Tag Archives: Marine Invertebrates

Touching octopuses

For Valentine’s Day I offer this photo of two day octopuses. It comes with a little story.

One day, while I was snorkeling, I noticed a stocky hawkfish about to plop onto a bit of coral. Before it could settle, a blue goatfish butted it away, getting my attention. I wondered if its presence might mean there was an eel or octopus around since they sometimes hunt together. Almost immediately, just beyond the goatfish, I noticed a day octopus glued to the side of a rock.

I took a couple of photos but knew they wouldn’t be very good; the octopus just looked like another lump of rock. So I began the usual dance I do with an octopus. I edge away, as though I’m leaving, keeping an eye on the octopus out of the corner of my eye. I know the octopus is watching me. Often, when I’ve gone a ways, the octopus will rise up onto whatever rock it’s hiding behind. If I’m quick, I can turn and get a photo before the octopus slides back down again. It’s like we’re connected by a line: I go away, the octopus rises. I return, the octopus sinks.

I swam behind a large chunk of rock, then peeked around the side. Still there, still hidden. A bit farther, another peek. Still there, still hidden. And again. And then I looked away momentarily and when I looked back, the octopus was gone. I think they, like many other creatures, watch a person’s eyes and if the person looks away, off they shoot.

It was a matter of a moment so I knew it couldn’t have gone far. I looked around, examining the rocks. Nothing. They can squeeze into tiny spaces so it was always possible I wouldn’t see it even if it was close by. Then, as I turned around, I caught a glimpse of movement and saw the octopus zip behind a bit of rock. Except then I immediately saw a second octopus follow the first.

I swam around the rock and saw the two of them, each in its own separate crack, a few feet apart. Again I took a couple of photos and then moved away. This time I went farther and waited, watching from a fair distance. Eventually, the octopus on the right of the photo emerged and moved toward the other one. I edged closer and began taking photos. It was then that that octopus slowly eased a tentacle toward the other one, sliding over the rock until it reached up and over the front of the other octopus. It was such a sweet and tender gesture, as though the octopus sought reassurance in making physical contact with its companion.

I took the photo and swam off, leaving them in peace.

A crowned jellyfish in the waters off the Big Island of Hawaii

Crowned jellyfish

A crowned jellyfish in the waters off the Big Island of Hawaii

Conditions weren’t great during a recent swim. Their were ocean swells and an onshore wind made the water choppy. The visibility was only fair, with a lot of coral polyps, the little dots in the photo. But then, literally out of the blue, I saw this crowned or crown jellyfish (Cephea cephea).

There followed a protracted dance where I tried to get close enough to the jellyfish to take a photo, without getting close enough to be stung (though my marine invertebrates book notes ‘The author has handled it with no ill effects.’). This wasn’t easy given the state of the water. The jellyfish just eased up and down quite smoothly, but I was swooshing back and forth with the water. So I’d get myself into a decent position, ready to take a photo, and a swell would propel me in the jellyfish’s direction prompting me to churn the water and head away.

The photos weren’t great because of this toing and froing and the murky water. This is the best of them, which I quite like as it captures the luminosity of the jellyfish as well as showing various parts – the crown with its arms on the top, the tentacles below.

A little later I saw another, smaller one of these. Normally, crowned jellyfish are found in deeper water, but sometimes they’re driven inshore by swells, as I think these two were.

A tiny jellyfish floats in the waters off the Big Island of Hawaii.

Abstracts: Jellyfish

A tiny jellyfish floats in the waters off the Big Island of Hawaii.

Every so often, when I go snorkeling, the water is full of small pink filament-like things. Swimming through them leaves me feeling slightly itchy and I’ve been told they’re baby jellyfish. A few days ago, in amongst these little pink blobs was a somewhat larger one, still only an inch or two long, but definitely a jellyfish.

This was the best photo I got, but I liked how the water swirled around above it with the pink-rimmed hole looking like it might just have beamed the jellyfish down.

A Pallid Ghost Crab blends in with the sand.

Pallid ghost crab

A Pallid Ghost Crab blends in with the sand.A Pallid Ghost Crab waits by the entrance ot its burrow.

This week’s WordPress photo challenge seeks distractions and for me, one thing that gets my attention is movement. I see something out of the corner of my eye and I wonder what it was, then try to find out.

In this instance, I was crossing a beach when I noticed bits of it get up and scurry away. Closer inspection revealed several of these pallid ghost crabs. They’re beautifully camouflaged, but if that cover is blown, they zip away, and I do mean zip. They take off like Usain Bolt, then stop and disappear again.

If that doesn’t work, say because some annoying individual with a camera stays hot on the trail, the crab will head for its burrow, perch on the edge, and at the slightest unwelcome movement, disappear from view.



A day octopus settles on a patch of coral off the Big Island of Hawaii.

Day octopus

A day octopus settles on a patch of coral off the Big Island of Hawaii.

A day octopus settles on a patch of coral. It will change its coloration from moment to moment depending on whether it wants to blend in or, perhaps, display an aggressive warning.

Spotting an octopus is a matter of chance. It helps if it’s on the move, but the presence of goatfish (in this photo, a manybar goatfish), is sometimes a tipoff.

Helmet urchins on the North Kohala coast

Helmet urchins

Helmet urchins on the North Kohala coastHelmet urchins on the North Kohala coast
Helmet urchins feed on algae at the water’s edge where they move about on little tube legs. I can’t claim to have witnessed any such activity, but for creatures that apparently just sit there, I find them quite cheerful and entertaining. Perhaps I should get out more.

To identify this, I used John P. Hoover’s book Hawai‘i’s Sea Creatures: A Guide to Hawai‘i’s Marine Invertebrates. His website is hawaiisfishes.com.