Exploring the Andaman Sea (03:14)
Marine diversity attracts visitors to Thailand and Burma, as well as contributing to the local economy. Limestone caves and granite boulders have been colonized by mushroom, staghorn, montipora and dendronephthya soft coral. Crinoids, sea anemones, sea fans and turtle weed also flourish.
Andaman Sea Sharks (03:09)
Leopard sharks, also known as zebra sharks, are a shy species without sharp teeth. Nurse sharks rest in groups in coral reef formations, use sensors to seek out prey and bond in couples.
World's Largest Fish (02:55)
In the Andaman Sea, a female whale shark makes a rare appearance. Growing up to 12 meters long, they feed on plankton and fish eggs and it was recently discovered that they give "birth" rather than laying eggs.
Endangered Andaman Sea Species (01:40)
Shark fins are in high demand in many Asian markets. Because whale sharks don't reach sexual maturity until 25 years, their survival is particularly at risk from hunting.
Cartilaginous Fish (02:20)
Spotted off the coast of Thailand, great reef sharks feed at night and are rarely aggressive. Silver tipped sharks grow larger but are reclusive. White tipped reef sharks are the most common in the Andaman Sea and have slimmer bodies than silver tipped sharks.
Ray Species (04:00)
The blue spotted sting ray is the most common in the Andaman Sea. The larger Jenkins' whipray has a neutral color for camouflage. Blotched fantail rays grow two meters in diameter and aggregate in shoals. Spotted eagle rays carry venom in their tail spines.
Devil Rays (03:40)
Smooth tailed mobula rays are found in the Northern Andaman Sea and feature cephalic fins protruding from either side of its mouth that help it to feed. Giant manta rays grow to a width of over six meters are one of the most intelligent fish. Their gills are sought for Chinese medicine, causing a population decline.
Andaman Sea Eels (04:26)
Giant moray eels use sharp teeth to capture prey. View honeycomb, spotted, yellow edged and white mouth morays. When threatened, the bar fin moray adopts a snake-like posture. The grey faced moray lives with other species such as fimbriated, snowflake and zebra morays that feed on crustaceans.
Andaman Sea Horses (01:22)
The tiger tailed sea horse anchors itself to coral using its tail; view an individual free itself from a sea cucumber. Males of the monogamous species become pregnant, carrying 100 or more fetuses in a pouch on their stomachs.
Elongated Fish Species (01:36)
The blue spotted cornetfish is streamlined for speed and camouflage. The trumpet fish lives in staghorn coral in the Andaman Sea, using three point turns to navigate its habitat.
Koh Tachai Island Marine Diversity (02:45)
Thailand's underwater granite boulders shelter batfish, named for elongated pelvic fins. Young angel fish have distinct markings from adults to protect them from territorial attacks. The Similan Islands host regal and blue face angel fish.
Butterfly and Banner Fish (01:53)
The Andaman Sea hosts many species in its coral reefs, including copperband, mayors, black pyramid, and raccoon—often mixed with red tail butterfly fish. Banner fish are characterized by a long dorsal fin.
Similan Islands Reef Fish (02:37)
The moorish idol bears similarities to the banner fish but belongs to a different family. Sailfin and powder blue tang feed on algae in the Andaman Sea; unicorn fish have tail spines for defense. View crescent tailed big eyes, juvenile emperor red snappers, Andaman sweetlips and oriental sweetlips.
Grouper Fish (03:32)
Brown marbled groupers are among the largest bony fish in the Andaman Sea. An individual potato grouper enjoys contact with divers. The humphead wrasse develops a protruding hump on its forehead, as does the humphead parrot fish whose teeth are fused together to form a beak.
Andaman Sea Predator Fish (02:54)
The great barracuda possesses speed and razor-sharp teeth, preying on small fish as do giant trevallys. Puffer fish swallow water to inflate their bodies when threatened. The black spotted puffer fish is the most common and the starry puffer is the largest.
Yellow Box Fish (01:55)
Covered with hexagonal bony plates fused together for protection, the species releases toxins if stressed and becomes purple as adults. The male white spotted box fish has a distinct coloration and horn nosed box fish develop horns on their snouts.
Porcupine Fish (01:42)
The species is covered with spines that inflate when threatened, similar to puffer fish. Their large eyes are vulnerable to attack and they feed on bivalve mollusks.
Brightly Colored Reef Fish (02:13)
Scrolled filefish, also known as leather jackets, are close relatives to triggerfish. The clown triggerfish is one of the most striking species in the Andaman Sea, possessing a sharp dorsal fin it raises when threatened. Titan trigger fish aggressively defend their territory.
Andaman Sea Decapod Crustaceans (02:49)
Painted spiny lobsters have barbed antennae to defend against attack. View long legged spiny lobsters, rock cleaner shrimp, durban hinge-beak shrimp and banded coral shrimp. The unusual swimming crab's hind legs are flattened into paddles, enabling it to swim.
Andaman Sea Mollusks (04:21)
Mole, tiger and arabian cowries are sought after for their colorful shells. Sea slugs use antennae known as rhinophores to touch, taste and smell. Colorful nudibranchs feed on stinging creatures and lay eggs in ribbons. Fluted giant clams siphon water, extracting oxygen and plankton through respiratory feeding.
Andaman Sea Fish Formations (03:16)
In 2003, Thailand authorities deliberately sank a Chinese fishing vessel off the Similian Islands to create an artificial reef. Tightly organized and occasionally inter-special groups of fish are known as a school—working together to avoid predators. View cardinal, striped catfish and snappers.
Schooling Predator Fish (02:25)
The Andaman Sea has several species of schooling barracudas, including big-eyed, yellow tailed, black fin and saw tooth. Dog toothed tuna and big eyed trevallys also hunt and socialize in numbers.
Fish Defense Strategies (01:45)
Pastel tile fish use their mouths to build large mounds of dead coral, diving head first into the rubble to avoid danger. Dwarf whip and blue spotted sting rays dig into the sea bed to hide from view, while the day octopus ejects a cloud of ink.
Passive Marine Species Camouflage (02:11)
The straight stick pipe fish mimics a sea whip waving in the ocean current. Ghost pipefish change color to blend in with their environment. Giant frogfish resemble sponges, walk on evolved fins and open their mouth when threatened.
Scorpion Fish (04:09)
Bearded scorpion fish and stone fish have poisonous spines for defense and change their color to mimic their surroundings to ambush prey. A passenger ferry sang between Phuket and Phi Phi Island, creating a new coral reef home to the red lion fish and spot fin lionfish.
Andaman Star Fish (01:02)
The crown of thorns starfish releases a neurotoxin that causes paralysis and feeds on stony coral; human intervention has been necessary to preserve reef ecosystems. Sea urchin spines are designed to break off and remain in the flesh of attackers.
Andaman Reef Species Relationships (04:11)
Small fish live between the spines of the crown of thorns star fish for protection in a commensal relationship. Clown fish are immune to anemone poison and take refuge among their tentacles. In return, their feces provide food for the host in a mutually beneficial relationship. Porcelain anemone crabs also shelter in polyps.
Andaman Jelly Fish (02:15)
Tube anemones are often located in isolation on the sea bed, sheltering crabs from predators. Stinging jelly fish attract hitch hikers such as small sardines. Once they lose their defenses, they are eaten by shoals of streets spinefoots—normally herbivores.
Feeding Frenzy (02:00)
Bluefin travally team with goldsaddle goatfish to hunt for small fish in an Andaman reef. Smalltooth emperor fish switch dark patterns on and off to deter predators. A school of mullet filters out edible material from sand. Titan triggerfish display dexterity when feeding and attract a variety of species.
Andaman Sea Hunting Tactics (02:52)
Black spotted puffers lack agility but can feed on anemones by avoiding poisonous tentacles. Trumpet fish swim with hosts or in schools to sneak up on small fish. Banded sea kraits are among the most poisonous marine snakes; although adapted to the water they surface to breathe every few minutes.
Sea Turtles (03:18)
The hawksbill turtle is the most common sea turtle in the Andaman. Their wide range diet includes nidarians and jellyfish, but they have trouble distinguishing food from plastic. The green turtle has just one plate between its eyes. Snorkelers hand feed an individual in the Andaman Sea.
Specialized Andaman Sea Species (02:03)
Harlequin shrimp work in pairs to eat sea star legs, which are later regenerated—allowing them to feed on the same individual again. Their diet is restricted to one species, a phenomenon known as obligate predation. Peacock manta shrimp use their claws to hammer at prey, producing an audible effect.
Marine Cleaner Species (02:58)
Skunk cleaner shrimps scour giant morays for parasites—and even clean a diver's teeth. Blue streak cleaner wrasse clean other species in specific "stations," keeping host fish free of disease. Sometimes the service is unwelcome, and false cleaner blennys prey on their hosts' flesh.
Andaman Sea Species Mutualism (04:29)
Larger fish such as zebra sharks, porcupine fish and parrot fish are accompanied by remoras who attach themselves to their host for a free ride, feeding on scraps and parasites in return. Cobias feed on their hosts' feces, favoring manta rays and whale sharks. Rainbow runners clean themselves against their hosts.
Andaman Sea Worms (01:01)
Feather duster worms are rooted to the reef and feed by filtering water through tentacles. Colorful Christmas tree works embed themselves into porous stony coral, retracting into their chambers when threatened.
Andaman Sea Cucumbers (02:16)
A large burrowing sea cucumber collects food with outer tentacles and uses inner tentacles to feed itself. Grafe sea cucumbers attach tentacles to food and walk over the reef. The amber fish sea cucumber expels waste and breathes through its anus.
Broadcast Spawning (01:23)
Grafe sea cucumbers release their eggs into the current for an unknown mate to fertilize—a breeding strategy also used by anemones and oysters in Andaman coral reefs.
Andaman Sea Squid (02:17)
The pharaoh cuttlefish is among the most intelligent marine species found in the Andaman Sea. They mate face to face, then the female deposits the fertilized eggs in a reef crevice. The bigfin reef squid has a similar mating ritual and individuals change color rapidly to display emotion.
Andaman Sea Octopi (02:18)
A male day octopus stands tall and uses skin texture and color to appear strong. He digs another octopus out of its hiding place—to mate or to drive it away. Another individual strays onto a damselfish's territory, which pecks at its head until it moves on.
Nocturnal Reef Life (02:54)
Andaman sea divers explore at night. A bigfin reef squid feasts on an Indopacific sergeant and a cuttlefish struggles to land a spinefoot prey. Moon jellyfish and a great barracuda drift by. Corals extend their polyps and a honeycomb moray pounces on its prey.
Sleeping Andaman Sea (02:29)
Many reef fishes use rest at night, including the black spotted puffer. Amber parrot fish shelter in crevices and surround themselves in a cocoon of secreted mucus to disguise their scent from sharks. Many species are disoriented by divers' lights, including triggerfish and ornate ghost pipefish.
Andaman Sea Crabs (04:37)
Cleaner shrimp clean morays at night, who share crevices with variable crabs. View crucifix, bull and flat rock crabs. A swimming crab defends its territory against a decorator crab, who camouflages itself by allowing organisms to grow on its shell. Some use live sea sponges.
Coral Reef Ecosystem Diversity (02:37)
Hermit crabs protect their soft bodies in empty shells and upgrade in size as they grow. The anemone crab carries live anemones for protection. The naked basket star extends its arms to filter plankton. Divers return to the surface, reflecting on the wide range of species they’ve observed in the Andaman Sea.
Credits: Reef Life of the Andaman: Marine Species of Thailand and Burma (00:55)
Credits: Reef Life of the Andaman: Marine Species of Thailand and Burma
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