OFC

On the cover: An evolutionary experiment; the world’s first documented two-headed Nembrotha. Image © Aaron “Bertie” Gekoski/Scubazoo

Scuba Diver AUSTRALASIA gets its Darwin on. We meet some of the most striking examples of evolution in action under the waves in Asia Pacific, we chart the development of our oceans’ ancient, most well-adapted predator, the shark, and find out how other creatures are perfectly designed for their dinners. Come on a journey to Tubbataha, one of the best protected MPAs in the world, that has evolved to become one of the most pristine dive destinations on the planet, and follow the development of diving in the region – a story that starts over 2,000 years ago.

Change is the only constant. It’s a mind-mangling paradox. But it is thanks to this (unchanging) process of persistent change that evolution marches forward, creating this brainbogglingly beautiful world of biodiversity.

Evolution in Nature tends towards increasing complexity: the more species, the more resilient the system. It’s all about encouraging variety, through a process that knows no boundaries, one driven by exploiting differences – from mixing DNA to transferring ideas – to create new species and systems that are better adapted to prevailing conditions. (I’m pretty sure there is a “take home” message in here for humanity.)

Properly managed protected areas demonstrate this principle in action. Take Tubbataha Reefs National Park, for instance, a place experiencing stellar enforcement of its no-take status. As a result, it now offers a rare opportunity for diving a pristine ecosystem, one that has been allowed to bounce back, home to myriad magnificent species, following Nature’s complexity drive.

This drive is often guided by some very basic rules, such as “eat but don’t be eaten”, “be the most attractive”, and “find your niche”. And, once you know what you’re looking at, or for, there is nowhere better to witness these principles in action than the marine-life melting pot that is the Coral Triangle, and Australasia as a whole.

Still, not every evolutionary experiment is successful: Nature is not above a little bit of trial and error. Some mutations may or may not go on to produce new species, but even the “dead ends” often give rise to extraordinary, if short lived, specimens. Like nudis with two heads.

Makes you wonder what other novelties evolution might have waiting in the wings…!

WHEN TWO HEADS ARE BETTER THAN ONE 
Text & Images by Aaron “Bertie” Gekoski
Come behind the scenes of the find of the year, a marine mutation, an evolutionary experiment. This is a world first – meet the only two-headed nudibranch ever discovered!

ASIA PACIFIC’S DIVING EVOLUTION
Text By Oliver Jarvis/Images By various contributors
Discoveries, inventions, the war machine, pioneers and protection: the history of scuba in Asia Pacific is long and complicated; we bring you some of the key developments along the way.

DESIGNED FOR DINNER
Text By Chetana Purushotham/Images By Umeed Mistry & Scott “Gutsy” Tuason
Some of the ways that finding, and not becoming, breakfast, lunch or dinner has driven evolutionary adaptation under the waves.

ALERT DIVER
Find Alert Diver facing page 64, packed with essential information from the Divers Alert Network Asia-Pacific – the experts in dive safety, training and accident management.

SHARK ERA
Text By Brendon Sing/Shark Guardian/Images By various contributors
Exploring the characteristics of the ancestors of modern sharks and the evolutionary process of some of the most ancient creatures in the ocean

OCEAN WATCH: KILLED FOR GILLS
Text & Images by Steve De Neef
The trade in the gill rakers of mobulid rays is driving their populations to extinction, but dedicated people are fighting to turn this around.

CHANGING SEAS: EVOLUTION IN THE OCEAN
Text & Images By Dr Richard Smith
Watch evolution in action through the characteristics some of the region’s extraordinary underwater creatures, and uncover the driving forces behind these incredible adaptations.

THE DISCOVERY OF TUBBATAHA
Text By Alice Grainger/Images By various contributors
Without doubt, the next big destination: Super-human dedication to protecting this national park means that the ecosystem is evolving, and, as a result, the diving is mind-blowing

shutterstock_42695098