Photo offers a rare glimpse into underwater family life

Richard Harrington By: Richard Harrington
Date posted: 26 August 2015

Photo offers a rare glimpse into underwater family life Diver and underwater photographer Paul Kay, from the Marine Conservation Society, has recently returned from a summer trip diving in Scottish sealochs.

Photo offers a rare glimpse into underwater family life Diver and underwater photographer Paul Kay, from the Marine Conservation Society, has recently returned from a summer trip diving in Scottish sealochs. Some of the dives were part of the Seasearch programme, to map out underwater habitats around the UK. What may turn out to be the find of the trip came through an investigation of an otherwise unremarkable empty sea shell lying on the seabed. Paul’s attention was drawn by a tiny movement of the shell, and to his immense surprise, a pair of tiny fish were inhabiting it. Paul has an extensive knowledge of British sea fishes, and recognised the pair as a male and female Guillet’s goby Lebetus guilleti. On closer inspection, he also saw several tiny, translucent eggs attached to the surface of the underside of the shell. The realisation dawned on Paul that he was probably witnessing something no-one else may ever have seen - let alone photographed - before. After taking some photos, Paul returned the shell to its original position. Guillet’s is an IUCN “Red List Ø fish, and the smallest fish found in European seas - it grows to a mere 24 mm in length, and was only described as a species as recently as 1971. It has been found only in a handful of places around the UK. In gobies and related fish, it is usually just the male who guards eggs left by a female - usually from early spring onwards. It was assumed that this was the same for Guillet’s goby, but it is so rarely seen that virtually no records exist of their breeding behaviour in the wild. Paul said: “Intriguingly, I moved a shell to find what appears to be a male and female with their eggs on the underside of shell. This is a fascinating behavioural shot. Do they stay together as a pair to brood their eggs? Were they in the process of laying and fertilising eggs at this late stage of the summer? One thing for certain as that this is a very special é’family’ group photo! It also highlights the importance of protecting such habitats. Ø

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