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Blog

Diving blog highlighting all the amazing under water creatures and beauty. Discover Belize’s newest and largest Marine Reserve and most biologically-diverse coral atoll in the Western Hemisphere with Turneffe Flats Diving team.

CREATURE FEATURE | LIONFISH

Nick Barker

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Creature Feature: Lionfish (Pterois volitans) The hunt continues – The quest for control of an invasive species.

Dressed as though decked out for Carnival, these beautiful fish have taken over the Caribbean waters. Native to the Indo-Pacific, our rich waters offer them an excellent environment to breed and dine without the risk of their natural predators. Their unchecked movement has taken them from the Carolinas down the eastern seaboard, on an island hopping journey to Columbia then all the way down to the Amazon and back up into the Gulf of Mexico in as little as 10 years. Numbers have continued to soar over the last two decades. In an effort to thwart the destructive actions of these voracious fish and create a balance on the reef, efforts are being made all over the Caribbean to cull their numbers and offer the spoils to grouper, sharks and large eels in hopes that they will develop a taste for lionfish and return at least some of the balance

CREATURE FEATURE | LIZARDFISH

Nick Barker

Lizardfish (Synodus Intermedius). This ferocious little fish is often seen darting around the reef’s sandy areas at lightning speed catching lunch or sneakily waiting, buried in the sand with just it’s eyes sticking out to look around..

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SWIMMING AT TURNEFFE ATOLL, BELIZE

Nick Barker

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The swim team – one of these swimmers is a tri-athlete, two go on international open-ocean swim tours and now all three are splashing in the warm tropical Belizean waters together.  Water babies through and through!

CREATURE FEATURE | FLAMINGO TONGUE

Nick Barker

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What exquisite detail on this little critter, the Flamingo Tongue (Cyphoma gibbosum). This beautiful sea snail feeds on certain species of soft corals and Gorgonian Sea Fans and can be found all over the Caribbean. You can often see the trailing scar where the snail has been feeding, but this is not lethal to the coral and it does grow back with time. The actual shell of the snail is bright white and it is actually the mantle that surrounds the shell with color. This can be retracted when attacked exposing the white color. They are very small reaching only around 1.5” long full grown and their larvae are extremely small drifting  in the sea as plankton until they eventually fall somewhere to settle and grow. This species used to be very common, but now there are fewer, partly due to collection by humans mistaking   the shell to be the colorful part of the animal. It is now, with good reason, illegal to bring back these shells from your vacations in most countries.

CARIBBEAN REEF OCTOPUS | BELIZE DIVING

Nick Barker

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What did the octopus say to the conch? You taste sooo good! An everyday battle on the reef here at Turneffe, the Caribbean Reef Octopus (Octopus Briareus) usually hunts at night but does sometimes hunt by day feeding on all kinds of shellfish including shrimps, crabs and lobsters. The conch is a real favorite and a big meal for this octopus we spotted on one of our recent dives. Being a super intelligent Cephalopod, Octopi remember things and are known to avoid places where they last encountered an enemy, they can disguise themselves as algae or even coconuts to avoid detection. A female octopus can lay up to an amazing 200,000 eggs but will not be around to see the little minute versions of herself because she will die off before the eggs hatch, she does however defend  the eggs  for the rest of her days attacking anything that goes near her nest! Total commitment from mom!

DIVE ACTION | TURNEFFE ATOLL, BELIZE

Nick Barker

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Dan and Traci Came to dive with us recently and took a great shot together underwater. You can tell these two have done this once or twice before, note there are very few bubbles in the picture, timing is everything to get the right shot. They took a number of top quality photos on this dive trip which we will show you over the next few weeks. Lookout for the Solitary Gorgonian Hydroid photo as this one is a favorite of ours. Thanks guys and we do hope to see you again soon, especially for your photographs  ;-)

CREATURE FEATURE | SPOTTED EAGLE RAY

Nick Barker

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Creature Feature: Spotted Eagle Rays (Aetobatus narinari) are amazingly beautiful and majestic, they can grow to over 9 feet wide and despite their size are usually shy of divers, this one however decided to swim along with our divers and gave us a photo opportunity too good to miss. Swimming right below us, we got a great view of her ‘fingerprint’, each Eagle ray has a unique pattern on their back and no two are the same, just like fingerprints on us. Eagle rays feed on shellfish, octopus, squid and even spikey sea urchins with their flat plate like, crushing  teeth.  Tucked away at the base of the tail are between 2 and 6 barbed venomous spines that they will use in defense should they get attacked, usually they are preyed upon by sharks, especially the Great Hammerhead shark, and will leap high out of the water as part of their escape plan. They have even been known to accidentally jump into boats surprising the people onboard! Due to overfishing this species is on the IUCN Red List as “Near Threatened” and numbers are declining. 

Creature Feature | Diving in Belize

Crystal Reed

Creature Feature: This is the Whitespotted Toadfish (Sanopus astrifer) which is endemic to Belize. 

Often found peering out from under rocks, they feed on small fish, crustaceans and worms. They can grow in size up to 10 inches and open their mouth to expand to the width of their bodies allowing them to quickly engulf large prey.

Toadfish can make a loud grunting noise by contracting sonic muscles surrounding the swim bladder for communication. Both male and female produce broadband grunts but it is believed that only the males produce the long multi-note advertisement termed a “boatwhistle” to attract females to their nests.  The boatwhistle helps in species recognition and act as a behavioral barrier to hybridization. Whitespotted call parameters are specific in duration and frequency but their call has sufficient variations to permit individual recognition and may indicate male quality for mate selection.

This species is listed in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Vulnerable and considered to be facing a high risk of extinction in the wild.

A special thanks to Traci Bash for finding this beautiful creature and to Dan Bash for immortalizing it.