Carnival on the Reef

Published December 30, 2015 in MARINE LIFE

Hairy creatures

The bearded lady of the reef carnival is the ornate ghost pipefish. The snout and body of this fish sport a covering of short skin filaments that resemble whisker bristles. They rank among the most exotic creatures inhabiting the reef yet very little is known about their natural history. While they are likely to be found in male/female pairs, they are also seen in small groups. They can be highly colorful, which seems to relate to their surroundings. A good place to look for these little wonders is near crinoids, where they will often hover head down amongst the arms. Ghost pipefishes may have some of the best disguises in the sea, which range from uncanny mimicry of leaves, crinoids, algae to sponges and seagrass. It is quite a challenge to find some of these little gems but well worth the hours scrutinizing every little thing that moves on the reef. Their range of colors and body shapes can surprise and amaze even the most seasoned critter hunter.

The ornate ghost pipefish is typically no longer than 15 cm (5.9 in), often seen floating near motionlessly with its mouth facing downward. The range of colors and body shapes they sport will surprise and amaze even the most seasoned critter hunter. Photo by Richard Smith

The ornate ghost pipefish is typically no longer than 15 cm (5.9 in), often seen floating near motionlessly with its mouth facing downward. Their range of colors and body shapes they sport will surprise and amaze even the most seasoned critter hunter. Photo by Richard Smith

Speaking of hairy little creatures, there is of course the pink hairy squat lobster. Seeing one of these cute little guys up close makes you want to laugh out loud as they look like they are having a very bad hair day! Not a true lobster, this marine crustacean is also known as the Fairy crab (Lauriea siagiani). Talk about freaky, this crab is a decapod crustacean, meaning they have ten appendages (legs), unlike true crabs, which have eight. These two extra legs are well hidden under the rear portion of the fairy crab’s shell, together with the respiratory organs or gills.

Every day is a bad hair day for the hairy squat lobster! This crab is a decapod crustacean, meaning it has ten appendages (legs), unlike true crabs, which have eight. Photo by Marco Fierli

Every day is a bad hair day for the hairy squat lobster! This crab is a decapod crustacean, meaning it has ten appendages (legs), unlike true crabs, which have eight. Photo by Marco Fierli

Fairy crabs are tiny, typically measuring no more than 1.5 cm in length, with a near translucent body and florescent pinkish-purple coloration. The standout feature is squat lobster’s long white hairs, which cover most of it’s body. To find this particular hairy little, well, fairy crab, the best place to look is among the convoluted surfaces of the Giant barrel sponge (Xestospongia testudinaria), which abound on the coral reefs in Wakatobi.

School at Roma_Michael Boyle

A parade of fish marching through the midway can provide a mesmerizing show, especially when you swim with the procession. Photo by Michael Boyle

Schooling fish are also entertaining, especially especially when you swim with the parade. Schools are usually of the same species and typically around the same age and size. Fish school for many reasons, including protection from predators, finding better feeding grounds, and locating a mate.

Wakatobi 2011

At Wakatobi, there’s a carnival on the reefs every day. Photo by Wayne MacWilliams

While the carnival, with all its bells and whistles, will provide you with many memories, the underwater world always seems to leave us wanting more. There’s one more corner to go around, another ledge just a little deeper to look under, one last jutting crevice to peek into. The thrill of discovery combined with the sheer beauty of the ocean creates a riotous carnival of experiences, all wrapped up in one breathtaking package. At Wakatobi, it’s a carnival on the reef every day.

Why not plan now to enjoy all that Wakatobi has to offer, above and below the surface? Contact us at office@wakatobi.com or complete a quick trip inquiry at wakatobi.com.

View more great Wakatobi imagery visit us on TUMBLR.

Visit us on Facebook.

 

12