Sunday, August 18, 2013

Diving Discoveries

The past couple of weeks since getting back from safari I have been doing lots of dives. At the moment I am working with a series of methods to understand more about "Reef Resilience" which is the ecological properties of particular reef to bounce back from large scale disturbances, and especially bleaching. It has been very intense, spending 3-4 hours on fieldwork a day and stretching our 200bar of pressure in the dive tank as far as it can go. However, while down we still have managed to see some amazing things. I've snorkelled and dived these reefs here Watamu for nearly 3 years now and I still find things that are new and awesome.
One of the best finds was a Mantis Shrimp. Not only is it one of the most decorated and stunning creatures on the planet, but it has some really really remarkable biology. I won't go into detail here, but rather suggest you read the following comic for more explanation. Seriously cool animal.
Another find was a really large Triton shell. This enormous shell must have been a very old individual and is a rare sight on reefs these days. These special shells are predators on starfish and especially the Crown of Thorns (COT) starfish, which has been made famous for destroying huge areas of reef in the Barrier Reef and other locations, when plague like proportions of them descend on the reef eating all live coral in sight. These shells are one of a very few animals which prey on the COT and help to regulate its population reaching these extreme levels. However, due to the souvenir shell trade they are much less common than before and indeed it has been thought that their absence may lead to increased reproductive success of the COT and hence the blooms which have wiped out areas of reef around the world. It is great to see this old timer still on our reef here and amazing to see such an enormous shell.
At the bottom I've attached a video of my dive buddy Tim performing a challenge on his 10th recorded dive since qualifying. I wanted to test his underwater skills and have some fun too. Enjoy :-D
One of my transects across a very pretty patch of coral
The Awesome Mantis Shrimp
My dive buddy Tim with a Triton shell bigger than his head