Author Archive

5 Tips to Find Camouflaged Fish, Octopuses and Other Marine Creatures

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016
Nudibranch Marine Life Diving Tips
Some of the most interesting marine animals are masters of disguise, but with these tips you can be sure to find concealed sea life on your next dive.

How To Deal with a Panicking Scuba Diver Underwater

Friday, April 22nd, 2016
panicked diver scuba diving underwater
Since panic contributes to 20 percent of diver deaths, it is important to recognize the signs in others — it may save a life. Here are tips for your next dive.

The Best Places to Swim with Sperm Whales

Saturday, April 2nd, 2016
Want to swim with whales? Here are the best places to get in the water with sperm whales, the largest toothed predators in the world.

Sea Watch: Electric Rays

Monday, February 1st, 2016

The electric ray is one of those creatures that might have simultaneously fascinated and frightened you as a child. Lurking unseen on the seafloor, it has the power to send a jolt of painful electricity rippling through your body. The mechanism that provides this power is unique, emanating from kidney-shaped organs made of striated muscle located on either side of the ray’s head. These modified muscles contain columns of electrocytes — jelly-filled electric plates, kind of like rows of batteries — that electric rays use to generate their charge.

pacific electric ray

Noam Kortler

The Pacific electric ray is found off the coast of California.

atlantic electric ray

NHPA/Photoshot/Superstock

The Atlantic’s beautiful common torpedo ray belies its pedestrian name.

There are many varieties of the electric ray. In the United States, one common type is the Pacific electric ray, found off the California coast. These rays are part of the Torpedinidae family, commonly called torpedoes — which is where we got the name for the weapon — that includes 22 species around the world. The Pacific electric ray can grow fairly large, about 4 feet long, and generates about 45 volts of electricity, which it uses for self-defense and to stun its prey.

The Pacific electric ray’s cousin on the East Coast is called the Atlantic torpedo, and it’s even larger, growing up to 6 feet long and nearly 200 pounds. These behemoth blasters pack the largest punch of any electric ray, producing up to 220 volts of electricity.

The Atlantic torpedoes can be found in coastal waters on both sides of the Atlantic, though they prefer cooler water so are more often seen in locations such as New England and the Mediterranean Sea.

There’s a second family of electric rays called Narcinidae; the main difference between the two is how they give birth, not how they deliver their electrical payload. The name Narcinidae — and its common name, numbfish — comes from the ancient Greeks, who used the rays as a form of anesthesia because of the localized numbing sensation that their shock left behind.

Numbfish are found all over the world; they are not only smaller than the torpedoes — only about 2 feet at the largest — but they also deliver a lesser jolt, ranging from 10 to 35 volts.

The habitat of one type of numbfish — the bullseye electric ray — overlaps with the Pacific electric ray, but you’re more likely to spot the bullseye in the Sea of Cortez than Southern California. It’s easy to spot if you do come across one, thanks to the noticeable eyespot marking it has at the center of its body.

Five Tips: How To Spot Hidden Marine Life During Your Dive

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016
Underwater Photo of a Nudibranch

Shutterstock

Nudibranchs and other camouflaged creatures are waiting — here’s how to find them.

Camouflaged critters include some of the most interesting in the ocean, but spotting them can feel like a game of Where’s Waldo. To give you an edge, here are five tips for finding these elusive creatures.

1. Slow Down The slower you swim, the better chance you’ll have of spotting those camouflaged creatures waiting for you to pass by.

2. Get Low Swimming close to the bottom and scanning the top of the reef line is a good way to spot sneaky fellows, such as octopuses, as they attempt to slink away unnoticed.

3. Learn Their Habits Many hard-to-find critters have adapted to blend in with certain backgrounds, such as pygmy seahorses that only live on like-colored gorgonians. Learn where they hang out, and focus your attention there.

4. Look for the Eyes Even when their bodies blend with the background, their eyes will give them away. A stingray can bury its body in the sand, but if you see two dark eyes jutting from the seafloor, you’ll know what’s underneath.

5. Ask a Local Local divemasters often know the locations of resident critters. Men- tion what you hope to see, and chances are, the divemaster can take you right to it.