Phyllodesmium, bevy of maidens

what's the difference between these two animals?
Sometimes, I can't believe the things I'm seeing underwater. Yesterday, we dropped down onto volcanic, black sand at a site called Black Magic, South Sangean, Indonesia. Julie Edwards was checking out a black coral bush, and as I drifted by, she indicated that there was something ahead that I should photograph. I swam over to the area she pointed to, but didn't see anything on the sand other than a few clumps of Xenia sp. octocorals. But upon closer inspection, I discovered something much more interesting.

The critter on the left-hand side of the image in this post is an undescribed Phyllodesmium sp. Phyllodesmium rudmani nudibranch. It looks almost exactly like Xenia, which is the octocoral upon which it preys, and is an example of how bizarre underwater animals can look. I can't even imagine the evolutionary process that caused this particular nudibranch to evolve in such a manner! We were all really excited to see this guy. Shortly after we discovered him, a sandstorm of divers swept through, making photography impossible (it was actually really funny -- Cor, Norb and I were all laughing at the amazing display of clusterfuckery). It took 20 minutes to clear up, after which Norb went back in for his shots.

Bevy of maidens

On the way to our dive site this morning, we passed a nondescript pinisi sailing vessel. On the top deck of the boat were a dozen women in white tank-tops doing stretching exercises as a photographer (also a woman) stood on the roof, taking pictures. Needless to say, the image of a bunch of women stretching served as a potent distraction during the entire dive. There is perhaps nothing more unfair than presenting so many women (from afar) to the participants of a typical underwater photography expedition. :)

Also, I got an e-mail from Douglas Seifert. Apparently, we missed him and Ron & Valerie Taylor at KU DE TA in Bali by a single day. Too bad! I'll probably see Douglas in July, but I have no idea when I will cross paths with the Taylors again...