Archive for March, 2014


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Imagine a jellied filled sac, a simple life form that saw the Dinosaurs come and go, flourishing on earth for over 300 million years. You have no brain nor heart or even a proper anus. You have just consumed the soft juicy tissues of a California mussel, dislodged from the grasps of its stringy cementing agent by a powerful wave. The calcareous mussel shell pops out of your mouth that serves as both the beginning and end of your digestive tract.

Sea anemones, though a mere bundle of jelly, are formidable predators. They are armored with 1000’s of stinging cells known as nematocyst that capture their prey. The aggregating anemone pictured here can produce sexually through the dispersal of egg and sperm or asexually by cloning. Essentially, they pull themselves apart creating a genetic clone over and over again until they blanket their rocky condo. Specialized warrior polyps on the edges of the colony inflate with powerful nematocyst cells that will attack neighboring colonies. In some cases a neutral zone between colonies will be established where each colony is spared the lethal reach of the other.

 

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Fantastic discovery today while kayaking in the Elkhorn Slough. We found an  enormous  California brown sea hare, Aplysia californica, a type of marine  slug in the phylum mollusca. Enjoying a hermaphroditic life style, this fascinating guy or girl as the case may be emitted a mildly toxic purple dye as I scooped it up and placed  it on  my spray skirt.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

Using their raspy tongue or file like structure known as a radula, sea hares scrap into their algae diet which later  aids in the pigmentation of their ink. Why do sea hares as well as their relatives, octopus and squid emit a dye? Perhaps the cloud of purple confuses or startles a predator or serves as a screen or decoy. Possessing some of the largest nerve cells in the animal kingdom, sea hares have been used in studies on memory and learning.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy group of kayakers though a bit startled, politely watched as I rolled myself face first into the sand while still cradling the sea hare in my arms. Covered with purple dye from head to toe, I do think they realized what a special find we had!

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Over 25 years ago I saw my first manatee mating event. I was leading a program for the Smithsonian Institute and I will never forget it. Since then, I have snorkeled among an esterous herd, a rambunctious gathering of amorous males in pursuit of a receptive female.  Rarely have I witnessed  the  actual attempt to impregnate  the female. While female manatees reach sexual maturity at 5 years of age, male manatees are later bloomers. Typically they are sexually mature by 8 or 9 years of age though sometimes earlier. This young male who we have named Romeo certainly gave it a go but O2 or lack of it got in the way.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANote in all 3 videos clips, the smaller male surfaces for air and then must start his amorous intentions over where he left off.  Females are often forced into the shallows by the advances of an esterous herd and will be mated by multiple males. We witnessed such an event in another area of the river.

Perhaps this female realized that Romeo’s  amorous  pursuit would be futile or perhaps later in the day he succeeded. Either way, it was an unforgettable and fascinating interaction to observe. We have named the female manatee Cougar…Life as we travel through the south lands with http://www.bluewaterventures.org

II have spent decades walking this gulf coast beach and have never seen a great blue heron in such a peculiar stance. Well spring has sprung in the southlands and this male great blue is exhibiting a courtship ritual known as a stretch. As it reaches it’s head to the sky, the showy plumage of the neck is displayed revealing its rich red coloration.

Watermarked heronThrow in an eccentric dance and the females find it hard to resist! Life on the Florida gulf coast! have spent decades walking the gulf coast beaches and have never seen a great blue heron in such a peculiar stance. Well spring has sprung in the southlands and this male great blue is exhibiting a courtship ritual known as a stretch.

heron4As it reaches it’s head to the sky, the showy plumage of the neck is displayed revealing its rich red coloration. Throw in an eccentric dance and the females find it hard to resist! Life on the Florida gulf coast!


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Considered a pelagic wanderer, The Atlantic Devil Ray, Mobula hypostoma searches for its preferred  prey, crustaceans such as shrimp and krill. Employing  its  cephalic fins to focus  food towards  its mouth, it sometimes feeds in shoals along the Florida Gulf Coast.

Each year, Blue Water Ventures travels to the Sea of Cortez on a 10 day expedition where we sometimes have the extraordinary experience of snorkeling with Mobulas as shown in the video.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALacking a defensive spine, Mobulas find protection through sheer speed and in the company of other rays. Their common name “devil ray” is derived from the curled appearance of their cephalic fins when not in the feeding mode.

 

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Have you ever wandered a beach and found seashells with a small holed drilled into it? There are several marine snails that use their radula, a file like tongue to bore into their prey. Among them is the moon snail. The tiny single holes in the bivalves pictured here were made by a predatory snail, perhaps a moon snail or oyster drill. The photo reveals a shell on the right which is riddled with multiple tiny holes. This is from the dissolving activity of a boring sponge in the genus, Cilonia. These sponges use a dissolving chemical to bore into calcium rich species such as snails and corals. Rather than seeking prey, boring sponges are in pursuit of a habitat taking up residence in a calcareous animal….life on a gulf coast beach.