Ocean’s ambushers

When thinking about predators in marine ecosystems, most people likely think first of sharks roaming the wide ocean. Sharks are indeed among the apex predators in many marine habitats, but there is more…, much more! When diving the tropical coral reefs of the Philippines a couple of weeks ago, I suddenly realized all these small, colorful reef fish – as easy-going the scenery might look – live in constant fear. Danger is present behind each stone, death lurks from every cavity and sand is not wat it seems.

If you do not understand what I am talking about, just have a look at the pictures below. I have been blown away by the diversity of predators present in reef ecosystems and, in many cases, how they have evolved to perfectly blend in with their environment.

Can you spot the Scorpionfish (Scorpaenopsis sp.)?

Close-up of a Devil Scorpionfish (Scorpaenopsis diabolus)

Reptilian Snake Eel (Brachysomophis henshawi) blending in

close-up of a Reptilian Snake Eel (Brachysomophis henshawi)

Weedy Scorpionfish (Rhinopias frondosa)

Fimbriated Moray (Gymnothorax fimbriatus) lurking from a hole in the coral reef

Fimbriated Moray (Gymnothorax fimbriatus) up close

Almost entirely hidden in the sand, the Stargazer (Uranoscopus sp.) awaits its prey.

The name ‘Stargazer’ is not only beautiful, but is also easily understood when seen from above.

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