Out for Dinner

The Red Sea, Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt

A crinoid (also called 'feather star fish') unfolds and stalks the reef at night at the 'Paradise' dive site, Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.
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Touring Egypt 32: One of nature’s most unusual animals looks like a plant. Divers see these all over the world’s oceans, but we usually don’t think too much about it. Our eyes see a crinoid, and we automatically think of it as a plant. It has roots, branches, and feathery fronds. It has no obvious mouth or eyes. But in reality, it is an animal. It hunts and it moves. Especially at night.

There is so much to see on the reef at night. On this dive, I didn’t even notice the crinoid (also sometimes called “feathery star fish” or “sea lily”). Drifting along at about 60 feet, looking down the focused beam of my dive light, I was pursuing a shy common lionfish. I passed by the “plant” on the rock, focused on my quarry. Having gotten that shot, I turned back and noticed something had changed. The “plant” was gone. I swept the reef with my light and there, on the next rock over, I saw my bright red and orange “plant,” fronds curling and uncurling languidly in the passing current. Skewered in my bright dive light, it suddenly extended its “roots” and slithered quickly out of the beam, “jumping” off the rock. Creepy.

Crinoids are related to starfish. During they day they are normally passive and stationary, effectively hiding in plain sight pretending to be plants. They can and do move at any time, but are far more active and mobile at night. Apparently, they also don’t like bright lights very much. (I guess I don’t very much like a spotlight shined in my face, either.)

(Canon PowerShot G9 in Ikelite case with twin Ikelite DS-125 strobes wired for TTL exposure, integrated lens at 9.9mm, ISO 200, f/5.6 at 1/60 sec.)