These small damselfishes are often seen, but less often noticed, if that makes sense. They gather around coral heads but are quick to disappear when approached. At some point I realized that I’d seen these fish often but didn’t actually know what they were. Now I do!
The Hawaiian dascyllus is an endemic damselfish. I see them most often when they’re feeding, usually some way below the surface of the water. This one was a bit higher than most.
I was out snorkeling with a friend when I noticed her taking photos of a small clump of floating debris. When I headed over to see what was so interesting about the debris, I saw a host of tiny fish swimming around and within the clump. This was a small example of how fish, particularly smaller fish, will use floating objects to give them some cover and security from predators.
Most of the fish appeared to be sergeant fish, probably Indo-Pacific Sergeants, no more than half an inch long, but with their dark bars quite distinct. There were a couple of other species there, too, in smaller numbers, but I’m not sure what they were. (Update: The slightly larger grey fish are freckled driftfish. Thanks to John Hoover for the ID.)
The second photo gives a sense of scale and shows how small this little world was. It also shows the fish migrating across to check out whether this new clumpy thing might make a good new home. They did this with both of us, but returned to the floating debris, figuring wisely that it offered better shelter for them.
Posted in response to this week’s Friendly Friday challenge theme of ‘Quiet Places.’ See more responses here.
There are two kinds of longnose butterflyfish in Hawaii, the common longnose and the big longnose. Neither name is especially flattering, but I think this is a big longnose butterflyfish. It feeds mostly on small shrimp, which it catches by thrusting its long nose into small crevices and swallowing its prey whole.
The little bright-eye damselfish on the left might have been startled by the butterflyfish, but not threatened. They can be quite aggressive in defending their small territories.
A bright-eye damselfish guards its territory, which includes this red pencil urchin, against intruders.
A little snapshot of things tucked into the rocks along the Big Island. There’s a red pencil urchin and blue-black urchin, a patch of cauliflower coral, and a cowry, probably a reticulated cowry. And if you look closely, there’s a bright-eyed damselfish swimming between the coral and red pencil urchin.
I was swimming one day when I realized I was being watched. Peeking up from a crevasse in the reef, was this giant porcupinefish. These fish do seem to be quite curious and this is a look I’ve seen before. The difference here was that the water was quite shallow, so the fish was not as deep as they usually are. If I got too close, the fish would dip deeper into the crevasse. If I moved away, it would pop up again.
Porcupinefish are not to be messed with. They have strong beaks (fused teeth), which they use to break mollusc and crustacean shells, and which have been known to sever fingers, too. In addition, like pufferfish, they can inflate themselves with water into a large, round ball when threatened. Unlike pufferfish, porcupinefish have sharp spines which normally lie flat, but which become erect when inflated. Finally, they’re extremely poisonous.
The other fish, in the second photo, are a goldring surgeonfish and, above it, a small blackfin chromis.