A Photo Journey of Hawaii’s Invertebrates

This is a gallery of Hawaiian invertebrates and nudibranchs that we have encountered, mainly on the nearshore reefs around Maui. I have tried to identify them correctly to the best of my ability. There is a brief description of our Maui underwater photos. Toand to find information on where we have seen them go to our “Shore diving in Maui” report.

The slipper lobster is a crustacean that we have seen on the reefs in Maui. The slipper lobster is active at night and in the early morning. They feed on mollusks, crustaceans, and other small invertebrates and use their slipper-like claws to crush their prey.

The humped-back shrimp is known for its distinctive humped back and its ability to change color making it a fascinating creature to watch. They are more active at night when they come out to feed on a variety of small invertebrates, including small crustaceans and mollusks.

The trident trumpet snail is named for its distinctive trident-shaped shell, which is often covered in colorful corals, sponges, and other marine growth. These snails are nocturnal and can be difficult to spot during the day, but at night, they come to life and can be seen foraging for food on the ocean floor. You can’t capture photos of the trident trumpet snail during the day. It is unusual to see the animal out of its shell during the day. Most of the time you will see them retracted into their shell wedged in a crevice or under a ledge.


The Hawaiian ornate octopus, also referred to as the intricately patterned octopus, inhabits the waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands. This captivating species is renowned for its elaborate and stunning color patterns, along with its remarkable ability to adapt its color and texture to camouflage with the environment. These octopuses are most active during the night when they venture out for hunting. The ornate octopus photo was taken at night on Ulua beach in Maui.

Oval reef squid, also known as bigfin reef squid, are small cephalopods. They are known for their ability to rapidly change colors and patterns, making them a fascinating sight to observe underwater. At night, these creatures are particularly active, providing a mesmerizing display of vibrant colors and movements. The photos were taken at night on the sand flats at Ulua Beach in Maui. It is fun to see their responsiveness to light. As you move light around, the squid will react by changing color and adjusting their body patterns.

Night Photos

Nudibranchs, a type of sea slug, inhabit waters worldwide, including the surrounding waters of Hawaii. These colorful creatures are a popular sight for divers on the reefs in Maui. You have to slow down and look for them as they are hard to spot. Most of the time I dive with a 60mm macro lens on my camera to photograph these small animals and use a wide angle lens to photograph larger animals like turtles and rays.

Nudibranchs exhibit a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and colors, showcasing vibrant hues and intricate patterns. They inhabit diverse habitats, from shallow reefs to deep waters, and thrive especially in regions abundant with algae and other marine life.Their defense is that they derive their coloring from the food they eat, which helps in camouflage, and some even retain the foul-tasting poisons of their prey and secrete them as a defense against predators.


The fire worm is a species of bristle worm.This unique species of worm boasts vibrant red and orange coloration and can produce a bioluminescent glow when threatened.This bioluminescence serves as a warning to predators of the worm’s toxic bristles, and it also helps to attract potential mates.

The christmas tree worm is a species of polychaete worm that we have found on the shallow reefs around Maui. This unique species of worm is known for its spiral, tree-like shape and its ability to retract into its hard, protective tube when threatened. It is a filter feeder feeding on microscopic plankton that they filter from the water column. It may look like two animals but is actually one animal with two tree-like shapes.


The cleaner shrimp is a species of cleaner shrimp inhabits the waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands.p that is found in the waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands. The cleaner shrimp cleans larger, marine animals. They include fish and sea turtles. Cleaner shrimp actively utilize their antennae to remove parasites, dead skin, and debris from larger marine animals, such as fish and sea turtles. This behavior not only ensures a steady food source for the cleaner shrimp but also delivers a valuable cleaning service to the larger marine animals.

The Imperial shrimp is a species of shrimp that spends its life living on the surface of the sea star. It provides the shrimp with protection from predators and a stable platform for feeding. While the shrimp provides the sea star with a cleaning service.

The pencil urchin actively employs its long, spiny spines for protection against predators and to anchor itself firmly into crevices, enhancing its ability to resist currents and ensuring easier feeding and predator evasion.

The tiger cowrie, a sea snail species thriving in the waters of Hawaii, captivates with its distinctive tiger-stripe pattern and vibrant colors, attracting underwater photographers worldwide.We have found them on the shallow reefs around Maui and they are slow-moving making them easy to photograph. They are capable of retracting into their shells for protection against predators.

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