimp stays in shadow and moves if you pay it any attention. So to get in close is not too practical. And to get the light in the hole is pretty challenging too. I will add that it is very tiny. Not even a morsel for the cocktail sauce. So it’s all the more amazing I got a shot. You’d understand too, if you knew how I had to stand on my head to get this shot.
It’s tiny. How tiny? The best way to find them it to see the reflection of their eyes from the flashlight. When they see the light they flee. Aha! Some guys use a red light. It helps. Me, I just use luck. It’s lucky we have anything to post for you to see. I’m lucky.
There are spiky urchins aplenty on the reef. Less common are the pencil urchins, obviously named because their spikes are the diameter of pencils. I almost passed this collector urchin except that my flashlight picked up the brilliant color. Later the book showed and named it for me. Yes, they pick up debris and cover themselves, hence the name, collector. As I said I thought it was plant not animal the first time I looked.