Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Haminoea cymbalum

I went back to Lau Lau yesterday with the sole purpose of finding the bubble shells that I captured in my pictures the day before. I knew where to look, it was the rocks right under the rope fairly soon at the beginning of the dive. I started looking hard at all the rocks when I got in the water, but couldn't find anything that even came close. I was bummed thinking that maybe catching the one was just a fluke. I talked to Deanna Tessen earlier in the day who told me that she and Keith found them in big numbers at Obiyan. So we went to Obiyan first, but I didn't find any there either. So Don and I went ahead and headed out for our dive. After he ran out of air and I got him back to the pipeline rope, I went back over to the other rope and continued looking for the gorgeous little bubble shells. As I was looking over one of the rocks, a little splash of color caught my eye, there were 3 of them crawling around in what looked like a tumbleweed attached to a rock.
They were definitely small, between 1/8th and 1/4 of an inch long, but it was clearly them. I was thrilled, I finally spotted the elusive little guys and now I was going to get some good pictures since I could see them. I had looked them up in one of my books the day before and discovered that they are called Haminoea cymbalum. It says their distribution range is from Indonesia to Hawaii. The description says it is a very beautiful shelled sea slug that is fairly uncommon, but when found it is usually in large aggregations down to 20 meters of water. That is the description given in Helmut Debelius' Nudibranchs and Sea Snails Indo-Pacific Field Guide.
I just kept staring at the little guys and was taking pictures. They are amazingly intricate and beautiful. This is actually considered a nudibranch, but one that has a fragile shell that it wraps around. I am always amazed when discovering something as tiny as this, and then wonder how many other cool things I overlook every single time I go underwater.
This gives me one more addition to my collection of nudibranchs and sea shells that I've photographed on Saipan. Truly a great dive!!!!


Angelo Villagomez said...

Are those dots part of the shell or is there some type of membrane stretched over it?

Harry Blalock said...

The dots and cool patterns are part of the sea slug, a type of nudibranch that completely covers the shell with its mantle.

KelliOnSaipan said...

These are truly amazing little nudibranchs. I love the colors, they look like tiny easter eggs. I'm glad you finally found them.

Max said...

Hi, why is only the first picture in each of your posts clickable? I'd really like to see an enlarged version of some of the other pictures, but can only seem to get the first, do you have them somewhere else?

Harry Blalock said...

Hi Maxwell, I'm really not sure why only the first picture is clickable. I do have most of the pictures here also on my smugmug site, it's at www.saipandiver.smugmug.com Thanks for your interest.

Bruce A. Bateman said...

What beautiful creatures. Think of the thousand of divers, tourists and locals, who have passed that spot and not seen these animals. At 1/8th to 1/4 inch I suppose you don't see much until you get back home and download the photos.

Nice job, Harry. Thanks.