*Making the international signal for ‘Go down’*

I don’t know what the weather is like where you are, but it is in the 80s here. Here being the key term. We are in Mexico this week, diving the Palancar Reef off the island of Cozumel. We flew down yesterday. One stop in Atlanta, an easy trip right to the island. Rented a car, picked up a few things at the big grocery store and then drove to the place where we are staying.

We slept in this morning, which was great since, despite it being an easy flight, yesterday was a long day. But, this afternoon, we got on a boat.

We slipped below the waves and went down to the sandy bottom. Look who I found!

So the three of us are underwater this week, my wife, my mother and me. Well, some other people, too, but they don’t really figure much into the tale. Here’s my other dive buddy, now.

That’s a pĂ­ntano, or a sergeant major fish, in the photo with her, but we’ll get to that. But, first, enjoy this yellowtail snapper (Ocyurus chrysurus). It’s a member of an abundant species usually found around reefs. The biggest one ever caught was 11 pounds, it is a commercially important species, both farmed and is fished. In places like Cuba and Brazil it is overfished. The species is at some srisk of overfishing in Mexico, as well.

The yellowtail snapper was first formally described in 1791 by the German naturalist Marcus Elieser Bloch. He said it was local to the “Brazilian seas.” Bloch was an important ichthyologist of the 18th century. A medical doctor by training, Bloch got interested in fish in his 60s when he found fish Carl Linnaeus didn’t identify. He started a collection of specimens from around the world, wrote a 12-volume collection on the subject and is, today, credited with the description of at least 267 new species and 19 genera.

The queen angelfish (Holacanthus ciliaris), notable for the crown it wears. They live in harems. It is a popular fish in the aquarium trade, and you can see why.

The queen angelfish eat sponges, jellyfish, corals, plankton, and algae. Juveniles act as cleaner fish, removing parasites from bigger fish. Carl Linneaus first described the queen angelfish in 1758, in the 10th edition of his Systema Naturae.

Settle in! We have a lot more fish to go. I’ll be dragging out these photos and videos for weeks.

It’ll be a good way to wade through winter, which is a strange thing to contemplate when you’re deep in Mexico.

Hard life, I have to say.

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