Reading Time: 15min. / Max. Diving Depth: 40m
Many divers have their own list of animals they would like to see while diving. We have compiled the Top 10. Together with the most important information and where you can find these amazing creatures. Dive in! 🙂
Diving with the Manta Ray
For a long time the manta ray was considered a sea monster. Big and dark, as it appears, it could only be evil.
Even National Geographic published a hair-raising report in 1919. In this report, a manta ray wrapped his “horns” around an anchor chain and pulled it together with his ship into the open sea. Today the myth of the manta as a monster is fortunately refuted. The big devil rays are the declared favorites of the diving tourists instead.
Scientists used to think of several species of manta rays. Today they are all considered to be one single species that is widespread all over the world. Thus, according to current knowledge, the genus Manta consists of only one species. Namely Manta birostris. The manta ray is the largest ray at all and one of the largest fish. Its weight is up to 1500 kilograms. The span up to 6.7 meters. Its special characteristics are the two head lobes. They are attached to the side of the head and protrude forward. From these “horns”, together with the blackish back, probably the name Teufelsrochen comes. The large, rectangular mouth lies frontally at the head end. Not, as with other rays, on the head-underside. The upper jaw carries no teeth. Those in the lower jaw are very small and play no role with the eating.
Where to find Manta Rays
Mantas live pelagic, their habitat is the free water. They prefer waters near the coast on that occasion. Only rarely one meets them far outside, over deep water. Usually, the animals swim near the surface. The range between zero and 30 meters of depth is most dear to them, because there it finds its food. The plankton of the free water. When feeding, the broad head lobes are stretched out in a funnel shape. This enables them to conduct plankton-rich water even better to the mouth. During their expeditions they often come close to reefs to eat or to be cleaned.At such cleaning stations, several mantas frequently come at once to the body-care. But these meetings are not permanent. Usually, the big rays move individually or in loose accumulations through the seas. They don’t form real schools though.
Diving with the Whale Shark
For a whale shark encounter divers need a lot of luck. Because the big plankton eaters are rare.
Although the giants live in the tropical and subtropical regions of all oceans . Except the Mediterranean. The largest documented whale shark measured 12.18 metres. Even Jacques-Yves Cousteau saw only two of the giants in the first 20 years of his expeditions. And so the whale shark is still one of the most difficult fish to observe.
Shape and colour make the whale shark unmistakable. Even juvenile ones of only 1 meter already have the characteristic dot pattern and body. They are a true-to-scale miniature edition of the adult animals. His white belly and the grey, spotted back are an ideal camouflage. From below the silhouette of the shark merges with the light water surface. Viewed from above, the spots make it invisible against the play of light in the dark deep water.
Since whale sharks are mostly seen on the surface, many believe that the animals can only be found there. But experts think eating on the surface is nothing more than satisfying a “little hunger”. The big food takes place at night in deeper water. Because in the darkness the plankton rises from the depth towards the surface. At the Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia the largest amount of whale sharks is documented at the time of coral spawning. From time to time also another unexpected behavior pattern happens there. If there are several whale sharks in a grazing area, a true feeding frenzy occurs. Groups of whale sharks dive into plankton clouds. Not only passively filtering the water, but also actively sucking in large quantities. These feeding communities are the only groups of whale sharks. As a rule, they live as loners and avoid on their migrations.
Diving with the Great White Shark
A lot of divers are dying to meet him. But even more hope to never swim across his path. The Great White Shark.
The robber still has an image problem. It is proven that he is not a monster with an insatiable appetite for human flesh. To the bad picture of the white shark not least his size and his appearance have contributed. Adult males reach an average size of 3.5 to 4.5 meters. For females it is 4.5 to 5 metres. The triangular serrated teeth, which the shark exposes during an attack, can tear large pieces from a prey animal. The eyes appear black and soulless. The triangular dorsal fin cutting through the water has become a synonym for threat.
The efficiency and elegance with which he moves his spindle-shaped body leaves no doubt about who is the stronger in his realm. The fact that there have been white sharks for over 60 million years has further aid to the animal’s reputation as a primeval eating machine. By the way, humans can look back on 3 million years.
The truth looks different: The great white shark often comes to a meal only every four to eight weeks. His mostly fatty food helps him through lean times. Seals and small whales have a thick layer of fat.
Besides, the hunter has long since become the hunted. Nobody knows the exact figures of the worldwide population. Because there is no reliable way of counting. But many experts assume that the population will shrink.Some scientists believe that the population is already too small to survive. On the IUCN’s Red List, the great white shark has now “threatened” its status. According to the organisation’s “threat criteria”, this means that there are “signs, that the species could die out.” 🙁 #sharklove
Diving with a Dolphin
Hardly any other marine animal fascinates people as much as dolphins. And at the same time arouses so much sympathy.
They radiate pure joie de vivre when they turn their curves or make exuberant jumps. They have intelligence, even if it is disputed how high it is to be valued. In any case, they show multi-layered behaviours. Curiosity, play instinct and complex social structures. And then there is this stunning, “built-in” smile in the corners of their mouths. They entertain, conquer hearts or awaken compassion in dolphinariums.
Dolphins are extremely sociable animals. The groups designated as schools show a more or less strong social-behavior. With some types, many smaller social associations join together to gigantic schools. They can consist of over a thousand animals and change their composition constantly.
The “Thinking Skin”
All dolphins have the ability to send out directed acoustic signals. They have a repertoire of sounds for communication. Also they produce acoustic signals for orientation. Another example of adaptation of these mammals to their habitat is their skin. In response to the problem of flow resistance, they have developed a “thinking” skin. The smooth surface is formed by a solid but very thin horny layer. Underneath lies spongy tissue whose cell spaces are filled with liquid. This gives the skin great elasticity. When swimming, it adapts to the respective flow resistances. If the resistance is high, it gives way. If the resistance decreases, it flows elastically back into its original shape. This prevents larger turbulences from occurring.
Unfortunately, the principle of the dolphin skin cannot yet be implemented in technology. But rough tests with boats showed considerable savings in energy consumption. Maybe the watercraft of the future will not wear a rigid, but a flexible outer lining. The resulting water vortex is absorbed in a dolphin-like manner.
Diving with the Pygmy Seahorse
You only see what you know. This experience is impressively confirmed by the pygmy seahorse.
Countless divers have swum past them at arm’s length, without suspecting their existence. Scientists did not feel any better. It took until 1970 when the first pygmy seahorse was scientifically described. Hippocampus bargibanti. If one had practically no knowledge of them in the diving scene up to then, a regular run on the cute ones soon began. More and more photos appeared. Suddenly such animals were searched for intensively and systematically. Soon pictures of possibly new pygmy seahorse species appeared. In fact, a second species was described in 1997. Hippocampus minotaur, which is considered to be endemic to South Australia. Soon a third species became known to science.
The smallest of them all
The fish specialists Sara Lourie and John Randall described it in 2003. They named it Hippocampus denise. It is the smallest of the three species and the smallest seahorse ever described. By far the largest specimen surveyed was 2.4 centimetres long, the next smaller 2.15 centimetres. Nine other specimens measured between 1.32 and 1.63 centimetres. These measurements refer to an elongated body with a straight tail. With the natural posture and the typically rolled up tail, one can almost halve these sizes. Denise’s pygmy seahorse is one of the smallest vertebrates ever.
The fact that pygmy seahorses remained undiscovered for so long is not only due to their mini sizes. They live on horn corals and adapt to their living gorgonian in colour and structure of the body surface. It is not uncommon to not see them, even if your buddy points a finger at them. 🙂
Diving with the Wels Catfish
Like no other of our freshwater fish, the wels catfish (Silurus glanis) is surrounded by an aura of legend.
Everyone knows it, but few have seen it. He is not only the largest predator of our domestic freshwaters. He has also been the largest freshwater dweller since the sturgeon were extinguished. At least in Europe. He can easily reach a length of up to two metres and 75 kilograms. Exceptional specimens should reach up to three metres and 150 kilograms. Reports about the extent of this may belong to myths.
The giant likes cloudy standing or slow flowing water, and he loves it dim. During the day he stands in shelters. For example under branches or roots, in hollows or in plant thickets. Or it rests on free ground in shallow depressions in mud. Such sleeping hollows are a good sign for the presence of the Waller in a lake. Once you have discovered one in your shelter, the chances are very good to see the predator again on the next dive.
At dusk the catfish becomes lively and roams through its dull realm in search of prey. The predator owes his reputation as an ogre to his long menu. It eats predominantly fish, but it doesn’t spurn amphibians either. And if the opportunity presents itself, it swallows ducks and other water birds. Also small mammals like muskrats. A small dog would also be endangered. The catfish is the only inhabitant in the lake that even pike have to fear. But there is no credible proof for the fairy tale that even small children have fallen victim to him.
The hunter, who is predominantly active at dusk and at night, does not rely on his comparatively tiny eyes. The conspicuous barbels are tactile organs. He has two very long ones on his upper lip and four shorter ones on his lower lip. It can also detect and taste chemical stimuli. Just the right thing to track down food in its queasy realm. Many small teeth serve only to hold the loot, which it swallows in whole.
Diving the Sardine Run
Do you really need to have seen a sardine (Sardinops sagax) under water? You should!
At least when they pass you by millions and millions in a compact, seemingly endless stream. The fish of 20 to 30 centimeters in length is nothing exciting on its own. But once a year the silverlings join together to form a gigantic swarm off South Africa. To travel over a thousand kilometres along the coast. It is one of the most impressive spectacles in the entire animal kingdom. It takes place between the end of May and July.
The animals first gather at the Agulhas Bank at the southern tip of Africa and then move northeast to Durban. Reports talk about swarms, which are 15 kilometers long and over three kilometers wide. A cloud still more than 30 meters deep. The sardines follow a cold current which forms very close along the coast every year. Here the swarms also find their plankton food. But this is also where they meet their enemies.
First of all there are huge schools of dolphins. The bottlenose dolphin appears on the plan in thousands. From the common dolphin come tens to twenty thousand specimens. The group-hunters proceed extremely effectively and form kilometer-long hunting-lines. Together they drive the sardines up near the surface. Surrounded by the marine mammals, laced parts of the swarm form dense spheres. But this protective behavior does not prevent their decimation. Danger for the sardines also comes from the air. Seabirds in large numbers shoot like living harpoons into the water. Copper shark, dusky shark and blacktip shark join the feeding frenzy.
After all, even large Bryde whales cannot resist the temptation. Thanks to the huge amount of sardines, the shoals still remain despite the rush of predators. The sardines split into smaller flocks further north. Until next year, when the sardine run starts again.
Diving with the Sunfish / Mola Mola
Once you’ve seen him, you’ll never forget the encounter. The Sunfish (Mola mola) is not only the largest bony fish, but also the most unusual.
The body ends abruptly as if the trunk had been severed. Instead of a caudal fin, a stiff fin hem lines the blunt end of the body. Flattened at the sides, it appears almost disc-shaped. The heaviest specimen to date weighed over 2200 kilograms. But every lunar fish also started out small. Very small even. Larvae hatch from tiny eggs. They are so different to their parents that researchers have long regarded them as their own species. With their compact bodies strewn with spines, they look like puffer fish in the first months of life. They are actually their closest relatives. Only in the course of development do spines and tails recede. The body flattens out laterally and the weight increases rapidly.
They feed mainly on jellyfish and salps. But they also eat squid and small crabs. Their scaly skin serves as protection against the netting tentacles of their prey. It is equipped with a slime layer and up to several centimeters thick. The giants are often sighted individually and close to the surface. Group formation is rather rare. You can see Sunfish often from a boat. Because the peaceful giants pursue an unusual occupation. They sun themselves. Lying on their side, they float on the surface for hours. The reason of this behavior is not yet clearly clarified.
It is suspected that they fight parasites on and in their thick skin with the UV light. Also it was observed that sea birds slip into the role of plasterers and take part in the skin care. At least as amazing is the fact that the colossuses can jump several meters high out of the water. Maybe that way they also try to remove skin parasites.
Diving with the Sea Dragon
The big sea dragon offers an amazing sight. The body is zigzag wavy. Flattened at the sides and perfectly camouflaged despite its striking colour. Yellow dots, blue stripes and red-violet shades. It is hard to believe that such colourful animals merge with their surroundings before the eyes of the observer.
The up to 40 centimetre long large sea dragons are closely related to sea horses and sea needles. They are endemic. Which means they occur only in a relatively narrow area of South Australia. Like all seahorse relatives, bone plates covers their bodies. Although they offer protection, they restrict mobility. Instead of “rear-wheel drive” of the tail fin, sea dragons move away with the help of the almost transparent dorsal fin. This produces up to 70 waves per second. Sea Dragons feed mainly on small crabs that float near the bottom or between plants in the water. The colouring of the sea dragon depends on the food. If they mainly eat crustaceans from the seagrass in shallow water, their greenish-yellow coloration shows in their appearance. Deep water individuals are often reddish-brown in color. Just like the crabs in deeper regions.
As with the sea-horses, the gentlemen become pregnant. But in contrast to their relatives, he doesn’t incubate the eggs in a bag but on his tail surface. The young animals develop in about eight weeks. To avoid competition for food, they hatch for several days. They immediately move on to life on the bottom of shallow water. But their yolk sac feeds them for two more days until they successfully hunt plankton organisms themselves.Only after about two years are they fully grown. Annual rings in the ear bones show that they have an approximate life expectancy of 5 to 7 years. If they do not fall victim to a predator beforehand. But often the perfect camouflage protects against this.
Diving with the Giant Octopus
“The unlucky man was lost. Who could snatch him from this mighty embrace? Captain Nemo had fallen upon the Kraken and knocked off another tentacle with the axe.”
But it didn’t help. The monster from Jules Verne’s “Twenty Thousand Miles Under the Sea” disappeared with the poor sailor in the sea. Those were the times when knowledge of marine animals was modest and imagination unlimited. Today it is well known that stories of giant octopuses attacking people and pulling them into the depths are nothing but horror stories. If any octopus could serve as a model for such scary material, it would be the Pacific giant octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini). It is the largest of all octopuses. Its dimensions: arm length up to at least 2 meters. Span thus over 4 meters.
Fights on TV
Fights between humans and these giants have actually taken place. But they went completely different than with Jules Verne. The scene was on the west coast of the USA. Near Seattle, near the Canadian border. In the 1960s a bizarre spectacle happened there. The annual World Octopus Wrestling Championship. The goal as a diver was to bring a giant octopus to the surface. The “wrestling” stood for the fact that the animal could only be brought up after a kind of wrestling match. In front of thousands of spectators and cameras, the men in their diving suits could feel like heroes.
Today the catch of the eight-armed giant is strictly limited and regulated. The Kraken are an attraction on the US and Canadian coasts. The giant octopus is not only big. It is also often attractively orange-brown in colour. The predominantly nocturnal predator feeds on shellfish such as crabs and lobsters. But it also eats echinoderms and fish. The giant octopus has a great depth distribution. From shallow water to a depth of at least 1500 metres. In the summer, it pulls the animals into deeper water to the combination. In autumn and winter, they return to shallow water to lay their eggs.