I have always had a fascination with the tiniest critters on earth. Well, those that can be seen anyway. My favorite toy as a child was a microscope, and my favorite toy as an adult is a camera equipped with super-magnifying lenses. The little bugs in the sea are currently holding my rapt attention as I search for them in hopes of re-creating their environment in my art.
Amphipods are shrimp-like creatures that scavenge their food. They can range in size from 1mm up to 13 inches! But it’s the little guys that I am interested in.
At just a few millimeters this amphipod and its larger upside-down brother were found in Southern California. Amphipods live in every part of the world in both fresh and salt water environments.
During my last trip to the Philippines I discovered that amphipods sometimes make their home in the bottom of tunicates. They are a bit challenging to photograph because the tunicates are sometimes deeper than the camera will focus, so I had to wait patiently for the little bug to crawl up the tube a little to be in focus.
While on a night dive in Romblon, I found a tiny coral polyp with an amphipod trying to hide in side. As I watched, a tiny crab grabbed the amphipod and promptly chewed its head off. It was a brutal spectacle, but part of the harsh reality of the macro world.
Along with amphipods are their cousins, isopods. It can be very difficult to tell the two apart, but isopods are dorsoventrally flattened, and amphipods are compressed from side to side. This isopod under this kelp snail is a good visual example.
My favorite isopod is commonly called the skeleton shrimp. They have segmented bodies and crawl around their habitat in amusing ways. They also carry their eggs like a pregnant lady, and when the babies hatch, they cling to and crawl all over the parent until they are half grown.
They come in different colors, too. This bright yellow skeleton shrimp looks a little creepy.
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