Mandarin fish close up
This is some of the most interesting nature photography I have done in a long time. We went out to see the mandarin fish, Synchiropus splendidus, mating. This happens most evenings at a site called lighthouse, off Malapascua island, Philippines. Like in similar sites in other locations, this is a protected bay with lots of coral rubble and sometimes dead and algae overgrown thick finger corals. That’s where the mandarin fish hide. At sunset, the females and males meet and mate above the corals for a few seconds, releasing the fertilized eggs into the water.
But that night, a male trailing a female encountered first one, then two male competitors. Soon they were engaged in a display contest, showing off their sizes via their out stretched fins. The winner would surely end up with the female fish that night. Ironically the female left soon, but the males posed next to each other for minutes, displaying their colorful dorsal and caudal fins, and even biting each other. This kind of behavior evolves due to sexual selection, when the pressures of natural selection have been dealt with to a good degree. Fish behavior is fascinating. Please enjoy this series of photographs of this fantastic encounter. Thanks to Jojo from Evolution Diving for getting me to the right spot!