There are so many amazing aquatic species out there, it’s practically impossible for any one person to see them all, even if they dedicated their entire life to marine biology research. To that end, I reckon every good marine bio enthusiast needs a Bucket List of species to strive to see before they die. I’m being really exclusive here – seeing it dead at a market or live in an aquarium counts to the life list. I’ve been lucky enough to see some incredible animals, but here’s the ten species I haven’t seen yet and am determined to before I shuffle off this mortal coil:
10. Humpheaded parrotfish – Bolbometapon muricatum
The largest of all parrotfish, these bad-boys can cruise across a reef like a pack of bulldogs, crunching everything in their path and leaving in their fecal wake the beautiful white beaches we all love so much. Next time you’re kicking back with your Kindle and a pina colada, say a quiet thank-you, or they may just decide to crunch your tarsals next time you go for a dip.
9. Basking shark – Cetorhinus maximus
8. Blue marlin – Makaira nigricans/mazara
The fabled king of billfish, I’d love to reel in a Zane Grey class beast, grab a photo and send it on it’s way to continue terrorising bait balls.
7. Ribbon seal – Histriophoca fasciata
I’ve been lucky enough to work with walrus and even touched a leopard seal once, but the ribbon seal still fascinates me. It’s the Commerson’s dolphin the of the pinniped world
6. Geoduck – Panopea generosa
5. Leatherback turtle – Dermochelys coriacea
4. Oarfish – Regalecus glesne
Probably the longest of all bony fish, I want to see one while blue water diving one day: 30 foot of silver slab rising vertically (which is their normal orientation) from the depths. Wouldn’t that be awesome?
3. Wonderpus – Wunderpus photogenicus
It’s a near tie between the wonderpus and the mimic octopus, but I have to give it to this most incredible octopod. I will see one one day, oh yes, I will see one. It means diving in the heart of the coral triangle, which I haven’t yet done. Reasons to live…
2. Flying squid – Todarodes pacificus
Maybe while I’m over that way I’ll also be lucky enough to see a flying squid. When I first heard of these, I thought they were a joke. No joke, and proof that cephalopods can do anything a fish can do, and more.
1. Blue whale – Balaenoptera musculus
It doesn’t matter where you fall on the cetaceans vs. the rest debate, there is no denying the blue whale. Move over Jurassic Park, this is the largest animal to have lived on this planet. Ever. You can bet if an opportunity ever comes up to see one of these 100 ft, 200 ton behemoths, I’ll drop whatever I’m doing and grab it.
That’s my marine biology bucket list. What’s on yours?
EDIT – I thought I’d add in some of the other fantastic reader suggestions for a marine biologist’s Bucket List:
Coelacanth – Latimeria spp.
In theory a “living fossil” but that phrase is loathed by most professional biologists. Certainly an important step on the path to tetrapody
Ping pong tree sponge – Chondrocladia spp.
Several species of bizarre deep-sea sponges that look more like Christmas ornaments than animals
We have two species of these in the aquarium collection, so I can check this one off, but it sure would be cool to see a whole field of them in their natural setting
You can see these in most major public aquariums these days. Totally spectacular Aussie seahorse relative
Galapagos iguana – There are two species of iguana in the Galapagos, the long faced one Conolophus subcristatus, which is terrestrial, and the marine short-faced one Amblyrhynchus cristatus, which uses that stubby profile to help crop macroalgae in the surf zone. The only known amphibious marine lizard.
Giant tube-worm – Riftia pachyptila
Keystone species in many deep-sea hydrothermal vent communities
Dumbo octopus – Any of several deep midwater dwelling pelagic octopus that have funky accessory flaps on their mantle, rather like elephant ears, that aid in propulsion:
One of the most amazing migrations known consists of a teming horde of these little guys swarming across the Australian territory of Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean
Thresher shark – Alopias vulpinus