Sharks Moray Eel Grouper Killer Whale Monk Fish Barracuda Wolf Eel Seal Most marine animals that have the potential to bite do so as a defensive behavior not as a predatory behavior. A diver should maintain neutral buoyancy and not be crawling on the sea floor. A diver should not try to grab marine animals, but rather observe or photograph them. Any animal that does not give way or distance from you apparently knows it has a good defensive mechanism. Ask your instructor –what is the most dangerous animal in the ocean. ANIMALS THAT BITE
SHARKS • There are approximately three hundred and fifty varieties of sharks. Sharks are primitive animals with skeletons of cartilage. As adults they cruise their claimed territory. Most sharks are scavengers and as such rarely act predatorily. The exceptions are the great white (upper right image) and on occasion the Mako. • Feeding frenzies are not the usual behavior of sharks. They are the result of baiting an area to film the event or for human entertainment. • If you encounter a shark, go into the wreck or coral heads and stop moving. If you must return to the boat move slowly. On ocean surface DO NOT splash or swim erratically, as this will stimulate their interest. If you have speared fish with you, drop your goody bag. Ask your instructor why the diver in the lower-right image is tempting the shark gods.
MORAY EEL • Moray eels are reclusive animals that stay in the recesses of coral heads or ship wrecks. They usually venture out to feed at dusk or night (spotted eel upper –right image, green eel, bottom-right image). • If you see one, it will have its mouth open, this is not aggression, but they open and close their mouth to assist the movement of water over their gills. They are not aggressive unless you reach into their holes or try to grab them.
GROUPER • Groupers used to be the top of the food chain on any coral reef. They were at one time the largest animal on the reefs, but over hunting has proved to be their demise. Receiving a bite from one of these animals usually means you were harassing it Ask your instructor why coral reefs are Mini ecosystems.
KILLER WHALE • This intelligent mammal lives in the Pacific Northwest. Some Killer whales, like those in Puget Sound, WA travel in pods or families (upper-right image). While others further north are loners (lower-right image). Unlike a fish, whose body temperature is that of the water, marine mammals maintain a much higher temperature than the water. This is accomplished by the accumulation of blubber. • They hunt salmon in groups and seals independently. It could be difficult for them to distinguish a diver in a black wet suit from a seal. So, if Killer whales are in the area, it is better to view them from a boat or on land.
MONK FISH • Monk fish are bottom dwellers in the north Atlantic Ocean. They conceal their size by lifting sand onto the top of their body. They have an enormous mouth filled with long thin teeth. • If you are swimming (neutrally buoyant) above the bottom, you should not encounter one. If you are crawling on the ocean floor you could bump into one. • If bitten, most of the teeth will come out as they are not anchored securely in the jaw.
BARRACUDA • Barracuda are loners and territorial animals as adults. Juveniles travel in small schools. Naturally curious, they will follow divers to the edge of their territory. During your swim in their territory they may just hover behind you watching your activity. • Generally, they do not attack divers. However, since they are attracted to splashing and shiny objects, they might mistake part of a diver for prey, particularly in areas of low visibility like surf or tidal inlets.
WOLF FISH • The Wolf fish is also a solitary animal that can be found in the north Atlantic Ocean. It resides in rocky holes and ventures out usually at dusk to feed. It dines on lobsters, mussels, clams, sea urchins or any marine animal that it can catch. If molested these animals can inflict a savage bite. They will defend their lair, but will not come out to challenge a diver.
SEALS • Seals are generally very playful and harmless. However, they may bite as a protective behavior, especially during mating and birthing. Avoid getting to close to the Rookery as the mothers are very protective of their pups. Seals have teeth like a German Shepard.
Octopus • Octopus are very smart mollusks with the ability to change color for protection and squirt ink upon retreating to confuse their enemy. The sucker discs are used for locomotion, food capture and manipulation. They have a beak which can inflict a bite if captured. • Most are harmless except the Blue Ringed octopus of Australia and indo-Pacific waters, whose bite carries a deadly toxin.
Stone Fish Zebra Fish Lion Fish Cone Shells Sting Rays Sea Snakes None of these venomous animals are aggressive nor will they attack. A wound to a diver is due to the diver grabbing or stumbling on the animal. Don’t attempt to capture the animal and it will not attack you. VENOMOUS ANIMALS
STONE FISH Dorsal & Pectoral Fins • The stone fish is found in the north Atlantic usually around ship wrecks. They blend in well with the surroundings. They are not aggressive and will swim away if given the chance. Usually a mishap is due to a careless diver stepping or landing on the fish. • The dorsal & pectoral fins have hollow shafts that support the fin and pressing on the shaft will force venom up the shaft into the wound. Mouth Eye
ZEBRA FISH • The zebra fish, native to western Pacific waters, is a quiet animal, not interested in your company. It is very approachable which is particularly inviting to photographers. The problem is some divers want to touch the fish. A deadly venom can be injected by the spins of the dorsal or pectoral fins, the same way as the stone fish. • A note to all divers - if an animal does not swim away from you or allows you very close quarters, it probably has a potent defense system.
LION FISH • Lion fish like the Zebra fish are found in Fiji, Vietnam, and other western Pacific waters. Like the Lion fish it has potent venom and moves very slowly in retreat. • The mechanism for injection is the same as the Lion and Stone fishes.
CONE SHELLS • Cone shells are found in most of the oceans of the world. They are usually more prevalent in warmers climates. A proboscis can extend from the narrow end of the shell and inflict a mild to severe toxin. The proboscis can eventually extend the length of the shell. • If you pick up a cone shell, grab it by the thick end. Don’t put it under your wetsuit for safe keeping. • Most cone shells are protected and should not be collected.
Rays • Rays are non-aggressive bottom feeders, found throughout the oceans of the world. They range in size from a one foot skate to the twenty foot Manta Ray . • Divers can be wounded by stepping on or otherwise coming into contact with the ray. The tail conceals a sheathed barb which will cut the victim. A mild toxin will be released into the open wound. However, the real problem is secondary infection due to the bacteria under the sheath which comes into direct contact with the wound. Ask your instructor about feeding Sting rays in Cayman (right image).
Sea Snakes • Sea snakes are found in the far west Pacific waters and are native to the Philippines and Vietnam. They are air breathing reptiles with a flat wide tail which helps them to swim. Like most aquatic animals the snake will always first try to retreat. If confronted with no other choice it’s bit can deliver one of the deadliest venom on earth. • NEVER grab or harass a sea snake!
ANIMALS THAT STING • This group of animals are of two body types. The mobile group is called Medusa (jellyfish, sea wasp, Portuguese Man-of War) and the stationary group is the polyp (coral, sea anemones, gorgonians and others). Both body forms are radically symmetrical, with a single body opening that serves as mouth and anus. This opening is surrounded by tentacles with stinging cells. These cells are called nematocysts. If the cells are stimulated by touch or chemical change, a tiny harpoon penetrates the skin releasing a venom. A sever sting (many contacts) may result death. • These cells then have a defensive as well as a predatory capability.
Jellyfish • The tentacles carrying the nematocysts have no real muscle tissue to move them. So getting stung is usually the result of the diver swimming into the tentacles. • Protection from these harpoons is nothing more than a light covering of the skin- a diving skin, wetsuit or just a shirt & pants will protect the diver. Gloves and booties are essential.
FIRE CORAL • Fire Coral is actually a hydroid not a coral. • Upon close inspection, you can see tiny hair like projections each can release a barb. • Avoid contact with fire coral as its toxin is very strong and it will last for many hours. • Reactions to contacting fire coral or the other conspicuous hydroid, Portuguese Man of War, can be a mild rash to severe blistering and in extreme cases congestive heat failure. Ask your instructor about Sea Wasps and Box Jellyfish.
Sponges • Sponges have internal spines made of calcium carbonate or silica embedded in the body. Many have nematocysts. • The Red Beard sponge (lower-right image) is a particularly nasty sponge, found in the Caribbean.
SEA URCHINS • Sea urchins are in the starfish phylum (Echinodermata). They have a calcareous skeleton of plates with hinged spines. • The Long-spined Urchin (top-right image) is found on coral reefs, coral rubble and tidal flats. The spines may be as long as 16 inches. The spine is very fragile if hit from the side, but if hit from the end it can go into a finger, through a wet suit or a tennis shoe. • The leg in the bottom-right image demonstrates what happens if you tangle with these urchins. Ask your instructor how to remove the spines.