In over 45 years of Underwater Exploration I have personally found
and photographed over 450 new species of Marine Life.
I became an Underwater Explorer to
DISCOVER NEW SPECIES, and share them with the world.
Neville's Mystery Fish
Throughout the World of Water there are thousands of undescribed life forms and an incredible amount of unknown information regarding the habits and behaviour to be recorded on the creatures we can reference with a name.
Every diver is an explorer, yet to understand and be able to relate to the myriad organisms living within a maze of interactive habitats on the ocean floor requires some knowledge of what already exists.
There are so many different camouflages, colour combinations, designs, pattern, shapes and sizes that it takes more than a little dedication to recognise and distinguish one from another.
Discovering new species is not just a matter of jumping into the water and they are all out there waving to you to " come and find them". New species are found in the most unlikely places and in habitats that few divers recognise, let alone spend any time in. I am in only 3 metres of water, holding on in a strong current attempting to photograph ( in situ) a new species of shrimp that I discovered at another dive site 2 years earlier. ( photo: Jorina van der Westhuizen)
Beneath a small piece of dead coral rubble not much bigger than my hand was an encrusting sheet of clear compound ascidian. Living within this encrusting clear ascidian were two shrimps ( male and female) that had formed a series of tunnels inside the body of the clear ascidian. Almost imposible to actually see and impossible to focus on the only way I could photograph them in their habitat and hang on in the strong current, was with my trusty old Nikon 111 with 28 mm lens and 1:1 framer. (photo: Jorina van der Westhuizen)
Just over 10 mm in size, this female Translucid Shrimp Colemonia litodactylus
lives inside the Translucid Ascidian Diplosoma translucidum
and was first described in 2004.
As it turned out the shrimp was not only a new species but a new genus, which had to be established for the new species. It was the first time a photograph of the shrimp in natural habitat had been published in a scientific paper. ( Queensland Museum)
Visual identification has come a long way since my early days of setting up the Australasian Marine Photographic Index over 40 years ago we now have hundreds of identification guides to assist divers to understand
and recognise the creatures they encounter.
However, our present knowledge is very rudimentary and there is still a long way to go and this is what makes scuba diving one of the most exciting
adventure activities on the planet.
Discovering a new species by taking a photograph and having it acknowledged by current experts that it is indeed undescribed is not difficult. The difficulty occurs in establishing and recording the creature by scientific process.
For any new species to have any possibility of being named and scientifically described it must first be collected and preserved and donated to a scientific establishment that has a taxonomist who works on that group of animals.
Should the find be significant and the taxonomist willing to take on the extra workload on top of his or her current research program it could take from 2 to 20 years for the description to be published and the animal named.
This might seem a long time, but in some fields of taxonomy there may only be a few people in the entire world to work on the hundreds of animals awaiting descriptions.
It does not automatically apply that the discoverer of a new species has it named after them. The decision of the name depends on the author of the species.
The described specimen remains the property of the scientific establishment and from then on is known as the type species. The published description and accompanying images in a scientific journal then stand as the guide to all future identifications to that animal.
Pontonoides loloata Bruce, 2004
First found in my 2002 continuing fauna survey of Loloata Island reefs, this species was named for the Loloata Island Dive Resort in 2005. The Loloata Shrimp Pontonoides loloata ( female) lives on Black Coral Sea Whips Cirripathes sp. and the female grows to around 15mm.
The male ( not shown) is only 10 mm ( Queensland Museum)
My ability to announce the possibility of a new species being discovered is that I have around 12,000 animals and plants already in my World of Water Image Bank and of these at least 6 to 7000 are identified. This, combined with 40 years of experience and a vast knowledge of the creatures already known to exist in each Family, or Genus allows me to make an educated decision as to whether that organism has been described.
As back up I also have friends and colleagues who have specialist expertise beyond my own in specialist fields that will also grant me an opinion in time.
It is in every keen divers interest to learn as much as they can about their adventure activity environment and as such the easiest and quickest way is to take part in an
UNDERWATER NATURALIST MARINE ID COURSE, or MARINE BIOLOGY COURSE.
My book UNDERWATER NATURALIST Sorting out the Stuff! has been especially developed for specialty course students to enable them to learn and understand visual identification a lot quicker than it took me to learn.
Once divers become more conversant with the terms of visual identification and marine biology it is amazing just how much more enjoyable their diving and discovering becomes.
Today, most of the large, pretty, stand out creatures of the shallows have already been noticed and found. It is the smaller ones, or those well camouflaged or drab and unusually shaped and non descript ones that remain elusive.
To be able to see and recognise creatures that do not stand out requires a good knowledge of what lives where. Sometimes it has not been the creature itself I first found, but its egg ribbon. Subsequent searching later revealed the nudibranch itself. Often, it is not what is in its normal place (habitat), but something that is out of place that stimulates investigation.
Someday this incredible species of nudibranch Melibe sp. will be described and perhaps
I will still be around to see it take place. I hope so.
However, in the meantime we can just enjoy natures munificence and keep searching
to find one better! ( Victorian Museum)
When they were buried amongst the soft coral polyps the cerata of
Coleman's Melibe appeared similar to small clumps of
Banded Ascidians Ecteinascidia bandanensis.
Of all the creatures I have discovered perhaps the most favourite and most bizarre is Colemans Melibe. Although I have used my name as the common name, it does not necessarily mean that when it is finally described that it will remain as that. However, as it does not have a reference name it will do for the time being.
I was on a second ( nice and easy) dive of the day at the jetty drift at Mabul Island in Malaysia with my very keen dive guide Cindy from SMART DIVERS. The dive is made up of drifting along a coral/soft coral reef slope with lots of crevasses and a few small canyons and gutters, which angled down to a soft bottom at around 15 to 18 metres. As usual we were searching for nudibranchs though most of those found were species relatively common to Mabul.
I checked my air and noticed I was down a bit, but as it was the end of the dive I just kept skip breathing along as is my habit and searching everything I could, knowing that I had only 12 to 15 minutes of air left.
There was a brilliant little species of transparent sea squirt with opaque white markings that I was interested in ( Banded Ascidian Ecteinascidia bandanensis ) and it appeared to live in small clumps of threes in the brown encrusting soft coral Briarium sp.
Swimming past one large colony of the soft coral I noticed that there was something white sticking out between the polyps that did not appear as though it should be there. It was just a non descript small piece of transparent tissue with some opaque white markings that I assumed was the little sea squirt. However, something seemed different and I breathed out and sank down a little to investigate.
Once I was looking at the object through my bi focals I could see it was certainly not a sea squirt. I waved some water over the polyps and some retracted a little and I could see more of the object. My heart went beserk, it appeared to be some kind of soft bodied creature that resembled nothing in my visual vocabulary what so ever. However, it seemed to be half dissolved and for some moments I wondered if it was just decomposing tissue.
I tenderly touched all the polyps surrounding the object so as to get a better look. Once it was revealed it began crawling and at that moment I knew it was an extraordinary nudibranch, but what to do?
I had only a few minutes of air left and already the guide was signalling time to go up to meet the pick up boat. I signalled to Cindy and showed her what I had found, begged a few more minutes bottom time and went to work with my NIKONOS 111 with 2.8 lens and wire frame.
Found amongst the expanded tentacles of the encrusting soft coral
Briarium sp. Coleman's Melibe Melibe sp. is shown after the tentacles
of the soft coral have retracted.
The challenge was to get it to actually look like something. Even though I photographed it from every angle, I knew that from a horizontal position the aspect was not descriptive enough, but it appeared to be so fragile that the slightest touch would cause it to disintegrate.
Sometimes in underwater photography when you are running out of air and time, one has to make decisions to get the necessary shot. So, I slowly wafted some water over the nudibranch and it lifted off the bottom and allowed me to situate it towards the edge of the soft coral where I could get a couple of lateral aspect images and then it was time to go.
I hung off in mid-water for a three minutes safety stop as Cindy climbed aboard the dive boat.
Everything was so rushed that even on the way back to the resort I still couldnt comprehend what had actually happened. However, Cindy verified that she had seen it when I showed her but
wasnt sure what it was at the time.
It was a long haul to get home to Brisbane, Queensland and then wait to have the developed transparencies back from the processor and be able to prove that we had really seen such an unbelievable creature.
I need not have worried, I managed run off eight images all of which were excellent studies from different aspects of the nudibranch in situ. Consequently I published seven of them in NUDIBRANCHS ENCYCLOPEDIA the only known images of this remarkable species.
Five years later a second one has at last been found and has sparked off an Asia/Indo – Pacific search by other photographers and scientists to find another.
Coleman's Sea Star
Echinaster colemani Rowe and Albertson, 1987 (137mm)
Recognised (by Neville) as being new in 1968, it was not until many years later that the species was confirmed as a unique undescribed sea star and its description published (20 metres Broughton Island, New South Wales).
It is found from southern Queensland to Bateman's Bay in southern New South Wales, its type locality being off Cronulla, NSW. The epicentre of its distribution is at Norfolk Island where it is quite common. ( Australian Museum)
Pseudoceros colemani Prudhoe, 1978 (20mm)
As yet, this flatworm appears restricted in range to eastern Australia's southern coasts. First found at Port Hacking, New South Wales in 1968 it feeds on the brain ascidian Sycozoa cerebriformis and seems to be a nocturnal species.
At certain times it is very common in five to 15 metres in caves on rock faces. ( Australian Museum)
Coleman's Sea Squirt
Polyandrocarpa colemani Kott, 1994
Certainly as a colony this species is one of the largest growing compound ascidians in the Indo-Pacific. Colonies may be two metres in length, 600mm in height and 300mm thick (at the base). It was discovered during fauna surveys at Julian Rocks off Byron Bay, New South Wales in 1976 but not collected till years later off Tweed Heads, New South Wales (1987). The larger more open, angled openings are the mouths of the colony and the more upright openings are the exhalant pores.
Because of its unique form, colour and huge size it took quite a while to understand what the animal was. ( Queensland Museum)
Chromodoris colemani Rudman, 1982 (25mm)
Originally found at Bushy Island, Great Barrier Reef 5/75, it was one of many new species of Chromodorids first found and photographed by Neville in the early years. The species is not common and is known from Lizard Island (GBR), Japan, Okinawa and Indonesia where it is generally seen in shallow water during the day. ( Australian Museum)
Tripterotyphis colemani (Ponder, 1972) (15mm)
A dead specimen of this species was found on the floor of a cave at 20 metres off the New South Wales coast in 1966. It was not until Neville reached Broome in Western Australia in 1972 that a number were discovered intertidally beneath rocks and rubble. (Australian Museum)
Coleman's Soft Coral
Dendronephthya colemani Grasshoff, 1978
The fact that this genus of soft coral requires a complete taxonomic revision to deal with the multitude of species is of little comfort. The original specimen was found at Dampier, Western Australia at 20 metres in 1972. It appeared to be common in the area but many species of this genus are difficult to tell apart; others are easy.
( Northern Territory Museum)
Parapercis colemani Randall & Francis, 1990
First photographed at Norfolk Island in 1988 it was not until Dr John Randall and Malcolm Francis did a fish survey there in 1998/72 that a specimen was secured in the lagoon and consequently described. As there were only two specimens originally observed and they have not been recorded anywhere else it is assumed that their 'home' territory is yet to be discovered.
Heteroclinus colemani Hoese, 1976
Living in red algae on rocks and rock faces this species is so far only recorded from Tasmania where it was found at Bruny Island (1972) in 18 metres. There are similar forms in Victoria and southern New South Wales. ( Australian Museum)
Coleman's Stony Coral
Monastrea colemani Veron, 2000
Although Neville has found a number of corals unable to be identified to species, managed to record many new distribution records and photographed hundreds of species he did not discover this species. It was named for him in recognition of the contributions he had made over 30 years towards advancing the knowledge, visualisation and new records of stony corals.
( Australian Institute of Marine Sciences)
Photo By: C. Veron.
Coleman's Nemertean Worm Genus
Colemaniella Gibson, 1985
Named as a tribute to collections and photographs supplied to the leading nemertean worm taxonomist of his time, a representative of the genus has yet to be found or photographed by Neville. ( Ausralian Museum)
Coleman's Mantis Shrimp
Coleman's Mantis Shrimp
Lissosquilla colemani Ahong, 2001 (100mm)
Trawled from 280 metres off Long Reef, New South Wales meant that Neville waited for it to come up rather than going down and picking it up. In order to photographically record the many deep water species he worked on trawl boats around Australia so he could keep some of the trash species usually shovelled overboard. Being sea sick over the sorting tray on a rocking trawler at night was par for the course, but his sea sickness only lasted for 10 years.
( Australian Museum)
Coleman's Pygmy Seahorse
Coleman's Pygmy Seahorse
Hippocampus colemani Kuiter, 2003 (22mm)
Visiting Lord Howe Island on photographic fauna surveys for 35 years it was not until December 2001 that this beautiful little seahorse was discovered in the lagoon in only three metres of water, eight metres from the dive site mooring. It demonstrates just how much we miss. This site has been dived by thousands of divers over 25 years yet the pygmy seahorse remained undiscovered.
( Australian Museum)
Coleman's Bubble Coral Shrimp
Vir colemani Bruce, 2004 ( 15mm)
First discovered and photographed by Neville at Milne Bay Papua New Guinea in the early 1980's, it was not until 2002 that this reasonably common species was further investigated at Loloata Island Papua New Guinea and currently described. We now know it to be fairly widespread with specimens being photographed from Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia and Vanuatu. It lives on the bubble coral Plerogyra sinuosa in depths of 8 to 20metres. ( Queensland Museum)
Periclimenes colemani Bruce, 1975 (20mm)
First recognised at Wistari Reef, near Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef in 1974. The shrimps were found at 12 to25 metres inhabiting the dorsal surface of their host the elusive sea urchin Athenosoma intermedium. Since then they have been found across the Indo-Pacific region inhabiting the same genus of sea urchin Asthenosoma ijimai or Asthenosoma varius. ( Northern territory Museum)
Phyllodesmium colemani Rudman, 1991 (76mm)
Although Neville had searched a thousand Tubipora spp. organ pipe soft coral colonies looking for a nudibranch it was not until 1987 at Lord Howe Island that specimens were located in only one metre of water. Since then they have been found on the Great Barrier Reef and Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea.
Neville Coleman’s Soft Coral
Moolabalia nevillecolemani Alderslade, 2001
Living at 25 metres in the waters off Mooloolaba, Queensland (where there are lots of new species) this species is widespread along the southern Queensland coast and into northern New South Wales.
Although its presence is hardly noticeable due to its small polyp size, a torch reveals the beautiful bright blue colour and shows up just how common an encrusting species it is. Specimens were not collected until 1997. ( Northern Territory Museum)
Coleman's Coral Star
Aquilonastra colemani O'Loughlin & Rowe, 2006
Only 15 mm in size this rather small sea star was first noticed and photographed on an expedition to Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea in 2002. It was found under dead coral in 12 metres of water on a rubble slope. ( Victorian Museum)
Neville's Sea Whip Shrimp
Neville's Sea Whip Shrimp
Recognised as being different than anything he had seen before, Neville photographed this unique shrimp at Santo, Vanuatu in 2004. It lives on the Black Coral Sea Whip Cirripathes sp. and was discovered in only 5 metres of water.
Hardly rare, they were on each sea whip in the area. (Queensland Museum)
Neville's expertise in discovering, photographing collecting, donating and marine life identification extends to Algae, Sea Grass, Mangroves, Forams, Sponges, Stony Corals, Soft Corals, Sea Anemones, Sea Jellies, Zoanthids, Corallimorphs, Black Corals, Flatworms, Segmented Worms, Crustaceans, Barnacles, Shrimps, Lobsters, Crayfish, Hermit Crabs, Squat Lobsters, Molluscs, Chitons, Univalves, Bivalves, Cephalopods, Octopus, Cuttlefish, Squid, Opisthobranchs, Nudibranchs, Sea Slugs, Bryozoans, Sea Mosses, Echinoderms, Sea Stars, Feather Stars, Brittle Stars, Sea Urchins, Sea Cucumbers, Ascidians/Sea Squirts, Fish, Sharks, Marine Reptiles, Sea Birds and Marine Mammals.