Last week, we caught up with Kaj Maney to discuss more on his “stranger than stranger” videos of sub-aqua life and introduced the first of his top 12 wonderfully weird underwater videos. This week, as part two of our three-part series, we bring you the next four:
A Very Rare Pelagic Nudibranch
Back in 2015, the see-through swimming nudibranch Phylliroe caused quite a stir among scientists. Around the size of a goldfish, the nudi feeds on unsuspecting jelly prey and glows in the dark.
“It’s always great to be filming something underwater when you have no idea what it is. When filming macro critters though, finding something in blue water is not ideal. Trying to keep a small, moving object in focus is not easy… but that’s what makes it a challenge and a joy.
“I was recently going through some old footage that I hadn’t catalogued, looking for a clip that I knew I had filmed (A crab shedding its skin). As I was looking through thousands of thumbnails of clips, I came across something that I had completely forgotten I had filmed, and I had no idea what it was.
“Was it a larval-stage fish? A weird jelly? I put together a quick few seconds of video then uploaded it to the fountain of all knowledge, Facebook. There are some truly excellent groups for divers on Facebook and one of the most useful is the ID Please (Marine Creature Identification) group. Within a few minutes I had my answer, I had filmed a very rare creature, a Phylliroe. I had no idea… but the provided links showed me that it was a highly transparent pelagic nudibranch.
“The moral of this story? Don’t leave your unwatched underwater videos/photos on a hard drive without looking at them from time to time! You never know what you might find…”
Flamboyant Cuttlefish Feeding
The small flamboyant cuttlefish is too heavy to swim or hover like other cuttlefish, instead, it crawls on the seafloor like an octopus – and is only one of the non-octopus cephalopods found to be toxic.
“Flamboyant cuttlefish are one of the most wonderful creatures we get in Lembeh. They are small (of course) but have the ability to flash bright colours when excited.
“They are also amazing to watch feed, as they crawl around, searching for small prey. When you watch them it looks like they extend a tube which is fired at their prey and then suck it into their mouths. Anyway, that’s what it looks like…..
“However what is really happening is that they have two adapted feeding arms. They put these two arms together then slowly extend them. When they are near their prey they make a lighting fast strike, grab the bit of poor unsuspecting food and gobble it up.
“I was extremely lucky to get a couple of bits of action. This clip starts off with a normal speed strike. After that I managed to get in front of a Flamboyant and film the two feeding arms coming together and stretching out. The next sequence is of the strike in slow motion. When slowed down you can actually see that the ‘tube’ is made of two arms that grab the small scorpionfish and drag it into it’s mouth.”
Idiomysis – Tinier than Tiny
Idiomysis is a genus of minuscule crustaceans that reach just a few millimetres in length. Their head and upper-body is fused into a more or less slender cephalothorax (fused head and upper-body of spiders and other chelicerate arthropods) with a long abdomen trailing behind. They have two pairs of antennae and large eyes on stalks.
“Even though Lembeh is all about the small things, some things are smaller than others – and they don’t come much smaller (or harder to film) than Idiomysis.
“These are a tiny little crustaceans that seem to hover around like flies. They are only a few millimetres long and are always in constant motion. This makes it very difficult to photograph or film them.
“It has been a pet project of mine, over the last year or so, to try and video of them, using my woefully inadequate equipment. My idea is simple… use the slow motion feature to capture these creatures, so you can see them. The trouble is twofold: One: The depth of field is very small, and it’s impossible to refocus, either manually or automatically, at these distances and speed that the Idiomysis move; Two: When I hit the ‘slow motion’ function on my camcorder, it goes into a three second 240fps auto mode – you hit it and it immediately takes the three second shot, with no control, no re-focusing…
“So for a shot of these Idiomysis to come out, I need the tiny little thing to just move up and down while it happens to be in focus, and not to move back or forth away from the camera. Believe me, this is not something that happens often…
“But finally, today, I think I have enough to present the world’s first macro slow motion (nearly all in focus) video of these creatures. They are fascinating little things, and have wonderful eyes, bodies and it is really cool to finally be able to see one.”
One of the least studied parts of an octopuses life cycle, but the bottleneck in making their aquaculture viable, the planktonic stage of Octopus vulgaris is baffling. Little is known about how and where these paralarvae are growing, so to catch one on video is exciting.
“I’ve been very lucky, as a macro videographer, to have lived and worked in Lembeh and Ambon over the last six years or so. It has given me the opportunity to film some of the rarest and most unusual critters in the underwater world. My critter checklist has been getting smaller over the years, but there is still plenty of creatures to go.
“One thing I realised pretty early on, is that for the ultra-rare stuff, you can never go and look for them. They always appear by chance when you’re not expecting them. It doesn’t matter if you dive five times a day or once a year… sometimes you are just in the right place at the right time. This week was a perfect example.
“I don’t get out diving as much as I would like any more. This season it’s only been a couple of times that I’ve managed to go diving. We had a lovely group from Thailand here and they had done a night dive at one of our Baguala Bay muck sites, Frangky’s Corner. They had had
an amazing dive, with flamboyant cuttlefish, blue-ring octopus and many many bobtail squid. I love bobtail squid, so when they said they wanted to go back two nights later I was determined to go along.
“It was also a good chance to try out a new small video dive light I bought earlier this year, but hadn’t had a chance to try. The dive was great… I actually lost count of how many bobtail squid I found, really amazing. Then, about 40 minutes into the dive, I found a very special octopus, one I never expected to see.”
Next week, in Part three, we reveal the remaining four of Kaj’s 12 weirdest underwater videos