While this isn’t the greatest photo, I liked how the very small inhabitants of this rocky area were all looking at me at the same time. At the top is a juvenile wrasse, probably a Saddle Wrasse, though the Bird Wrasse is somewhat similar. The middle two are Bright-eye Damselfishes, and at the bottom is an Hawaiian Whitespotted Toby, the giant of the group at about 3 inches long.
The Hawaiian Whitespotted Toby is a small pufferfish that’s endemic to Hawaii. Like many small fish, and juveniles of larger fish, they will use the quills of sea urchins to shelter from predators. Not that tobies need too much help. When attacked they inflate themselves like a balloon, making them hard to swallow. In addition, this toby secretes a nasty skin toxin which will deter most predators.
This varicose phyllidia is a small nudibranch, which I saw several times over the course of a week or so. Apart from being a lot smaller than the clumpy nudibranchs I saw a couple of months back, the varicose phyllidia has gills under the mantle skirt rather than in an exposed, wavy clump.
This one was two to three inches long. In the middle photo, the tiny white-spotted toby and small brown surgeonfish give a sense of scale.
Hawaiian whitespotted tobies are small pufferfish, under 4 inches long. The one in the top photo is a female, probably looking for a spot to deposit her eggs. The toby following her (second photo) is a male. After she’s deposited her eggs he’ll fertilize them. Neither will stay with the eggs.
A couple of days after taking this photo, I was in a different location when another pair of these tobies zipped up to me and went by a foot away. In that case, it was two males, the one vigorously defending its territory from the interloper.
In my attempts to identify what I see in the water, I use John P. Hoover’s book The Ultimate Guide to Hawaiian Reef Fishes, Sea Turtles, Dolphins, Whales, and Seals. His website is hawaiisfishes.com.