National Geographic : 1971 Aug
grass beds, more than 1,000 feet north of the habitat, go on to one of my study areas, then return to the reef to observe the spawning damselfish and the grazing herbivores. With conventional scuba gear the same tasks would require at least three separate trips. Renate and I are simply ignored by the reef population. We sit quietly near a coral head, and a trumpetfish glides by, nearly touching my faceplate. A lizardfish lands on top of my flipper-and stays there. Away from the reef, on an open sandy plain, a batfish allows us to approach, and I hold it gently in my hand. It wriggles slightly and I release it. Instantly a large snapper strikes the small creature. Thwarted by the batfish's hard surface, the snapper releases it. Alarmed but alive, the batfish darts away. Most active grazers-adult surgeonfish, parrotfish, angelfish, and other plant-eaters seldom range more than 200 feet from the cover of the reef, lest they fall victim to the large predators. As we cruise, I speculate on the role of those predators in the balance of underwater life. If they were selectively "A lizardfish lands on top of my flipper -and stays there" "I release it. Instantly a large snapper strikes the small creature "