Last night, I took advantage of Mom’s Netflix, and watched almost all of The Blue Planet episodes. I saw them all a few years ago, but I see something new and different every time I look.
The first episode I will always go to is Coral Seas. This close-up analysis of coral reef systems around the world is full of teal light and the billowy movements of the waves around the reef. The brain coral, large and rounded and bumpy, sits next to delicate fans of red and purple; these seem far to fragile to thrive in such shallow water. The reef is awash with color — reds and oranges and greens and grays, and almost any other color I could name. And the residents. Oh my, those fish.
Here are two powder-blue tangs, nipping algae from the top of a large rock. All seems peaceful. Suddenly, a school of about thirty convict tangs dive in, and push the lovely blue fish away. The convicts are yellowish-white with black stripes that look like prison garb of old — they are hardly noticeable, one at a time, but they never travel one at a time. They swoop over the coral, and in minutes have picked it clean of any algae at all. The whole time, the larger blue tangs are dashing in and out of the convict school, trying to herd them away. When the convicts finally leave, the powder-blue tangs find not a speck of algae left of their wonderful, bounteous meal, and they swim off down the reef, searching for another place for lunch.
Look to the left, and watch a male squid trying to impress the female nearby. He starts with a flash of dots on his skin, dark red against milky-white. She seems utterly bored, and turns to head off in another direction, but her eager suitor jumps in front of her, and ripples the chromatophores in his skin, so that he appears to be undulating. This female is now a little more interested — she flashes back at him with dots on her own skin, and he seems, (if a squid could have human emotions,) to be more eager than ever. He begins a rapid display of different colors and patterns, and then approaches her to mate. We’ll leave this lovely couple to their business.
Across a leafy green sea plant, movement.
Only when he moves can you pick out the shape of the male sea dragon. Sea dragons come in every shape and camouflage found in their habitats.
The male sea dragon plays an important role in breeding. When the female lays her eggs, she pushes them up onto the male’s underside where they stick and start to mature. This characteristic, found only occasionally through the spectrum of sea creatures, allows the female to breed again in ten days, instead of twenty. When the eggs are mature, the male gives a shake, and out of the eggs come tiny sea dragons, no more than a millimeter in length. His task completed for this round, the sea dragon swims away to find his mate, and start the whole process again.
I know any of you could rent The Blue Planet, but if you haven’t, yet, I hope this post imparts a curiosity about the inhabitants of the coral reef. (This is why I write about snorkeling.)