Atlantic Spadefish ©Melinda Riger @ G B Scuba copy 2


The Atlantic spadefish looks very much like an angelfish, and indeed it is called that – or ‘white angelfish’ – in some places. Actually, it has quite a collection of colloquial names of which ‘moonfish’ is the most attractive sounding. It is not a true angelfish, however, and despite appearances it has a kinship with the weird and wonderful BATFISH.

Atlantic Spadefish ©Melinda Riger @GBS

Unlike the batfish, the spadefish is demonstrably fishlike AND edible. They can grow up to 3 foot long and have become a popular gamefish for three good reasons: they are abundant; they fight hard; and they are dinner. The perfect combination.

Atlantic Spadefish ©Melinda Riger @ G B Scuba copy

All photos: Melinda Riger of Grand Bahama Scuba, with thanks

Atlantic Spadefish ©Melinda Riger @ G B Scuba


Ghost Crab in surf.Delphi Club.Abaco Bahamas.Tom Sheley


It’s been a while since I was in a crabby mood, but autumn is here and there’s a sharp nip in the early morning air… What better time to visit a selection of the many crab species found on Abaco. 


I thought I had some good photos of these cute little guys with their ‘Carson the Downton Abbey Butler’ white gloves. However, Tom Sheley (header and below) has perfectly caught the  tide-hanging that they enjoy, sometimes disappearing completely or perhaps leaving just their twin periscopes showing.Ghost Crabin surf.Delphi Club.Abaco bahamas.Tom Sheley


Many people’s favourite small crab, with their endearing house-moving habits as they grow. Excellent for racing, too (see HERE). Here’s one taking its mobile home up a tree; and another tucked safely into a nerite [Capt Rick Guest amends] Magpie Shell, Cittarium pica, (used to be Livona pica), the living animal of which is the 3rd most consumed animal behind Lobster & Conch in the Caribbean. They are Littoral around Shorelines and are also used as bait.Hermit Tree Crab.Abaco Bahamas.6.13.Tom Sheley copy Hermit Crab in a nerite shell, Delphi Abaco (Keith Salvesen)

BLACK-BACKED LAND CRAB Black-backed land crab, Abaco 1 (Charles Skinner) Black-backed Land Crab, Abaco 2 (Charles Skinner)

Faithful guardians of my rod (there are 2 there)!Black-backed Land Crab, Delphi, Abaco (Keith Salvesen)

LAND CRAB Land Crab, Bahamas Palm Shores Abaco (Keith Salvesen)Land Crab, Bahamas Palm Shores Abaco 2 (Keith Salvesen)

STONE CRABStone Crab ©Melinda Riger @ G B Scuba

ARROW CRAB Arrow Crab ©Melinda Riger @ GB Scuba copy

CLINGING CRAB Clinging Crab © Melinda Riger @ G B ScubaClinging Crab ©Melinda Riger @ G B Scuba copy

BLUE CRAB Blue crab (Atlantic) - Leoadec Wiki

HORSESHOE CRAB (LIMULUS)Horseshoe Crab (Limulus), Delphi Beach, Abaco Bahamas (Keith Salvesen)


Credits: Tom Sheley (1, 2, 3); Keith Salvesen (4,7,8,9,15); Charlie Skinner (5,6); Melinda Riger (10,11,12,13); Leodec (14)


Anemone (Giant) ©Melinda Riger @GBS copy


The giant anemone is found in the shallow reefs and lagoons of the Caribbean and western Atlantic. These are, of course, animals and not plants, with many tentacles that surround their mouth. They attach themselves to rock or in rock crevices, mooring themselves securely against the swell of the waves.  

Giant anemone with ‘Speckles’, a spotted moray eelGiant Anemone & Speckles ©Melinda Riger @ G B Scuba copy


One important feature of a healthy anemone population is the shelter they give to certain small fish and cleaner shrimp species. They act as bases for FISH CLEANING activities, a vital role in the undersea community.

Giant Anemone ©Melinda Riger @ G B Scuba copy


The sex lives of anemones seems particularly complicated (as they would doubtless think about humans). Cutting to the chase, reproduction involves the synchronous spawning of eggs and sperm, with fertilisation occurring in the surrounding water. The fertilised eggs become larval and spread in the water column, which increases their chances of survival. They settle on the BENTHOS, where they develop a “pedal leg” (rather in the manner of a gastropod) which in due course they will use to move from A to… A plus a very short distance.

Giant Anemone ©Melinda Riger @ G B Scuba copy 4

These anemones come in many colours. The tentacles often have tips of various hues, and are the only free-floating part of the animal. The body is safely attached to the rock. 

The giant anemone has primitive defensive mechanisms. It needs them, because it crawls so slowly that successful escape by moving is unlikely. Instead they reduce their size by drawing their tentacles into, or as close as possible to, their gastric cavity. They make room for this by forcing most of the water out. This reduces their overall size and of course removes – or at least diminishes – the ”50 colourful tentacles waving around” predator-magnet problem. But also…
Giant Anemone ©Melinda Riger @ G B Scuba copy 7
…they have a trump card. The tips of the giant anemones’ tentacles are packed with cells that contain a toxin. When stimulated, the cells (‘nemocysts’) “explode out of the capsule, impaling the attacker”. The toxin is then discharged, causing extreme pain and paralysis. How cool is that? It’s the superpower we’d all like to have! Or is that just me?
This is also how an anemone feeds, by quickly paralyzing its prey with the ‘toxic tentacles of doom’. The prey is moved to the mouth and swallowed whole…
Giant Anemone ©Melinda Riger @ G B Scuba copy 6
Credits: Melinda Riger of Grand Bahama Scuba, with thanks as always


Creole Wrasse ©Melinda Riger @ G B Scuba copy 4


The creole wrasse is a small wrasse species, with adult males reaching about 12 inches long. During its life, a creole wrasse changes colour significantly.  A juvenile is almost completely violet-purple. As it matures, it develops patches of yellow on the rear part of its body.

Creole Wrasse ©Melinda Riger @ G B Scuba copy 7

Creole wrasse are found throughout the tropical and subtropical waters of the western Atlantic from Florida south to Brazil. The habitat includes Bermuda, the Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico.

Creole Wrasse ©Melinda Riger @ G B Scuba copy 5Creole Wrasse ©Melinda Riger @ G B Scuba copy 6

Creole wrasse are social fish that live in groups around coral reefs. They are found in shallow water, but may also be seen as deep as 100m. 

Creole Wrasse at a cleaning station ©Melinda Riger @ G B Scuba copy

The groups of wrasse feed on plankton, small jellyfish, pelagic TUNICATES, and invertebrate larvae. These fish are active in groups by day. At night each fish finds its own safe crevice in the reef to sleep.

Creole Wrasse School ©Melinda Riger @G B Scuba copy


Yes indeed. Their intriguing breeding regime – how unlike our own dear species. The creole wrasse is a protogynous hermaphrodite.  The largest fish in a group is a dominant breeding male, while smaller fish remain female. If the dominant male dies, the largest female changes sex. The mature males congregate at leks to breed, at which they display and are approached by females before mating with them. [note: these leks are reminiscent of certain clubs in the less reputable parts of some towns and cities. Or so I am told]

Creole Wrasse Melinda Riger @ G B Scuba copy

It’s been a while since the last Rolling Harbour musical diversion, but the colour of this wrasse nudged my memory back to 1968 and DP’s first album (line-up Mk 1 of several hundred, or so it seems). Hence the post title. Anyone who remembers this ‘wasn’t there’. Anyone who doesn’t obviously wasn’t there either…


I don’t think this guy thinks much of that. And quite right tooCreole Wrasse ©Melinda Riger @GBS copy

All phish photos by Melinda; DP cover borrowed from Am@z@n; MP3 moi


Seahorse (Bahamas) 4 ©Melinda Riger @G B Scuba


Melinda Riger, doyenne of the deep and photographer to the stars (brittle stars, basket stars, starfish etc), undertook her 5000th dive a few days ago. She swims with sharks almost daily, and points her lens at the varied reef life she encounters along the way. Her gold prize for the dive turned out to be one of the smallest creatures she encountered: the seahorse. Hippocampus (Ancient Greek: Ἵππος, horse and Κάμπος, sea monster) is a unique fish, deriving from the pipefish, with more than 50 species known worldwide. I can feel a Rolling Harbour fact list coming on…

Seahorse (Bahamas) 3 ©Melinda Riger @G B Scuba


  • Only seahorses and razorfish swim upright / vertically all the time
  • Their tails are prehensile and enable them to moor on coral, seagrass etc
  • They have no scales, but skin stretched over bony plates arranged in rings
  • The ‘coronet’ on a seahorse’s head is unique to the individual
  • Seahorses are pathetic swimmers: the slowest have a top speed of 5′ per hour
  • They feed by ambush, rotating the head and sucking prey in with their snout
  • A seahorse’s eyes can move independently of each other, like a chameleon 
  • The Bahamas is home to H. erectus and the dwarf seahorse H. zosterae
  • Despite rumours, they don’t mate for life. Some may stay together for a season
  • The smallest seahorse in the world – the pygmy – is a maximum of 15mm long

Seahorse (Bahamas) 2 ©Melinda Riger @G B Scuba


There’s no getting round it: seahorse courtship and reproduction is highly unusual. Here is a summary of how it goes (there’s a lot more to it, but life is short):

  1. COURTING This may last for many days. They may change colour; they swim together; they entwine tails; they attach themselves to the same strand of coral or seagrass and turn slowly round it in unison (a so-called ‘pre-dawn’ dance). The final courtship dance may last several hours while the male & female prepare for the next stage.
  2. EGG TRANSFER When the time is right the female transfers her eggs – hundreds of them – via her ovipositor  to the male, in the process of which they are fertilised. Handily, he has inflated a special egg pouch located on his abdomen. She then buggers off.
  3. GESTATION The fertilised eggs grow inside the egg pouch of the male and develop into baby seahorses. This process may take from 10 days to a few weeks. During this time, the female will visit for a short ‘morning greeting’ and some intertwining action.
  4. ‘BIRTH’ In due course the male ejects the baby seahorses from his pouch using muscular contractions. These may number from five to (get this!) 2,500 at a time; on average 100–1000. Job done. Then the tiny seahorse babies are on on their own…

Seahorse (Bahamas) 1 ©Melinda Riger @G B Scuba


The attrition rate of baby seahorses through predation is high (as for most fish species), but the prolific breeding rate reduces the effect on the overall populations.  As so often, there are human-related threats, not least habitat destruction, overfishing and pollution. There’s a less expected problem: the importance of seahorses in Chinese medicine.  Their presumed healing qualities are used to treat impotence, wheezing, enuresis, pain and to assist labour. For these purposes, some 20 million seahorses a year are caught and sold. Increasingly they are reduced to pill or capsule form. 

Seahorse values depend on the species, but weight for weight dried seahorses retail for *unbelieving face* more than the price of silver and almost that of gold in Asia, from US$600 to $3000 per kilogram. Ours not to reason why.



  • Seahorse is an anagram of seashore
  • The Seahorses were an English rock band, formed in 1996 by guitarist John  Squire following his departure from The Stone Roses. They split in 1999
  • Devendra Banhart’s song ‘Seahorse’ contains these inspiring lyrics:
    I wanna be a little seahorse
    I wanna be a little seahorse
    A little seahorse
    I wanna be a little seahorse
    I wanna be a little seahorse
    I wanna be a little seahorse
    I wanna be a little seahorse
  • I’m losing the will to live. Let’s meet Otis.

Introducing Otis, Melinda’s seahorse that lives under her dockSeahorse (Otis), Bahamas ©Melinda Riger @ G B Scuba



All photos: many thanks to Melinda Riger of Grand Bahama Scuba; sources, many and manifold including Wiki which is pretty good on this kind of thing! Fab seahorse gif by Alex Konahin 

Seahorse by Alex Konahin copy


Mangroves, The Marls, Abaco, Bahamas (Keith Salvesen, Rolling Harbour)


For some time now, there has been understandable concern about the increasing evidence of mangrove die-back in the Abaco Marls and elsewhere in Abaco waters. Scientific investigations are ongoing and you will find some of the survey results so far on the excellent Abaco Scientist interactive map HERE. You’ll find other relevant and authoritative mangrove material if you check out the BLOG menu of the website.
Abaco - The Marls

The ‘200 sq. miles’ in my map is debatable, depending what one includes. Other estimates are of 300 or even 400 sq. miles. Whichever, the Marls cover a massive area of mangroves, islets, flats, channels and wonderfully diverse wildlife. A large proportion of the many species – fish, birds, turtles etc – depend on the complex ecology of the mangroves for food, shelter and breeding. Depletion of the mangroves from whatever cause will have a direct effect on the creatures of the Marls.

Stingrays Abaco Marls 6

Ryann Rossi, a PhD student with North Carolina State University, has been researching the worrying phenomenon of mangrove die-back in the Marls this summer. She has written an interesting and informative  account (conveniently in the RH ‘Facts about…’ style) that was published in Abaco Scientist last week. The blue links will take you to the ABSCI site for further information on each topic. I’m grateful to Ryann and ABSCI for permission to use the material.

Five Things to Know About the Mangrove Die-back in The Marls (at this point, anyway)

1. This die-back appears to be the result of multiple stressors acting together. Think of it in the sense of our own body – when our immune system is down, we are often more susceptible to getting sick. The same thing is likely happening to the mangroves.Mangrove Die-back 1 (Abaco Scientist : Ryann Rossi)

2. It appears as though a fungal disease may be taking advantage of already stressed mangroves and causing die-back. We did preliminary surveys across Abaco and found fungal lesions nearly everywhere. However, the fungus was present in different densities in different areas. In the die-back area nearly all the leaves remaining on trees have lesions. We think that this pathogen capitalized on the mangroves being weakened by other stressors such as hurricanes, which cause extensive leaf drop, change in the movement of water, change in sedimentation and erosion.

Mangrove Die-back 2 (Abaco Scientist : Ryann Rossi) jpg

3. We are still working on identifying the pathogen associated with the lesions we’ve found. We are confident that it is a fungus and are currently growing fungal cultures in the lab to examine defining morphological characteristics in addition to using DNA sequencing to identify the culprit.

4. We have documented the presence of the Robust Bush Cricket (Tafalisca eleuthera) in the die-back areas as well as other areas with high densities of lesions. These crickets are documented to consume Red and White mangrove leaves. As such, we were concerned about their potential role in die-back. We set out a caging experiment to exclude the crickets from certain dwarf Red mangrove trees to see just how much grazing they may be doing in the die-back area. This experiment is ongoing.

Mangrove Die-back 3 (Abaco Scientist : Ryann Rossi) jpg

5. The take home: there is likely more than one causal agent of the die-back in The Marls. Many factors govern mangrove productivity and functioning: nutrient availability, salinity, sedimentation rate, herbivory, and disease are just a few of the factors that contribute to overall mangrove function making it very difficult to pin point which factors may be driving the die-off. On the bright side, we are confident that we have a lead on the causes and we are working hard in the field and laboratory to fully understand what is going on in The Marls.

By Ryann Rossi|August 26th, 2015|Disease, fungus, Insects, Mangroves and Creeks, The Marls
All pics below taken while fishing on the Marls except Melinda’s shark (I’ve never got a good one)
Hawksbill Turtle, Abaco Marls (Keith Salvesen)Bonefish Abaco Marls 4Shark 4 ©Melinda Riger @ G B Scuba copyOsprey - Abaco Marls 1 Reddish Egret (White Morph), Abaco MarlsRoyal Tern, Abaco, Bahamas (Marls) 3Willet, The Marls, AbacoSouthern Stingray, Abaco Marls (Keith Salvesen 4)
FRIENDS OF THE ENVIRONMENT has also included an article on die-back by Ryann in its latest Newsletter:

Mangrove Die Off on Abaco by Ryann Rossi, NCSU

This summer Stephanie Archer and I continued research efforts focused on determining the cause of the mangrove die-off in The Marls (work funded by the National Science Foundation). Our efforts were predominantly focused on the fungal pathogen we found associated with the die-off site. We created a small citizen science and outreach project to document the presence or absence of the pathogen across Abaco. This project consisted of short surveys and leaf collections. In total, 92 areas were surveyed including locations from Abaco and San Salvador. We also took this outreach project to the annual Bahamas Reef Environment Education Foundation (BREEF) teacher training conference.  There we disseminated survey packets to teachers from islands throughout The Bahamas who will help us collect more data on the presence (or absence) of this pathogen on other Islands.

3 men on a skiff, Abaco Marls (Keith Salvesen : Rolling Harbour)

Three men on a skiff – Abaco Marls

On Abaco, we constructed an experiment to investigate the role of grazing and the presence of fungal lesions on Red mangroves. We simulated grazing using crafting scissors to cut small sections on 600 leaves in 4 different mangrove creeks. We observed the leaves for 28 days to determine if cutting leaves predisposed leaves to fungal infection. At these sites we also trapped for insects to gain an idea of what kind of grazers may be chewing on the leaves. We also did a series of disease incidence surveys that will be routinely monitored for disease progress over the next 2 years. These surveys will allow us to systematically track the progress of the disease. In addition to our field work, we spent many hours in the laboratory isolating fungi from leaves to grow in culture. These cultures were brought back to North Carolina State University and will be sequenced in order to help us identify the fungal pathogen responsible for making the lesions on the mangrove leaves.

Mangroves, Abaco Marls (Keith Salvesen)

Credits: Source material Ryann Rossi; Abaco Scientist; all photos © Keith Salvesen @ Rolling Harbour except those by Ryann / ABSCI in the main article and Melinda Riger’s cool shark


Banded Coral Shrimp ©Melinda Riger @ G B Scuba copy 2


The Banded Coral Shrimp Stenopus hispidus is also known as the banded cleaner shrimp because it cleans other fish (see TAKEN TO THE CLEANERS); and ‘boxing shrimp’ because its stance and the large pincers on the third set of legs give the creature the appearance of a boxer ready to fight.

Banded Coral Shrimp Stenopus hispidus (Johan Fredriksson) a

These shrimps are widely distributed in tropical and sub-tropical waters around the world where coral reefs are found. Their striking colour scheme makes them instantly recognisable.

Banded Coral Shrimp (Alexander Vasenin) a



  • BCSs are decapods, having 5 matching pairs of legs / claws on each side
  • They can be found as deep as 200 metres in the ocean
  • They are also found in aquaria, but need careful management because…
  • They are generally aggressive to other BCSs & shrimps in the same tank and
  • They need room for their long legs and antennae to move freely around
  • However, rather sweetly, they are monogamous and do not eat their partners
  • Diet-wise they are omnivore carnivore scavengers
  • They are said to be amusing to watch as they rush round a tank after food
  • Not a good shrimp to breed: the larvae get stuck in the filtration or get eaten
  • In the sea, they act as ‘cleaner’ fish to larger fish species (see below)

Banded Coral Shrimp ©Melinda Riger @ G B Scuba Banded Coral Shrimp (+ Moray Tail) ©Melinda Riger @ G B Scuba copy

In its capacity as a cleaner shrimp, the BCS solicits passing fish by slowly waving its long, white antennae. It then uses its three pairs of claws to remove parasites, fungi and damaged tissue from the fish. See the video example below.

A Banded Coral Shrimp (Stenopus hispidus).



Credits: Melinda Riger (Grand Bahama Scuba); Johan Fredriksson; Alexander Vasenin; Laszlo Ilyesr; R. Ling; LiveAquaria, Fishlore [nb not all pics are from the Bahamas, but the BCS is the same the world over…]


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