• Photo by Rantje Allen

  • Photo by William Tan

  • Photo by Rantje Allen

  • Photo by William Tan

  • Photo by Rantje Allen

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Tag Archives: Gorontalo

Thylacodes grandis captures plankton in its net

Thylacodes grandis, or the Grand Worm Sail, uses mucous like a net to capture plankton. Its beautiful batik-patterned head is unmistakable.

Grand Worm Snails in the Reef

Thylacodes grandis
The batik-patterned head of Thylacodes grandis

Worm snails are a family of marine molluscs. They live in long tubes rather than the usual coiled chambers of other snails. Worm snail tubes are irregular. Grand worm snails in Gorontalo measure about seven to ten centimeters in height. A worm snail will grow its tube from a hard substrate on the reef. Sometimes, a Grand worm snail will live separated from other marine life. More often, it will grow up among various corals with only its head above. Since these worm snails are long lived, hard corals can grow on the tubes.

Grand worm snails live in all Gorontalo’s coral dive sites. However, divers can easily overlook them. Most distinctive about this species is its lack of a cap. Also known as an operculum, the cap shuts the tube from the top, thus protecting the worm snail inside. Because it lacks this cap, the Grand worm snail’s head is exposed for divers to see. It has a distinctive maze of white to golden lines over a dark background. This background can be black to deep maroon. It resembles batik. Also apparent are the creature’s fleshy horns. When a diver approaches, the Grand worm snail will duck its head down into its tube.

Fishing with Mucous

Grand worm snail
Grand worm snail fishing

Worm snails gather food by producing mucous steams. Their gills create a slight current. This current sends plankton, that floats in the water column, into its sticky mucous. A careful diver can watch as the Grand worm snail rotates its head and draws its mucous net into its mouth.

An easy way to search for worm snails in Gorontalo is simply to look for the mucous strands floating above the reef. The most common worm snail here is Dendropoma maxima. It grows from inside massive coral heads, often in groups. Since this species has a dark cap, divers can easily distinguish it from Thylacodes grandis. Grand worm snails in Gorontalo typically live below fifteen meters.

Thylacodes grandis and other names

Some older resources give the scientific name as Serpulorbis grandis. This is not an accepted name. Vermetus grandis is another unaccepted name associated with the Grand worm snail. Taxonomic work done in 2005 and 2006 has yet to be harmonized. However, there are over forty confirmed species in the Thylocodes genus. These include two new species, one in 2017 and another in 2018. The most beautiful and photogenic worm snail in Gorontalo is indeed Thylacodes grandis.

To see a Grand worm snail in action, please make your dive reservations directly with Miguel’s Diving.

Banded Amphiscolops flatworms throw a party

Banded Amphiscolops flatworms are an undescribed species and rarely seen. However, during a check dive in Gorontalo, divers encountered dozens of them.

It’s a Party

Amphiscolops
Dozens of rare acoel flatworms

Miguel’s Diving staff has encountered this rare marine creature less than five times over the two decades we have dived Gorontalo’s biodiverse waters. In previous encounters, only three to five individuals were present. Those Banded Amphiscolops flatworms stayed on the same coral head for several weeks before disappearing from view. They never returned to that spot. In November, 2022, divers from HobbyDive Jakarta were delighted at such a rare encounter. The mystery remains as to why so many of these flatworms gathered. A close inspection of a photo taken during the dive clearly shows them grazing. What they are eating is unclear. However, researchers know that other species of acoel flatworms feed on detritus, diatoms, and tiny crustaceans, especially copepads.

Banded Amphiscolops flatworms

Flatworms are bilaterally symmetrical. Plus, their bodies are soft and flattened, hence the name. Typically, microscopic cilia will protrude from their skin. These are movable hairs. Those on the ventral or underside of the flatworm will move the creature along.

three banded ones
Banded Amphiscolops flatworms

Amphiscolops is a genus of acoel flatworms. Acoel derives from Greek words that mean “no cavity.” Acoel flatworms lack a fluid-filled body cavity. Also, they lack respiration. However, species do have various sensory organs that can only be detected by microscope. Acoel flatworms reproduce via two methods, depending on the species. Most can reproduce by fragmentation. When part of this type of flatworm breaks off, it will grow to become a separate individual. Other acoel flatworks can reproduce sexually.

Since Banded Amphiscolops flatworms are an undescribed species, no one yet know how they reproduce. No one knows why they suddenly congregated in numbers, only to disappear again. When an Amphiscolops flatworm stretches out, its head will be obvious since its tail will appear slightly forked. In the photos we have of Banded Amphiscolops flatworms, they usually appear rounded with their edges rolled in. Perhaps this is part of their feeding behavior. However, close inspection of individuals reveals the slightly forked tail. The end that is not forked will be the head.

It measures about five millimeters in length. A search of online photographs shows the banded flatworm in Halmahera, Indonesia and Aniloa, Philippines. A body diagram of a different Amphiscolops found in Myanmar is available at this link.   

Only with Miguel’s Diving

Only Miguel’s Diving guests see such rare sights in Gorontalo. We have the experience and knowledge to find and explain. So, please make your dive reservations with us.  

Ecsenius yaeyamaensis scatters in Gorontalo

Ecsenius yaeyamaensis, or the Yaeyama combtooth blenny, lives in only a few dive sites in Gorontalo. Miguel’s Diving staff know where to show divers this delightful fish.

How to identify Ecsenius yaeyamaensis

Ecsenius yaeyamaensis
The distinct markings of Ecsenius yaeyamaensis

The best way to determine if a pale combtooth blenny is E. yaeyamaensis is to check for a black chin strap. Then look for a black “Y” or “V” mark behind the strap marking. The fish will also have a couple of rows of black dashes behind its eyes. The body will have rows of indistinct white spots.

Only one other combtooth blenny looks similar to Ecsenius yaeyamaensis. That fish is E. strictus, which lacks the black markings, and is endemic the Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. However, the Yaeyama blenny can be found through out Indo-West Pacific area from Sri Lanka north to Taiwan. This includes Japan’s Yaeyama archipelago where the fish was first discovered in 1954. Its range stretches to Australia and Micronesia.

Cute Combtooth Blennies

Combtooth blennies number over 400 described species in 58 genera. Divers can recognize them by looking at their behavior. Most lack a bladder that allows other fishes to swim in the water column. So, combtooth blennies will perch on the bottom. Enlarged pectoral fins allow them to sit on coral or sand.

Moreover, divers can easily recognize them by looking at their bodies. Typically, a combtooth blenny will have a blunt head and large eyes. Its dorsal fin is continuous. Also, many species have cirri that stick out between their eyes. However, those of Ecsenius yaeyamaensis are too small and pale to be noticed.

This type of blenny lacks teeth. Instead, their dental plates are like combs. These fish will use their comb-like dental plates to scrape algae and other food off rocks and coral. Combtooth blennys also lack scales.

A rarity in Gorontalo

Yaeyama combtooth blenny perches on coral

The Yaeyama combtooth blenny lives in small, scattered colonies in Gorontalo. It will be in areas where other combtooth blennies live. However, its generally pale complexion makes it tricky to spot. Since its maximum length is six centimeters, its small size makes hiding from divers easy. Miguel’s Diving is the only operator in Gorontalo aware of this cute fish.

For your chance to see Ecsenius yaeyamaensis in Gorontalo, please make your dive reservations directly with us.  

Babirusa, an endemic animal of Sulawesi and surroundings

Babirusa, also called the pig deer, is a strange creature found only on Sulawesi and a few surrounding islands. One major nature reserve protecting it is in Gorontalo.

The Pig with Curving Tusks

babirusa
Babirusa

The most distinctive feature of the babirusa is upward curving tusks. Besides a pair that juts from the animal’s jaw, another pair actually perforate the snout. Over time, those will curl backwards. Unless the babirusa wears these down with fighting or rooting, they will eventually penetrate the skull. Only adult males have those special tusks. However, this distinctive feature occurs only among male babirusa found on Sulawesi. So, its scientific name is Babyroussa celebensis.

During the last decade, the original species has been split into several others. Those found on Buru and Sula islands are Babyroussa babyrussa. Known as the Golden babirusa, its teeth are clearly shorter and more slender than its Sulawesi relative. Also, the fur of B. babyrussa is thick. Colors range from creamy gold to black. However, its hind quarters are black. Plus, the hairs are long.

Endemic to some Togian islands is B. togeanensis. Whereas the Sulawesi babirusa has so few hairs it appears almost naked, the Togian species has a pelt that is dark above and light below. Its hairs are quite short.

No one knows why no babirusa species live in islands between Sulawesi and the Buru-Sula islands. Also, an early European description of this curved-tusk animal is by Piso and dates back to 1658.

Lifestyle of the Babirusa

Nantu reserve
Deep in Nantu Reserve

Like other swine species, the babirusa is an omnivore. However, its snout lacks a certain bone. That means its nose is too soft to dig into the ground like other pigs. It will only dig in mud and soft earth. This animal will eat vegetation, fruit, and animal material. Evidently, its strong jaws can crack nuts.

Adult males are usually solitary, whereas females and young travel together. A female will only produce one or two piglets per litter. Moreover, females only have two teats.

Nantu Forest Protects Endemic Species

In the heart of Gorontalo province is Nantu Forest. It consists of a wildlife reserve, measuring 33, 023 hectares plus a protected forest of 19,606 hectares. Additionally, there are ten thousand hectares of production forest. In total, its virgin rainforest measures about 500 square kilometers.

This preserve protects the watershed of two rivers. They are the Nantu and the Paguyaman. However, the primary purpose of the reserve is the wildlife of which much is endemic. This includes the Sulawesi babirusa.

One edge of the reserve is accessed via a very rough road. The trip can take four hours, depending on conditions. Since Nantu Preserve is not a national park, special permission from the Forest Ministry and the police is required for entry.    If you would like to add a trek after your diving trip, please let us know when you make dive reservations.

Jungle trekking in Gorontalo leads to hot spring caves

Jungle trekking in Gorontalo is a great addition to a diving holiday. Any easy-to-access half day trip leads through primary jungle to caves formed by hot springs.

Bogani Nani Wartabone National Park

Gorontalo and North Sulawesi provinces contain a significant national park. Its new name is Bogani Nani Wartabone. Previously, its name was Dumoga Bone National Park. Nani Wartabone was a native Gorontalo freedom fighter. He led the successful resistance against the Imperial Japanese occupation during the Second World War. Visitors to the Gorontalo side of this park can visit a house museum dedicated to him.

The park comprises over 2,800 square kilometers. According to conservationists, this national park is the most important conservation area on Sulawesi. The park provides refuge for many of Sulawesi’s endemic species. A Maleo hatchery is located a couple hours’ hike into the park.

Caves and Hot Springs

Jungle trekking into Bogani Nani Wartabone National Park gives visitors access to two small caves. Seepage from underground hot springs formed both caves. These caves are in their natural state with no human development.

Sauna cave Gorontalo
Ceiling of the Sauna Cave

One tiny cave is called the Sauna cave. Only the slim and agile trekker can climb into it. Inside it indeed feels like a sauna, complete with steam and dripping hot water. Flow stones and dramatic stalactites grow from its ceiling. High on a cliff is the Fairy cave. Locals call it Goa Bidadari. Access to this cave requires scrambling up a steep and barren slope where mineral waters leach over the surface. Only fit and agile trekkers should attempt the brief ascent. They do so at their own risk without any recommendation from Miguel’s Diving. These caves are located in the Hungayono area.

Jungle Trekking to Waterfalls and the one River

jungle trekking to water fall
Newly-formed waterfall

Jungle trekking in the national park can lead to two waterfalls. One falls dropping one hundred meters is accessed via Lombongo Hot Springs. Another falls formed during the COVID-19 pandemic after an earthquake. This waterfall is in the Hungayono area near to the Maleo hatchery. Its waters descend into the Bone River

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, which flows through the national park. These two falls cannot be accessed on the same trip. So, those seeking jungle trekking to a waterfall must choose. Be warned that scalding hot, underground water pours into the Bone River.

Wildlife Sightings

Trekkers should be on the lookout for various wildlife. Officially

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, the national park has identified 125 bird species, 24 mammals, 23 amphibians and reptiles. Moreover, tree species number 289. Often, trekkers can see or hear the endemic Gorontalo macque (Macaca nigrescens). This is actually a different species from the Sulawesi macaque (Macaca nigra) found in North Sulawesi’s Tangkoko Reserve. Neither of these primates are monkeys because they lack tails.

Mostly likely, trekkers will glimpse endemic kingfishers. The Green-backed kingfisher (Actenoides monachus) sports a brilliant blue head and orange beak. They live only in north and central Sulawesi. Additionally, lucky visitors can see the Sulawesi dwarf kingfisher (Ceyx fallax), which is distinctly red and found only on Sulawesi.

Other Sulawesi endemic birds include the Grey-sided flowerpecker (Dicaeum celebicum) with its brilliant red breast or the Sulawesi scops owl (Otus manadensis). Watch for green parrots with red heads. These are endemic Sulawesi hanging parrots (Loriculus stigmatus). Other endemics include hornbills, woodpeckers, rails, goshawks, pigeons, other parrots.  

If you would like a jungle trek on a free day or after a short diving day, please let us know when you make dive reservations.

Cuvier’s beaked whales dive deep off Gorontalo

Cuvier’s beaked whales often swim past locals fishing for Yellowfin tuna. Known for their diving ability, this medium-sized whale loves Gorontalo’s four-kilometer-deep waters.

A Pair of Cuvier’s Beaked Whales Caught on Video

Video of Cuvier’s beaked whales by Miguel’s Diving staff

Since Miguel’s Diving staff are all local fishermen, they will often take their small outrigger canoes into the deep ocean. There, they will handline Yellowfin tuna. One day, Boka noticed two Cuvier’s beaked whales swimming far offshore. He captured their passing using his cell phone. Local fishermen in Gorontalo are familiar with many cetacean species, including this one. The very small dorsal fin is one clue. Another is their brownish coloration.

These whales usually swim in small pods of two to seven individuals. However, males can be solitary. As seen in the video, the body and head emerge from the water while swimming. However, they do little breaching. Before taking a deep dive to feed, they will arch their backs.  

A Living Fossil Gets a Name

French naturalist Georges Cuvier was analyzing a skull fragment for his research. He mistakenly concluded that it was a fossil from an extinct species. That was in 1823. However, several decades after his death, other researchers discovered the skull belonged to a living whale. Moreover, it lives worldwide in temperate, tropical, and subtropical oceans. That is where the Cuvier’s beaked whale gets its name. Its scientific name is Ziphius cavirostris.

Cuvier’s beaked whales
Sketch of Cuvier’s Beaked Whale by NOAA Fisheries

The body color of this whale varies from dark gray to rusty brown. Individual whales can have very different appearances. As the whale ages

, its head grows whiter. This is more pronounced in males. Moreover, adult males possess two large, cylindrical teeth. These protrude from the lower jaw. As observable in the video, these whales keep their distance from boats and humans. For anyone lucky enough to see a Cuvier’s beaked whale close up

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, most noticeable will be the smiling appearance of its jaw. Also, many scars will be visible. Bites from cookie-cutter sharks, lampreys, and deep-squid are the cause of this scarring.

Deep Dive Record Holders

Cuvier’s beaked whales are famous deep divers. For that reason, they normally inhabit waters deeper than one kilometer. The ocean depths of Tomini Bay along Gorontalo’s southern coastline plunge more than four times that depth. These whales dive deep for squid. They will also eat fish and crustaceans. Hunting at such extreme depths requires the use of echolocation to find squid to eat.

The Cuvier’s beaked whale is the deepest diving mammal in the world. Its deepest recorded depth for diving is around three kilometers. In order to dive that deeply, this whale must have incredible breath-holding ability.

In fact, in a 2020 study from Duke University USA analyzed around 3,700 deep dives by Cuvier’s beaked whales. The research team placed satellite tags on 23 whales. The study lasted five years. The median time spent diving for food lasted about one hour. After that, the whale surfaced to breathe. However, one male shattered old records with two extreme dives. One dive lasted almost three hours. His longest dive lasted three hours and forty-two minutes

Cuvier’s beaked whales can live up to sixty years. An adult whale measures between five and seven meters in length.

For your chance to watch passing cetaceans from our dive boat, please make your dive reservations with us.

Zosterops chloris nests at Miguel’s Diving dive center

Zosterops chloris is a small lemon colored bird with a beautiful ring of tiny white feathers around its eyes. Commonly called Lemon-bellied white-eye, it is endemic to Indonesia. Here its name is burung katamata laut.

Regular Nesters in Miguel’s Diving Green Zone

Lemon-bellied white-eye
Lemon-bellied white-eye, an endemic

At our dive center, we seek to maintain green zones, even though our property is small. In front we maintain a grassy area edged in flowers. In the back are clusters of bamboo and trees. These are commonly used as green fencing locally. Also, we have climbing, flowering vines.

With branches towering far above the ground, a pair of Zosterops chloris have built their nest for several years in a row. After raising their young

, all the birds leave until next nesting time. As of this blog posting, they are nesting again and sing twice a day.

Rescuing Fallen Juvenile Birds

Zosterops chloris juveniles
Rescued juvenile White-eyes

One year when the juvenile birds were learning to fly, both fell to the ground. Fortunately, our dive staff were working on the speed boats that day. Boka, a dive master, noticed a large rat quietly approaching the helpless birds. He quickly scared the rat away and picked up the baby birds. Then, he placed each one on a low branch.

The parent birds quickly flew down. They made much chirping sounds to encourage their babies to try to fly up the tree in a series of short flights. One baby made a return to the nest high in the tree. Its sibling was too afraid to try. So, one parent bird perched next to it and they both slept there through the night.

Naturally, our dive staff stayed away from the baby and parent. We only checked on them occasionally during the night. However, by dawn both were gone. In the following days, we saw all four birds. After that incident, the adults seem to know Boca and start chirping if he is working at the dock.

Zosterops chloris

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, Exclusive to Indonesia

Zosterops chloris is found from the Sunda Strait west to the Aru Islands. However, it is said to be missing from the Indonesian archipelago’s large islands of Borneo, Java, Sumatra, and Timor. Based on small color variations, research in 2017 states that there are five sub-species. We are not sure which one of those nests on our property. The geographic complexity of Indonesia has created genetically isolated populations.

This small bird measures about 11 centimeters. It has a lovely, high-pitched song. Dive staff hear the nesting pair sing in the early morning. Also, they sing in the late afternoon. Recordings of their song are available at this link.

For your chance to see one of these delightful birds while waiting to board one of our speed boats, please make your dive reservations with us.

Thelenota rubralineata Graces Gorontalo Reefs

Thelenota rubralineata, the Ruby-striped sea cucumber, lives in selected dive sites in Gorontalo. This beautiful sea cucumber does not occur in abundance anywhere in Indo-Pacific waters.

Distribution of a Beautiful Sea Cucumber

Thelenota rubralineata in Gorontalo
A Ruby-lined sea cucumber in Gorontalo

The Ruby-lined sea cucumber lives at a few Gorontalo dive sites. It prefers sandy areas between dense coral ridges. Only occasionally will one crawl over Gorontalo’s hard coral colonies. Also, this sea cucumber rarely ventures above 15 meters. Miguel’s Diving staff have not seen it below 30 meters. So, its environment in limited.

Throughout the Indo-Pacific region, Thelenota rubralineata is uncommon. However, it enjoys wide distribution. Researchers have found it in Papua New Guinea

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, the Solomon Islands, Guam, New Caledonia, the Philippines, Indonesia, the  South China Sea, Fiji, and Palau.

Thelenota rubralineata, a Recent Species

Surprisingly, Thelenota rubralineata is a recently described species. Two researchers, Massin and Lane, found it in Micronesia and described it officially in 1991. Sea cucumbers of the Thelenota genus have an internal ring of plates. This ring is called a calcareous ring. It is located between the mouth and stomach.

Thelenota rubralineata has a distinct external appearance. Various spiked protrusions occur over its back. Their tips are yellowish. Multiple small spikes occur randomly on its sides. The mazes of red lines cover its whitish back and sides. Underneath

, the Ruby-lined sea cucumber has tiny feet called pedicels. These are semi-sticky. Thelenota rubralineata moves by contracting and extending its body. This beautiful cucumber has a soft body and is not venomous. Its usual size is 30 to 40 centimeters long. Its maximum size is 50 cm.

close up of Ruby-lined sea cucumber
Close-up of Thelenota rubralineata

Some people use Red-striped sea cucumber as a common name, although it clearly has no stripes. Reflecting its Latin name, Miguel’s Diving staff call it Ruby-lined.

For your chance to see this beautiful sea cucumber for yourself, please make your dive reservations and join us for some great diving.

Heinz Online Magazine Showcases Salvador Dali Sponges

Heinz Online Magazine showcases Salvador Dali sponges of Gorontalo in its sixteenth edition.

Surreal Sponges

One of Gorontalo’s claim to fame is the discovery of Salvador Dali sponges. This morphology of Petrosia lignosa is unique to the northern coastline of Tomini Bay, Indonesia. The article found in Heinz Online Magazine explains the discovery. Also, it explains the origin of these bizarre looking sponges. Rantje Allen christened this sponge after the famous Spanish painter. He is the diving pioneer in Gorontalo. The surreal style of Salvador Dali describes the appearance of these giant sponges.

Divers will usually find these sponges below 25 meters .There ,they are protected from seasonal high waves and storms. Additionally, they grow off the vertical coral walls in Gorontalo. There, ocean currents bring plankton to them. The article explains how they can break off in storms. When this happens, these ancient giants fall to the ocean bottom. They can no longer feed and soon die, turning to dust in a matter of weeks.

Heinz Online Magazine

The article on Salvador Dali sponges is available for free download. It comes in PDF format. Moreover, it comes in English, German or Chinese. It is in Heinz16 edition of the magazine with a release date of August 31, 2019. Heinz Press of Nuremberg, Germany, is the official publisher.

Mr. Heinz Ritter publishes Heinz Online Magazine. He is well known among underwater photographers. Actually

, he published the original UWF, a highly regarded magazine on photography. That original publication became Germany’s Unterwasser magazine. This occurred in the early 1990s. Mr. Ritter served as publisher for that new magazine for years. Eventually, Mr. Ritter sold his interest in Unterwasser. After that, he started Heinz Online Magazine. Since its format is online, printing issues do not constrain design. Mr. Ritter is known for his unique design perspective.  

Photos by Steve Jones, Underwater Photographer

The Heinz Online Magazine article on Salvador Dali sponges comes with incredible underwater photographs by Steve Jones. Mr. Jones is an award-winning underwater photographer and journalist. His travel and work spans the globe, including Antarctica. Ironically, he received his first break as an underwater photographer from Unterwasser magazine in 1996.

During his worldwide travels

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, Mr. Jones visited Gorontalo during wave season. Ocean conditions are challenging during that time of year. However, he left with a sizeable archive of spectacular photos of Gorontalo’s marine environment.

Photos featured in the sixteenth edition of Heinz Online Magazine include several Salvador Dali sponge shots. Among the macro photos Sarasvati shrimp, Robust ghost pipefish, and cuttlefish. In additional, one photo contains a Coleman’s coral shrimp. It is a new species discovered in Flores and Gorontalo. Dramatic wide-angle shots include red sea whips, Jinn Caves cavern and a deep-water Blue sea fan.  

After enjoying the article, please make your dive reservations with us!

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

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, please book your dive trip with us.

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