What’s your marine biology Bucket List?

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

I’ve been working on whale sharks for a few years now, but I’ve never been lucky enough to see the next-most famous filter feeding shark, the more temperate basking shark.  What a mouth!

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

Partly for the name, partly for the bizarre habits and partly to taste one, I’d love to dig a duck one day.

5. Leatherback turtle – Dermochelys coriacea

Not a little one either.  I want to see a grizzled old giant who could tell me what the pelagic zone was like a half a century ago.  What a magnificent animal.

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

Garden eels –Heteroconger, Gorgasia, Taenioconger

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

Leafy sea dragon – Phycodurus equus

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:

Christmas Island red crab – Geocarcoidea natalis

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

Yeti crab – Kiwa hirsuta

A hydrothermal vent specialist

Thresher shark – Alopias vulpinus

Easily the most amazing tail of any shark.

Bioluminescence.  I chose firefly squid – Watasenia scintillans

22 Replies to “What’s your marine biology Bucket List?”

  1. great list, i’d kill to see some Giant Australian Cuttlefish. I’ve always wanted to see a box jelly as well (that may not end well, but would still love to see one)

  2. I’d want to see these all in the wild, well except for 10 — my list would be: 10. vent crabs 9. mimic octopus 8. any Nudibranchia , 7. Dumbo Octopus 6. Leafy sea dragons 5. Stonefish 4. All of the crabs on Christmas Island 3 the unofficially named “Hoff Crab” (type of Yeti crab) 2. Harlequin Shrimp & 1. BLOBFISH! (Before it goes extinct :< )

  3. Off the top of my head:

    – Coelacanth
    – Weedy Seadragon
    – The Bloop
    – This Crew: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xeOSXtBCY30
    – Giant Pacific Octopus, for a hug: https://fbcdn-sphotos-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-snc7/422358_10150557971047482_5835757481_8893097_1014563323_n.jpg
    – Sea Pens in the tannin-stained waters of the Sunken Valley
    – Any critter found in a stretch of water-filled cavern between two cenotes in Mexico, preferably near Chichen Itza (had to throw a freshie in there)
    – Sharktopus (I kid..I kid!!) make that a cookie-cutter shark
    – Colossal squid
    – Daryl Hannah (though Merbellas would be an acceptable substitute)
    – Nessie (okay, another freshie)

  4. My bucket list:
    (Which is more action than observation).
    Swiming with Anthias in the Red Sea.
    Observing Riftia at a hydrothermal
    vent (vs vent crabs).
    Swimming with Whale Sharks; if riding in the
    pressure wave is even close to surfing, I’m in.
    And not in any particular order:
    Galapagos Marine Iguana while
    eating his algae lunch.
    Polar Bear (underwater of course).
    Items stolen from others:
    Leafy Sea Dragons
    Basking Shark
    Blue Marlin
    and the Flying Squid which
    I heard of the first time here.
    Thanks. I fun making this list.

  5. My own bucket list:

    Humboldt squid
    Any cone snail
    Spanish dancer
    Great white shark
    Whale shark
    Leafy seadragon
    Leatherback turtle
    Blue whale

  6. See? Everyone picks the leafy seadragon. That’s one reason I picked the weedy seadragon for my first tattoo. ;)

    As for the cone snail, I actually “caught” one while skindiving in the waters of Belize. I took off my fin and bootie, filled the bootie with air, and used it like a slurp-gun. Probably not the smartest thing I ever did.

  7. These are awesome lists!

    My additions:
    horseshoe crab
    yeti crab
    ping pong tree sponge
    mantis shrimp
    vase sponge
    thrasher shark
    giant manta ray
    that super old seagrass meadow in the Mediterranean
    garden eels

    Already Listed Above:
    marine iguana
    whale shark

  8. I’d like to in the midst of baitball action, birds diving from above, sharks coralling from below, David Attenborough narrating next to me.

  9. 1 – a living Polychelidae, seing them in alcool isn’t sufficient
    2 – a horseshoe crab (too bad, they don’t live on European coast)
    3 – an Architeuthis dux or/and an Humbolt squid.
    4 – a dancing yeti crab
    5 – bioluminescence of mesopelagic critters in situ
    6 – a large mantis shrimp
    7 – a whale shark
    8 – a blue whale

  10. I’m gonna bum you out just a little: there isn’t much bow wave on a whale shark. They’re so streamlined that you don’t even feel them before contact is made; I have taken surprise bumps on a number of occasions. You can get a *little* lift if you swim above their pec fin, but you really shouldn’t be that close anyway: that tail is like a swinging ping pong table and can do you some damage if you aren’t extremely careful

  11. I was lucky enough to see a juvenile basking shark in the waters of my hometown in South Devon a couple of years ago. Just seeing that unmistakable shadow – with its mouth open! – gliding alongside the boat was enough to send me into such excitement to take a photo I tripped over a step and was bruised for a week. Worth it.

    I’m with you on the blue whale. While I’m not wild about this guy’s approach, the shot at 2:13 onwards is incredible: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=HVtw94PJ8XA#!

  12. 1 – Spikefin Goby – Discordipinna griessingeri
    2 – Bearded Filefish – Anacanthus barbatus
    3 – Spawning Christmas tree worms (really, the image is beautiful)

  13. For blue whale sightings, try the south coast of Sri Lanka. The local whale-watching boat trip has had daily sightings for the last month.

    This Monday, I saw five of them. I almost cried.

  14. If you’re in the US and can’t travel to Sri Lanka (SO JEALOUS, Ed…sounded AMAZING) you can also come here to SoCal! Blue whales are frequently off Santa Barbara in summer, and we frequently see them just off La Jolla (San Diego) as well. Here’s a video I took this spring.

  15. Swimming with Whale Sharks; if riding in the
    pressure wave is even close to surfing, I’m in.
    And not in any particular order:
    Galapagos Marine Iguana while
    eating his algae lunch.

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