Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Curious Ringtail

We all tend to make generalizations about animal behavior as we like things to be neat and tidy and predictable. This is useful as it conditions us to think about what we can expect when we interact with nature. This type of thinking has probably served to allow our species to prosper as it kept cavemen from trying to pet the wild bears back in the day.

Photo Copyright 2012 by Barry Fackler
However, animals can exhibit some individualism, as well. Wrasses tend to be fast-moving swimmers that have almost no interest in associating with divers. The ringtail wrasse (Oxycheilinus unifasciatus) is a toothy predator that often hovers motionless over the reef waiting for prey to approach. The presence of a human interloper usually sends the wrasse off in search of more peaceful hunting grounds. But recently, at Keauhou Bay, I was swimming along when I saw a ringtail in the distance abruptly change course and start swimming casually toward me. I was certain it would change course again before coming very close, but such was not the case.

Photo Copyright 2012 by Barry Fackler

The fish studied me coldly and dispassionately for a few seconds, angling its body around as to get a good look. I got a clear impression of curiosity on the creature's part. This, of course, afforded me the opportunity to fire off several good shots of the wrasse. When it all was over, the fish swam serenely away as did I. I had my photos and the wrasse had whatever thoughts he might have to muse over.

Photo Copyright 2012 by Barry Fackler

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