Welcome to the Marine Mammal and wildlife Research and Community Development Expedition blog where you can keep up to date with all the happenings and information from Kenya

Monday, June 13, 2011

Colourful underwater courtship displays

Yesterday dawned, dark and drizzly, but by the time the last weetabix was eaten the sky had cleared and snorkelling was a go! We headed for the Mpunguti Marine Reserve, and getting there was like a rollercoaster! The rainy season is also the windy season, and the waves were huge! Somewhat unsurprisingly we saw no dolphins; if they had been there a doubt we would have spotted them over the white caps. When we reached the transect, it was bright and sunny, the water was warm and there were no waves in this sheltered bay. Splashdown!

The colourful displays of the male cuttlefish
 Today, in addition to the countless colourful little damselfish, there were larger angelfish and butterfly fish and a lone pufferfish. At the end of the transect we were getting ready to call the boat over to collect us, but Cathy suddenly pointed into the deeper water – a flash of colour and a fluttering fin – it was a large cuttlefish! With another one next to it…
The male and female communicating through colours flashing across their bodies

We watched intently as their colour changes flashed across their bodies, from pure white to mottled brown to grey and black. As we watched them swim around each other, rippling their tentacles, we realised it was a courtship dance! The male did most of the colour changing and the female stayed mostly sandy coloured. It was like watching a cryptic form of sign language; the colours clearly having a meaning but we couldn’t comprehend them. It was something unique I have never experienced before and won’t be forgetting anytime soon!