WOW! Photo, December 2002
Sand diver (Trichonotus
Photo by Eugene Viljoen.
Eugene describes his encounter:
" This picture of a Sanddiver
(Trichonotus) was taken recently at the Sodwana Shoot-Out Competition
by me. I started attempting to capture this little very elusive and shy fellow
on film 3 months ago. It has put me through many trials and tribulations, with
many failed attempts. This species is impossible to spot as they dive into the
sand faster than the eye can see and then only sometimes stick their little
noses and faces out from their sand hide-out. So spotting them can only be
done knowing where they live and then watching carefully for a dashing
movement. Then they need to be found in the sand with torches and stalked very
carefully! If you can get closer than 2 feet from this little fellow (you are
very lucky if you can), you can attempt a shot. You need to anticipate the sea
currents that throw up sand all the time and a very nervous little model, that
will dart off in a flash and usually just before the critical moment of
shutter release! You need to use dedicated macro lenses and in my case I used
the 105 mm Nikkor lens with a 2 times teleconverter (therefor forfeiting
autofocus with a 2-3 mm depth of field!), in order to get the close-up
portrait shot. Your reward however is awesome as you stare into those
amazingly beautiful eyes, with grid-iron gold irises, never captured on film
before! To add to the challenge, I decided to see if I could possibly capture
the Sand-diver image on film for the Sodwana Shoot-Out Challenge (limited film
and limited time - competition format). This image is the result of the
shoot-out! It did not impress the judges, but at least I had the satisfaction
of capturing this species close-up on film for the first time, with its
fantastic eyes, for all judges and competitors to see! ".
Well done Eugene; this photo shows what dedication to capturing unusual
fishes on film can result in - superb images! Phil Heemstra gives us the
following information on this fascinating group of elusive fishes:
The family Trichonotidae (sand divers) comprises a single genus, Trichonotus, with seven species. The elongate body and pointed head,
with projecting lower jaw facilitate diving into the sand when these fish are
frightened or pursued by a predator. We have apparently only one species, Trichonotus marleyi (Smith, 1936) in our area. The collector, H.W.
Bell-Marley, described the fish as "Above amber, studded with turquoise blue
and red dots. The lower surface faint rosy. Anal [fin] and ventrals [pelvic
fins] with numerous dark red dots. Eye with about 20 golden lines, umbrous red
Eugene Viljoen’s amazing photos show the intricate appendages from the
umbralacrum over the pupil. A similar but more simple umbralacrum is also
present in the eyes of some flatheads (Family Platycephalidae). They also live
in shallow sandy areas, where bright sunlight makes an environment of high
albedo. As the sunlight intensifies, the appendages of the umbralacrum expand
to reduce the light entering the eye. A similar pupillary adaptation is also
seen in camels and llamas, which live in bright, sandy desert habitats.
Eugene’s photos also show the excellent camouflage of the silvery and amber
blotches on the head, which match the quartz and calcareous sand grains of
these benthic fishes. Sand divers occur singly or in small groups, hovering
near the bottom where they feed on zooplankton. Males are larger and more
colourful than females; they have higher fins than the females, and the first
two dorsal fin rays of adult males of T. marleyi are greatly elongated.
Males are usually accompanied by a harem of several females, which they
impress by erecting their fins in courtship displays. The size disparity and
harem reproductive mode imply that sand divers are another of the many
hermaphroditic fish families that are associated with coral reefs.
Many thanks Eugene, for sharing your WOW! PHOTO.
Eugene sent us two more pictures of these fascinating fish:
All text, images and photographs copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 & 2006
South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity or the respective photographer. All Rights Reserved.
November 7, 2006