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A Mean Mouthful

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Winner, 11 – 14 Years category

On a scuba-diving holiday in North Sulawesi, Indonesia, Sam stopped to watch a school of clownfish as they swam in and out of their anemone home. He was intrigued by the expression of one individual, its mouth constantly open, almost as if it were holding something.

Only when he downloaded his photos did he see the tiny eyes peeping out from within. The fish had a tongue-eating louse in its mouth – a parasite that swims in through the gills and attaches itself to the base of the host’s tongue in order to suck blood, eventually taking the place of the tongue. It may weaken the host, but the clownfish can continue to feed. Similarly, but less aggressive­ly, a clownfish has a mutually beneficial relationsh­ip with a host sea anemone: The anemone protects the fish and its eggs, and in return the fish removes debris from the anemone’s surface and chases away predatory butterflyf­ish.

Sam’s image captures all three very different life forms, intertwine­d.

HOW? Nikon D300; 105 mm lens; shutter speed 1/250 second; aperture f18; ISO 200; in a Nauticam housing with two Inon Z-240 strobes.

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