Typical ctenophores, which constitute a minor and oft misplaced branch of the animal kingdom, swim through the world's oceans using fine cilia arranged in ctenes, eight comb-like rows whose fluid strokes propel a round or barrel-shaped body and scatter light to cause an eruption of rainbows on sacs of liquid glass. They lack the stinging cells of true jellyfish, but comb jellies are effective predators in their own right. Many species drag two long tentacles armed with adhesive filaments or tentilla that snare fish larvae, planktonic eggs, minute crustaceans and pelagic cnidarians. In turn, sea gooseberries, as globular representatives of the phylum are sometimes called, provide nourishment for creatures, including fellow ctenophores, that are not above devouring a pack of sticky collagen.
Most ctenophores wander freely in waters from coastal shelves to oceanic depths, where some assume bizarre forms resembling blobs that fly on muscular wings or transparent ribbons that undulate away from disturbance. But the strangest members of the phylum, the 'odd ducks' of a curious and cryptic group, are probably the platyctenids, an order whose members resemble neither true jellyfish nor their fellow floaters. Aborally flattened and richly pigmented, these aberrant ctenophores risk confusion with polyclads or particularly depressed nudibranchs. Yet more often than not, the animals are overlooked as their colours, which range from pale leather to leopard print, match the background hues of their alcyoniid homes.
The surest signs of these non-intuitive planes of existence amid a dense bed of swaying polyps are tell-tale strands that emanate from the colony, which are quite easily seen at close range, although some might mistake the fine tentilla for strings of marine goo. Sea urchins and starfish are also known to host these benthic gatherers, which latch on to passing victims on reefs such as Pulau Hantu's, where the wonders of life under the waves lure a regular flood of divers and endure, through flame and unfriendly tidings, the sick, sweet scent of stacks that gleam in the dark and turn the light of the earth into drops of refined fury.