Posts Tagged ‘puffer fish’

Photo: Jennifer Junghans.
Jennifer Junghans had long dreamed of traveling to the Galapagos to swim with the marine iguanas. Today’s story is about her visit.

My college classmate Jean has purchased her ticket. She bought tickets for her daughters and grandchildren, too. They’re determined to kiss Covid good-bye this year and go see the magical Galapagos Islands.

So for Jean, here are some thoughts about what she might see, courtesy of radio show Living on Earth.

“Writer Jennifer Junghans had always dreamed of going to the Galapagos to swim with the marine iguanas. In 2017 she finally had her chance, and although the iguanas stayed high and dry, the experience brought her up close with blue-footed boobies and blacktip sharks, and face-to-face with a curious pufferfish. Jennifer shares her story of visiting ‘the remote wilderness of her dreams’ with Aynsley O’Neill, who spent a memorable summer studying in the Galapagos. …

“JENNIFER JUNGHANS: For as long as I can remember, I’ve dreamed of traveling to the Galapagos Islands to free dive with the ancient marine iguanas and roam the archipelago as Darwin did as he unraveled our story of evolution.

“He found little value in the marine iguana, insulting their physical appearance, intelligence and behavior. But I fell in love with them when I saw a photo in National Geographic of [marine] iguanas swimming underwater.

“I longed to be right there among them, these gentle giants that often look like statues on land armored in scales with faces that resemble a gentler cousin of tyrannosaurus rex, and snaggle-toothed spines that jut from head to tail, eyes that stare and large claws at the end of hands that look strangely like our own.

“Then, in 2017, I disembarked a small plane from Ecuador and stepped into the remote wilderness of my dreams. …

“Here, the animals are abundant and unafraid. In one startling panoramic view, blue-footed boobies dive like torpedoes into turquoise water.

“Sea lion pups with giant dark globes for eyes and sand all over their faces follow us as they wait for their mothers to return with food. And colossal numbers of my beloved marine iguanas bask in the sun to warm themselves. …

“At night when we anchor at sea, sea lions jump up to rest and sleep on the stern of our boat and we wait for black-tip sharks to appear just below the surface. …

“I gasp when they appear. Several have come and we peer overboard, the mystery of how big the next one will be or how close it will come or from which direction electrifies my senses. In their presence, Hollywood’s characterization of these beings as man-eating predators crumbles and I feel an undeniable resurrection of a connection once lost.

“Out here in the wilderness, … where the planet pulses according to its natural rhythms, it all makes sense.

“We take a long hike up rocky terrain to where Blue-footed Boobies have gathered to mate and raise their young. White puffs of down stretch their gaping beaks upward from beneath their mother’s wing and by the magic of serendipity, we witness the flamboyant courtship dance. …

“But it’s a tiny pufferfish that touches me most. Several swim up to me as I snorkel but one stays. She fans her fins, hovering right in front of me, observing me as intently as I observe her. We stay like this, face-to-face, for several minutes. I’ve never felt so acknowledged or seen. …

“As different as we look, transcending millions of years of evolution, we come from the same origin — in fact we share strikingly similar genomes with pufferfish — and something inside me innately knows it. 

“I never did swim with the marine iguanas as I’ve dreamed of. They spent most of their time basking on land even though they depend on the algae clinging to rocks in the sea, but my time here has given me something greater. Wandering among these wild animals at every turn, I attune to how life unfolds and exists when we are the visitor. …

“AYNSLEY O’NEILL: Thank you, Jennifer, I loved to hear that. I have to say I was extremely excited to get to speak to you, because coincidentally, I spent some time in the Galapagos Islands, in fact, during July of 2017, so we must have been there overlapping at the same time.

“JUNGHANS: Oh, my goodness! I wonder if we crossed paths?

“O’NEILL: [What] are the chances? I was very fortunate that I got to spend some time with each of the animals that you wrote [about], except for maybe the puffer fish. But I have to say, I love that you have an affection for the marine iguanas, because I do, too. … Maybe not the most captivating at first sight.

“JUNGHANS: I almost think they are! I tend to gravitate towards the underdog, always. And so when people see these creatures, and they, they think it’s ugly, or they don’t think it’s worthy of their attention, for me, I see beyond all of that immediately. … I know that there’s a being in their soul just like mine. I love them, so much!

“O’NEILL: I also loved hearing you talk about the sea lions who would jump up to rest near the stern of the boat. I didn’t spend that much time on boats unless I was traveling between islands. But right in front of the school that I was attending was the beach and they would all just come pop up there and hang out with us there.

“JUNGHANS: Yeah, it’s amazing because you are always reminded of the rules, to keep your distance from the animals, and stay away, and don’t touch them, and don’t encourage them. But at the same time, you often find yourself having to move away quickly because they’re following after you, or the sea lions are coming up and touching their noses to yours as you are snorkeling. … I was standing next to this whale skeleton that we had stumbled upon on a beach and my daughter was taking pictures of me and all of a sudden I felt this thing on my back. And it was one of the mockingbirds that had flown onto my bathing suit, crawled up my back! …

“We are used to seeing animals in zoos and aquariums and on television. But [when] you are on the Galapagos, you are witnessing this entirety of this being, and it’s in its natural place. You can sit and stay among them, and observe this kind of life. And we just, we rarely have the opportunity to do that. So it’s, it is wildly magical.”

More at Living on Earth, here. No firewall.

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The website “This Is Colossal” has a lovely bit on a fish with artistic tendencies.

Japanese photographer Yoji Ookata “obtained his scuba license at the age of 21 and has since spent the last 50 years exploring and documenting his discoveries off the coast of Japan. Recently while on a dive near Amami Oshima at the southern tip of the country, Ookata spotted something he had never encountered before: rippling geometric sand patterns nearly six feet in diameter almost 80 feet below sea level. He soon returned with colleagues and a television crew from the nature program NHK to document the origins what he dubbed the ‘mystery circle.’ …

“The team discovered the artist is a small puffer fish only a few inches in length that swims tirelessly through the day and night to create these vast organic sculptures using the gesture of a single fin. …

“Apparently the female fish are attracted to the hills and valleys within the sand and traverse them carefully to discover the male fish where the pair eventually lay eggs at the circle’s center, the grooves later acting as a natural buffer to ocean currents that protect the delicate offspring.” Read more.

Never imagine that there is nothing left to discover. After all, “According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration less than five percent of the world’s oceans have been explored,”

Photo: This Is Colossal.
The male puffer fish makes this nest to attract a female.

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