Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Year of the Pipehorse!

Acentronura-Black Pipehorse
 This year the Pipehorse was high on my list of critters. The first and only one i have seen was way back in 2006 in Lembeh. Since then i havent had the opportunity to see another. So at the end of last year i began looking at photos (what little that exist) to try and determine where to find these guys.
Now if you have never seen a Pipehorse in the wild then think of a Pipefish crossed with a Seahorse and there you will find a hybrid. Technically speaking its actually a pipefish, except that it wraps its tail around objects and plants to stabilize and to feed, like a seahorse, hence the name.

I have found the Pipehorse in different habitats as well, ranging from sandy rubble to filamentous algae, even a Halimeda type algae.
While visiting Maluku divers in Ambon my guide waved me over pointing into the sand. Appearing to be a small scrap of discarded dental floss i examined it closely from behind my Macro lens. There i saw an eye staring back at me...convinced it was way to small for an effective photo i continued to look for more. A few minutes later i found these two little gems below.
Trying to get a shot of these two was quite a challenge as anyone who has tried to get a photo of a active Pipefish will attest too. A modeling light is needed to help my old eyes, however, the Pipehorse hates light and turns away. Then trying to get an acceptable photo of the two together was an even harder task. The dive wasn't too deep so we had the time to burn but at 70fsw/23 meters the air tends to drain out faster then you want it too. So feeling the pinch of time i pleaded with these two miniscule little creatures to pause and smile. A few seconds later i was appeased by them coming together long enough to squeeze off a few photos.

As i was showing a friend the photos i had shot i commented on how delicate these creatures are. She replied to me with quite a profound statement that really made me think. She said"the ocean is one of the most hostile environments on the planet". With that i figured perhaps they look delicate and to a human they just might be. But to the creatures in its world it is a rapacious foe.
Wearing a body of armor with algae growth for disguise, it hides on plantlike structures consuming the smaller mysid shrimp that seek shelter. Look closely at the algae growing on the stick they are attached too and notice the same type of growth on the animal itself. These guys are cute all right but dont be fooled, the large pupils are perfect for hunting at night and with independent movements they are able to look backward and forward simultaneously.The trumpet like snout is set perfectly ready to suck in the next snack and with the cryptic appearance they are nearly invisible to larger prey.
So the next time you see flotsam that appears to be threadlike, bumping along the bottom, stop and have a closer look.
You just may come to realize that the thread are really these zany little critters on the hunt. And while their size dictates frailty to us, they pose real danger to the others in their domain..
The yellow Pipehorse was shot in the Philippines, Anilao to be exact while the other two photos were shot in Ambon, Indonesia. I used my 28-20 macro lens with a +10 diopter on the twins While the others were shot with a 60mm lens and a 105.


More will be posted as info becomes available

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