Photograph by Doug Perrine, EPOTY.org/Fame/Barcroft
Fish flee the gaping maw of a Bryde’s whale, which surprised U.S. photographerDoug Perrine, who was in the middle of photographing striped marlin lured by a bait ball of sardines. In an account released with the image, Perrine said he snapped the picture while also fleeing the whale.
Sleek and lean, Bryde’s whales use their meshlike mouth plates, called baleen, to filter food as they power through the sea.
This underwater tree/anemone is actually a Sea Basket Sea Cucumber (Neothyonidium magnum) or a burrowing sea cucumber.
It’s white body is buried in the sand, and it’s feeding parts, the branchial tree, sticks out. It has a totally captivating method of feeding. The ‘arms’ capture plankton, and insert them one at a time into the mouth, which then sucks off the food as the arm is pulled out of the closed mouth.
It makes for a fun game: Guess which arm feeds next. You can waste a lot of bubbles watching it.
Since March, a research team from the Large Marine Vertebrates Project has been monitoring the effects of tourism and provisioning in Oslob, Cebu, where a tourist industry has sprung up surrounding the feeding of whale sharks.
I joined the team as Principal Investigator in May, and have spent the last few weeks out of the water, away from the sharks, cursing at Word’s formatting, to punch out this report.
It has been given to the local government, and respective regional agencies, and because we believe that conservation is most sustainable coming from information and education, the report has been made public.
Not many people write about the process of science in conservation, or the hardships that go into producing reports/ scientific papers etc. It’s just accepted that you have to put in the work. I think it’s nice to share, not to get praise, or attention, or “well done it’s worth the hard work”, but so those who are breaking into the industry know what it’s really like. I hope to see more transparency about the work that goes into things like this, and how people overcome the adversities they encounter.
There are lessons you have to learn yourself, that no one can teach you, but it’s nice to know which classes to take!
Nearly getting eaten by a Whale Shark in Oslob…all in a days work!
So I turn up to Oslob to take over this project, and I find two of my volunteers are fellow tumblrita’s. One of whom (diving-dork) I was already following and her me! Exciting tumblr-loving-times.
I digress. Sally, of above reblog, has worked with the WWF whale shark project in Donsol and is an aspiring nature/conservation videographer. Armed with her GoPro she filmed some of the craziness. This is Bender mistaking Sally for some plankton. Om nom nom.
Looks adorable, but when you realise you could fit in their mouth, the cute turns into formidable and you can be forgiven for screaming (ahem, Sally).
NB. This was taken with a wide-angle lens. So it was A LOT closer than it appears.
Double Trouble (Rhincodon typus) by Samantha Craven
So remember when I said this place was crazy? Here’s the proof.
On my first day, some excitable volunteers laid out the cold hard truth. These giants aren’t always so gentle. Unlike truly wild Whale Sharks, and more like a hungry dogs, these sharks don’t particularly mind if you are in the way of their food. Size matters and all that.
I was regaled with stories of sharks like “Ripper” and “Diver Eater” bumping into people, chasing bubbles from their fins, feeding boats running over your head giving barely any warning.
I don’t wear my heart on my sleeve. I wear it on my face, which must have looked a sight, because these university students looked aghast and desperately tried to pull me back from the spiraling thoughts of “what the hell have I just signed up for?” by telling me it’s not that bad.
The biggest fish in the world sneaking up on you from behind, like a grey and white spotted ninja, and then ramming into you is not that bad. Right.
Turns out it isn’t SO bad. Ripper definitely has it in for me (and everyone else), but adapt and survive. This equates to looking over my shoulder every minute. Or listening for the warning laughs and hoots from the feeders. And the sharks are fair. They sneak up on you from the front as well (see above gif).
It’s surreal. They appear so tame when they are being fed - it’s a situation we as humans can easily relate to. However several tonnes of grey and white spots and stripes suddenly taking up your field of view isn’t. And that tail. That bone breaking tail is awesome. In the true sense of it inspires awe. I have sworn into my snorkel and clenched by sphincter several times already. The sharks not always so proficient with the latter and have provided a few samples.
We have no idea how feeding these sharks will affect their life history, behaviour, health, but I’m willing to let them bump me to find out…
The Tuki Chronicles Part 1
Although the Filipino for Whale Shark is ‘Butanding’ - Tuki is what they are affectionately called in Oslob where, to much controversy, they are being fed.
These are the same whale sharks I’m leading a research volunteer project on. It is not a simple black and white situation (when is it ever?), though it may appear so at first. The political and community aspects must be considered in order to best protect these sharks.
The Tuki Chronicles are a series of documentaries telling the Tuki story. Though the makers of this documentary are completely unrelated to the project, I hope it gives you an idea of what I’m up to at the moment.
Part 1 is about the tourists that come, Part 2 which follows is about the local community that I’m just getting to know.
“This photo comes from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. It show a school (?) of nautiluses devouring some chicken. Allen owns a large yacht called the Octopus, which has a couple of ROVs on board. This photo was taken by one of the ROVs at a depth of 876 feet, near the Pacific island of Palau.”
Cool shot of very focused Nautiluses munching on chicken seen from Octopus ROV at a depth of 876 feet off Palau. http://pic.twitter.com/8l33KOxY
Ah the elusive deep sea chicken…. a natural prey of the Nautilus. Lucky it wasn’t a piece of chemical ridden terrestrial chicken brought to depth by the ROV for our viewing pleasure right?
Electric-blue Anemone Feeding Itself
Electric anemone, found locally in Los Angeles on a night dive.
There is no way these sharks would be there if they haven’t been fed.
Feeding wildlife is unbelievably damaging. If they are eating the food you provide, they aren’t eating what they would normally eat. You are effectively removing them from the food web. And with an apex predator like a shark, you can be sure that the effects resonate all the way through the web.
In essence, you alter that ecosystem. Stop it. It’s naughty.