As darkness slowly creeps over the coral reef, the night dwellers begin to appear. Coral relies upon its symbiotic algae to feed themselves during the day, but after dark the coral polyps unfold their sticky tentacles. These tentacles grab food (plankton) floating by in the water.
Black tip reef sharks, which have been snoozing lazily on the sandy bottom during the day, become violent predators. They travel in packs with some sharks flushing out and eating prey from the fish cowering in their reef lairs. Other sharks catch whatever the flushing sharks missed.
A chambered nautilus, the less sexy cousin of octopus and squid, slowly ascends from 2,000 feet deep to 300 feet deep, its shell’s chambers acting like a submarine’s ballast.
Then the real stars of the night show up, barely visible to the naked eye. The longest vertical migration takes place every night. Plankton rise from depths of 1,500 feet to feed near the surface.
I was lucky to see some of these other-worldly creatures on a Blackwater dive called “Pelagic Magic,” through Jack’s Diving Locker in Kailua-Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii. Divers hold onto ropes under the boat and like a seat back entertainment center on an airplane seat, each diver gets their own individual show. The highlight of my dive was seeing a squid flush red, catch a meal and dart to the surface, all in a blink of any eye.
Plankton are the real monsters of the ocean, as the myriad of shapes and colors is outstanding. The larval form of many animals, like a crab or sea urchin, look nothing like the adults. Much of the plankton is translucent because in the depths of the ocean they virtually disappear. Other plankton are bright red, which at the surface are obvious, but at depth they are barely visible. This is because red is the first color to be lost under the water. The further down you descend in the ocean, the less colors you see.
Did you know krill (part of the plankton) are the most abundant animal on Earth?
The Real Fish of Finding Nemo
The Real Fish of Finding Nemo Part 2
The Real Animals (and Fish!) of Finding Dory
10 Amazing Facts About Sea Otters
10 Interesting Facts About Killer Whales, or Orcas
10 Awesome Facts About Cuttlefish
10 Fascinating Facts About Piranhas
10 Facts You Didn’t Know About Sea Sponges
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Interview with Shark Scientist Melissa Cristina Marquez
Interview with Shark Researcher Kristian Parton
Meet Deep Blue—the Largest Great White Shark Ever Filmed
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Interview With Dr. Deni Ramirez Macias, Whale Shark Researcher
10 Cool Facts About Polar Bears
Book Review: The Shark Club by Ann Kidd Taylor
10 Not-So-Scary Facts About Tiger Sharks
10 Cool Facts about Narwhals
Children’s Book Review: On Kiki’s Reef by Carol L. Malnor and illustrated by Trina L. Hunner
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