Spotted Moray Eel in Cozumel, Mexico on July 19th, 2021

Another fantastic encounter on July 19th was with a Spotted Moray Eel.

Make no mistake, this is a big Eel. We can’t see it’s full length but it’s pretty thick so I bet it’s between 4 and 6 feet long. It’s more common to see a Green Moray Eel but finding a Spotted Moray is less frequent. So I was really excited about this encounter.

I found a couple fantastic online information resources about Spotted Moray Eels. One is Oceana.com. Their page about Spotted moray Eels says, “Spotted morays, like most morays, have poor eyesight and rely heavily on their sense of smell. For that reason, it can be quite easy for SCUBA divers to approach these fish, but caution should be taken, as the spotted moray’s bite can be strong.” They go on to say,

“In amazing recent research, scientists demonstrated how morays use a second set of jaws in their throats to manipulate food that they have captured. Morays are unable to create suction with their mouths, so their prey has to be manually pushed to the back of the throat, something that is difficult to do without limbs. On land, snakes have a similar problem, but they are able to unhinge their jaws, one at a time, to “walk” their mouths down the prey’s body. Morays do not have that ability, and instead use their second set of jaws to manipulate their food. Attached to the esophagus via strong muscles, these “pharyngeal” jaws reach forward into the mouth, grasp the prey item from the oral jaws, which release at that time, and pull it back to the muscles of the throat. Using slow motion cameras, scientists have been able to video the exchange of food between the two sets of jaws. X-ray images of morays clearly show the pharyngeal jaws and highlight their similarity to the oral jaws.”

I found good video on YouTube of a Spotted moray Eel that shows its “pharyngeal” jaws.

Queen Angelfish in Cozumel, Mexico on July 19, 2021

Cozumel Mexico seems to have a healthy population of Queen Angelfish. During the week I shot lots of footage of Queen Angelfish but the encounter on July 19th turned out to be the best.

The Florida Museum Website has an excellent page on Queen Angelfish. The site describes the fish as, “blue-green with blue and yellow highlights on its fins, and can be differentiated from the similar blue angelfish by the prominent dark ringed ‘crown’ spot on its forehead.” They go on to say, “Its brilliant blue and yellow color easily separates it from all other western Atlantic angelfish species except the blue angelfish (Holacanthus bermudensis). These two species are very similar in coloration but the queen has a dark, ringed spot with blue dots on its forehead that resembles a crown. The queen is also more iridescent than the blue and has a completely yellow tail. These two species have been known to occasionally interbreed and create a hybrid.”

Although I saw many of theses fish while diving, most of them did not let me get that close and were always moving, which made then difficult to capture on video. However, this one swam right at me and gave me a good opportunity for a close look.

Hawksbill Turtle in Cozumel, Mexico on July 19, 2021

Back in July 2021 I took my first trip to Cozumel. Mexico. Although I was diving for five days, one of my favorite encounters happened on Monday the 19th. For the first two-tank morning dives we went to a site named Delilah. Early during the first dive our group encountered a Hawksbill Turtle.

The NOAA Fisheries Website tells us, “In many parts of the world, Hawksbills face the unique threat of being hunted for their beautiful shell, also known as “tortoise shell”, which is used by craftspeople to create many types of jewelry and trinkets. The historical hunting and killing of hawksbills for their shell nearly drove the species to extinction. Today, the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) forbids the trade of any turtle products on the international market, including hawksbill tortoise shell, but illegal hunting continues to represent a threat to the species in many parts of the world.”

I did not realize how close they had come to extinction. I feel fortunate that I have been able to see and video so many of them during my time diving.

The site also mentions, “Hawksbill turtles are omnivorous (feeding on both plants and other animals), but their preferred food in many areas is sea sponges. They will also eat marine algae, corals, mollusks, tunicates, crustaceans, sea urchins, small fish, and jellyfish.”

As you can see from the video, there are lots of healthy coral and sponges on the reef for a turtle to feed on.