Muck Diving: The Devil’s in the Details
When it comes to muck diving, the devil’s in the details. Investigating the ocean floor for macro life can become an enthralling and exciting activity. It’s easy to lose yourself on the search for the smaller marine life that you can find in sheltered bay areas of the sea. A ‘muck dive’ is always a site where there is no reef and consists mostly of a soft sediment base. At first glance it may look like nothing special, just a sandy, or algae covered bottom, sometimes littered with trash.
However, these areas provide places for small marine life to thrive without fear of being hunted by larger predators. Muck diving offers rare opportunities to find marine life that dwell specifically in this kind of habitat, the small macro life that cannot be found on a regular reef dive.
In Komodo National Park, we have two wonderful muck dive sites; Wainilu and Siaba Besar. This is our – by no means definitive – list of curiosities that you may come across whilst diving these sites with us.
Blue Ringed Octopus
The Blue-Ringed Octopus refers to a genus of species that are distinguished by their bright blue circular patterns. These creatures are small, growing only up to the size of a golf ball, however, they are amongst some of the most venomous animals in the world. One single bite can lead to complete paralysis, blindness, nausea, loss of senses and death within minutes if left untreated. However, don’t fear these creatures, they are generally a very gentle species and never attack unless provoked.
Sea Horses come under the genus of ‘Hippocampus’ is derived from two greek words; ‘hippos’ meaning horse and ‘kampos’ meaning sea monster. Their ineptness when it comes to swimming is due to their unusual body shape combined with very small fins and can easily die of exhaustion if caught in a current. Very few predators hunt these small creatures as they are too bony and indigestible. By swimming upright and mimicking the look of seaweed, they are able to avoid predators quite easily. Sea horses mate for life, meaning they are one of very few animals that are monogamous.
Their name nudibranch translates directly from greek into “naked gills”. Currently there are around 2,300 known nudibranch species, ranging in a wide variety of colour, shape and size. Interestingly, nudibranchs are hermaphroditic creatures, meaning they have both male and female organs. Nudis may look like the cutest Pokemon you’ve ever seen, but don’t be fooled.
A few nudibranch species are known to harbour toxic secretions and stinging cells. Some nudibranchs are photosynthetic, feeding off of glucose that is produced through photosynthesis.
On the other hand, some are cannibals, feeding off each other using their teeth or digestive enzymes. Thriving in both warm and cold waters, your chances of spotting a nudi is relatively high, however keep your eyes peeled as these beautiful creatures can be well camouflaged.
Named for their unique skill of self-decoration, these crustaceans use many different kinds of debris and marine life to disguise themselves from predators. They collect a variety of items, from toxic articles to sponges, corals and shells, adorning their bodies by sticking these treasures to their setae; the hooked hairs that cover their bodies.
The wonderpus octopus was named after the German word ‘wünder’ meaning wonder, miracle or marvel. This octopus is most often of a orange-red-brown colour and striking white spots or bars that extend the length of its arms. There are two theories that explain these vividly patterned creatures.
One suggests that it is a warning for predators, letting them know that it’s toxic. Another theory suggests that the wonderpus octopus is mimicking other deadly banded animals such as the lion fish or sea snake as a means of defence.
Despite its name, the pygmy cuttlefish is actually a mollusc, not a fish. The cuttlefish gets its name from its cuttle bone, this porous structure allows the cuttlefish to manually control its buoyancy. Having one of the greatest brain to body ratios, cuttlefish are amongst the most intelligent of invertebrates.
Their natural predators consist of sharks, fish, dolphins and even other cuttlefish. These creatures can elude predators by using a complex colour camouflage as their skin has a method of combining simple colours into more detailed patterns and hues, they appear almost electric.