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Comet (Calloplesiops altevelis)

Snorkeling with a comet in the ocean

In my lifetime, I have seen only two comets, one was Halley’s comet in 1986 and the other was today while free-diving on a reef around Limasawa Island in Sogod Bay, southern Leyte, Philippines. Comets (Calloplesiops altevelis) belong to the lesser-known family of fishes called devilfishes (order Plesiopidae), but why it gets this name is still a bit of a mystery to me. It certainly doesn’t look evil, but by coming out when I was on the surface and hiding when I submerged to get a photo of him might be interpreted as such.

A comet in Sogod Bay, Leyte, Philippines

Comets are often secretive and hover in front of crevices where they can hide if disturbed

Comets are probably the most popular of the seven species in this family; their remarkable color and shape have made them a highly prized fish in the aquarium trade. It has been suggested that the white spots against a black body and false eye on the back mimic the white-spotted moray eel. It may further this rouse by exhibiting the unusual behavior of facing into a crevice with its rear end facing out. Males do this especially when guarding their eggs. For years I have been hoping to see one of these cryptic and secretive fish and today was my lucky day!