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Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Mollusca
Class: Cephalopoda
Order: Sepiida
Family:i Sepiidae

Genus/species: Metasepia pfefferi

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GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: The normal base color of this species is dark brown. Individuals that are disturbed or attacked quickly change colour to a pattern of black, dark
brown, and white, with yellow patches around the mantle, arms, and eyes. The arm tips often display bright red coloration to ward off would-be predators. The mantle and head are covered with flap-like, fleshy protuberances (papillae),and a V-shaped fleshy ridge runs along the underside. Yellow fins flutter along the sides to propel the animal slowly though the water or along the substrate.

Max mantle length: 6–8 cm (2.5-3.14 in)

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: The Flamboyant Cuttlefish is found from Indonesia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, to Australia. Found in shallow, low-energy tropical marine waters (3 to 85 m) with mud, sand, or coral rubble

DIET IN THE WILD: M. pfefferi are active diurnal foragers on a variety of foods, especially fish and crustaceans, including “hard-hitting” mantis shrimp. Encircling the mouth are 8 purplish, blade-like arms with rows of suckers used to manipulate prey and 2 flattened, retractable tentacles which can be rapidly extended to catch prey.

LIFE SPAN. 18 and 24 months

CONSERVATION: IUCN: Data Deficient   <a href=”″ rel=”nofollow”></a>. 2012

REMARKS: One researcher recently claimed M. pfefferi to be the only cuttlefish known to be toxic, asserting that muscle tissue of this species possesses a toxin as deadly as that of its cephalopod relative, the blue-ringed octopus!

They also can produce ink as a defense.

Animals displaying this color pattern have been observed using their lower arms to walk or “amble” along the sea floor while rhythmically waving the wide protective membranes on their arms. It has been suggested that this behavior advertises a poisonous or distasteful nature.

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One of the most well known features of cuttles is the cuttle bone, which is often used by pet owners to provide calcium for caged birds. Cuttlefish use this multi chambered internal calcified ‘shell’ to change buoyancy by quickly filling or emptying the chambers with gas. Interestingly, while the cuttle bone of most cuttles is as long as the animal’s mantle, the diamond shaped cuttlebone of the Flamboyant is disproportionately small, thin, and only 2/3 to ¾ of the mantle length. The small size of the cuttlebone may make swimming difficult and may accounts for the Flamboyants preference to ‘walk’ along the bottom.

References: California Academy of Sciences Steinhart Aquarium, Hidden Reef  Richard Ross

Advanced Aquarist Volume IX › October 2010 › Aquarium Invertebrates: Metasepia pfefferi – the aptly named Flamboyant Cuttlefish.      Great overview

Animal Diversity Web

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Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Annelida
Class: Polychaeta
Order: Canalipalpata
Suborder: Sabellida
Family: Sabellidae

The Sabellidae family (feather duster worms) are a family of sedentary marine polychaete tube worms where the head is mostly concealed by feathery branchiae. They build tubes out of parchment, sand, and bits of shell. Glomerula secretes a tube of calcium carbonate.

The appendages that give this worm its name are finely divided tentacles that act as plankton filters.  They also wave their tentacles to move the water around them, increasing the odds of catching food. Food is then moved from the tentacles into the worm’s mouth. The tentacles long grooves that get progressively smaller, limiting plankton size which is appropriate to eat when it arrives at its their mouth.  An alternate tube runs upward internally for waste is expelled.

Note: The rock above and to the right is covered by a sponge which differs from the 2 verticle sponges and their symbiotic coral.

Reference: Ryan Schaeffer. California Academy of Sciences Steinhart Aquarium, Hidden Reef 2018

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Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Porifera (sponges.)
Class: Demospongiae
Order: Poecilosclerida
Family: Raspailiidae

Genus/species: Trikentrion flabelliforme

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: White horizontal lines cover a striking red body. Its tree-like base is covered by a white web-like symbiont with a hexacoral from the genus Parazoanthus (order Zoanthidea).

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Arafura Sea, a shallow body of water sandwiched between Australia and New Guinea.

DIET IN THE WILD: T. flabelliforme is a filter feeder using its choanocytes or collar cells to filter particles and dissolved substances from seawater.

REMARKS: Parazoanthus is a suspension feeder as its polyps capture food particles from the water. The tissue of Parazoanthus is connected to the skin or pinacoderm of its host sponge, with tissue integration varying between different combinations of sponge and the coral.

Parasitism seems a likely option, where the symbiotic coral benefits at the expense of its host sponge. For example, the coral may impair the sponge’s ability to pump water through its system, which is vital to sponge nutrition, waste removal and gas exchange. Commensalism is also possible, where the coral benefiting while having a neutral effect on the sponge.

T. flabelliforme is difficult to grow in captivity but has been growing in the California Academy Steinhart Aquarium system for a year showing signs of good health.


California Academy of Sciences Steinhart Aquarium Hidden Reef
Charles Delbeek curator, 2018

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Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)
Order: Perciformes (Perch-like)
Family: Cirrhitidae (Hawkfishes)

Genus/species: Oxycirrhites typus

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: Color is whitish with horizontal and vertical red bands forming a cross-hatch pattern. The body is slender, moderately compressed with a long snout (~ ½ head length). The upper head profile slightly concave with a fringe of cirri on rear edge of front nostril.

Length up to 13 cm (5 in)

Longnose Hawkfish16150610665_6ca0325fef_k

NOTE: These two fish are a pair and were collected together in the Philippines (2015) at 250 ft per Charles Delbeek, California Academy of Sciences.

DISTRIBUTION/ HABITAT: Widely distributed throughout the Indo-Pacific and Red Sea. Also found in the eastern Pacific from the Gulf of California to northern Columbia and the Galapagos Islands. They are non-migratory tropical marine fish, found at depths from 10–100 m. Inhabit the steep outer reef slopes that are exposed to strong currents. They are usually found in large gorgonians and corals.

DIET IN THE WILD: O. typus feeds on small benthic or planktonic crustaceans. This long mouth allows the fish to reach into small crevices to capture shrimp and remove snails from their shells.

REPRODUCTION: Monogamous pelagic spawner


CONSERVATION: IUCN Red List Not Evaluated

REMARKS: Members of this family seem to be monogamous. However, in reality they probably practice facultative monogamy. In this mating system, males are limited in their ability to acquire and maintain females, and thus have only a single mate, but may acquire additional females if conditions for doing so are favorable.


California Academy of Sciences Steinhart Aquarium Philippine Coral Reef and Color Cluster 2016 AQA16

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Kingdom:  Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii (Ray-finned fishes)
Order: Pectiformes (Perch-likes)
Family: Pomacanthidae (Angelfishes).

Genus/species: Centropyge bicolor

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: One of the  most striking of the Centropyge group of dwarf or pygmy angelfish.  The forebody is yellow with a blue saddle across its nape and the rearbody is blue with a bright yellow tailfin. They are distinguished from the similarly shaped butterflyfish by strong preopercle spines found on each of the lower gill covers of angelfishes.

Length up to 6 inches (15.2cm)

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Indo-Pacific in shallow, coral-rich reefs in rubble areas. Range 1 – 25 m (3-82 feet) deep.

DIET IN THE WILD: Varied diet algae, small crustaceans and worms.


MORTALITY/LONGEVITY; Average Lifespan of 12 years.

REPRODUCTION: As with other dwarf angels the Bicolor Angelfish are synchronous protogynic hermaphrodites. They start out sexually undifferentiated, develop into females, and with environmental influences will develop into males. Males are typically larger.

CONSERVATION : IUCN, Least concern

REMARKS: C. bicolor are very active darting from one hiding place to the next.


California Academy of Sciences Steinhart Aquarium Color on the Reef 2016 AQA16

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Animal world

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)
Order: Perciformes (Perch-likes)
Family: Plesiopidae (Roundheads, spiny basslets)
Subfamily: Plesiopinae

Genus/species: Calloplesiops altivelis

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: Head and body brownish black with small pale blue spots; vertical and pelvic fins dark orange-brown, with many small blue spots; blue ringed black ocellus above base of last 3 dorsal rays; yellow spots at base of upper caudal rays; pectoral rays bright yellow, fin membrane transparent.

Length to 16 cm (6.30 in)


DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Indo-Pacific: Red Sea and East Africa to Tonga and the Line Islands Found in rocky crevasses, at depth range 4 to 30 m (13.12 to 98.43 ft).

DIET IN THE WILD: C. altivelis is a predator of crustaceans and small fish. It assumes ahead down position, with its false eye spot near the tail resembling the head of a moray eel.

REPRODUCTION: Marine Betta eggs are guarded by the male parent.

CONSERVATION: IUCN Red List; Not Evaluated

COLOR OF LIFE NOTE: Color Communicates: Anti-predator Adaptations, Batesian mimicry  (a harmless species evolved to imitate the warning signals of a harmful species directed at a predator of them both). 
An apparent mimetic relationship exists between this fish and the whitemouth moray (Gymnothorax meleagris). When threatened, a comet will raise all of its median fins and swim into a hole or crevice. But rather than disappearing completely, it typically stops in the entrance of its sanctuary and leaves the posterior part of its body exposed.
Also note the false eyespot posteriorly.


California Academy of Sciences Steinhart Aquarium Water is Life Hidden Reef 2018

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Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)
Order: Perciformes (Perch-likes)
Family: Opistognathidae (Jawfishes)

Genus/species: Opistognathus randalli

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS Has two large bulging eyes to peak to of its burrow. They use their large mouths to dig the burrow and reinforce the walls with stones and shells.

Length up to 10.4 cm (4 inches)

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Found in the tropical marine Western Pacific: pelagic-sublittoral zone; the part of the ocean extending from the low tide mark to the edge of the continental shelf, with a relatively shallow depth extending to about 200 meters. They are located in the sand/rubble bottoms near reefs.

Depth range 5 – 32 m (16-105 ft)

DIET IN THE WILD: Small crustaceans, fish and invertebrates

REPRODUCTION: Jawfish are mouthbrooders. Males of this species are strongly territorial and frequently engage in jaw locking combat.

IUCN Not evaluated.


California Academy of Sciences, Steinhart Aquarium Hidden reels 2018


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Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Subphylum: Crustacea
Class: Malacostraca
Order: Decapoda (crayfish, crabs, lobsters, prawns, and shrimp)
Infraorder: Caridea
Family: Hymenoceridae

Genus/species: Hymenocera picta

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: Pinkish white body color with splashes of purple-edged pink spots. Stalked eyes and antennae flattened and leaf-shaped.

Length up to 5 cm (2 inches)


DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Along the shores of East Africa, the Red Sea, to Indonesia, south to northern Australia and as far east as the Galapagos. Found on hard rocky or coral substrates, with lots of hiding places.


DIET IN THE WILD: It is a nocturnal feeder hunting in pairs for sea stars, using its claws to pry sea stars off coral reefs flipping them on their back. They then take them to their dwelling-place on the reef, where they consume their the tube feet of sea stars.

Harlequin Shrimps eating a Linka Seastar below

REMARKS: H. picta is known to feed on crown-of-thorns sea stars, so perhaps it should be considered a reef preservationists.


California Academy of Sciences Steinhart Aquarium Hidden Reef

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Kingdom:  Animalia
Phylum:  Echinodermata
Class:  Asteroidea
Order:  Valvatida
Family:  Oreasteridae

Genus/species: Protoreaster nodosus

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: The backround body color is highly variable; may be beige, brown, orange, red or other hues, such as green or blue. Horn-shaped tall dark nodules are conical and arranged in a single row, radially on the dorsal (top) side. Most horned sea stars found are a roughly rigid five-pointed star-shape (occasionally 4 or 6) with tapering arms. A sea star’s skeleton is made up of many calcium carbonate plates (ossicles) that move like flexible joints. (In sea urchins and sand dollars, their skeletal plates are fused). The Seastar skeleton is covered with a spiny skin.

Diameter up to 30 cm (12 in).

Protoreaster nodosus15010829781_2ff5562e7a_o

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Red Sea, Indian and western Pacific oceans. Found in shallow sheltered sand and seagrass beds. Depth range 1 – 582 m (3.3 – 1900 feet).


DIET IN THE WILD: The mouth is located ventrally (bottom). The Chocolate Chip Seastar covers its food, then pushes out its stomach from inside its body of prey. Sea stars have a unique adaptation for consuming bi-valve mollusks (oysters, clams, mussels, etc.). Stars insert a portion of their stomach into the small “gape” between the valves of a mollusk. Stomach enzymes are released and digest the fleshy part of the mollusk inside its own shell. The digested contents are moved back into the sea star leaving an empty bi-valve shell. P. nodosus prefers sponges, corals, clams and snails, other invertebrates; also opportunistic carrion feeders.

 Protoreaster nodosus3289508974_49c4d004de_b

REPRODUCTION: P. nodosus is a broadcast spawner. As in other sea stars, fertilization is external. Eggs and sperm are stored in the rays and released simultaneously. Larvae look nothing like the adults. The form that first hatches from the eggs is bilaterally symmetrical and planktonic. Larvae eventually settle and transform into tiny sea stars.

Lifespan up to 17 years

sea star15201906310_bc5840e0c0_o 

PREDATORS: Triggerfish, pufferfish, boxfish and parrotfish.


REMARKS: The Chocolate Chip Seastars are also called “knobbly sea star” and the “horned sea star.”
The chocolate chip sea star can regenerate lost limbs, as long as the central disk of the body is intact. Some species can regenerate an entire body from an arm or arm segment.


California Academy of Sciences Steinhart Aquarium Mangrove Pop-Up, Main floor (level one) 2018

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Woods Hole

Bishop Museum

Georgia Aquarium

Reef Creature Identification, Humann and Deloach 2010, page 426

Encyclopedia of Life

Marine Biology


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

Genus/species: Amphiprion latezonatus

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS:  The very wide mid-body bar is much narrower at the top than at the bottom. The body is dark brown with three white bars, middle bar very wide, more than twice the width of the mid-body bar of most other anemonefishes. A. latezonatus often has bright blue markings on the upper lip and the edges of the bars. Has blue lips as well as a broad bar on the sides of the body. The dorsal fin may be orange or yellow. The caudal fin has a pale posterior margin.

Length up to 15 cm (6 in)

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: The Wide-Band Clownfish is found on the Western Pacific: Australia and New Caledonia inhabiting rocky and coral reefs. Depth to 5-45 metres (16-150 feet).

DIET IN THE WILD: Carnivore, feeds mainly on planktonic crustaceans (copepods, mysis, and shrimp larvae and some algae.

            Juveniles below note the different color.  NOT CURRENTLY ON EXHIBIT

REPRODUCTION: Clownfish are oviparous with distinct pairing during breeding. Eggs are demersal and adhere to the substrate. Males guard and aerate the eggs.
Protandry refers to organisms that are born male and at some point in their lifespan change sex to female. Protandrous animals include clownfish. If the female clownfish is removed from the group, such as by death, one of the largest and most dominant males will become a female. The remaining males will move up a rank in the hierarchy.

Juveniles below note the different color.  NOT CURRENTLY ON EXHIBIT

REMARKS: Associated with the anemone Heteractis crispa in the wild.

Academy captive Entacmaea sp.


California Academy of Sciences Steinhart Aquarium Hidden Reef 2018 Vetted Curator Charles Delbeek


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