This fish stings

Still working on his camo

A scorpionfish who is still building his camo in dramatic light off the coast of Isla de la Plata.

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Back to school

A ribbon of fish

A band of what I believe are a type of fusilier schools off the coast of Isla de la Plata. One of the many fun experiences of diving is to get “caught” in a “cloud” of these fish. Watching them school and swim together — as though they’re all part of one larger organism — is absolutely hypnotic.

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Taking a break from fishing around

Just chillin'

These small fish — often called feeder fish — make up a vital role in the food chain, either by consuming plankton and krill or by being first-level predators, part of the massive ocean process of capturing sunlight and carbon dioxide to fuel growth. They’re among the most prolific in a reef ecosystem, though admittedly not as high-profile as the big rays, pelagic fish, turtles and other charismatic sea creatures.

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Where be the fish?

Where is he?

Say hello to a very well camouflaged scorpionfish. These are some of my favorite sea creatures, for their incredibly evolved defense mechanisms.

They’re predatory fish who will generally lie motionless and rely on their camouflage until food wanders too close. They also have poisonous spines hidden beneath their cover. Those spines deliver one of the more toxic loads in the sea, not enough to kill a human, for example, but more than sufficient to cause serious pain.

They’re not terribly common — most places I’ve dived you’d be lucky to see one or two per tank — but they’re great fun to search for. Seeing them becomes second nature once you know what to look for and what kind of environment they like.

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Rays in the mud


Above is a well-hidden ray over the coast of Ecuador, known locally by fishermen and naturalists as a pan stingray. The name comes from it’s size: about that of a round frying pan.

Don’t know the scientific name or species details; but a cursory Google search only returned recipes for things like “pan-fried stingray with tomato.”

The mottled brown color provides excellent camouflage when the ray roots around in the rocks, sand and mud of the sea floor.

Pan ray covering itself

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This guy’s a coward


Another moray eel chills out near Isla de la Plata. Spotting a moray elsewhere in the world is a good find. Here, they’re cheap and easy.

I’m not sure of species here, but I saw a good number from the Ecuadorian coast all the way to the Galapagos.

Tucked away in rocks and reef

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Say hello to my little friend


Hello, little goby fish. A skittish little guy, whose head is no bigger than the size of the tip of my little finger. Approach and he’ll hide in his dug-out hole, just watching. This is in shallow water, so the reds still come out. Hard to spot sometimes, but these guys are fun to watch.

Some species live symbiotically with a near-blind, burrowing shrimp. The shrimp effectively builds the couple’s home while the fish keeps watch.

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Stingray stink-eye

I know how cool I am

Another diamond stingray off the coast of Isla de la Plata. These guys grow abnormally huge in the waters there. Some will reach right near two meters wide.

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Hungry, hungry triggerfish

Thankfully, he isn't interested in us

Triggerfish on Koh Tao, Thailand are evil. The titans there will give chase to any diver who wanders too close. Thankfully, triggerfish off Isla de la Plata (above) don’t care at all.

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Unidentified species slithering on by

Sliding across the bottom

This, I believe, is some kind of spotted snake eel. I’ve seen a few of them, largely indifferent to divers, swimming and hunting above the sea floor. They are distinct from your average moray which is better known, better seen and rarely out in the open during daylight.

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