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  • Writer's pictureMick McMurray

A Photo Journey of Hawaii's Invertebrates

Updated: May 29

This is a gallery of Hawaiian invertebrates and nudibranchs that we have encountered, mainly on the nearshore reefs around Maui. I have tried to identify them correctly to the best of my ability. There is a brief description of the photos and to find information on where we have seen them go to our "Shore diving in Maui" report.

The slipper lobster is a crustacean that we have seen on the reefs in Maui. They are normally found in deeper water and are active at night but we have seen them in the early morning. They feed on mollusks, crustaceans, and other small invertebrates and use their slipper-like claws to crush their prey.

The humped-back shrimp is known for its distinctive humped back and its ability to change color making it a fascinating creature to watch. They are more active at night when they come out to feed on a variety of small invertebrates, including small crustaceans and mollusks.

The trident trumpet snail is named for its distinctive trident-shaped shell, which is often covered in colorful corals, sponges, and other marine growth. These snails are nocturnal and can be difficult to spot during the day, but at night, they come to life and can be seen foraging for food on the ocean floor. These photos were taken during the day at Ulua Beach in Maui. It is unusual to see the animal out of its shell during the day. Most of the time you will see them retracted into their shell wedged in a crevice or under a ledge.

The Hawaiian ornate octopus, also known as the intricately patterned octopus, is a species of octopus that is found in the waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands. This fascinating creature is known for its intricate and beautiful color patterns, as well as its ability to change color and texture to blend in with its surroundings. They are most active at night when they come out to hunt and the photo below was taken on a night dive on the sandy flats at Ulua beach.

Oval reef squid, also known as bigfin reef squid, are small cephalopods. They are known for their ability to rapidly change colors and patterns, making them a fascinating sight to observe underwater. At night, these creatures are particularly active, providing a mesmerizing display of vibrant colors and movements. These photos were taken at night on the sand flats at Ulua Beach in Maui. It is fun to see their responsiveness to light. As you move light around, the squid will react by changing color and adjusting their body patterns.

Nudibranchs are a type of sea slug that are found all over the world, including in the waters surrounding Hawaii. These colorful creatures are a popular sight for divers on the reefs in Maui but you have to slow down and look for them. Most of the time I dive with a 60mm macro lens on my camera to photograph these small animals and use a wide angle lens to photograph larger animals like turtles and rays.

Nudibranchs come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and colors, and are known for their vibrant hues and intricate patterns. They can be found in a range of habitats, from shallow reefs to deep water, and are particularly abundant in areas with high levels of algae and other types of marine life. Their defense is that they derive their coloring from the food they eat, which helps in camouflage, and some even retain the foul-tasting poisons of their prey and secrete them as a defense against predators.

The fire worm is a species of bristle worm. This unique species of worm is known for its vibrant red and orange coloration and its ability to produce a bioluminescent glow when threatened. This bioluminescence serves as a warning to predators of the worm's toxic bristles, and it also helps to attract potential mates.

The christmas tree worm is a species of polychaete worm that we have found on the shallow reefs around Maui. This unique species of worm is known for its spiral, tree-like shape and its ability to retract into its hard, protective tube when threatened. it is a filter feeder feeding on microscopic plankton that they filter from the water column. It may look like two animals but is actually one animal with two tree-like shapes.

The cleaner shrimp is a species of shrimp that is found in the waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands. This unique species of shrimp is known for its cleaning behavior, where it provides a cleaning service to larger marine animals, including fish and sea turtles. They use their antennae to remove parasites, dead skin, and other debris from larger marine animals, including fish and sea turtles and this behavior provides the cleaner shrimp with a reliable source of food, while also providing the larger marine animals with a valuable cleaning service.

The Imperial shrimp is a species of shrimp that spends its entire life living on the surface of the sea star. It provides the shrimp with protection from predators and a stable platform for feeding, while also providing the sea star with a cleaning service.

The pencil urchin uses their long, spiny spines to provide protection from predators and also to lodge itself into crevices to better resist being moved or dislodged by the currents, making it easier for the urchin to feed and avoid predators.

The tiger cowrie is a species of sea snail that is found in the waters of Hawaii These striking snails are known for their distinctive tiger-stripe pattern and bright colors, making them a popular subject for underwater photographers. We have found them on the shallow reefs around Maui and they are slow-moving making them easy to photograph. They are capable of retracting into their shells for protection against predators.


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