One of the best ways of encountering a wide variety of wildlife is to look in different habitats. The more habitats you explore, the more species you’re likely to see.
Shore diving around Sydney is an easy way to experience many habitats in a short time. My last night dive in Botany Bay saw us exploring along the flanks of a long reef at about 18 metres depth. We found some unusual finds, including Striped Anglerfish and Spindle Cowries, along with a collection of Botany Bay staples such as Red Indianfish, Dwarf Lionfish, Big Bellied Seahorse, Pygmy Pipehorse, Numb Rays and a large Spotted Wobbegong.
As we returned to the shallows our torches started to attract large swarms of plankton. The organisms that were visible in the plankton soup were a mixture of tiny fish, worms, flatworms and shrimp. Darting through the plankton were a few larger shapes, squid. Not the abundant Southern Calamari Squid keenly sought by anglers, but a smaller relative, Luminous Bay Squid.
Attributing human personalities and motives to wildlife is something that drives me crazy. It always seems to imply that wildlife are some flawed imitation of humanity. So, all that said, Luminous Bay Squid are irresistibly cute. Huge iridescent eyes literally glow in the dark, their bodies display constantly changing luminous patterns, and they have a wonderfully elegant way of waving their stubby little tentacles.
Air consumption reduces with depth. Even though it had been a long dive I knew I had plenty of time to spend with the squid. They are a challenging photographic subject, too much flash and you light up all the suspended particles in the water, too little and all you end up with is a set of glowing eyes. For the next ten minutes we circled one another, the Luminous Bay Squid fixated on my torch and me on getting a crisp image.
It was when only reviewing the images the next evening I realised that the squid was grasping a fish in its tentacles. Cute it might be, but also a highly capable hunter that had just captured prey not much smaller than itself. It is all too easy to forget that the wildlife we watch isn’t just floating past, but is engaged in that serious business of survival.