Divers sometimes think, that Dive Guides have Superpowers. But finding Critters is not about having a build in Magic Radar or X-Ray Eyes. Okay, Good Dive Guides do have excellent eyes, but they mainly score with local knowledge of the dive sites and knowledge of the Habitats and “Micro Habitats”. And this is actually not that difficult to learn. Basicly it is about knowing where to look. If you are screening a whole divesite for a peanut sized critter it is quite tricky. But if you can narrow down the location to smaller patches it gets much easier. One very good (and easy) example are Featherstars or Crinoids.
Crinoids are usual suspects on virtually all dives in the indo-pacific region. And the presence of their multiple colour variations not only makes divesites visually more attractive, they are also home to several critters. In Lembeh Strait it is almost impossible to find a Crinoid that is not inhabited by some small Creature.
Most commonly found are without doubt the Crinoid Shrimp and the Elegant Squat Lobster. These little Crustaceans match the colour and live constantly within the Featherstar. While the Shrimp stays withing the branches, the Squat Lobster is mainly found around the “legs” of the Crinoid.
Another Critter that lives permanently within its feathery home is the Crinoid Clingfish. These little fishes also match the colour of their host and are found usually in the area where the arms are attached to the mouth of the featherstar. They have a very elegant, streamlined body and a very cute face. they are worth spending some time, as they make excellent photo subjects.
But not all Critters stay “full time” in the Crinoids. Some are seasonal guests that like featherstars but are not restricted to them. The Crinoid Cuttlefish – as the name suggests – likes Crinoids but also leaves the Crinoid for hunting or moves on to another Crinoid. It can be also found in soft corals, soft coral rubble or reef rubble.
Other visitors are Juvenile Zebra Batfish or Ornate Ghostpipefish which benefit of the excellent camouflage the Crinoids offer them. But like the Cuttlefish they can also move on to different Crinoids or other shelters.
For Photographers, Videographers or just for normal divers there is one more point we would like to emphasise: Critters should never be harassed in their environment. But poking the crinoid with a stick not only stresses the shrimp itself … in mainly also makes the Crinoid move its arms. And therefor makes a good shot nearly impossible. Also don’t support dive guides that will poke the critter out and then hold the featherstar with several sticks to let you take the shot. This is a horrible behaviour that you could stop by telling your diveguide not to do it. The best shots in Crinoids are taken anyway without doing this. If you (or your dive guide) observe carefully you’ll find the occasional featherstar with the critter in a prominent position. Then there are no moving arms, then you can take your time to do proper composition and then you will get the shot. So keep your eyes open and enjoy!