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Marine Life Blog » Indonesia, Lembeh » Jawfish and a classic last dive in Lembeh

Jawfish and a classic last dive in Lembeh

March 28 – 29   From Ned: The old adage about the blind squirrel aptly fits my dubious underwater hunting prowess. My found acorn in this instance was the serendipitous discovery of a symbiotic relationship between a three-inch jawfish and an ornately patterned shrimp. The chance encounter actually began a few weeks back in Gainesville, Florida where Anna and I had a lovely visit with renowned ichthyologist and long-time friend Dr. William Smith-Vaniz and his wife Esther. Bill, recently retired from the US Geological Survey, has taken on the Herculean task of reorganizing the worldwide complex of jawfishes. During our stay, Anna and I agreed to take photos of jawfishes for his project during our travels in Indonesia. 

 

Jawfish Face

Jawfish Face

  When threatened, jawfishes characteristically hunker down in their rock-lined burrows with little more than the tops of their heads exposed until danger passes. Disturbing the top layer of rocks ringing their burrow entrances is an old jawfish ID trick. Being anally retentive about their masterfully crafted burrows, jawfishes, even under duress, will eventually give in to the compulsion to reorganize their entranceway, which in turn provides a better view of their markings.   

 

Jawfish with shrimp

Jawfish with shrimp

On yesterday’s dive, while waiting for a particularly stubborn little jawfish to give in to its obsession for perfection, two long dark claws appeared from the burrow beside the jawfish’s head then rapidly vanished. Immediately on high alert, I watched the entrance with renewed concentration hardly daring to breathe. Less than a minute later the claws reappeared, but this time attached to a splendid polka dotted shrimp that teetered briefly on the hole’s edge before once again disappearing back into the shared quarters.   

 Our last dive of the trip was a classic Lembeh Strait dive. In 70 minutes, we found a stonefish, squid laying eggs on the mooring, a Mimic octopus, three Ornate ghost pipefish, jawfish, a T-bar nudibranch laying eggs, a group of small jacks, nuclear hunting with Striped catfish and 16 intermediate batfish, who drifted down to meet us as we made our safety stop. 

 

 It brought back fond memories of our first trip here, ten years ago and it was good to see that the black sands of Lembeh still attract the most exotic array of marine animals we have seen anywhere. 
 We’re off in the morning to fly to Sorong on the coast of West Papua, Indonesia’s easternmost province. We’ll board a liveaboard for a five hundred mile journey through Raja Ampat and westward past Halmahera, ending up back in Lembeh in two week’s time. We’ll keep a log and post again in mid-April when we return.
~ Anna & Ned DeLoach

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