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Old 30-04-2003, 07:55 AM
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Lion Island - Story and photographs by Neville Coleman

As published in the Paradise Magazine - Annual subscription rates for six issues including postage are : In Papua New Guinea - K50; Australia - K75 or AUD $40; Rest of the World - US $40 - Email : delta@daltron.com.pg

Message from Neville Coleman : Anything I can do to help out PNG'S tourism industry is on my highest agenda seeing as I visit so often and have published more underwater pictures of PNG than anybody in the world through my books, and I personally know many of the tourist operators. Yes , I would really appreciate a plug for my website as it also has an article on PNG, and I have written many others for various magazines.

Sincerely
Neville Coleman

Lion Island :

No matter how many times one dives the tail end of Lion Island lying close to Loloata Island near Port Moresby, this soft bottom sand slope comes up with major discoveries year after year.

Once thought of only as an alternative when it was too rough on the outer reefs, the moonscape often contributes among critters, highlighting the area's incredible diversity.

From the buoy to the wreck is only a small distance and can be easily covered in a single dive. Due to most of the best diving being in depths of3 to 20 metres it's not uncommon for the experienced diver to manage 80 to 100 minutes of bottom time.

At first glance the entire site looks unimpressive, just seagrass and sand, and it's this first impression which often leads to some inexperienced divers turning up their noses because of their inability to recognise more, Where are all the pretty coral and sharks ?

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Old 30-04-2003, 07:57 AM
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Most people imagine that beautiful reef scapes like this excellent example at 30 metres off Loloata Island are the only place to discover interesting sea creatures :
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Old 30-04-2003, 07:59 AM
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If one's entire diving pleasure depends on only two examples of the ocean's vast array of creatures, then they certainly have a long way to go. Over the years some of the best soft-bottom photographers in the world have captured images and discovered an array of peculiar and fascinating animals in this area.


Common in one particular spot on the sand slope, the variable stromb Strombus variabilis is a herbivore, feeding on filamentous algae grazed from the surface of the island.
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Old 30-04-2003, 08:01 AM
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After Dark Similar to all types of marine habitats the moonscape has a day-time fauna and a night- time fauna. While both are spectacular, to me it's the nocturnal species that have the greatest attraction.

Drifting down through the inky blackness my low light torch illuminates its hazy way through the soup of all- surrounding plankton as I glide slowly to the bottom.


The thorny sea star Protoreaster nodosus is a common resident :
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Old 30-04-2003, 08:04 AM
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Hoveringjust above the sand I adjust buoyancy and my cameras, and with only the tip of my wrist loop knife touching the sand, ease down the slope to 15 metres.

Everywhere there is movement. Swarms of minute plankton hover around the light and the sand is alive with miniature molluscs and crustaceans making their way around beneath the sand. Here and there hermit crabs scurry across the surface. Prawns and crabs exposed to the light hasten to rebury themselves. Small dumpling squid pulsate with colours as their chromatophores attempt to adjust to the unfamiliar light source, then give up and snuggle down between the sand grains, piling shell grit over themselves with hurried sweeps of their suckered tentacles.

Eyes keyed to every movement and every shape, my search pattern zigzags up and down the slope from the seagrass across the shell grit section and down to the moonscape at 20 metres plus and back. A flash of colour amongst the seagrass proves to be a brightly coloured moon snail meandering around in search of prey. The golden periostracum (skin) covering its shell and the stark red and white striped animal make a striking vision.

Quickly moving the torch away I lie my second Nikonos III down on the sand and move in to focus with my housed Nikon F4. (Yes, it is a bit awkward trying to manage three camera systems at night and sometimes I miss out on a few shots. But what I lose in the short term is more than made up in having the versatility and the extra 72 shots on hand.)

Although the oriental moon snail lives across much of the lndo- Pacific, very little is known about its habits or behaviour as it only comes out beneath its sandy retreat at night. Unfortunately, it is often sensitive to movement and direct torchlight and will begin to bury after the first few flashes go off.

Powering along in search of prey the oriental moon snail Naticarius orientalis is strictly nocturnal and is not considered common throughout its Indo-Pacific range.
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Old 30-04-2003, 08:06 AM
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Some moon snails are known to feed on bivalves by capturing them and drilling a hole in their shell to feed on the soft body within. However, I have spent a great deal of time watching this mollusc and have yet to discover what it preys on, or its method of feeding.

There doesn't appear to be any hard evidence that this species actually drills holes in other shells. It may just smother its prey in a similar fashion to harp shells and baler shells. The lack of dead bivalve shells in the area would tend to support this suggestion.


Above left: With its voluminous foot completely enveloping a red-mouthed stromb shell containing its resident hermit crab, this articulated harp shell Harpa articularis will smother its prey and then eat it while buried beneath the sand.
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Old 30-04-2003, 08:07 AM
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Above right: Beneath the thorny sea star lives its commensal crab Lissocarinus orbicularis.
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Old 30-04-2003, 08:11 AM
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There are at least three other species of moon snails that inhabit the area but. little is known of their habits and behaviour. However, at last we have their pictures and hopefully as we dive more and learn more, all will be revealed.

There are a zillion half-finished stories in our quest to understand nature and we know less about underwater nature than anywhere else on the planet. Unless we, as divers, participate in 'Adventures in Learning' programmes, our ignorance will reflect that of the rest of the world who have little reason to care unless we tell them what they have to lose.

For more information check this website:

www.nevillecoleman.com.au

or

Email : Neville Coleman's World of Water -
worldofwater@nevillecoleman.com.au



Below: Resembling a piece of dead seagrass this robust ghost pipefish Solenostomus robustus even mimics the way its chosen model wafts along the bottom in current or filtration of a swell. Strangely enough I have yet to see this species at night, though its relation the harlequin ghost pipefish is often seen at night.
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