Category Africa – west – Atlantic – tropical

Sea urchin

Echinometra and Echinothrix spp

Sea urchins are often used as indicator organisms in public aquariums to determine whether the system is functioning properly. These organisms are extremely sensitive to water conditions and are first to show signs of stress, seen when their spines are laid down or are shed.

Sea urchins (echinoderms) are a group of marine invertebrates that can be found in almost every major marine habitat from the poles to the equator and from the inter-tidal zone to depths of more than 5,000 metres. There are around 800 extant species and the group has a long and detailed fossil record stretching back many millions of years. All echinoderms have tubefeet and these play a very important role in feeding and respiration.

Echinoderms move by means of spines and climb a...

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Triggerfishes (Balistidae) are so called because of the triggerlike mechanism controlling the large first dorsalfin spine on the top of their head. Once this spine is locked in an erect position, which the fish does in order to wedge itself into crevices in the coral where it cannot be dislodged by a predator, the spine cannot be pushed down until the short “trigger” spine behind it is depressed. The family name Balistidae is derived from the Latin ballista, another name for the Roman catapult, in allusion to the trigger mechanism of the dorsal-fin spines.

Triggerfish are mostly found on coral reefs, and when under threat they dart into a hole or crevice on the reef, lock their dorsal spine erect and wedge themselves into the reef...

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All lobsters

Lobsters, like shrimps and crabs, are decapods – literally meaning 10 legs – and can be found in all of the world’s tropical and subtropical seas as well as more temperate waters. They are predatory, nocturnal animals with a vividly decorated coat. They are often numerous locally; they linger in crevices (with their long antennae sticking out) during the day and hunt small benthic organisms at night, but they also feed on organic detritus whenever they happen across it. As with all crustaceans, the lobster moults or sheds its shell to grow.

Lobsters have recently suffered a dramatic demographic decline; intensive fishing has annihilated entire populations, especially where tourism abounds.

The lobster families that you may encounter are the spiny rock lobsters, Palinuridae, ...

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When people talk about coral reefs, fishermen tend to shrug their shoulders and complain about snagged lines and torn nets. But when you talk about groupers, they suddenly sit up and pay attention. Groupers are among the economicallymost important fishes of the coral reef, because of their popularity as food. Yetwithout the coral reef there would probably be no groupers. For this reason, groupers are an extremely important indicator species and your record of theirexistence or non-existence during your dive tells us a lot.

The Dusky Grouper (Epinephelus marginatus) feeds on octopi, crustaceans (crabs) and fishes. It lives on rocky bottoms very close to the coasts. Because of its enormous final size (1,5 meters of length) it is the most impressive coastal fish...

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Identifying sharks in the wild is a great challenge! While scientists can spend weeks examining every detail of a species, divers may encounter a shark for only a few seconds or minutes. Many species look alike and one individual may not be identical to the next. There are, however, relatively few species in any one specific dive site and with some preparation and a little practice it is possible for all of us to recognise the more common and distinctive species. The key to successful shark identification underwater is a process of elimination, based on a mental checklist of the main features to look for in every animal encountered. One feature alone is rarely enough for a positive identification, so gather as much information as you can before drawing firm conclusions.

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