19. Coexistence


I am often surprised at which combinations of animals in the sea will sit or hover together very close, coexisting, with no attempt to eat or exclude the other. Last month I was on my way out to one of the best Giant Cuttlefish dens and I saw a Wobbegong, a kind of “carpet shark,” swimming by in the open. It wasn’t a large one, perhaps four or five feet long.


I arrived at the den and was pleased it see it was occupied, but then saw a Wobbegong, perhaps the same one, nose its way in, too. After trying a series of positions (tail in, tail out…), it took up a spot in the den quite close to the cuttlefish.

In general, Giant Cuttlefish dislike large fish in their dens; they produce dramatic displays and colors, with arms raised and curled, that seem to show their irritation. The cuttlefish, a male, began a series of these displays. What surprised me, though, was the fact he was doing it to a shark, which surely could have eaten him easily. And that is exactly what I expected to happen.

But it didn’t. The shark just sat there. The cuttlefish continued with some displays – perhaps he felt a bit hemmed in, with me on one side and the shark on the other. But he had every opportunity to leave if he wanted, or just to go to a different part of the den. Instead he chose to stay.

I don’t have a photo that has both of them in focus. Here is one with the shark in focus but not the cuttlefish. Here is the shark himself (also not a good photo, as I didn’t want to get too close). This one is not too bad, with the shark on the right:

Cuttlefish and shark_3078

And here is a marvelous display from the cuttlefish, with just a bit of shark nose in the background, again on the right:

Cuttlefish_3049 -2

They sat, and the cuttlefish moved between displays and relative quietness. I went away and came back, and the scene hardly changed. They coexisted.

*     *     *

The next day I returned to the same place. I found a Wobbegong there again – perhaps the same one from the previous day, perhaps slightly larger – lying in the same spot. And no cuttlefish.

At the end of that second dive I spent some time photographing tunicates. I was trying to be very still, right up against the reef. Then I found myself turning even before I knew what I was seeing, and suddenly there was a huge Wobbegong coming in. It was so close that our heads almost touched.

His eye went past…

Wobbegong very close_3325

… and this photo – also a mess, in stirred-up water with the camera out of focus – shows its size as it swam by.

Wobbegong_3326 -

This one was at least as big as me, probably bigger. I’ve rarely been so close to any large wild animal. It went on its way.


Notes: Another interesting case of coexistence is described on my old website here.

Wobbegongs are ambush predators. See here. They aren’t dangerous to humans unless provoked.

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One Response to 19. Coexistence

  1. Fotograf Brasov says:

    I like the color, contrast and composition. Congratulations!

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