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The catch of the day March 10, 2007

Posted by dorigo in personal, science, travel.

Among the spectacular fishes I saw last week on the coral reef of Soliman Bay, in the Mayan riviera in Yucatan, the Flying Gurnard (Dactylopterus volitans) was one that stroke me particularly for its beauty and grace. Here is a picture of the fish, taken by dr. Robert Patzner (Institute of Zoology, University of Salzburg):

I saw only one of these during my snorkeling week. It was lying on the sand quite like in the above picture, with his pectoral fins folded back and almost invisible. When I approached it from above, it spread open the fins, in an act of self-defence that revealed its beauty. I gazed it for a minute, and then tried to get closer, when the fish folded the fins and zipped away like a missile. A really fascinating encounter! 

Another encounter that I will remember for a while was with a green turtle, on the reef. But it was so short that by the time I realized what I was seeing, it was gone – turtles can swim fast!

As opposed to the shortness of my rendez-vous with the turtle, I had several opportunities to meet a green moray (gymnothorax funebris) which had its home in a rock of coral in shallow waters just meters away from our palapa on the seafront. Below is a picture of the animal close to the best sight I had of it, taken from the   Marinebio.org site .

I have always thought these animals would scare the hell out of me – indeed, they can be large and their bite is nasty and dangerous for the damage it inflicts and the possible infections it can cause. However, I gradually grew confident, and after the first few times I visited the animal, I got used to swim at less than three feet of distance… Morays are carnivorous, but they usually do not attack if unprovoked.

Have I been reckless ? I have no idea, actually. But the eel fascinated me. I could see the whole body from atop a few times, because it was lying in the middle of a crack in a large rock: about five feet of eel…



1. island - March 10, 2007

Have I been reckless ?

Nope. You can even feed them with confidence that they aren’t about to bother you if you behave yourself. Morays are pretty shy unless you have food, and only attack if they feel threatened, like if you were to inadvertantly reach into its hole while chasing a lobster, or if you were to spear one for whatever stupid reason.

You’d feel it for a very long time afterward if you did get bit though, especially by a big one like yours was, but the odds are that you’d drown without an air tank if it were to grab your arm while it was in the rocks, because they don’t let go easily.

Very similar to a Doberman Pinscer… on steroids!… 😉

2. dorigo - March 11, 2007

Hmmm, good to know! The water was really shallow, so I’d have not drowned. But for sure I prefer the way it went…
Feeding it would have been fun, however. Next time!


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