Welcome to Gump Station!
(La Ora Na – Hello!)
My favorite view from the hammock : )
The dorms and our little beach front on the bay. Right in front of the station is a reef we call Gump Reef. After work, sometimes we hop in the water and go for a snorkel around the reef.
This is a cushion seastar, Culcita novaeguineae.
So these guys are called small giant clams, Tridacna maxima. Haha who comes up with these names? So one thing that I’ve found particularly interesting is that many invertebrate animals are able to sense light without having actual “eyes,” like ours. Instead, they rely on photoreceptor cells in their skin or along their body that allow them to sense light and then orient their life or behavior in accordance with the light available.
These animals look like Christmas trees underwater, hence their common name, Christmas tree worm. Oh and yes, they are actually worms! The tree part that you can see protruding from the rock is one end of the worm and serves as a modified mouth part. The worms use these to trap and filter food that they collect from the water column. Due to the high surface area of these feather-like tentacles, they are also used for respiration, and are also often referred to as gills.
This really beautiful animal is called a rock burrowing urchin. Cleverly enough, it’s named for its ability to burrow into rocks in order to hide from predators. It bores into rocks using its teeth, which are called Aristotle’s lantern, and slowly chips away at rock and coral structures until it finds the perfect position.
Found a nudibranch!! Woo! So this little guy is a chromodorid, Chromodoris vibrata, a type of brightly colored sea slug. This kind of nudibranch does not have those protrusions along its back that contain nematocysts. It does, however, have two pairs of what look like antennae on its head. They are actually called rhinophores, and have chemosensory receptors that allow the animal to smell and taste things in the water. The structure coming out of its back is called the branchial bloom, and is used for respiration.
It was great to finally see a nudibranch. Some of them are really tiny and it takes a very keen eye to find. I’m sure I’ve already swam over many without realizing, but I’m always scanning the surface of the rocks, algae and coral structures underwater looking for that tiny speck of vibrant color.
After the dive, everyone was of course very tired again. The moon was exceptionally bright as it lingered softly over the silhouette of Moorea’s mountaintops. I found out after that the moon this night was one of the brightest all year. Glad that I had my camera on hand to share the view.
Goodnight everyone, and cheers until tomorrow! Manuia!