Keys Diving Post Irma: sand dwellers & other small creatures

Irma took almost all of the sand that used to surround the reefs with her. So what happened to the critters who make their home in the sand? It’s a great question and one I don’t have an answer to… yet.

Let’s take a look at what we’ve been able to find so far.

We haven’t been out to French Reef yet, I’m hoping there’s more sand there. Last weekend’s dives were at Snapper Ledge, Pickles Reef and Molasses Reef. All of these sites have very little sand left.

Critters I have pictures of (all photos pre-Irma): 

Found! Sand tilefish – I’m not sure where they’re darting without the sand but I saw one last weekend. They’re no where near pre-Irma abundance.

Found! A Pederson Cleaner Shrimp – such an amazing little creature. They build immunity to poisionous anemones by pressing themselves against it for longer and longer periods until they become immune. Once immune, they dance around on their host to attract fish in need of cleaning.

Not found! Yellow head jawfish – I love these little guys and spend a lot of time watching them. I have looked extensively in any tiny bit of sand left and haven’t been able to find one yet.

Found! Adorable little bennies. Their abundance doesn’t seem to have been hurt by Irma. If anything she uncovered even more places for them to live.

Not found! Banded Jawfish, a very rare find here in the Keys. I found a pair about 5ft apart in Sand Bottom Cave on French Reef a few weeks ago. Easily my prize find of the summer. I planned to continue studying them and hopefully see them with eggs but now I just hope they’re still alive somewhere.

Not found! I haven’t seen a single stingray yet. Left: a yellow stingray almost completely buried in the sand. Right: southern stingray.


Critters I don’t have pictures of: 

  • Mantis Shrimp – not found! I’ve looked in every bit of sand and haven’t found one yet. They are very shy and secretive so they’re hard to photograph. Once we watched one systematically barricade itself in its home,  a pretty clear message it wasn’t as interested in us as we were in it!
  • Sand Gobies & Dash Gobies – Found! Hard to photograph because there isn’t much contrast between them and the sand.

I’ll keep looking for everything and will report on my findings.


Until next time…


Stay Warm Friends!

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One Comment on “Keys Diving Post Irma: sand dwellers & other small creatures

  1. Pingback: Found! Yellow head jawfish :) | Go Where It's Warm

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