Monday, April 27, 2009

Pistol Shrimp

Pistol Shrimps are tiny creatures with a deadly weapon. They are capable of shooting supersonic blasts from their fingertips with enough force to instantly stun or kill their prey.

You may notice that one claw of a pistol shrimp is much larger than the other, and very strangely shaped. This claw serves as both its lethal weapon, and its voice. This claw can be forcefully snapped shut, shooting a jet of water out at such a high speed that it actually vaporizes the water. This causes a small air bubble to form. The bubble collapses with enough force to send concussive shockwaves capable of stunning and incapacitating prey.

A pistol shrimp will lie in wait under a rock or in a burrow until food comes along. When it is in range, the shrimp will forcefully snap its oversize claw shut, shooting out sonic waves that incapacitate its prey. The helpless victim is dragged unconscious into the burrow and eaten by the pistol shrimp.

Another unusual thing about pistol shrimps is that they often allow a fish to live with them. Certain kinds of goby fish often share burrows with pistol shrimp. The fish serves as a guard dog, protecting the shrimp from bigger predators. In return, the pistol shrimp works hard to keep the burrow clean and excavate their home.

The loud blast created by a pistol shrimp's claw can be heard from great distances. Because of this, they also use their claw for communicating with other pistol shrimps. When you listen underwater you may hear a lot of popping sounds. Some of them may be made by pistol shrimps firing off their sound waves to communicate with each other.

Sunday, April 5, 2009


Frogfish are some of the most bizarre looking fish in the ocean. They are a type of angler fish with amazing adaptations for camouflage. Their bodies are oddly shaped and they can change colors to blend in with their environment. Most frogfish mimic corals, sponges, seaweed, or rocks. This camouflage keeps predators from identifying them as food, and it keeps their food from identifying them as predators.

Frogfish spend most of their lives scooting along the bottom of the ocean. They lie motionless, resting on specially modified fins that act almost like legs.

Like most angler fish, frogfish have a very clever method of hunting prey. Instead of going out to find their food, they bring their food to them. Frogfish have a small growth on their heads that looks like a small worm or fish. They dangle this lure in front of their mouth, tricking other fish into thinking it is food.

The fish come close, thinking they will eat an easy meal. Instead they become the meal for the frogfish.

Frogfish are found in oceans throughout the world, and they take on a staggering variety of shapes and colors.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Sea Snakes

Sea Snakes are some of the many land animals that have adapted to live in the ocean. They seem completely out of place, yet these unusual marine reptiles are perfectly adapted for life below the waves. I'm sure it is hard to picture a snake under water, so I posted the video below of a sea snake gliding across a reef. It seems just as natural swimming underwater as it would slithering on dry land.

There are over 60 different species of sea snakes found in tropical seas throughout the world. Most are brightly colored, and nearly all sea snakes have a flattened tail that works as a paddle. Unlike their terrestrial cousins, many species of sea snakes lack the ability to crawl on land. Others are known to spend a good amount of time out of the water. Sea snakes may live underwater for most of their lives, but they still breathe air like all other reptiles.

The forked tongue of a sea snake is specially adapted to allow them to smell underwater. They cruise along coral reefs hunting fish, eels, shrimp, or even fish eggs depending on the species.

Most sea snakes are highly venomous and pack deadly poison, but few are known to be aggressive towards humans. Attacks are not very frequent, and they rarely deliver much poison when they strike. When sea snakes are handled by humans or caught on land, they can be very dangerous. As with most sea creatures, it is best to look but don't touch.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Manta Rays

Manta rays are the largest member of the ray family, growing up to 25 feet across. While most fish swim, rays fly gracefully through the water by flapping the edges of their fins like wings. Rays are actually relatives of sharks.

Manta rays are a favorite among divers because they are so large and beautiful, but also very gentle. They are said to often become curious about divers and interact with them. They have the largest brain-to-body ratio of any of the shark family. They are also sometimes found in groups or even large schools.

Manta rays are sometimes referred to as devil rays because of the hornlike projections around their mouths. These are actually used to funnel food into their gaping mouths. They feed exclusively on plankton, which they scoop into their mouths as they glide along the currents. Manta rays swim slowly, often doing loops and dives as they seek out plankton.

With their huge wingspan, one often wonders if they could fly. In some ways, they do. Rays have been observed leaping completely out of the water for short periods of time. Naturally gravity takes its toll but they get some considerable air time before plunging back under the waves.

If you want to see a giant manta ray in person, you can find one swimming along with 3 whale sharks in the Georgia Aquarium. I got to watch this graceful giant up close on my recent visit there.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Back From the Holidays

As some of you may have realized, I took a break from posting to this blog for about 2 months during the holidays. Now that I am back from my long vacation, I will not only resume posting to this blog, but also increase the amount of attention I give to it. Keep your eyes out for more posts coming in the next weeks.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that not only has the readership remained active, but it has actually increased while I was away. According to my hit trackers, this blog has gotten over 18,000 views in less than half a year. Not only that, but it has grown to a Pagerank 1, which is a huge accomplishment for such a young blog. I wanted to thank all of my readers for your comments and support. Without you this blog would not have come so far. I look forward to giving you all more good reasons to keep coming back.