Little Things in the ocean are exciting too

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I often wonder, is it a lack of education, or a lack of interest? When I take people diving I always like to show them the signs for the marine life we are likely to encounter. Yet it seems that usually, whenever I mention frogfish or nudibranchs I am met with looks of confusion. Other times I show people a small nudibranch and they hover 5ft above me and nod giving me the ok signal. Meanwhile, I know full well there is no way they really saw the tiny creature from that far away. It all makes me wonder; is it weird to like the little things?

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It Not Just Nudis

While guiding I also like to show people more common creatures that are easy to glance over. One of my favourites being the Panamic Barnacle Blenny, a small goggly-eyed fish that lives in holes in the reef. (See Video Above) I also point out Star of David Urchins, Christmas tree worms, and other small goodies on our reefs. Yet I never know if I’m going to get a ‘wow face’ or an ‘oh that’s nice face’.

Personally, I love discovering these little, hidden treasures. No matter what face I get underwater, once we return to the surface the main excitement always falls first and foremost to the big guys. The rays, the turtles and the sharks. Not that I don’t enjoy these beautiful animals, but they always take precedence over the little guys. But why? Isn’t a neon coloured sea slug who can survive through photosynthesis just as interesting?

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There Are Some Exceptions

When it comes to seahorses there is always excitement. Everyone knows what a seahorse is and everyone wants to see one. Divers love them and they will oftentimes take the lead in after-dive conversations. So what makes them different from the other little guys? Is it because they seem so mythical? Or are they just well known?

Some Say The Little Things are Boring

I’ve met plenty of dive professionals who find even seahorses boring. Originally, I would just look at them like they were crazy. However, I have come to understand why they believe this, though I don’t think I will ever agree. When you see a large animal it’s almost always doing something, even if it’s just swimming. While, in contrast, the little things seem to be just sitting there, not moving or really doing anything perceivable. 

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Perceivable being the keyword. Frogfish and even barnacles are always doing something, though you don’t always see it. It takes good buoyancy and patience to be able to observe the miniature world. A set of good eyes or a magnifying glass doesn’t hurt either. If you watch closely you can see the tentacle-like arm of a barnacle shooting out and capturing food before pulling it back into its mouth. You just need to take the time to look.

Small Creatures are Exciting

The first part of the excitement is actually finding and seeing these little animals. It is easy to spot an animal that is the same size as you but its another story entirely to find a sea slug that’s less than 1cm in length. After the initial sense of accomplishment, there is admiration and curiosity. Admiration for an organism so small to live in an ocean so big, and fascination for how strange and unique these creatures are.

In my experience, it is the little things that are the most colourful, and the most complex. Each of them has a unique strategy to survive, whether it be camouflage, venom, or mimicry. Oftentimes they also hunt differently than large marine organism as well. For example, the frogfish uses a lure to entice its prey.

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The Next Time You Dive

I implore you, that on your next dive or snorkel trip, that you try to enjoy the little things. Though they may not be as apparently interesting as finding a large animal, they are just as mesmerizing. Who knows, you may look into a crevice and find two crabs having a boxing match, or you may look into a coral and find a seahorse blending almost seamlessly into the branches. I implore you to find out more. The next time you find a new creature, or even familiar one, find out what it is. Read about that animal, how it lives and survives, and it will amaze you all the more.

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