Underwater Eden

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Steepheaded parrotfish, Great Barrier Reef, Australia I have seen this fish in schools of more than five hundred, grazing on algae-covered reefs. At night, during the calm that accompanies the fish's mucus-covered sleep, I was able to photograph its eye, always open, even in sleep. (Photo: Jeffrey L. Rotman/courtesy Abrams)
Blackback flounder, Folly Cove, Gloucester, Massachusetts Early in its life this right-eyed flatfish swam upright, with one eye on each side of its head. Later in its life cycle, the fish lay down on its side and its lower eye, rather than stare forever into the featureless sand, migrated around its body to join its fellow. (Photo: Jeffrey L. Rotman/courtesy Abrams)
Gill plate of a queen angelfish, Freeport, Bahamas Gills are as vital to fish as lungs are to humans. They are the organ through which fish "breathe." To help protect this sensitive area, the queen angelfish's gill plate, or operculum, is armored and equipped with hard, sharp spines. (Photo: Jeffrey L. Rotman/courtesy Abrams)
Cup coral eating juvenile reef octopus, Jackson Reef, Sinai Peninsula, Egypt In the dead of night I came across this rare sight: a juvenile reef octopus being eaten by a cup coral. The nematocysts on the tentacles of the cup coral have paralyzed the tiny octopus. (Photo: Jeffrey L. Rotman/courtesy Abrams)
Bottlenose dolphin, Nuweiba, Sinai Peninsula, Egypt A family of dolphins has lived at Dolphin Reef since the early 1990s, and here tourists have a chance to swim with them. (Photo: Jeffrey L. Rotman/courtesy Abrams)
Mouth of a thornback ray, Santa Cruz Island, California A face only a mother could love! The underside of this thornback ray shows it tiny grinding teeth, which can grip a crab or mollusk firmly before crushing the shell to devour the sweet meat inside. (Photo: Jeffrey L. Rotman/courtesy Abrams)
Newborn hawksbill turtle, Sipadan Island, Borneo The island has the largest concentration of sea turtles I've ever seen underwater. One night I was surfacing from a dive and spotted this newborn swimming to freedom in the open sea. It's a perilous journey, from sand to sea, and most will not make it past the first week. (Photo: Jeffrey L. Rotman/courtesy Abrams)
Golden damselfish, Walindi Bay, Papua New Guinea I haven't had as many opportunities to dive at night as I would have liked in Papua New Guinea, but when I have, I was sure to find powerful images. I captured this moment with a golden damselfish at 3 A.M. (I had the element of surprise on my side.) (Photo: Jeffrey L. Rotman/courtesy Abrams)
Blackfin barracuda, Kimbe Bay, Papua New Guinea With its fang-filled underbite, a barracuda may look scary, but its reputation as a dangerous fish is underserved. Unless provoked, barracuda attacks on humans are extremely rare, although they are curious and will occasionally follow a diver. (Photo: Jeffrey L. Rotman/courtesy Abrams)
Purple anthias, Walindi Bay, Papua New Guinea Purple anthias are common on the reefs off Papua New Guinea. Their home turf is perhaps only ten square yards; they will not venture out farther than this. This school sticks close to the reef, ready to dart into the protection of the knotty gorgonian coral at the slightest sign of danger. (Photo: Jeffrey L. Rotman/courtesy Abrams)
Red hermit crab, Ustica Island, Sicily At the slightest hint of danger, this red hermit crab will retreat into the safety of its shell, only to reappear when the coast is clear. As a hermit crab continues to grow, it will abandon its shell in search of a new and larger one to call home. (Photo: Jeffrey L. Rotman/courtesy Abrams)

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