Cleaning station for giant manta rays

Location: Manta rock, the Canyon, San Benedicto Island.

Comments: Today is Day 1 of diving on this trip, and everyone appears to be having a good time. We dove the Canyon dive site at San Benedicto Island this morning and had reasonable shark sightings and good manta sightings. For the last 3 years, I have been sending our divers on this dive site southbound along the ridgeline “commando style” (which refers to staying tucked low and in the rocks a la Cocos Island to avoid scaring the hammerhead sharks – it does not refer to not wearing underwear under one’s wetsuit!). I always suggest that they tuck in at the big cleaning station at the south end of the site to see what shows up. But I recently noticed that the highest pinnacle at the north end of the ridge sticks up into the current and seems to be somewhat of a “magnet” for giant manta rays – I suspect that it is a cleaning station for mantas. So I dubbed it “manta rock,” and have been encouraging our guests to hang out there as well as the other cleaning station. Everyone has been having very good luck finding giant manta rays there.

One of the most endearing things about the other cleaning station is one particular leather bass (Dermatolepis dermatolepis, Family: Sea Basses – Serranidae) who always hangs out in exactly the same spot. The outer half of this poor guy’s lower jaw sticks out sideways at a 45-degree angle and we are still trying to figure out what to name him. “Lumpy” is the best that we have come up with so far, but we invite any other suggestions! Leather bass are supposed to be solitary and very wary of divers but Lumpy just zooms up in a friendly way and sticks his face up close, within a couple of inches of our masks. I was surprised as heck last trip when he let me reach out and stroke his side!! Good ol’ Lumpy.

Interestingly, juvenile leather bass have a very different colouration than adults and live in the protection of the Long Spine Urchin (Diadema mexicanum). Another little known fact about leather bass is that they virtually vacuum up their prey of small fish and crustaceans by creating powerful suction when they rapidly open their mouths!! Kind of a neat trick to remember! Good diving.

–Captain Mike

Weather: Mid-level scattered cumulous clouds, hot and sunny, air temperature 78°F, very low swell and 10 knots of wind.

Water: Water temperature 73 – 74°F, visibility 50 feet.

By Nautilus Staff

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