I Love The Nightlife

It's been a while since I've done much macro photography. A couple of years at least. Even longer since I've done a night dive.

So naturally, while I was in Palau recently...I went out with friends (Richard and Paul of Unique Dive Expeditions...who are as nuts as I am) after dark to deep seas (> 1000m), hung a couple of lights from the boat, waited a bit, then backrolled into pitch-black water on a moonless night to photograph teeny-tiny stuff swimming past at high speed in the current. (Do I know how to have fun or what?!)

Juvenile crescent-tail bigeye. Priacanthus hamrur. Palau

Juvenile crescent-tail bigeye, Priacanthus hamrur. About 5cm long. (License image)

Turns out, there's a lot of stuff in mid-water late at night...from pulsing, be-tentacled ctenophores wielding nasty-stingy strings of misery to multi-appendaged cephalopods darting around like molluscs on a mission, as well as crazy crustaceans zipping through the water, powered by rows of frantic little paddles waving in perfect synchrony.

Trying to maintain focus (yes, horrible pun), I concentrated primarily on the juvenile fish meandering among the midnight menagerie. Of the photos I managed to take, the only fish I can readily identify is the one above, a juvenile crescent-tail bigeye (Priacanthus hamrur). 

Following are a few more photos of Palau's marine nightlife that I've managed to process (I've only been back a few days and I'm headed out again already...sigh).

Juvenile triggerfish, Palau
Some sort of triggerfish, about 4cm (License image)

We saw many of these fish, ranging between 2cm and 4cm [ID update 8 May: Juvenile squirrelfish Sargocentron sp. (Holocentridae), via Gerry Allen]:

juvenile squirrelfish Sargocentron sp. | Palau
Pretty blue and gold colouration (License image)

This is the same fish as the image above, with futuristic outer-space motif [ID update 8 May: Juvenile squirrelfish Sargocentron sp. (Holocentridae), via Gerry Allen]:

juvenile squirrelfish Sargocentron sp. | Palau
Twinkle, twinkle, little star... (License image)

Saw many of these as well, ranging between 0.5cm and 3cm [ID update 8 May: Juvenile soldierfish Myripristis sp. (Holocentridae), via Gerry Allen]:

juvenile Myripristis soldierfish | Palau, blackwater diving
Hello yellow fellow (License image)

I only came across this 3cm fish once, in Peleliu. (Yes, we did an open-water drift dive at night in Peleliu, a place known for its raging, unpredictable currents. Let's just say we drifted a long way.) [ID update 8 May: late larval stage hawkfish (Cirrhitidae), via Gerry Allen][Update 31 May 2017: The photo below is a juvenile leopard blenny (Exallias brevis), via a friend who photographed the same species and raised it in captivity until maturity]:

larval leopard blenny Exallias brevis, blackwater diving Palau
Some sort of juvenile scorpionfish or lionfish perhaps? (License image)

Saw quite a few of these, though they're difficult to spot, and even more difficult to focus on. At 2.0cm to 2.5cm or so, they're ridiculously thin and tend to wriggle a lot. These eels(?) sport two pairs of pectoral fins, two dorsal fins, one anal fin. [ID update 8 May: Juvenile lizardfish Synodontidae, could be any one of the three sensu-stricto lizardfish genera. The second dorsal fin is an adipose fin (it has no rays in it). via Jeff Leis]:

Juvenile Synodontidae lizardfish, Palau
Looks like an eel to me, but who knows? (License image)

Finally, I think this is a blenny of some sort. Was 5cm to 6cm and seemed to enjoy floating along while curled up. Not sure what a blenny would be doing floating in mid-water, open-ocean though. [ID update 8 May: Juvenile combtooth blenny Aspidontus sp. (Blenniidae), via Gerry Allen]:

Juvenile combtooth blenny Aspidontus sp. Palau
Very cute juvenile blenny? (License image)

I'll post more photos when I'm able to sort through and edit. In the meantime, if you happen to recognise any of the fish above, please let me know.

Time to pack again.