I don’t know what this is

Unknown

The underwater environment is filled with charismatic fish that are easily identified on fish slates and known to even the beginner diver. Butthere are dozens upon dozens of other species that flit about or school all around you that are less known.

Above, meet a small school of random lined fish. I have no idea what they are. Not fusiliers, and I think they’re too streamlined to be rabbit fish. Could be some version of snapper.

Welcome to wicked underwater world.

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Table coral nursery school

Kindergarten

I love staring at the reef. Every few seconds, it becomes more and more alive as your eyes adjust and pick up the details.

Here, some young butterfly fish or damselfish hide in a patch of table coral at Dixon’s Pinnacle. I could have easily swam right past them.

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Hypnotic anemone

Like it's blowing in the wind

Waving in the current at Dixon’s Pinnacle.

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I have an obsession with clownfish

Anemonefish

North Indian Anemonefish from Dixon’s pinnacle.

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Solitude

Channel

I wouldn’t mind being a lighthouse keeper.

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Sluggish

Varicose wart slugs

Sea slugs are cool. They’re part of the larger classification that also includes all the various types of nudibranch. Sadly, however, in the Andamans, the more delicate, fast evolving and intricate nudibranchs have disappeared.

One likely cause, according to an ecologist I dived with: coral bleaching (at least partly induced by climate change which is at least partly induced by the massive human carbon footprint) which is destroying the reef habitat of the nudibranch.

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Evil, evil fish

Devil fish

Well, not really… but I have a healthy fear of the titan triggerfish. Though most are wary of divers, some have been known to be hyper-aggressive, ramming and biting divers.

And as the fish can grow two-and-a-half feet long with jaws that crush coral, an encounter with an angry titan is not a pleasant thing. Many of the fish off Koh Tao, Thailand, seem the be particularly aggressive and I’ve watched a nesting trigger attack divers.

This trigger paid me no mind, however, as it cruised along Minerva’s Ledge near Havelock Island.

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Deadly but harmless

Hunting

Meet the banded sea krait, also known as the yellow-lipped sea krait, one of the most beautiful and also deadly creatures I’ve encountered underwater. It’s not a common find but is endemic to the Indian ocean.

As a snake (though there are eels that pose), the krait must return to the surface regularly to breathe. However, respiration aside, the creature is fully at home in water.

Its venom is among the most powerful in the world (allegedly ten times that of a King Cobra) though the snake is all but harmless to divers. It’s mouth is too small to bite large creatures and it is ambivalent to things that are not its prey.

The krait hunting is truly a sight to behold. Almost hypnotic as it weaves in and out of coral and rock.

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Nemo’s cousin

Anemone fish

What is sometimes identified as a North Indian anemonefish. From a two tank dive at Johnny’s Gorge and Minerva’s Ledge off Havelock Island.

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Wondrous to look at, less fun to touch

Beautiful but painful

Meet a common lionfish, a voracious eater common to the Indian Ocean. The fluttering spines all over it deliver a powerful toxin. Not deadly to humans on their own, but the severe pain caused could easily produce a problematic reaction if you’re, say, 100 feet underwater.

In recent years, lionfish have been devastating Atlantic reefs where they are an invasive species. They are multiplying practically as fast as they devour sea life, possibly because populations of a potential predator, grouper, are so depleted.

This has led the dive and conservation community to create lionfish hunts to check the pest. Apparently, the fish is rather tasty, though ciguatera would likely be a concern.

The above fish comes from Johnny’s Gorge. While taking this photo, I nearly drifted into its mate nearby. Close call.

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