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Red Sea Life
Parupeneus forsskali - Red Sea Goatfish (Night) Parupeneus forsskali-Red Sea Goatfish (Day)
Photoblepharon steinitzi - Flashlight Fish
Scyllarides tridacnophaga - Slipper Lobster
Brittlestars (ophiuroids) and featherstars (crinoids), while occasionally tentacles and feed on the passing zooplankton in the water during
seen moving by day are at their most spectacular when feeding by the night.
night. Basket stars (Euryalida) are a personal favourite. Bearing a
striking resemblance to a large leafless shrub, they have a central The zooplankton itself can display another biological wonder;
mouth and arms that can extend up to 70cm. They position bioluminescence. Certain species of Dinoflagellates emit light
themselves on exposed parts of the reef by night to maximise the (normally green or gold) when disturbed in the water. Depending
amount of passing zooplankton that they can catch. on the concentrations present this can cause a twinkling effect in
the turbulence caused by a diver’s fin kicks, arm movements or, in
No night dive would be complete without the vast array of extreme cases, even in the column of exhaled bubbles rising to the
crustaceans which venture out into the open during the hours of surface.
darkness. Certain shrimps can easily be spotted as their eyes appear
as bright spots of red, gold or green in torchlight. Crabs are also out The flashlight fish (Photoblepharon steinitzi) displays
and about searching for food, from the bright red Splendid Spooner bioluminescence at a different level. About 10-15cm long and
crabs (Etisus splendidus) to the ingenious Red Sea anemone hermit normally a deepwater fish, it rises to shallower water by night.
crab (Dardanus tinctor) which lives in a symbiosis with the anemones The bioluminescent organs beneath its eyes contain luminous red
it carries on the outside of its shell. The crab benefits from being bacteria, the light from which is used to communicate and attract
excellently camouflaged and the anemone gets moved from the prey. I know a dive guide who was able to turn off their torch on a
safety of the reef during the day, to prime feeding grounds by night. moonless night to see an entire dive site illuminated by thousands of
Slipper lobsters (Scyllaridae), with their impressive armour plating, tiny glowing flashlight fish.
can also be found at night. They are excellent tunnellers and spend
their days sheltering under the sand, only venturing out at night to Whilst you might not want to make a night dive on every evening
feed and mate. of your diving trip, they can be some of the most rewarding and
interesting dives you can ever make. Ask your guide at the beginning
It is not just the mobile reef life that changes when the sun sets. The of your trip about the best night dives on your particular route and
coral polyps (covering every inch of living reef) while mainly dormant delay your evening beer on at least one night. That way you might
by day, take advantage of the lack of butterflyfish and bannerfish encounter some of nature’s marvels which can only be experienced
(which feed on once darkness
Night shots: Photos by Elke Bojanowski - Elke is a biologist working
the unprotected has fallen.
as a safari guide for blue o two in the Egyptian Red Sea. She conducts an oceanic whitetip shark research
open polyps)
programme and runs specialist safari weeks giving talks on shark and coral reef ecology.
to extend their
Issue 4 January - February ‘10 5
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