A new aloha (July 7-12, 2009)

July 12th, 2009  

Aikane waving

There can be no better welcome to our new look than a wave from our old friend, Aikane.

Click image to enlarge

The new look

Aloha and welcome to our new front page. Previous visitors will notice that I’ve moved the Summer blog onto the front page, and moved the links around. The idea is to give the most recent activity (i. e. our summer commentaries) more prominence. I felt the old front page sort of buried the blog, so that many visitors were missing a chance to read our delightful prose.

I’m not sure if I’m finished tinkering, so if anyone has suggestions, there is a comment box below, you know. Mahalo for any contributions to the process.

Turtle turnabout

On to what is the most remarkable honu behaviour I’ve seen in 20 years of watching honu underwater.

Last week I posted a short video on YouTube that we called Honu Hassle … with KARMA! The Karma part comes about when a small spotted pufferfish (C. jactator, commonly called a toby) takes a bite out of an obnoxious honu. Watch and see for yourself:

Tobies like to hide under honu and it’s quite common to see them biting the turtles, presumably in an effort to snag a parasite snack. It’s clearly annoying to the honu, since they often flinch when bitten. Occasionally a toby bites repeatedly and you’ll see the honu leave in frustration.

So it was that during a dive this week, I was setting up to photograph a honu when I noticed a toby approaching:

Small toby on approach

A small toby approaches a honu, probably in anticipation of chomping some parasite lunch—and consequently, the turtle as well.

Click image to enlarge

I was preparing to get a picture of the action, when suddenly—CHOMP! Not the toby, the honu! I couldn’t believe what I’d seen. The toby had vanished, and it had all happened so fast I had no chance to click the shutter. I couldn’t believe my eyes, but there was the honu right in front of me, masticating—something. I recovered from my surprise and started to snap pictures. As the honu chewed (not really the right word) the surrounding water started to fill with particles, so I hoped to catch a shot with some evidence of the poor toby’s fate. This sort of thing is completely dependent on luck, and the best I could manage was a shot in which you can just barely see the toby’s tail:

Tale of the toby comes to a sad end

A honu with a mouthful of toby. See inset for the tip of the toby’s tail.

Click image to enlarge

Now, honu are vegetarians. They don’t eat fish. Although immature honu are omnivores during their pelagic stage, when they arrive inshore they switch to a vegetarian diet, like their mature cohorts. Neither of us has ever, ever, in 20 years seen a honu eat a fish. It’s not clear at all why this turtle snapped up the toby. Perhaps this was a case of “I’ve had enough and I’m not going to take it anymore.” I really doubt that it was done for food, because a) as I said, honu don’t eat fish, and b) look at this next picture:

Ewwww, disgusting!

Anthropomorphic perhaps, but doesn’t this honu look disgusted?

Click image to enlarge

Disgusted or not, right after I took that shot the honu spit out the remains of the toby, got up, and swam away. Here’s what was left:

Alas, poor toby

Not really honu food. This toby will never bite another honu.

Click image to enlarge

At this point, I feel like saying, “Now I’ve seen everything,”—but I’m pretty sure I haven’t. Honu are full of surprises.

Featured pic

As I’ve written before, we have mixed feelings when we see little recruits. While they are adorably cute and their carapaces are simply spectacular (they’ve not had time to develop the coating of algae that will dull their shells) at Honokowai it’s the really young turtles who historically have suffered most from fibropapilloma tumors. Our experience is that they all get infected, it progresses faster, and it is more devastating in recruits. Nevertheless, the sight of a recruit is always a joy to behold. There’s one living right now about 100 meters from shore, and Ursula got a wonderful picture that we’d like to share with you.

Honokowai’s new recruit

This little honu is the smallest we’ve seen this summer. I’m sure I don’t have to point out the dazzling shell.

Click image to enlarge

Best of all, this turtle’s eyes look clear, meaning that so far there’s no FP. (Our experience is that FP starts in the eyes.)

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9 Responses to “A new aloha (July 7-12, 2009)”

  1. Peter on July 12th, 2009 12:54 pm

    Hm. It seems I’ve busticated our archives a little. I will fix them shortly…

  2. Peter on July 12th, 2009 1:05 pm

    Bah. A total mess in Internet Explorer, which I refuse to use because it does just this: breaks properly written html. I’ll work on it. Meanwhile, I suggest you use a browser that works properly.

  3. Isabel on July 14th, 2009 4:50 am

    The picture of the little honu is breath taking, you always manage to get such beautiful pictures, proud of you both.

  4. Nancy on July 16th, 2009 4:18 pm

    Uncle Peter and Ursula, I love the pictures. I hope that your new “recruit” is able to stay healthy!

  5. Russell Constable on July 19th, 2009 3:07 pm

    Great you tube clip and the shell on that little turtle is magnificent. I would like to thank you for sharing your angina story with us. A great story about positive change and my sincere admiration for the way you both worked together to beat the problem!I hope you have many many dives ahead of you!!

  6. aniah brown on March 15th, 2010 7:46 am

    i looke at cool pics of your seaturtles they were pretty cool i liked the website alot it was really fun to explore this website i go to foose elemantry im in the third grade and im nine i hope you respond ypours truely aniah denee brown thanks for making this really cool website p.s i really really really hope you respond

  7. aniah brown on March 15th, 2010 7:47 am

    i looke at cool pics of your seaturtles they were pretty cool i liked the website alot it was really fun to explore this website i go to foose elemantry im in the third grade and im nine i hope you respond ypours truely aniah denee brown thanks for making this really cool website p.s ,y teacher thanks the website is really cool too!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. aniah brown on March 15th, 2010 7:50 am

    hello your not responding

  9. Peter on March 16th, 2010 3:02 am

    Aloha Aniah!

    I wasn’t responding because I was still in bed!

    Mahalo for the kind words. (That’s “thank you” in Hawaiian.) Thanks also for caring about the turtles. They need all the friends they can get.

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