Shark Mountain

Photo Essay: Underwater Creatures of Cocos Island

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manta ray
Marbled RaysMarbled RaysDozens of male marbled rays congregate around a female in a courtship "dance." Marbled rays, unlike their cousins, sharks, are flattened with wing-like pectoral fins that they use to elegantly glide over the ocean floor. As a member of the stingray family, the marbled ray has a tail armed with a venomous stinger up to eight inches long.Copyright: Howard Hall/Howard Hall Productions
Hawksbill TurtleHawksbill TurtleFish use a hawksbill turtle as a "rubbing rock" to rid themselves of parasites. The hawksbill turtle, named for its hooked beak, is the only sea turtle that has overlapping carapace scales. Because of their unique and beautiful carapace, these turtles were once severely hunted. Its carapace was sought after for "tortoiseshell" jewelry.Image from "Shark Mountain"
Cushion StarsCushion StarsLobsters prey on cushion stars by gnawing at their arms. Cushion stars are named for their inflated appearance and their radiating arms. They typically have five arms that are short and thick. Cushion stars come in a range of colors from yellow and brown to orange and red.Image from "Shark Mountain"
Garden EelsGarden EelsGarden eels inhabit large sandy expanses on the ocean floor. At first glance they are easily mistaken for a field of underwater grass, because they are found in colonies, protruding from the sand and swaying in time with the ocean's currents. These eels are very shy, often disappearing into their burrows in the sand at the slightest indication of an intruder. Garden eels create their burrows by digging into the ocean floor and then secreting mucus that helps the tunnel hold its shape.Image from "Shark Mountain"
Mating White Tip SharksMating White Tip SharksA group of white tip male sharks surrounds a single female shark, in hopes of mating with her. White tip male sharks have to hold on while mating. So they bite the female on the gills or pectoral fin, often lacerating her in the process. Upon fertilization, embryos are nourished via a placenta. White tip sharks give birth to live pups -- typically one to five -- following a gestation period of at least five months.Image from "Shark Mountain"
White Tip Reef SharksWhite Tip Reef SharksWhite tip reef sharks reach about six feet long and can be found in coral reefs throughout warmer oceanic climates. These sharks eat bony fishes and invertebrates, including their favorite food, the octopus. White tips are not afraid of hunting within the intricate coral structures found in reefs; in fact, the sharks will pursue their prey into tight spots until they've won the chase. White tip sharks sleep stacked one on top of the other in caves during the day and hunt at night.Image from "Shark Mountain"
Peacock FlounderPeacock FlounderThe peacock flounder exhibits a curious approach to camouflaging itself: each of the fish's two eyes moves independently, seeing forward and backward simultaneously. But only one eye takes in the color and texture of the fish's surroundings, allowing it to match that to the color and texture of its body. Only the topside of the flounder's body is camouflaged; the underside remains a bland tan color. These flounders swim sideways, keeping close to the ocean floor.Image from "Shark Mountain"
Eagle RayEagle RayEagle rays are powerful and graceful creatures that are capable of jumping completely out of the water and into the air. These rays can be as large as 20 feet long from tip to tip, yet they are not particularly threatening to humans. Eagle rays have strong teeth, designed to grind mollusks, their primary food source. Eagle rays have been spotted alone, in pairs, and in schools of hundreds.Image from "Shark Mountain"
Red-lipped BatfishRed-lipped BatfishOne of more than 60 different species of fishes found in warm sea, this fish has a broad head, slight body, and is covered in large gnarled lumps. Batfish are not good swimmers; they use their pectoral fins to "walk" on the ocean floor. When the batfish reaches adulthood, its dorsal fin becomes a single spine-like projection that lures prey. Batfish eat shrimps, mollusks, small fish, crabs, and worms.Copyright: Howard Hall/Howard Hall Productions
FrogfishFrogfishFrogfish, named for their resemblance to bullfrogs, use camouflage to hide from predators as well as to attract prey. The frogfish takes on the appearance of surrounding objects such as rocks, sponges, and corals and waits until an unsuspecting creature is within reach. It also has another unique way of drawing its prey: it uses a rod-like appendage called the illicium that holds an esca, or bait. Once the frogfish attracts a small sea creature into range with its lure, it blows up to 12 times its normal size and takes a giant gulp, swallowing its prey and gallons of seawater.Image from "Shark Mountain"
Blue Spotted JawfishBlue Spotted JawfishBlue spotted jawfish have large mouths, which they use to shovel gravel out of their burrows. Males also use their mouths to brood eggs until they hatch. This fish can reach four inches in length and live several inches under the ocean floor in burrows, into which they retreat tail first at the sight of a predator. Since jawfish rarely leave their protective burrows, they eat small fish and crustaceans that drift by.Image from "Shark Mountain"
Scalloped Hammerhead SharksScalloped Hammerhead SharksThere are nine species of hammerhead sharks, including the scalloped hammerhead. All sharks have natural electric sensors on their snout called ampullae of Lorenzi. Because of their elongated noses, hammerheads are thought to have more of these sensors, giving them an increased sensitivity to electrical fields generated by their prey and other animals at close range.Image from "Shark Mountain"