Siladen Resort and the Bunaken National Park sit right at the heart of the Coral Triangle. The Coral Triangle is a region of marine mega-diversity that is roughly triangular in shape. It extends from central Indonesia and eastern Borneo to Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, and further northwards to the Philippines. This relatively small area in global terms, boasts the world’s richest marine biodiversity. As you travel in any direction from the Coral Triangle the number of marine species decreases.
Unsurprisingly, diving the rich walls around the resort I have made some exciting fish finds over the past week. On the second dive of day one we visited the dramatic extinct volcano of Manado Tua, where I found two delightful dottybacks. Dottybacks generally stay very close to the reef and are especially fond of a tube sponge home, and are easily overlooked.
I spotted the first of the dottybacks at the top of a huge overhang and unfortunately couldn’t manage a picture. Luckily, I found another in a more accessible spot. The three inch fish was dove grey, covered in golden spots and had very distinctive blood red dots on the pelvic fins. It was certainly unique and I was even more confused when looking through Gerry Allen and Mark Erdmann’s ‘Reef Fishes of the East Indies’ app when we got back to the resort.
The dottyback was almost identical to the Komodo dottyback, found only around these southern Indonesian islands, save for the orange ring around the eye. It was also very similar to the Sabah Dottyback found only in northern Borneo, and whilst geographically closer the fins were a very different shape. There is also a third species, the thread-finned dottyback, with which it shared several features. Although the thread-finned lacks the distinctive red dots. So, who knows which fish this might be. What an exciting find and stunning fish whatever it may turn out to be!
Richard Smith, a British underwater photographer and writer, aspires to promote an appreciation for the ocean’s inhabitants and raise awareness of marine conservation issues through his images. A marine biologist by training, Richard’s pioneering research on the biology and conservation of pygmy seahorses, led to the first PhD on these enigmatic fishes. Over the past decade, Richard’s photographs and marine life focused features have appeared in a wide variety of publications around the world. Richard leads marine life expeditions where the aim is for participants to get more from their diving and photography by learning about the marine environment: www.OceanRealmImages.com