• Photo by Rantje Allen

  • Photo by William Tan

  • Photo by Rantje Allen

  • Photo by William Tan

  • Photo by Rantje Allen

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Category Archives: Marine Life

Acanthosphex leurynnis Discovered in Gorontalo

Acanthosphex leurynnis, a rarely seen type of waspfish, recently made an appearance in Gorontalo.

Surprising Find: Acanthosphex leurynnis

Acanthosphex leurynnis grows
A rare Wasp-spine velvetfish lies in the sand

During a great muck dive in February 2018, one of our guests discovered an unusual fish. Initially, Miguel’s Diving staff assumed it was a juvenile Cockatoo waspfish, which is often seen at the Tambo’o Fish House Dive Site. That muck site continues to thrill divers with its variety and density of marine critters.

Fortunately, Wolfgang from Germany took a photo of the fish. Then staff sent the photo to a marine identification community on Facebook. A longtime marine biologist working in Pacific Asia identified the fish for us. It turned out to be a Wasp-spine velvetfish. Its scientific name is Acanthosphex leurynnis. It is the only species in its genus. This fish is so seldom seen that it is missing from even large volume fish books. The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History possesses specimens of Acanthosphex leurynnis from Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Japan and Australia.

The Wasp-spine velvetfish grows to a maximum of nine centimeters. Its coloration tends to be dark to light mottled brown. Additionally, white patches occur randomly on its body. It has two spines pointing behind its eye and four more behind its chin. Also, the chin has a pair of short tentacles. Given its small size and camouflaged coloration, divers rarely see this singular fish.

Waspfish of the World

Although Acanthosphex leurynnis is not technically a waspfish, it is generally grouped with waspfish species. Worldwide, there are forty species of waspfish. However, because they are secretive and nocturnal, divers rarely seen them. Some waspfish have venomous spines that can cause painful stings. Waspfish eat shrimps and other small invertebrates. Typically, the tall dorsal fin on the head is the distinguishing characteristic of waspfish.

Waspfish in Gorontalo

Cockatoo waspfish Ablabys taenianotus
A Cockatoo waspfish pretends to be a dead leaf

Besides the unusual sighting of Acanthosphex leurynnis, divers in Gorontalo are most likely to see Cockatoo waspfish (Ablabys taenianotus). This fish has great camouflage and looks like a dead, brown leaf laying in the sand. They are often in pairs. So, careful divers will look for another one if one is already found. Although this waspfish tends to be dull brown, it can have white on its face.

In Gorontalo, divers will only see waspfish at a single dive site, Tambo’o Fish House. A careful diver will check each dead leaf lying on the sand. If spotted, a waspfish will pretend that a slight current is pushing it about and moving it away. The motions are quite clever!

It lives in the western Pacific Ocean, including northern Australia and Japan. Despite what some guidebooks or interet postings claim, it does not live in the Indian Ocean. The waspfish that lives there is a different species, Ablabys binotatus.

Spiny waspfish Ablabys macrancanthus
A Spiny waspfish sketch

Actually, another waspfish lives only in Indonesia and the Philippines. It is the Spiny waspfish (Ablabys macrancanthus). Distinguishing it in the ocean from the Cockatoo waspfish is extremely difficult. According to marine biologists, the spines of the Ablabys macrancanthus protrude from its dorsal fin. Hence its common name Spiny. The guaranteed way to distinguish between the two species is to count dorsal spines. The less common Spiny waspfish has 15 to 16 and the more widespread Cockatoo waspfish has 17 to 18.

Few divers will wish to count waspfish spines! However, for your chance to see a waspfish in Gorontalo, please book your dive trip with us.

Mappa Puffer Video

Mappa puffer are usually solitary and wary of divers. One day, however, guests of Miguel’s Diving found one that was too busy eating to care that divers approached for a rare, up-close encounter.

One Pufferfish, Many Names

photo of Mappa puffer
Mappa puffer in Gorontalo

Miguel’s Diving staff call this fish Mappa puffer because its scientific name is Arothron mappa. Other English names include Map puffer, Arothron puffer, Scribbled Arothron puffer and Scribbled puffer. Additionally, this fish can be called pufferfish or simply puffer. Sometimes, pufferfish are called toadfish. As a result, this introduces additional name variations.

Mappa puffer live in tropical and subtropical oceans. Their distribution ranges from the Indian to western Pacific oceans. The key to distinguishing this species from other pufferfishes are the lines that radiate from its eyes. It can grow up to 65 cm in length. Also, pufferfishes like this species lack scales. Divers will see them during the day.

Mappa Puffer Video

This type of pufferfish eats about anything that does not move. It cannot swim fast because of its small fins. Hence, its diet mainly consists of sponges, algae, clams and even coral. However, the Mappa puffer recently encountered in Gorontalo repeated selected something surprising to crunch. Watch the video to see!

This feeding behavior raises questions. Why is it eating dead coral? How can such a soft fish crunch hard coral to bits? The answer perhaps lies inside the mouth of Mappa puffer. It has four strong teeth that keep growing. As a result, this type of pufferfish must crunch on hard things to wear down its teeth.

Eaten at Your Own Risk

As with other pufferfishes, the Mappa puffer can ingest large amounts of water when threatened. In this way, it can swell to twice its usual size. This is how it avoids being eaten. However, pufferfishes like this species are poisonous. Their livers, ovaries and skin contain tetrodotoxin. That poison is an extremely toxic sodium channel blocker. That blocker affects both the central and peripheral nervous systems. Most importantly, it causes paralysis.

The Japanese consider pufferfish meat a delicacy. They call it fugu. Only specially licensed chiefs have permission to prepare the meat. The chief must carefully remove Internal organs and skin prior to consumption. A low dose of tetrodotoxin causes tingling and numbness in the mouth, fingers and toes. Symptoms of a higher dose include nausea, vomiting, difficulty in walking, and paralysis. Most importantly, that paralysis can negatively affect the lungs, leading to respiratory failure. Only one to four milligrams is needed to kill an adult!

Tetrodotoxin has no antidote. The treatment required for recovery is artificial breathing. Mild poisoning can resolve itself within a few hours. More severe cases can require several days. This treatment is considered successful since many people make a full recovery. Heart failure is rare. Most importantly, treatment must begin before paralysis reaches the lungs.

Like many poisons, this one has medical benefits in controlled doses. New studies indicate that it can relieve pain in cancer patients. As such, it could become an alternative for opiates.

Actually, pufferfishes like Arothron mappa are not poisonous themselves. Symbiotic bacteria living inside their tissues produce the poison.

To see but not eat a Mappa puffer in Gorontalo, please book your dive trip with us.

Pyrosome video debuts in Gorontalo

Pyrosome video that a guest of Miguel’s Diving shot receives many gasps and questions from those watching it. What is this creature?

Pelagic, Colonial Tunicates

Actually, the strange cone is a colony of Pyrosomes. They are colonial tunicates found floating in the open ocean. As such, they are pelagic. They live and move within a few meters of the ocean surface.

Tunicates are a marine animal with bodies basically shaped like a tube. Some live as single individuals attached to the reef. Others float freely in oceanic waters; these are the pelagic ones. Others live as colonies in a jellylike cloth or tunic. Colonial tunicates can live attached to the reef or to another hard object. Other colonial tunicates live in the open ocean. So, Pyrosomes are pelagic, colonial tunicates.

A Rare Pyrosome Video

Should any scuba diver chance to see a Pyrosome colony, that would be considered an extremely rare event. A Pryrosome video is even more remarkable. As you watch the video, notice that the Pyrosome colony looks fuzzy. Actually, each tiny bump is an individual tunicate. Watch as the colony swims past the sunburst. Each of those black dots is an individual Pyrosome. All are embedded in a common gelatinous body.

A single Pyrosome measures only a few millimeters in size. As with all tunicates, one tiny Pyrosome pulls ocean water inside its body from an outside opening. It filters out plankton to eat. Then it pushes the used water out its other opening. In Pyrosomes, all the expelled water goes into the center of the Pyrosome cone. Then the water is expelled out its common, large opening.

Also notice in the video some holes in the Pyrosome cone. Evidently, a predator has nibbled some of it.

Clones of the Ocean

A colony of Pyrosomes are actually a collection of clones. Tunicates can reproduce sexually. A tunicate born in this way will float as a single larvae in the open ocean. Among colonial tunicates, the single new animal will then start to reproduce asexually. Basically, it makes a clone of itself. As the colony grows, the reproduction process by cloning continues.

A Pyrosome colony begins small. In fact, the day before this video was shot, guests of Miguel’s Diving encountered a small colony. It looked like a fuzzy thimble. Over time and in favorable conditions, a colony can grow to over ten meters in length. Its opening can expand to over two meters – large enough to enclose a human! However, remember that Pyrosomes only eat plankton filtered through those hundreds of thousands of tiny individuals.

Light and Movement

The scientific name of this genus is Pyrosoma. That comes from two Latin words pryo “fire” and soma “body.” Pyrosomes are famous among sailors on the open ocean for their bioluminescent abilities. Unlike other creatures that can bioluminesce, Pyrosomes can emit sustained light that can be seen for up to ten meters away. This is particularly notable at night. One Pyrosome can emit light, which in turn triggers a response from its neighbors in the colony. This looks like flashes of light. The entire colony can also light up. Their blue-green light can be seen up to 30 meters away. Moreover, one floating colony that lights up can elicit a light response from other Pyrosome colonies floating nearby.

Each individual Pyrosome has tiny hairs. These are called cilia. They move to create a current that brings plankton inside its body. All the individual Pyrosomes expelling used water through the colony’s opening also creates a current. Consider this motion as jet propulsion. Members of a colony can coordinate these motions and move itself through the water column.

Although any diver’s chance to encounter Pyrosomes is rare, guests of Miguel’s Diving can see wonderful marine life. To make arrangements for your trip to Gorontalo, please book your dive trip with us.

Orca Video from Gorontalo, Indonesia

Orca video by one of Miguel’s Diving staff is now available for viewing.

Orca Video from Gorontalo

Waters off most dive sites in Gorontalo plunge to hundreds of meters. These deep waters bring large cetaceans close to land. Miguel’s Diving staff have discovered the ocean paths that large sea creatures use.

For the first time this dive season, Miguel’s Diving staff watched a pair of orca cruise just off the wall. Judging by the height of the dorsal fin, the one seen in the orca video is a young male. Watch as he passes the dive boat, breathing and sending spray into the air. Not visible in the orca video is his companion. She is more timid than the male. Perhaps they are in Gorontalo’s calm blue waters for a honeymoon.

Miguel’s Diving staff have actually seen them during several months of 2017. Those sightings were in January, February, June and now December. However, this is the first time that someone was able to shoot a nice video. The original orca video is complete with the sound of the orca breathing and excited human voices in three languages.

Distinctive Form

orca video still
A male orca surfaces to breathe in Gorontalo

Orcas are also called killer whales. Their scientific name is Orcinus orca. They are mammals and the largest member of the dolphin family. Male killer whales are easy to identify. Their dorsal fin is very tall and straight. The body color is jet black with the familiar pure white patches. Females have smaller, curved fins but retain the white patches. Usually orcas swim together in pods.

Marine Predator

Orcas are active marine predators. Orca will eat many things, including squid, fish and sea turtles. They also will eat birds, seals and dolphins. A pod of orca often coordinate their hunting. They will even kill and eat large whales. There are no reported killer whale attacks against divers in the wild.

Diving in Gorontalo is exciting because of the unusual marine life found here. For your chance to experience the beauty of Gorontalo, please book your dive trip with us.

Tiger Cowrie on the Move in Gorontalo

Tiger Cowrie can be found occasionally along Gorontalo’s coral reefs.

A Tiger with Spots

Cowries are a family of marine gastropod mollusk. They are basically large snails that live in the ocean. The cowrie pictured here is called Tiger Cowrie because of the original Latin name Cypraea tigris. The famous scientist Linnaeus named it in the 18th century. The shell pattern is not striped like feline tigers but spotted. However, the pattern of a Tiger Cowrie mantle does have striping.

The shell is shaped like an egg and is quite heavy. As with other cowries, the exterior of the shell is very slick. When the snail comes out from the inside of its shell, its mantle wraps around the exterior of the shell. This action keeps its shell clean and polished. In fact, both left and right side of the snail’s mantle extend all the way to the upper half of its shell. This way both sides meet half way, covering the entire shell.

tiger cowrie mantle
Posterior portion of a Tiger Cowrie mantle

More often than not, the mantle of the Tiger Cowrie is completely hidden inside its shell. It only comes out to feed or to move. It usually does so at night. During the day, it usually sleeps under corals or in rubble or sand.

The mantle has dozens of short projections called papillae. These look like many swaying fingers. Also, the tips are white in color. No one knows the function of these papillae.

Life and Habits of Tiger Cowrie

Tiger cowries are found throughout the Indo-Pacific region. This includes Gorontalo. They prefer coral reefs or nearby sandy or rubble bottoms. They are usually at depths between ten and forty meters. The juveniles eat algae, but the adults are carnivorous. Adults eat soft corals, sponges, bryzoans and other invertebrates.

tiger cowrie shell
A shiny sight on the reef

A Tiger Cowrie is either male or female. The mother will guard her eggs with her muscular foot until they are ready to hatch. The larvae then swim away and drift with plankton while they develop.

A cowrie also has a head with eyes and tentacles. Its mouth is like a tube. Its internal organs are kept safe inside the shell.

The Tiger Cowrie is considered threatened in some locations. For example, in Singapore, it is endangered. Direct threats include habitat destruction and shell collecting for souvenirs and the aquarium trade.

For your chance to a spot a Tiger Cowrie in Gorontalo, please book your dive trip with us.

Blacktip Shark Mating in Gorontalo

Blacktip shark mating is a rarely witnessed event. But that is just what happened one dive day in Gorontalo.

The Tell-tale Fin

blacktip shark drawing
The Blacktip Reef shark

The Blacktip Reef shark is the most common shark sighted in Indo-Pacific waters. Its scientific name is Carcharhinus melanopterus. Divers can easily identify this shark by its distinctive, black-tipped dorsal fin. Additionally, its anal fin is also black tipped. It can grow to a maximum length of less than two meters. Actually, another shark also has a narrow tip of black on its dorsal fin. However, this other shark has a pale anal fin. It also can grow to over two and a half meters in length. This oceanic blacktip shark is named Carcharhinus limbatus.

The Blacktip reef shark prefers shallow waters close to shore. Divers should look over reef ledges and flat sandy areas. Two dives sites in Gorontalo often have this shark patrolling sandy flats. That is where we witnessed a rare event.

Blacktip Shark Mating

One fine dive day Miguel’s Diving staff and guests watched two Blacktip reef sharks mating. Two guests had their GoPros ready and we created a combined video. Please watch it on our YouTube site.

You may notice that the male bit the female behind her gills. The love bite does not leave a deep wound. It should heal completely within a month or so. Also, notice that there is much thrashing about. At the end of the video, the sharks end up turning up-side-down and falling into a trance.

Tonic Immobility in Sharks

Some species of sharks become motionless and generally unaware of their surroundings when turned up-side-down. This is called tonic immobility. Once up-side-down, the shark will quickly become catatonic. This strange state can last up to fifteen minutes, as long as the shark remains undisturbed. The shark will eventually snap out of its trance and resume normal activities.

Sharks susceptible to tonic immobility include Whitetip and Blacktip reef sharks, as well as Lemon, Silky, Sandbar and Tiger sharks.

Notice in the video that that ecstatic pair of Blacktip sharks flip up-side-down and become catatonic. They fall together down the reef slope to a deep sand flat below.

For your chance to witness rare marine events in Gorontalo, please book your dive trip with us.

Juvenile Trevally Accompany Jellyfish

Juvenile trevally escorts jellyfish in Olele Bay, Gorontalo.

Travel Buddies

juvenile trevally pusing jellyfish
A juvenile Blue trevally pushes a jellyfish away from shore

Several times, Miguel’s Diving staff have observed juvenile trevally travelling with large jellyfish. Oftentimes, the young fish hide inside the bell of the jellyfish. They are safe there from predators and from the bushy, oral arms of the jellyfish. Usually, these large jellyfish travel the open oceans. Sometimes currents or winds will bring one of them close to Gorontalo’s reefs. The jellyfish will die if it gets caught on coral or drifts onto a beach. At those times, the fish seems to push the jellyfish away from danger and towards the open sea.

Thysanostoma species

We have only seen juvenile trevally accompanying large Thysanostoma jellies. Jellyfish of the Thysanostoma genus live in warm waters from the central Indo-Pacific to Japan. The Latin word thysanura means “bristle tails.” This name refers to the large, bushy oral arms that hang from the jellyfish’s central bell. They are active swimmers, using a pumping motion of the bell for propulsion.

Juvenile Trevally

Pilotfish (Naucrates ductor) are famous for accompanying large pelagic marine life. However, the juvenile trevally found in Gorontalo with Thysanostoma jellies are different. In 2009, we found a juvenile Blue trevally (Carangoides ferdau) darting in and out of a jellfish’s bell. The fish was so active that it is blurred in all its photographs. Its pattern, though, is disctinctive.

Longfin juvenile trevally
A sub adult Longfin trevally accompanies a jellyfish

Recently in 2017, we saw a fish grown too large to hide inside the bell of its travel buddy. This fish was not actually a juvenile trevally but a sub-adult. This stage of life for ocean swimming trevally species is rarely documented. Mr. Rudie Kuiter suggests that the one we observed was a young Longfin trevally (Carangoides armatus).

For your chance to see marine life interaction in Gorontalo, please contact with us for a dive package booking.

Schooling Bigeye Scad in Gorontalo

Bigeye scad can form large schools in quiet inshore areas of Gorontalo.

Thousands in Synchronized Motion

For several weeks in October 2016 a large school of Bigeye scad called Olele Bay home. Actually, this is a typical pattern for this fish. Since they hunt for food mostly at night, they gather in large schools during the day. During daylight hours they do not travel much. This was certainly true of the scad found in Olele.

With undetectable communication, the fish school moved and changed directions all at once. Their movements and direction showed astounding synchronization. Watch for yourself in the video below. At one point, they swam into the sunlight. Notice how the sunbeams danced around the school of fish.

Bigeye Scad

The scientific name of this oceanic fish is Selar crumenophthalmus. It is found in tropical regions worldwide, including equatorial Gorontalo. The local name of the fish in Gorontalo language is “oci.” It is a fast reproducing species and plays an important part in the local diet. One fish is the right size for one person. Other common names in English include Purse-eye or Goggle-eyed scad.

Bigeye scad schooling
Schooling Bigeye scad

The Bigeye scad is considered pelagic since it is associated with the open ocean rather than the reef. In Gorontalo, ocean depths plunge several kilometers just off the beach. That is why pelagic species including whale sharks swim right over the coral slopes of Gorontalo.

Inshore or Offshore

When they are swimming close to shore, Bigeye scad eat small shrimps, invertebrates and forams. When they are in open ocean conditions, these scad will eat zooplankton and fish larvae. Perhaps you notice them eating in the video. Clearly, they were plucking planktonic morsels from the water.
For your chance to see a school of Bigeye scad, please contact with us for a dive package booking.

Seahorses Rocking and Rolling in the Deep

Seahorses are favorites of many divers. Gorontalo waters host several different species. Pygmy seahorses are so cute, but many divers love ones that are big enough to see.

The Common Hippocampus kuda

Hippocampus kuda is the most predictable seahorse for divers to see. Its English name varies considerably. Some call it the Common seahorse. Others call it Estuary seahorse. It lives in shallow waters of mangrove swamps, estuaries and bays. Colors are generally dull, mainly blacks and browns. A yellow colored Common seahorse will be female.

female seahorse
A female seahorse lies quietly on the sea floor

Their dull pattern makes them look like debris lying on the ocean floor. This way they wait for small crabs or shrimp to come by. These seahorses suck in their prey whole through their long mouth. They do not have any teeth.

Rocking and Rolling

The Common seahorse is usually solitary. Sometimes, two of them will be lying still on the sand bottom near to one another. One day we saw several of them rocking and rolling in the deep. Watch Sami Lindross’s great video.

Pregnant Males

seahorse video
Watch the video!

Seahorses are most famous for their unusual biology. Males are the ones to give birth not the females. A mature male will develop a brood pouch on his belly. The female inserts her eggs into this pouch for the male to fertilize. The male’s pouch has placental fluid which surrounds the embedded eggs. This fluid provides oxygen, nutrients and waste disposal for the developing eggs. Moreover, the fluid becomes saltier. That way the babies are already adapted to salt water when they hatch. Pregnancy lasts 20 to 28 days. Then the male goes into labor, releasing the baby seahorses from his pouch.

Seahorses in Gorontalo

The Common seahorse is found at several dive sites in Gorontalo. However, finding them will often require a skilled dive guide. Even after they are found, they can easily drift away. For poor swimmers, seahorses can disappear quickly when they feel disturbed or threatened. For your chance to sight a seahorse in Gorontalo, please book your dive trip with us.

Scuba Diver Ocean Planet Magazine Features Gorontalo Whale Sharks

Scuba Diver Ocean Planet magazine recently featured the whale sharks of Gorontalo.

Scuba Diver Ocean Planet Magazine Featured Destination

Scuba Diver Ocean Planet Magazine photo spread
Double page magazine photo spread

Gorontalo’s new whale shark reserve at Botubarani Village became a featured destination in Scuba Diver Ocean Planet magazine. “Gorontalo Botubarani” encompasses four pages. This includes a dramatic double page photo of a whale shark swimming above a diver. In the foreground of that photo lies some of Gorontalo’s beautiful coral. Noteably, Mr. Arief Yudo Wibowo took this and other photos for the feature. He is the managing editor of Scuba Diver Ocean Planet magazine.

Research from Indonesia Whale Shark Team

The accompanying article features research from the Indonesia Whale Shark Team. Its members lived in Botubarani village while conducting their study. They lived there from April 12 to April 30, 2016. As a result, they recorded a total of 17 individual whale sharks. All were males. Worldwide, females rarely appear. Furthermore, the lengths of Botubarani whale sharks measured three to seven meters. That means all of them are juveniles. Since whale sharks are migratory, the researches expect that total to rise.

Indonesian Minister of Marine Fisheries directive 16/2013 designated the whale shark as a protected species.

Ocean Characteristics of Botubarani Village

The Scuba Diver Ocean Planet magazine article on Gorontalo explains the characteristics of Botubarani Village. It sits on the edge of deep ocean waters. Near the shoreline there is a rocky shelf. This shelf is at most four meters deep. A steep slope falls to 15 meters. Then comes a deeper inlet about 30 meters deep. Consequently, this inlet provides direct access to deep ocean water.

No net or fence blocks access to deep water. As a result, whale sharks are free to come and go. The reason they frequent this particular underwater inlet is simple. A shrimp factory is located there. For years now, workers have thrown the unused shrimp heads and skins into the water. The whale shark like these snacks! These snacks do not provide enough nutrition. So, the whale sharks still must forage for plankton and minnows on their own.

Scuba Diver Ocean Planet Magazine advert
Become a happy diver with Miguel’s Diving

Miguel’s Diving placed a half page advertisement in Scuba Diver Ocean Planet magazine. We want responsible divers to know that we follow the procedures recommended by Indonesia Whale Shark Team. That includes keeping an appropriate distance. For your chance to dive with whale sharks in Gorontalo, please contact with us.

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