Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary
Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary
Gray's Reef Expedition 2014
Mission Information
 

Sunday: April 27, 2014
Log Day 8

Lauren Hessemann
Research Coordinator
Monitor National Marine Sanctuary

I recently heard someone say, "It's the little things that count, hundreds of 'em". And I think this suits Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary perfectly.

Lauren Hessmann prepares for a fish survey dive in Gray's Reef National Marine Sancuary.

Lauren Hessmann prepares for a fish survey dive in Gray's Reef National Marine Sancuary.
(Photo: Amy Rath)

I have seen sea turtles, sharks, and many schools of fish during my first trip to the sanctuary and I've absolutely loved seeing all of these charismatic creatures! However, I wanted to write about some of the amazing 'little' things I have discovered. When diving in Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary, it is amazing what you can find if you take the time to look close enough.

While there really are hundreds of 'little' things to discover, here are my top five amazing 'little' encounters in Gray's Reef:

Comb Jelly.

Comb Jellies.
(Photo: NOAA)

5. Comb Jellies. These jellies don't sting and are so beautiful! They can be found in the water column, pretty close to the surface, just basking in the sun. They are transparent but the cilia (kind of like little hairs) they use for swimming becomes iridescent in the sunlight. I saw many comb jellies during a safety stop as I was coming up from a dive. They are so entertaining to watch while ascending back to the surface.

Florida Regal Sea Goddess nudibranch.

Florida Regal Sea Goddess nudibranch.
(Photo: Greg McFall)

4. Florida Regal Sea Goddess nudibranch. This nudibranch (kind of like a snail without a shell) is an amazing sight to see! It is strikingly colored with a dark body and bright yellow stripes. While it seems that this creature would stand out, you'll pass it by without notice if you move along the reef too quickly!

Sand Dollar.

Sand Dollar.
(Photo: Greg McFall)

3. Sand Dollar. You may have seen a sand dollar in a store or perhaps found one while walking on the beach. It was most likely white. However, when this animal is alive, it's brown! When it is burrowed in the sand (which it likes to do!) it is very hard to spot because it's so well camouflaged. I saw many sand dollars in the sandy areas next to the ledges.

Oyster Toadfish Eye.

Oyster Toadfish Eye.
(Photo: Greg McFall)

2. Oyster Toadfish Eye. While I was slowly moving down a ledge, I noticed a hole. Then I noticed an eye inside the hole! When I looked closer, I could tell there was an Oyster Toadfish inside. It was so well camouflaged, just waiting for the perfect opportunity to make a meal out of some unsuspecting creature.

Juvenile Cubbyu.

Juvenile Cubbyu.
(Photo: Greg McFall)

1. Juvenile Cubbyu. My number one favorite 'little' discovery in Gray's Reef is one I had never seen before, Juvenile Cubbyu. My dive buddy pointed out a spot where about 20 of these small fish were hovering near the safety of the ledge. Without paying close attention, you would NEVER see these guys as each one was only about the size of a pea. I have heard that if you dive on a regular basis in Gray's Reef you can actually watch the Juvenile Cubbyu grow and mature into adults - amazing!.

From the surface of the water to the rocky ledges beneath the ocean, I have had such a great time discovering all the amazing animals living at Gray's Reef - both big and small!


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