Neptune's Net Pt II
Christine flipped her tail and swam after Neptune's trail of bubbles. Neptune's seashell chariot was heading towards a large coral reef off in the distance and Christine struggled to keep up. She spotted Salacia swimming alongside Neptune and watched cautiously as they slowed down and then pulled over near brightly colored coral and starfish. Christine swam up to pet Neptune's seahorses and she saw a massive group of mermaids and tritons off in the distance. Mermaids!
Neptune jumped off his seashell chariot, and handed the reins to Salacia.
"Please take care of the sea horses Salacia! Our young friend has decided to join us for a seafood snack! Let me get the snack preparations underway."
Salacia held onto the seahorses' reins while Neptune busied himself near a school of silver fish. Christine looked around and saw Neptune's mermaids and mermen floating gently on the ocean breeze off in the distance. She saw the brightly colored coral reef, the school of silver fish and a few purple and orange starfish scattered amongst the anemones who called the reef home. All of a sudden, Christine saw a flash of movement out of the corner of her eye. She turned quickly to see what it was, and all she saw was a mottled, brown rubbery tip flickering quietly in the water.
Neptune must have dropped a silver fish in the water because all of a sudden the mottled, brown, rubbery tip extended out to snatch up the little, silver fish.
"What?" Christine exclaimed.
Neptune turned around to see what the fuss was about.
"What's going on Christine?"
"I'm not sure! I saw a rubbery, brown tentacle grab a little silver fish! What was it?" Neptune reached over and felt the slimy sticky tentacle of an octopus!
"Ah ha! It must be Old Ben hiding in his nook. No problem."
"Who is Old Ben and why is he hiding?" Christine glanced over, but she still saw only the coral and the little tip of the silver fish.
"Ah Christine, let me introduce you to Old Ben. He's a regular around here, but it seems he's taken a liking to the silver fish and his nook. Let me see if I can coax him out of his hiding spot. He's camouflaged himself you see."
"Camouflage? What does that mean?" Christine was puzzled. Neptune tugged a little on Old Ben's arm and all of a sudden a huge, brightly colored octopus appeared where before there had been only rocks and coral.
"Come here Ben, let's introduce you to Christine. She's new to this part of the sea and hasn't met an octopus before."
"I know what an octopus is!" Christine exclaimed, only slightly insulted. "I just didn't realize they could camouflage themselves."
"Yes, Christine." Neptune explained patiently.
"Old Ben has the ability to change his color to match his background so he can hide from predators and catch prey. Octopuses can change their skin tone to match their surroundings, making them nearly invisible. Many thousands of color-changing cells called chromatophores just below the surface of the skin are responsible for these remarkable transformations. The center of each chromatophore contains an elastic sac full of pigment, rather like a tiny balloon, which may be colored black, brown, orange, red or yellow. If you stretched a dye-filled balloon, the color would gather in one spot, stretching out the surface and making the color appear brighter—and this is the same way chromatophores work. A complex array of nerves and muscles controls whether the sac is expanded or contracted and, when the sac expands, the color is more visible. Besides chromatophores, some cephalopods also have iridophores and leucophores. Iridophores have stacks of reflecting plates that create iridescent greens, blues, silvers and golds, while leucophores mirror back the colors of the environment, making the animal less conspicuous."
"Oh wow!" Christine exclaimed, "I wonder if the Orange Octopus camouflaged herself and that's the reason I haven't been able to find her?"
"So, you are looking for an Orange Octopus Christine? Well, it certainly isn't Old Ben. When Old Ben isn't camouflaged against the rocks, he's bright purple!"
"Oh my!" exclaimed Christine, as she watched Old Ben turn a beautiful shade of bright purple.
"Come on Christine, let's have our seafood snack and forget about the octopuses for the time being."
"Sure thing, Neptune. I'm starving!" And with that, Christine flopped her mermaid tail down for a seat on a nearby coral.
to be continued...