Animal of the Month - The Ornate Ghostpipefish
The Ornate Ghostpipefish, also known as the Harlequin Ghostpipefish, is by far one of the top attractions to be witnessed at our house reef, the Bio Rocks, Gili Trawangan. It can also be found at other dive sites like Hans reef and Halik. These dives sites have all got something in common; they hold a lot of hiding places, most particularly the Feather Star. Looking at a feather star side on you can see why these teeny creatures choose it. They swim upside down most of the time fanning out their fantastic fins, camouflaging into the background.
One of the reasons they get there name is because they are so well camouflaged, sometimes popping out of the shadows, looking just like a part of the corals surrounding them. They are found prominently around Gorgonian fans, Sea whips and Feather stars.
They're commonly found in mating pairs, ready to release eggs. The females carry up to 350 eggs in a large ventral brood pouch, this makes it easier to spot the difference between the two. The females are also larger in size growing up to 130mm, with males being around 37% smaller.
The first stages of the Ornate Ghostpipefish's life is a struggle; battling early life in the oceans currents as tiny larvae. Once they have grown a little more mature, they start to settle on the sea floor, transparent in colour, protecting themselves from bigger predators. Before long they begin to mature even more, until they are old enough to breed they head up to an area in which is both great for hiding in and finding a mate. This is where they gain their fantastic colourings, camouflaging aside feather stars, beautiful reds, whites and, the most common on Gili Trawangan, the black Ghostpipefish.
Ghostpipefish come in many other forms, another species that is spotted off the coast of the Gilis is the Robust Ghostpipefish. This species mimics the sea grasses closer to the shore or drifts in the currents along the sandy sea bed.
They feed using their long snout, sucking up small crustaceans that swim near it's habitat.
These fish make fantastic pictures and because they are relatively slow swimmers, they make it very easy for the photographer as well. With this in mind try not to disturb them for too long or use the flash on the camera, as it will move them out of their home, not allowing others to enjoy their beauty!