Mandarinfish [Synchiropus splendidus]

Mandarinfish

The Mandarinfish or Mandarin dragonet (Synchiropus splendidus), is a small, brightly colored member of the dragonet family, which is popular in the saltwater aquarium trade. The mandarinfish is native to the Pacific, ranging approximately from the Ryukyu Islands south to Australia.  It was later placed in genus Synchiropus. The common name of the Mandarinfish comes from its extremely vivid colouration, evoking the robes of an Imperial Chinese mandarin. Other common names include Mandarin goby, Green mandarin, Striped mandarinfish, Striped dragonet, Green dragonet and sometimes Psychedelic mandarinfish. The similarly named mandarin fish (Siniperca chuatsi), properly known as the Chinese perch, is only distantly related.

The Mandarinfish belongs to the perciform family Callionymidae, the dragonets, which counts 10 genera and more than 182 species. Genus Synchiropus counts 51 species, divided into 10 subgenera. The Mandarinfish is in subgenus Synchiropus (Pterosynchiropus) along with the Australian LSD-fish (S. occidentalis) and the LSD- or psychedelic fish (S. picturatus).

To date, S. splendidus is one of only two animal species known to have blue colouring because of cellular pigment, the other being the closely related LSD-fish Psychedelic Mandarin (S. picturatus). The name “cyanophore” was proposed for the blue chromatophores, or pigment-containing and light-reflecting cells. In all other known cases, the colour blue comes from thin-film interference from piles of flat, thin and reflecting purine crystals.

Mandarinfish are reef dwellers, preferring sheltered lagoons and inshore reefs. While they are slow-moving and fairly common within their range, they are not easily seen due to their bottom-feeding habit and their small size (reaching only about 6 cm). They feed primarily on small crustaceans and other invertebrates.

 Pictures: Sulawesi, Indonesia by Sami Salmenkivi

Coral Shrimpfish [Aeoliscus strigatus]

x Coral Shrimpfish, Aeoliscus strigatus

Coral Shripfish Aeoliscus strigatus, also known as the razorfish, is a member of the family Centriscidae of the order Syngnathiformes. This unique fish adopts a head-down tail-up position as an adaptation for hiding among sea urchin spines. The razorfish is found in coastal waters in the Indo-Pacific, ranging from the central Indian Ocean to the Red Sea to Hawaii. Its natural habitat includes beds of sea grass and coral reefs, where sea urchins are found.

 Pictures: Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia by Sami Salmenkivi

Blackspotted puffer [Arothron nigropunctatus]

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The blackspotted puffer or dog-faced puffer, Arothron nigropunctatus, is a pufferfish of the family Tetraodontidae, and can be found in reefs throughout the Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean. It reaches a maximum length of 33 cm.
It has a round shape with a head and snout which at times looks like a seal or a dog. It can come in a variety of colors, although most commonly blue. The distinctive identifying item are the black spots. It feeds on algae, corals, sponges, sea squirts, crustaceans and molluscs.
Like most puffers, blackspotted puffers are highly poisonous, making them dangerous or even deadly to eat.

Pictures: Misool Islands, Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia by Sami Salmenkivi

Map puffer [Arothron mappa]

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The Map puffer, Arothron mappa, is a pufferfish of the genus Arothron, and can be found in reefs throughout the Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean. It reaches a maximum length of 65 cm.

It has an oval shape and the body is covered in small prickles. It is gray in color with black patterns, which could be considered map like in appearance, its identifying feature. It feeds on algae, corals, sponges, sea squirts, crustaceans and mollusks. Like most puffers, the map puffer is highly poisonous to eat. (text source: Wikipedia)

Pictures: Misool Islands, Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia by Sami Salmenkivi

Pygmy Seahorse [Hippocampus bargibanti]

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a pregnant male

The pygmy seahorse, Hippocampus bargibanti, is a seahorse of the family Syngnathidae in the western central Pacific. It is tiny, from few millimeters to 2.4 cm. There are two known color variations: grey with red tubercles (on gorgonian coral Muricella plectana), and yellow with orange tubercles (on gorgonian coral Muricella paraplectana).

This species is known to occur only on gorgonian corals of the genus Muricella, and has evolved to resemble its host. The tubercles and truncated snout of this species match the color and shape of the polyps of the host gorgonian, while its body matches the gorgonian stem. The camouflage is so effective, the original specimens were discovered only after their host gorgonian had been collected and placed in an aquarium.

The pygmy seahorse is found in coastal areas ranging from southern Japan and Indonesia to northern Australia and New Caledonia on reefs and slopes at a depth of 10-40 m.

Well-camouflaged pygmy seahorse on a gorgonian coral Muricella plectana. See this image to identify the pygmy seahorse. On the lower portion of the abdomen, males have a brood pouch in which the female lays her eggs. They are fertilized by the male, and incubated until birth. (text source: Wikipedia)

Pictures: Misool Islands, Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia by Sami Salmenkivi

Denise’s Pygmy Seahorse [Hippocampus denise]

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Denise’s pygmy seahorse, Hippocampus denise, is a species of fish in the Syngnathidae family. It is found in Indonesia, Malaysia, Palau, the Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu. Its natural habitat is coral reefs. The pygmy seahorse is undoubtedly one of the most well camouflaged species in the oceans, being very difficult to spot amongst the gorgonian coral it lives in. The camouflage is so effective that the species wasn’t actually discovered until its host gorgonian was being examined in a lab.

Large, bulbous tubercles cover this species’ body and match the color and shape of the polyps of its host species of gorgonian coral, while its body matches the gorgonian stem. Two color morphs exist – pale gray or purple individuals scattered with pink or red tubercles are found on the similarly colored gorgonian coral Muricella plectana, and yellow with orange tubercles are found on gorgonian coral Muricella paraplectana. It is not known whether individuals can change color if they change hosts.

The seahorses combine the unique characteristics of several different animal species such as the head of a Horse, using its tail,(grasping) like a monkey, it carries its young in a pouch like a Kangaroo, has a bony external skeleton like an insect and the independent eye movement of a Chameleon making this one of the most spectacular of any fish species. Other distinctive characteristics include a fleshy head and body, a very short snout, and a long, prehensile tail. This is also one of the smallest seahorse species in the world, typically measuring from few millimeters to 2 cm in height. The male carries eggs and young concealed within the trunk region. They are the only creature known where the male gives birth to young live ponies.

The male Seahorse courts the female by attaching his tail to a “hitching post” next to the female and vibrates his tiny Dorsal Fin rapidly to attract her attention. Eventually, she will respond to his advances by extending her “egg tube” slightly and grasping his tail twirling and spinning towards the top of the water while delivering her eggs into the males expanded open pouch. They swim in an upright position with their tails down and their heads up. Their dorsal fin moves them forward and the pectoral fin controls steering and turning. Very little is known about their life cycle. They are thought to eat the same zooplankton as the seafans that they inhabit and they seem to prefer seafans to other family members, as there are normally few other inhabitants on a pygmy’s seafan.

Seahorses are found all over the world and inhabit coral reefs and sea grass beds. They are Widespread in the Western Pacific, including in waters around Indonesia, Malaysia, Micronesia, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands and Vanutu. (text source: Wikipedia)

Pictures: Misool Islands, Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia by Sami Salmenkivi