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Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Pythonidae (Pythons)

Genus/Species: Morelia bredli

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: A large, heavily built species, unlike its two more slender Aspidites exhibit companions, who are built for burrowing. Distinct, but variable colors and pattern; often brown-to-reddish background color with cream patterning surrounded by black.
Undersides lighter. Note the multiple heat sensing pits in the upper and lower jaws.

Length up to 2 m, known to reach 3 m in captivity

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Northern Territory of Central Australia in arid desert areas. Most often on rocky outcrops and river banks in or around trees and shrubs. as birds are a favored prey item.


DIET IN THE WILD: Birds are a favored prey item. Like all pythons, a non-venomous species that kills by constriction. To save energy during the dry season when food and water are scarce, pythons reduce their body temperature.

REPRODUCTION: Centralian Pythons are oviparous, like all pythons. The female coils around the eggs, protecting and warming them with heat generated by muscular “shivering” for the incubation period.

REMARKS: Like all pythons it is a non-venomous species that kills by constriction. To save energy during the dry season when food and water are scarce, pythons reduce their body temperature. 

Color of Life note: Pit vipers, boas and pythons have heat sensing organs which detect infrared wavelengths on their face. This feature that detects heat is used in the dark to detect warm blooded prey.


California Academy of Sciences Steinhart Aquarium, Water Planet little water 2018

The Reptile Database 1981

Inland Reptile. bredli.htm

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Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)
Order: Lepisosteiformes (Gars) 
Family; Lepisosteidae (Gars)

Genus/species: Atractosteus spatula

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: Alligator-like. Large size and broad, short, wide, blunt snout and a heterocercal tail. Color is dark olivaceous brown above and white to yellowish beneath with dark brown blotches on all fins. Body is covered with armor-like ganoid scales consisting of diamond-shaped, interlocking, and extremely hard bony plates covered with layers of dentine and enamel. Head protected by bony plates. Alligator gars have two rows of teeth, a longer one on the palate, and an outer row in the jaw, enabling them to pierce and hold prey. A. spatula is the largest exclusively freshwater fish found in North America.

Alligator gar are the largest gar species. with a length up to than 3 m (9.8 ft), weight to 137 kg (300 pounds).

Alligator Gar 8362889461_f8706ce1f4_b

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Alligator Gar are found in lakes, rivers, and bayous from the Mississippi to the Gulf coast in fresh and brackish water.


DIET IN THE WILD: They are opportunistic carnivores and sit-and-wait predators. They appear to be sluggish, but can ambush prey with short bursts of speed feeding on almost anything, including fish, ducks, turtles, small mammals, and carrion

REPRODUCTION: Females reach sexual maturity at 11 years. Eggs laid on aquatic vegetation, to which they adhere. Young cling to the stems with an adhesive disc on their head until yolk sac is absorbed, and then swim actively. Juveniles feed on plankton, invertebrates, amphibians, and fish before transitioning to fish almost exclusively.
The eggs of alligator gar are bright red and poisonous to humans if ingested.

MORTALITY: Females generally larger and longer lived than males. Some may live to 50 years or more in the wild, 80 years in captivity. The Academies oldest gars are in their 60s.

CONSERVATION STATUS: Not on IUCN Red List. Pollution and degradation of habitat threaten this species.

alligator garIMG_2863


REMARKS: Gars also have a highly vascularized swim bladder directly connected to its throat that enables them to breathe in air, an adaptation to life in water with low oxygen levels. Native Americans used armor-like ganoid scales as arrowheads and jewelry. Early American farmers used the scales on the blades of their plows.

The fossil record traces their existence to the Early Cretaceous over a hundred million years ago.there is no documentation of attacks on man by alligator gars.

There is no documentation of an attack on man by alligator gars.


California Academy of Sciences Steinhart Aquarium Swamp 2018

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6-7-13, 1-19-17, 10-9-18



Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Mollusca
Class: Cephalopoda
Order: Octopoda
Family: Octopodidae
Genus/:Species: Enteroctopus dofleini

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: Giant Pacific octopuses are the largest species of octopus. Their large bulbous “head” (mantle) has 8 tentacles each bearing up to 280 suckers which have thousands of chemical receptors used to help detect prey. Very large specimens can have a tentacle span of more than 9 m (29 feet) from tip to tip, and weigh more than 45 kg (100 pounds).

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Range throughout temperate Pacific waters, from southern California north to Alaska, west to the Aleutian Islands and Japan.
Giant Pacific octopuses are generally found in tidal pools and up to depths of 110 m (360 ft), although they can also reside in deeper waters of up to 1,500 m (4900 ft). They often live in dens or lairs, under boulders, and in rock crevices. Ideal habitat for this species includes a soft substrate of mud, sand or gravel that includes large boulders for creating dens.

DIET IN THE WILD: E. dofleini feed mostly on crustaceans (shrimps, crabs, scallops,) and mollusks (abalones, clams); fish and other octopuses are also Shells of prey that are difficult to pull or bite open can be “drilled” in order to gain access to the soft tissue: salivary secretions soften the shell, and a tiny hole is created with the radula (a toothed, hardened “tongue”). The octopus then secretes a toxin that paralyzes the prey and begins to dissolve it. The shell is pulled apart and the soft tissues are consumed.

REPRODUCTION: Lays up to 75,000 eggs in small caves where the female defends them until they hatch, which takes up to six months. The hatchlings then drift in ocean currents for several months, settle to the seafloor. Reproduction starts when they are one year old.

MORTALITY/LONGEVITY: Predators include marine mammals (harbor seals, sea otters, and sperm whales). Also, occasionally are eaten by others of their own kind and are caught commercially. Life span is 4.5 to 5 years in the wild and captivity.


They can move more than 700 pounds using all of their arms.

It is considered one of the most intelligent of all invertebrates.


California Academy of Sciences, Steinhart Aquarium 2018

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Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Cnidaria
Class: Scyphozoa
Order: Semaeostomeae
Family: Pelagiidae

Genus/species: Chrysaora fuscescens

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: The sea nettle is a giant, semitransparent jellyfish, with an amber-colored, swimming bell commonly as large as 30 cm (12 inches) in diameter, with some measuring more than a meter. In addition to four oral arms attached to the underside of the mouth, the sea nettle has 24 long tentacles around the perimeter of the bell that extend up to 4 m (13 ft).

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Marine, found along the westcoast of North America from Mexico to British Columbia.

DIET IN THE WILD: Carnivorous; feeds on zooplankton, small crustaceans, comb jellies, fish eggs and larvae. Sea nettles sting their prey with their tentacles, which have millions of microscopic stinging cells that inject toxins to stun or kill tiny animals. The main oral arms then transport food to the heart-shaped gastric pouches in the bell, where digestion occurs.

PREDATORS: In the medusa stage, sea nettles live from 2–6 mos, usually perishing in rough waters or being eaten by predators— ocean sunfish and leatherback turtles are two of the most prevalent jellyfish predators.

REMARKS: Question: What has no heart, bones, eyes or brain, is made up of 95% water, and yet
is still a remarkably efficient ocean predator? (The jellyfish) Some jellies commute 3,600 feet (1,097 m) up and down in the water column daily!

Sea nettle stings can result in extreme localized pain. Fortunately this jelly is not aggressive.

The bell of this and other jellies is called a “medusa” because, with its long, fringing tentacles, it resembles the snake-haired Gorgon Medusa of Greek mythology.

Venomous, Plankton/Sea Drifters


California Academy of Sciences Steinhart Aquarium 2018

Monterey Bay Aquarium…

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Kingdom: Animalia
Subkingdom: Metazoa
Phylum: Cnidaria
Class: Anthoza
Order: Scleractina
Family: Faviidae

Genus/species: Colpophyllia natans

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: Dome shaped colonies of individual polyps. The colony surfaces are covered with random curved ridges separated by large long and wide grooves known as valleys. Size: Up to 6 feet in diameter.

Boulder Brain Coral5230996878_5b77255438_b

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico and Florida Keys. Depth up to 55 m (180 ft)

DIET IN THE WILD: Plankton and zooxanthella by-products.

REPRODUCTION: Budding, and external sexual fertilization.

CONSERVATION: IUCN Least Concern     Threats include coral bleaching, black band disease, and white plague which can cause mortality.

REMARKS: Even though they may grow to 6 feet their skeletons will float when dry.


California Academy of Sciences Steinhart Aquarium, Caribbean Reef Exhibit 2018

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IUCN Red List


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Cnidaria
Class: Anthozoa
Subclass: Hexacorallia
Order: Actiniaria
Family: Actiniidae

Genus/species; Condylactis sp.

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: Disc size: 10–40 cm (4-16 in) Colors differ.


DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Found throughout the Caribbean and Western Atlantic; also Indo-Pacific. Found in lagoons or on inner reefs.

DIET IN THE WILD: Like many other cnidarians, these anemones host zooxanthellae. They also collect small invertebrates and fishes with their tentacles.

REPRODUCTION: Male and female release eggs and sperm into the water. After fertilization and development, larvae metamorphose and settle out as juvenile anemones. Can also reproduce asexually through splitting and budding.

REMARKS: Indo-Pacific Condylactis spp. and clownfish do not display symbiotic behavior in the wild. However, aquarists report that if introduced in an aquarium, the anemone may serve as a clownfish host. There are no clownfish species in the Caribbean

Annals of Internal Medicine: A healthy 28 year old man died of liver failure after being touched by a condylactis anemone.

Other actiniarian to be wary of are the Mimic Anemone (Phyllodiscus semoni) is known to have caused acute renal failure and severe dermatitis. The Hellsfire Anemone (Actinodendron plumosum), the Snake Anemone (Actinostephanus haeckeli), and the Armed Anemone (Dofleinia armata) are reported to cause extremely painful stings and persistent ulceration of the skin. And the Carpet Anemone (Stichodactyla haddoni) has been implicated in causing prolonged neurological damage and even anaphylactic shock in aquarists


California Academy of Sciences Steinhart Aquarium, Caribbean reef exhibit 2016

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Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)
Order: Perciformes (Perch-likes)
Family: Pomacentridae (Damselfishes)

Genus/species: Chromis enchrysura

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: Max length : 10.0 cm (4 inches)

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Native to Western Atlantic: through the Caribbean Sea to southern Brazil. Found among steep slopes and outer patch reefs.. Depth range 5 – 146 m (16-480 ft)

REPRODUCTION: Oviparous, pairs during breeding. Eggs are demersal and adhere to the substrate. Males guard and aerate the eggs.



California Academy of Sciences Steinhart Aquarium, Caribbean Reef 2018



Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)
Order: Perciformes (Perch likes)
Family: Chaetodontidae (Butterflyfishes)

Genus/species: Chaetodon aya

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: C. aya is a silver–white-colored fish with yellow on all fins except the pectoral fins. It also has vertical dark bars on its eyes and near its caudal fin and a broad dark bar sloping down and backward from middle of spiny dorsal fin to base of rear part of anal fin.

Bank butterflyfish Chaetodon aya,Chaetodontidae_RJD IMG_2745

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Western Central Atlantic: North Carolina and northeastern Gulf of Mexico to Yucatan in Mexico; unknown in Bahamas and Antilles. Found along deep offshore reefs, marine; depth range 20 – 170 m (65 – 550 ft).

DIET IN THE WILD: Mouth small, terminal and protrusible with a band or rows of small brushlike teeth. Most Chaetodontidae feed on a combination of coelenterate polyps or tentacles, small invertebrates, fish eggs, and filamentous algae.

REPRODUCTION: Oviparous, Form pairs during breeding

CONSERVATION: IUCN, Least concern. (LC)


REMARKS: Is shaped to hover and navigate holes and crevices in the reef. It has a small protruding mouth and many small teeth in both jaws to reach and eat food items unavailable to many other fishes.

The vertical line going through the eye disguises the eye and makes it harder for a predator to figure out which is the front of the fish and which is the back, perhaps giving the butterflyfish a brief chance to escape while the predator hesitates.

Butterflyfish and angelfishes, have evolved bodies which are deep and laterally compressed like a pancake. Their pelvic and pectoral fins are designed differently, so they act together with the flattened body to optimise manoeuvrability.


California Academy of Sciences, Steinhart Aquarium, Caribbean Reef 2018


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Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)
Orders: Lophiiformes (Anglerfishes)
Family: Antennaridae (frogfishes)

Genus/species: Antennarius maculatus

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: Large dark spot is located under the dorsal fin and can also have black spots on the body and fins. Their thick skin is covered by dermal spicules which are spiky and look like warts. The frogfish has small, laterally directed eyes but a large mouth. The mouth is upturned and can expand to the width of the body to swallow prey. It has small gill openings which are situated behind the pectoral fins.


Length up to 15 cm (6 inches)

 Frogfishes pectoral fins are modified and look like feet, including small toes. They are able to use the leg-like fins to walk across the bottom of the ocean floor.


The first dorsal spine, the illicium is modified and is used as a fishing rod. Its extremity is endowed with a characteristic esca (lure), which looks like a small fish with a pinkish to brownish coloration.

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Indian and Western Pacific Oceans among sheltered rocky reefs, algae, sponges and soft corals to 15 meters (49 feet).  It is a reef dweller, perching on coral ledges.

DIET IN THE WILD: Carnivore. Each frogfish species moves the rod (illicium) with its lure (esca) in a special pattern to attract the attention of potential prey. The frogfish can swallow fish, its main diet, that are larger in size than itself. It lowers it lower jaw and expands its upper jaw to expand the mouth, then it sucks the prey in by creating suction in the mouth, a maneuver called gape and suck reported to take only 1/6th of a second.

REPRODUCTION: Frogfish are oviparous; Eggs are bound in ribbon-like sheath or mass of gelatinous mucus called ‘egg raft’ or ‘veil’.
During mating they do not tolerate each other except for the act of fertilization. The female can kill or eat the male if he stays close.

LIFESPAN: 3-5 years.

CONSERVATION: IUCN Red List Not Evaluated

LIFESPAN: 3-5 years.

CONSERVATION: IUCN Red List Not Evaluated


The longlure frogfish does not have a swim bladder, so it does not swim very often. It moves by sucking water in its mouth and expelling it through its gills.

Frogfishes are able to change colors (from yellow to red or green to brown) to match nearby sponges or corals and their black spots mimic openings (ostia) of sponges.

The frogfish exhibits biofluorescence, that is, when illuminated by blue or ultraviolet light, it re-emits it as red, which may assist intraspecific communication and camouflage.


Note: The above frogfish photos were of multiple different fishes taken between 2008 and 2018 at the California Academy of Sciences San Francisco, CA. 

California Academy of Sciences Steinhart Aquarium, Hidden Reef 2018


Florida Museum…



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Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Labridae (Wrasses)

Genus species: Halichoeres garnoti
GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: All yellowed wrasses begin their lives as females. As they grow they change theirs and coloration. Adults are blue above the lateral line and have a yellow belly. Juveniles are yellow with a silvery blue stripe along the side. Super males (terminal males), have black vertical bar behind tip of pectoral fin, merging with broad black area on upper side.

Length up to 19 cm (7.5 in)

Yellowhead Wrasse

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: H. garnoti are native to the Western Atlantic; Bermuda and southern Florida to southeastern Brazil.
Commonly found on shallow and deep reefs and exposed ledges.

DIET IN THE WILD: Crustaceans, molluscs, worms, echinoderms.

REMARKS: Curious; easily attracted by divers. Diurnal; swim constantly during the day and rest at night.


California Academy of Sciences, Steinhart Aquarium Caribbean Reef 2018

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