CRITTER: Meet ‘opule the Pearl Wrasse

Unless you really know your Hawaiian fish you would think that these two fish are completely different species. One is red and black with white dots that look like a string of pearls and the other is blue-green with fine blue lines. They grow to about a foot long and we normally see them on rocky reefs in shallow water.

CRITTER: Meet awa the Milkfish

Shark! That is what I often hear surfers yell when we are surfing out at Hanalei Bay in the spring because they see on the surface a big dorsal fin coming right at them. The Milkfish lives most of its time out at sea where it filter feeds on plankton and shrimp.

CRITTER: Kauai’s Most Unique Marine Creature : The Plate Coral

Yes, this is an animal, even though it looks just like a concrete patio deck with flower pots on top growing weird plants in them! Very few people in Hawai‘i have ever seen this coral even though there is a huge colony of it growing right out in front of the St Regis Hotel in Kaua‘i.

CRITTER: Meet the Varicose Phyllidia Nudibranch

Out on the Hawaiian reef, we have many different types of sea slugs and nudibranchs and the Varicose Nudibranch are the most commonly seen by divers and snorkelers. These three-inch-long slugs stand out on the brown reef because they are yellow, black and blue colors and look like a little pile of scrambled eggs on the reef.

CRITTER: Meet ponuhunuhu the Stareye Parrotfish

Most of our parrotfish species here in Hawai‘i are called uhu but one species has a totally different Hawaiian name. Uhu feed mostly on coral, biting off chunks then digesting the soft coral polyps while pooping out the crushed coral structure.

CRITTER: Meet ‘ala’ihi the Goldline Squirrelfish

This eight-inch-long fish with huge eyes and forked tail are common out on the Hawaiian reef but divers and snorkelers rarely see them. They are usually found in caves and only venture out at night to feed on small shrimp and crabs.

CRITTER: Meet makua-o-ka-lipoa the sleepy sponge crab

The first time I saw a giant foot wide Sleepy Sponge Crab while scuba diving I had no idea what I was looking at. I was just shooting video of a white sponge growing on top of a brown rock back in a dark cave and all of a sudden the rock stood up and slowly walked away! Turns out it was not a rock but a huge round crab covered in brown fuzz with a live sponge on its back and huge white-tipped pincers.

CRITTER: Meet the snowflake coral

Scuba diving on an outer reef at Sharks Cove Oahu one day in the winter I made a coral discovery by accident. There was some surf so no one else was out diving that day but I was out beyond the waves in relatively calm water but the swell was creating an underwater surge that was like being in a washing machine, but at 40 feet deep!

CRITTER: Meet our sleepy sea turtles

As a marine biologist and teacher I often get calls from the public letting me know that there is a dead sea turtle up on the beach here in Hawaii.

CRITTER: Crustose coralline algae: Lava reef cement

Giant waves have been crashing on the lava coastline in Kauai for millions of years. These waves break down the lava rock over time but we still have nice flat lava reefs we surf over. Why aren’t our reefs all ground up into sand? A million years of crashing waves should have reduced our porous lava reefs into rubble.

CRITTER: There’s an easy way to determine the sex of lobsters

There are many rules and regulations about catching lobsters for food, depending what part of the world you live in. Many countries and the state of Hawai‘i have lobster seasons, and also forbid the taking of female lobsters. The problem is most people do not know how to sex a lobster!

CRITTER: Meet pohaku puna the finger coral

The giant finger coral is one of the most common coral species in Hawai‘i, but are often missidentified. This coral can grow for hundreds of years and build an entire reef over time, and when you are walking in downtown Waikiki you are standing on a massive fossil reef of this coral species!

CRITTER: Meet the Long-Handed Spiny Lobster

I was diving down a steep underwater 400 foot cliff near the island of Ni‘ihau and at about 100 feet deep my dive buddy pointed into a hole in the cliff to show me something interesting to take a video of.

CRITTER: Meet pupu’ala the Hebrew Cone Shell

Almost every jewelry store in Hawai‘i sells puka shell necklaces but very few people know where these puka shells come from! Hawaii is very unique because we have large surf that crashes directly onto our reefs and beaches grinding up corals and shells. This is what makes our beach sand so beautiful but it makes it very hard to find whole shells up on the beach.