Five Gems

Great when you spot one

Conger eel     Octopus     Stargazer      Sea horse      Rock cod

Conger Eel

Other Names: Ngooiro, koiro. (Conger verreauxi)

Habitat: Reefs, in caves and crevices.

Identification: Blue-grey, sometimes paler below; large eels may be nearly black. Grows very large - to 220cm.

General: Nocturnal, roving at night in search of fishes, crabs, crayfish and octopus. Males are generally smaller than females. Conger eels probably spawn only once and then die.

Rex's Sightings: Island Bay, wrapped around the base of some weed, night dive. A mini eel at Owhiro Bay pipe, during a night dive. A mini eel off Breaker Bay. Two monsters living inside the Woollahra.



(Octopus maorum)

Habitat: Reef areas and sandy flats.

Identification: Has eight legs. Of the cephalopod family, literally head-foot in Latin (which just about covers everything).

General: A branch of the shellfish family with the shell usually absent, or only a small internal remnant. Well developed eyes which operate independently. An octopus can keep one eye on its prey and the other on a diver. Because it has monocular vision, it judges distance by parallax error, a matter of bobbing up and down before striking. Seem relatively timid.

Females stay close to eggs and squirt water over them until they hatch. Octopus squirt a cloud of ink to mislead attackers.

Rex's Sightings: Off 'The Pipe' at Houghton Bay, clinging to a rock. Near the Tui, Chaffers Passage, on a flat sandy bottom. Near the Yung Pen, not wanting to be moved on by many divers. Off Moa Point beach. Off Taputeranga Island, Island Bay. A mini-octopus off the pipe at Owhiro Bay.



Other Names: Spotted stargazer, estuary stargazer, monkfish, toe-biter. (Genyagnus monopterygius)

Habitat: Sand or mud.

Identification: Grey, covered with large cream or white spots. Flat sculpted head with near vertical mouth and eyes on top looking upward. Average length 25-35cm.

General: Spend most of their time buried in the sand waiting for unwary fish. In this pose they are nearly invisible, and are able to lunge out at any passing prey overhead. They eat a variety of small fish and crab.

Rex's Sighting: Shark bay, just south of Shelly Bay and Shelly Bay.



Other Names: Manaia, Latin hippocampus means horse - sea dragon. (Hippocampus abdominalus)

Habitat: Harbours, bays and reefs, generally around seaweed.

Identification: Distinctive shape with prehensile tail, protruding belly and tube-like snout. Males have long filaments on top of head. Colours range from light grey, through yellow and brown to almost black, usually with darker spots and blotches.

General: Eat small crustaceans which they find among the seaweed or in the plankton, sucking them in as if using a straw. Female deposits eggs in a pouch on the male's belly. He fertilises and broods them until they hatch after about 30 days. The Maori name manaia refers to the spiral tail.

Rex's Sightings: Island Bay beneath fishing boats, clinging to seaweed with their tails - a night dive. Burnham Wharf, again a night dive. South of Shelly Bay in open sand. In one metre of water on a weedy rock at the Brass Monkey. Clinging to kelp at Steeple Rock off Seatoun Beach.


Rock Cod

Other Names: Taumaka. (Lotella rhacinus)

Habitat: Reefs, in caves and crevices. Usually deeper than 12m.

Identification: Uniform fawn to dark brown. Long second dorsal fin gives the appearance of half fish, half stumpy eel. Prominent barbel (dangly thing) under the chin.

General: Nocturnal, emerges at night to feed on small fish, crabs and shrimps.

Rex's Sightings: In the South Sea. Near Red Rocks on the south coast.

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