Say hello to this little tidepool goby. It's a frillgoby, in the genus Bathygobius, one of three frillgobies in Hawaiʻi. Is it a whitespotted frillgoby or a cocos frillgoby? Hard to tell, unless youʻre willing to count scale rows and fin rays (thanks for the i.d. help, Keoki Stender and the extensive website: MarinelifePhotography.com), but both are common in our tidepools, and both can display a banded pattern at will. The flathead, a.k.a cheekscale frillgoby is another possibility, though it tends to have a wider, flatter, and darker head. All the frillgobies here are small guys, getting no longer than three to four inches, and gobies in general, are small fishes, and bottom-feeders. The frillgobies tend to make good marine aquarium pets, as they are pretty happy-go-lucky towards tankmates, though not so much to their kin. Gobies are known for their fused pelvic fins that help them hold fast against the wave surges, or in the freshwater species, (ʻoʻopu wai) against the stream flow as well as in locomotion upstream to their niche. No matter that the force is not with them.
A friendly nettle, this māmaki. No stinging hairs to make the harvesting of its leaves uncomfortable, so pluck away and put the kettle on to steep up a little tea. This is the culturally important and endemic plant, Pipturus albidus. It is highly variable in height, leaf size, and coloring. Some can be described as trees; others as shrubs. Leaves can be purple-veined or white-veined. All sand-papery and serrated along their margins, māmaki leaves can be as large twelve inches, and vary in color from light green, through dark green, even reddish-green. The reddish leaves seem to do better in sunnier spots, according to the Native Plants Hawaiʻi website, though partial shade and moist conditions seem most suitable for all varieties. It makes sense then, that it is found throughout the islands, but not Kahoʻolawe or Niʻihau. Inconspicuous flowers are borne along the leaf axils, and become small whitish fruits which, in olden times, were used medicinally for a variety of ailments. The plant was also widely used in the making of kapa. Letʻs not forget the importance of māmaki to the two native butterflies, the Kamehameha butterfly and the Blackburn butterfly, both of which use the plant as a host for their larvae.
No mistaking the barber pole stripes of the Banded Coral Shrimp, Stenopus hispidus, who offer their own version of a close shave. These colorful decapods belong to one the families of cleaner shrimp known for plucking ectoparasites and injured tissue off of fish such as tangs and morays. Setting up shop in tide pools and shallow waters (though they have been observed at greater depths), the banded coral shrimp often advertise their services by hanging upside-down in a crevice or reef ledges and waving their three pairs of very long, white antennae. These can be two to three times longer than the body of the shrimp, which is around two inches or so, and are used to palpate those in need of cleaning, as well as serving as sensors to help the shrimp move about at dusk, when it becomes active. They run the mom and pop shops of the reef- they are often found in pairs patrolling, defending, and servicing a square meter or so of the fish-rich waters. They'll also munch on other sea fare if cleaning clientele are low. In the reef ecosystem, these candy cane shrimp certainly have earned their stripes.
Noticed any circular brown patches in your lawn? If so, you may also have seen this guy, the fiery skipper, Hylephila phyleus, first seen on Oʻahu in 1970; they have since been found throughout the islands. The larva of this small but feisty member of the Hesperiidae family love to munch down on grass, including Bermuda, St. Augustine, heck, even crabgrass will do. The caterpillars are rarely seen, and are thought to be nocturnal feeders; when not actively eating the lawn, they roll themselves up in leaves tucked neatly into the thatch to escape detection. As adults, these inch or so skippers are known for their fast flight, in search of nectar from lantana and tropical milkweed, among others. When not racing around, males will perch for females. Fiery skippers at rest hold their wings in a triangular shape, often with the forewings folded up and the hindwings splayed out like plane wings. Males can be distinguished from females by color, the males a more fiery orange, the females browner. And they love your green, green grass of home.
Todayʻs post features the flashy and silvery āhole, as tasty today as they were in days of old. Their high tolerance for fluctuating salinities and temperatures made them an excellent choice for fish ponds, and they were also used in ceremonies "to chase away evil spirits and for love magic" according to Nā Puke Wehewehe ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi. These flagtails have a deeply forked tail, large eyes, and can reach sizes around eight or so inches. During the day, adults school on or near coral reefs where they get plenty of wave action; at night they disperse to forage. Subadults can be found congregating in fairly shallow waters. Waiāhole on Oahu and Keāhole Point on the Big Island are two place names that reveal the prevalence and cultural significance of the āhole.
Until recently, it was thought that there was just one species of āhole here; fisherman, though, recognized two morphotypes, and recent DNA analysis* has confirmed the knowledge of the locals. Kuhlia xenura and Kuhlia sandvicensis are difficult to tell apart, but as juveniles (juvies are called āholehole) Kuhlia sandvicensis sport zebra-like markings on the head, favor tidepools with an open-water connection, and do not appear to venture well up into freshwater streams as their more abundant counterparts do. Despite its species name, Kuhlia sandvicensis is not endemic to Hawaiʻi, but xenuria is - this mix-up a result of the earlier taxonomic confusion. No matter to the fishermen though, who know theyʻre both ʻono loa.
* ASPECTS OF THE BEHAVIORAL ECOLOGY, LIFE HISTORY, GENETICS, AND MORPHOLOGY OF THE HAWAIIAN KUHLIID FISHES by Lori Keene Benson, 2002.
welcomes you to visit with the all the wonderful flora and fauna that we share this lovely aina with.