Tuesday, October 23, 2007

I Finally Found Halgerda Tesselata

When I came back inside the Grotto Saturday morning I decided to look in some different spots other than the places I usually look for the nudibranchs. If you always look in the same spots, you are most likely to keep finding the same nudibranchs that make that their habitat. I was on the ridge between #2 & 3 just looking for any sign of movement on the hard rock surface. This guy was slightly smaller than my thumbnail, and when I first saw him he wasn't moving. He was so small that I couldn't make out any of the definition on him at all with my naked eye, I didn't even know for sure that was a nudibranch. I thought maybe it was just a little patch of something stuck to the rock, but it was different than everything else around it, so I decided to go in for a closer look. Very carefully I moved my fingernail close to the edge of it to see if it moved at all, and sure enough, it was a nudibranch. After a little nudge from me, he decided to start working his way over the rock. I still couldn't see what it was and had no idea what type of nudibranch it was, I only knew that I had never seen it before so I was going to get as many pictures of it as I could. When you're shooting something that small that you can't really see anyway, you're never quite sure if the focus is right until you get the picture back and put it on your computer. The key to getting good shots is taking dozens and dozens of them, or in my case hundreds. Especially if it's a nudibranch I haven't seen yet, I'll shoot until I fill up my memory card or run out of battery life. When I got back home and looked at the pictures on my computer I was pleasantly surprised to find that only a couple of the pictures of this guy turned out blurry, the rest were awesome. This is a Halgerda tesselata. No I didn't go making a brand new discovery for the world or science or anything, but it was still my first Halgerda tesselata, and I've been looking for them for a couple months now, ever since I saw Mark James picture of one. One more nudibranch to my Grotto nudibranch portfolio. I know that there are plenty of people with a lot more pictues of nudibranchs than I have, but I am having an absolute blast learning all about these little critters. And I think that because of the sheer number of hours I spend underwater at the Grotto every weekend, I'm getting a pretty good handle on the types of nudibranchs we have there, and the most likely places to find them. Then for the second time, I saw this interesting guy on one of the boulders inside the Grotto. When your light hits it, it looks almost metallic, the colors are vibrant and it definitely stands out in its drab surroundings. I think it must be in the crinoid family somewhere, but it is different in quite a few ways from the normal crinoids we have everywhere. The typical crinoids arms are pretty soft and flexible. They can curl themselves up into a ball like this guy, but even when they do, they are still very soft and pliable. This guy feels like coiled wire and is very strong. When he thinks there is something around that might be a possible food source, he will outstretch those arms and probe around. Here you see him with half of his arms outstretched, and you can see the inside, where I assume the mouth is. I have some research to do on this guy to see if I can come up with an ID for him. Just one more of the thousands of unique little critters that make the Grotto their home. This was one of those days that there seemed to be another nudibranch everywhere I looked. I still have a really hard time identifying these little guys, there are about a dozen or so of them that all look exactly alike to me, but the experts have different names for all of them. So I just submit them and wait to hear back what they call them. I always get excited when I see one of these guys, this is Halgerda malesso. I see Halgerda guahan all the time and see pretty large numbers of them, but this one doesn't seem to be nearly so common in the Grotto. I just really like the looks of them, they have such a unique look to them with their yellow dots, and the two yellow lines that border their mantle. Their rhinopores and gills are also quite distinctive with the dark brown dots covering them. It is my belief that every single one of these guys has a unique pattern, much the same as our fingerprints are unique. I have looked closely at pictues I have of several of them, and their patterns all seem to be quite different. Now tell me, how could you not enjoy spending hours and hours with magnificent creatures such as this guy? I'm telling you, they're addictive. Once you learn to spot them, you want to find another, and then another. Then you're always looking for the perfect shot of them with a great background and colors. This isn't the best setting I have one set in, but it is definitely one of my best pictures of a Halgerda malesso. And I was happy to see that these guys are still laying their egg ribbons. I have made another discovery about these. If you look, you'll see the little white patches all over the egg ribbon, if you come back in a day or two, there will be holes in the egg ribbon where all those patches are. So whether those are the first eggs to hatch or what I'm not sure, but I'll keep watching and studying them. And I also saw this Chromodoris lochi on the rock where I usually see the purple nudibranchs, the Ptereolidia ianthina. This is the first time I've seen one of these on that rock, but I'm learning that's one of the best rocks to look for a variety of different nudibranchs. I think you can probably tell that I was really happy with this dive, as I got some great pictures of a wide variety of nudibranchs and other critters as well.