Monday, March 10, 2008

Shells in Bali

One of the things I still love to take pictures of while diving are shells, I just find them totally fascinating. The Liberty shipwreck in Tulamben was absolutely covered in various bi-valve shells, I know somebody who would have been in hog heaven. The clam above was about 10" across, and most of the ones on the shipwreck were close to the same size.
I've seen pictures of these zigzag clams in the shell books before, but this was my first time to see them in person. They open and close just like a regular clam, it's just that their opening is zigzagged instead of straight, they were all over the shipwreck as well.
This one is a member of the Sphondylus family. If it weren't cracked open it would be very tough to spot as it seems to just blend right in with its surroundings. This is one of the favorite shells of the carvers, as it has beautiful, vibrant colors inside, and is a fairly thick shell.
I really don't know the specific names of many bi-valves at all, but have been more and more interested in them lately, especially after the Bali trip and seeing so many different exotic shells all in one place, on the shipwreck. I'm guessing that many people just cruise right by them and don't even realize they are shells, their camouflage is great.
And this particular type of shell seemed to be growing everywhere, in sea fans, soft coral, it didn't really seem to care where it landed. I saw some sea fans with as many as 6 of these shells growing on them. And it's no small shell, it's about 8" long.
Of course there were plenty of these giant clams everywhere as well, some of them well over 2' wide. They also came in many different colors and were very cool to watch.
This one is part of the Lambis family, related to the Spider Conchs we have on Saipan. I saw quite a few of them, they were all live and healthy. The fingers of their shell are fragile and delicate, and get broken off easily, which is why so many of them just have stubs left. The spider conch has much thicker fingers and is more resistant to damage. This was much smaller than the Truncata shell that we have on Saipan, but had the same type of thick, heavy shell.
You can see this shell sitting on the black sand. All the sand in the Tulamben area was volcanic and therefore black, it was a pretty fine consistency, it made spotting some of the shells easy because they really stood out against the black sand background.
One thing that I always hate to see is beautiful busted up shells. I know it's all part of the cycle of nature, that fish eat the shells, but I always wince when I see these beautiful shells broken apart. This was part of a Cypraea Argus, or an Eyed Cowrie. I saw quite a few of them broken apart, as well as a bunch of Map Cowries that were also busted apart.
I was diving "The Wall" one of my last days in Tulamben, and decided to go up and look in the shallow reef for nudibranchs when I stumbled across this live Tiger Cowrie just sitting to the side of a coral head. I couldn't believe it was just right out in the open like that during the day. I took several pictures of it, and then swam it back to the resort to show Kelli before putting it down on the shipwreck. Sometimes it pays to go looking off the beaten path where nobody else dives, that's where you'll find some interesting things like this gorgeous Tiger Cowrie.
For my last dive in Bali, I decided I wanted to work my way down the coast, hitting all the dives spots I'd done earlier in the week and just work my way back to our cottage. In the same general area that I had seen the Tiger Cowrie the day before, I couldn't believe it when I found another one just out in the open crawling around. You can see his mantle partially covering his shell and his papilae underneath, which are what he uses to propel himself along. I spent quite a bit of time with this one just taking a bunch of pictures, and he was giving me some awesome shots.
Here the Tiger had his mantle nearly fully covering his shell as he cruised across the black sand and coral. That is how they keep their shells polished so perfectly, by the mantle going over it keeping it constantly polished. I got some truly awesome shots of this guy.
Then shortly after I left that Tiger Cowrie, I found this guy tucked into this little hole, and then I found another. 3 live Tiger Cowries on my last dive, it's as if they were all coming out to say, "thanks for diving Bali". I knew that this should be my last dive, it just didn't get much better than this!
Then as I was just about back to the beach in front of my cottage, I found this little Cowrie just sitting like this on the sand, glowing it was so shiny. I figured it was probably live like everything else, but when I looked it was empty, not even a crab inside. I asked the guys in the dive shop, and they said it was fine to take it home with me, so I had a little souvenier of my Bali diving to take back with me. The shells, just like everything else in Tulamben were amazing, and truly made these some of my best dives ever!