Did you know the sound of the ocean you hear when putting your ear to a conch is our own blood rushing in your brain with every heartbeat or some say it it the surrounding sounds resonating within the shell?
Either way it is WAY COOL, just ask any child or Diver!
The Conch is a beautiful creature. As more and more industries harvest this wonderful shell and meat, newer divers are finding it harder and harder to see one on their underseas adventures. However recently on my trip to the Florida Keys, I was able to spot a healthy population of the Conchs in areas not too many divers get to dive. As I dove around looking, I would pick up one and check inside and it was a very very cool feeling to see the lovely conch checking me out. Almost every Conch I touched had a living Queen inside. As I went over the grassy areas, I became better at spotting the little eye stalks stick out from under their gorgeous Home-shell. Occasionally, I would turn over a shell because nothing was moving to see if it were vacant and low and behold I found Mr./Mrs. Crabbs hanging out. Even underwater, I could hear the laughter from the other divers as I jumped not expecting Crabbs to reach for me, sucked down a few PSI for sure.
After regaining my composure, I was on a mission to find a few Conch shells that were vacant to turn into football trumpet horns. My sons football team depends on me to bring the noise. High School rules state we can not bring artificial noise makers. So the Waddell Conch blowing begins, Lenny-my father-on-law (Rest in Peace) would cut the tip just right to make the most unusual sound. A sound so authentically natural and loud, the announcer would have to stop talking until the sound of the horn had faded away.
The shell sound is known around the globe as the shell trumpet or Triton's trumpet. I like to call it the "FB Horn" and it makes the football opponents stand up and take notice and it is a little errie on a Friday night under the lights. If I forget the conch, which if any of you know me then you know I have left it before, the kids go crazy, "Mrs. Waddell don't you know we can hear it on the field!" Then the parents start in on me. So this year I will have several to choose from, I just hope I can cut them the way, Lenny did. Wish me luck! As you can see this is a family blowing event, Devin has the largest lungs and can really make it sound!
As a dive leader, I teach the divers I train and dive with to respect the ocean and all the creatures. Make sure of the current status of what you would are thinking of taking and that is not a home for other creatures. By doing a little homework, we can preserve the oceans and its Keep for future generations. So the next time you buy jewelry and/or eat some conch know each harvester should be following the rules of the ocean and laws set in place. Do the research and in the countries that are known to NOT follow the rules....do not eat or by the jewelry. Send Harvesters a message and maybe if each one of us take action our new upcoming young diver will be able to share the same wonderful experiences we are experiencing today.
AES will be hosting another trip down to the Keys with a private oceanfront home and private charter going where we want to dive and collect shells and lobster and a few fishes....if you would like to join us or add to your scuba training visit our website
For travel go to: http://www.aesdives.com/dive-trips.html
For training go to: http://www.aesdives.com/about-our-training.html
Happy Diving --- Genette
"It's those changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes nothing remains quite the same" - Jimmy Buffet
Hopefully Jimmy Buffet is right...nothing will remain the same and these wonderful aquatic mammals will regain their numbers and our fellow humans will be more careful in the future protecting them and their babies habitats.
These whale-like bodies that taper flat with paddle-shaped tails and two forelimbs, called flippers on their upper body and no hind limbs - make the Manatee a one of a kind creation. The closest relatives are the elephants and hyrax (small gopher-sized mammal). The Manatee has been know to reach over 13 feet, weigh more than 3500 pounds, but on average when they reach 9.8 feet long and weight 800-1200 pounds (still pretty impressive). If you compared the manatee size to that of the typical American, I guess you would assume the Manatees are fat or over weight...quite the contrary...they have very little body fat and are herbivores (plant eaters). This type appetite makes them susceptible to cold waters, which brings them to the warm Florida springs in the winter.
Interesting is that the Manatees lungs and diaphragm extend the length of the body and are oriented in the same horizontal position as the creature in the water. Each lung has its own unique cavity with hemi-diaphragms, allowing the Manatee to separately control the lungs to maintain balance, roll and pitch in the water. This feature allows them to spend the required six to eight hours of feeding slow and controlled for good digestion (so I am guessing) and then allow them the ability to rest for up to twelve hours a day. That is as long as their teeth are healthy, because their teeth are replaced for as long as they live.
Learn more and join us on our next adventure....HEADWATERS trip to Homosassa Florida. Click here for more details.
Picture found at http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/kissing-fish
As the holidays approach, we are reminded how precious life really is... so this holiday do not forget to get under some mistletoe and share
Species: H. temminckii
Binomial Name: Helostoma temminckii
These guys have a very distinctive mouth. Their fish lips are thick and fleshy, lined with little horny teeth, hence they became popular for the fish's peculiar kissing behavior. As the each Kisser approaches each other their plump lips lock together for a brief time then release. Although scientist are studying these fish to determine the reason for their behavior, it is thought that it is a social test of strength and/or status. So actually, they are not kissing at all!
In the wild, they can grow to a maximum length of 12 inches (30 centimeters), however, they will only grow to the area. So if the Kisses are held in captivatiy they may not get larger than 5 inches. They are tropical, freshwater fish that are actually surface breathers. They grow very rapidly, and are extremely territorial. Kissing gouramis will bully, chase and torment other fish causing significant stress on other tank mates.
Kissing fish have no external sexual dimorphism. It is incredibly difficult to distinguish them sexually. The females are usually heavier than the males. They are found in two different colorations. There is a green coloration, that originated in Thailand, and a pink, rose, or orange coloration that originated in Java. There is also a dwarf or balloon, pink coloration which is a mutated strain of the pink gourami. 'Balloons' are named for their smaller and rounder bodies.
These fish are omnivores and feed on both plant and animal matter to maintain a balanced diet.
Picture found at http://www.aquariumfish.net/catalog_pages/gouramis/pink_kissers.htm
I am sure you have heard these guys referred to as Starfish most of your life. Well, it seems someone misnamed these beautiful creatures as fish, when in fact they are invertebrates. Sea stars are closely related to the sea urchin and sand dollar. Scientist properly named them Sea Stars due to the fact they are not fish.
They are classified as Asteroidea
The Definition of Asteroidea: the class of echinoderms ("spiney skin") compromising the starfishes, all being unattached, having
(1) a star-shaped or pentagonal body, the rays or arms (usually 5 in number)
hollow and contain prolongations of the coelom and alimentary and
(2) a skeleton of calcareous plates and ossicles somewhat loosely united,
often allowing the arms great freedom of movement, and
(3) a mouth on the lower surface without jaws or teeth, an ab-oral
madreporic plate, and the anus often wanting or function-less
(undigested matter being thrown out at the mouth), and moving by
means of the arms or of long spines on the sides of the arms or by rows
of tube feet that occur in a furrow on the lower surface of each arm.
As a marine animal, the Sea Star uses sea water to pump nutrients through its system instead of blood. However, they are a very carnivores creature with an appetite for clams and oysters. Their unique abilities to consume food outside of their bodies makes them a very effective carnivore. As they approach a victim for dinner, they use their tiny, suction-cupped tube feet pry open the shells and then protrude their cardiac stomachs produce enzymes into the shell and devour their dinner. They feed often based on size not age. They compete with the commercial fisherman. One Sea Star can consume 50 young clams in a week.
With over 2000 species, the most common is the 5 ray Sea Star and the not so common 10, 20 or even 40 ray Sea Stars are out there in our vast ocean, with no fresh water Sea Stars and very few brackish water Sea Stars. As for the Sea Stars calcium, bony skin of striking colors protects, camouflage or scares off potential predators. Purple eyespots at the end of each ray detect light.
By housing their vital organs in their rays, they are able to regenerate a new ray or even an Sea Star from a severed ray. Regeneration requires a central portion of the Sea Star to be in tack to regenerate, however, the Linckia diplax, Sea Star has been witnessed to regenerate a new Sea Star from a ray. Regeneration can take from a couple months to several years and depending upon the cell reformation process. If the process is interrupted the ray may be deformed. By being able to regenerate Sea Stars are sexually and asexually marine creatures. Their breeding season is in the spring and they produce over
Predators of the Sea Star are bottom-dwelling fish and crabs, as well as sea gulls hunting in shallow waters. In the past around 1929, fisherman removed 11 million Sea Stars from Narragansett Bay because they were eating all the oysters. One other predator is the fertilizer industry, odd I know. But they harvest the Sea Stars by tools resembling mops with long strings. The Sea Stars attach to them then they are hauled up and then they grind them up for fertilizer and poultry feed.
Image courtesy of Dawson
It's Election Day! I'm sure everyone is cheering for their respective candidates tonight after voting today. This week's Creature of the Week is the cheerleader of the ocean! Well, maybe not, but it definitely had the equipment to be a cheerleader. Our creature is the Hawaiian Pom Pom Crab.
Photo by Stan Shebs
Hello Explorers! Can you believe we have reached the last week of September? This means this is the last week of Freshwater September. But never fear! We will continue to feature fascinating animals that live in the watery depths. So, what is to be the creature for this final week of Freshwater September? Why, it is the Bowfin!
The bowfin belongs to the class of bony fish, but it is the sole survivor within the order of Amiiformes. 1 This fish is distinguishable by its elongate body, long dorsal fin, and single lobe tail fin (or caudal fin). 2 They also have a rather robust head with a very large mouth, within which lie sharp teeth. 3 The bowfin is a very adaptive fish in that its swim bladder acts as a primitive lung, allowing them to gulp, and consequently breathe, air. 1 This feature allows them to have access to waters that are not highly oxygenated. Bowfins tend to grow to 2.5 feet long (30 inches) and weigh around 8.5 pounds as adults, with males generally being larger than females. 2 However, the record weight of a bowfin is 21 pounds. 2
Bowfins thrive in areas of high vegetation and water clarity, including rivers, lakes, and backwaters. 2 Adults tend to prefer deeper waters, except at night and during breeding season when they come into the shallows. 2 These fish call freshwater habitats in the eastern United States, up into southeastern Canada, their home. 1 The bowfins use the high vegetation to hide themselves when hunting, preferring ambushing or stalking their prey instead of chasing it down. 1 A high percentage of an adult bowfin's diet is fish, though crayfish also tend to be on the menu. 3 Young bowfins prey on small invertebrates such as insects. 3
Read more about this amazing fish at the links below!
Hello Explorers! Here comes September! And with a new month, comes a new Spotlight Creature of the Month. There sure are some odd looking animals in our aquatic environments. Especially in the ocean. Therefore, our Spotlight Creature of the Month is the Spotted Wobbegong!
Spotted wobbegongs are a type of carpet shark, and are one of twelve species within the wobbegong family, Orectolobidae. 1 The wobbegong family is one of seven families in the carpet shark order, Orectolobiformes. 1 This order also includes species such as Nurse sharks, bamboo sharks, zebra sharks, and even Whale sharks! 1
Spotted wobbegongs are found in the western Pacific, specifically along the northern and southern Australian coast and Southern China. 2 They prefer areas of reef, sandy bottoms, or around rocky outcroppings. 2 These sharks inhabit depths from the shallowest of areas to depths of 360 feet. 2
Wobbegongs definitely fit the visual representation of an animal that would be termed a "carpet shark". These guys are bottom dwellers, preferring to blend in with the scenery on the ocean floor. 1 The spotted wobbegong is named for the spotted patterning on its back of white and dark brown, helping to camoflage it from predators and prey. 1 As expected from such behavior, spotted wobbegongs are sit-and-wait predators, preferring to ambush their prey when it gets close enough compared to chasing after it. 1 Spotted wobbegongs, along with other wobbegong species, are distinctive in the presence of fleshy lobes surrounding their snouts, in addition to their nasal barbels. 2 The spotted wobbegongs are the largest of the wobbegongs, growing up to 10 feet in length, though most grow only to around 6 feet. 2
These nocturnal sharks feed on a variety of creatures, such as octopus, lobster, crabs, and fish. 2 Spotted wobbegongs have teeth that are long and sharp. 2 In addition, these sharks are known to hang onto whatever they do bite. 2 Of course like most other biting animals of the ocean, divers do not need to fear being bitten unless they provoke this shark. 2
Spotted wobbegongs are ovoviviparous: their eggs are internally fertilized and are kept within the female until the eggs hatch. 2 The record number of pups that one female produced was 37. 2
Read more about this incredible and odd looking shark at the following links:
2. Eagle, Dane; Spotted Wobbegong http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/gallery/descript/spotwobbegong/spotwobbegong.html
Hello Explorers! Welcome to the third week of our Freshwater September Creature of the Week! This week we feature the Blue Catfish. So let's dive right in with this whiskered fish.
The blue catfish, or Ictalurus furcatus, is a North American catfish and happens to be one of the largest. 1 These catfish can grow up to 65 inches and weigh up to a whopping 100+ pounds! 1 However, generally you will see individuals around 20-40 inches and weighing around 40 pounds. 2 The largest blue catfish ever caught was in Greenville, NC and weighed 143 pounds.1 Blue catfish also are long lived. Scientists believe that the blue catfish can live up to 34 years. 2
Besides growing large, blue catfish are distinguished from other fish by their distinct catfish "whiskers" and their slate blue coloration. 3 The whiskers are called barbels and aid catfish in detecting food. 4 Catfish actually have no scales, though some have scutes, which are bony plates. 4 The blue catfish is one of the smooth-skinned catfish. Almost all catfish also have a special secret defense. The leading "spine" on the dorsal fin and pectoral fins of a catfish actually is hollow and strong, acting as a barb in defense. 4 Many catfish actually have venom in these spines. 4 Blue catfish also have the characteristic catfish profile: a flat underside and cylindrical body. 4 Catfish have a reduced swimbladder to reduce their buoyancy, and thus allow them to remain near or on the bottom. 4
Blue catfish, as stated before, are native to North America, mainly in the Mississippi River. 1 They have also been introduced to lakes and rivers in the states along the Atlantic Coastline. 3 These catfish are freshwater and prefer river habitats that consist of deep waters with a sandy bottom and swift currents. 3 The blue catfish feeds primarily on bottom dwellers including crustaceans, insects, mollusks, other fish, and plant materials. 2
Learn more about this cool catfish at the following links
G'day Explorers! As the month of September continues, as does our theme-month for the Creature of the Week. Last week we featured the longnose gar. This week's creature is also an odd shaped and ancient freshwater fish. For week number two of our Freshwater September month, our creature of the week is the American Paddlefish!
There are only two surviving species of paddlefish in the world: the Chinese paddlefish and the American paddlefish. Paddlefish are members of the Acipenseriformes order, which also include sturgeons. 1 Though they are members of the class Actinopterygii which include all "bony fish", paddlefish belong to the subclass Chondrostei, whose members have skeletons made primarily of cartilage. 1 However, paddlefish are not sharks. Scientists believe that the ancestors of the subclass Chondrostei were "bony", but then became mostly "cartilagenous". 2 Also of note, Chondrostei is considered paraphyletic, meaning that this subclass most likely is missing additional descendants from the subclass's common ancestor. 2
Looking at the picture of a paddlefish, one can see where these fish got their name. The most distinctive feature of the paddlefish is their long flattened rostrum (or snout). 3 This feature isn't just for looks, however. The "paddle" is covered with tiny electroreceptors, which act to sense electrical currents. 3 All animals produce various amounts of electrical currents. Thus, this ability to sense animals, mainly prey, aids the paddlefish in locating food. 3 Further, paddlefish can also sense the electical fields produced by the earth, which aids in migration. 3 Paddlefish also have gill rakers to help filter out the zooplanton upon which they feed. 3 Yes, paddlefish are filter feeders! The American Paddlefish can grow very large as well, up to 7 feet long, and weigh up to 200 pounds. 1 These fish are also long lived; scientists have found American paddlefish can live for 20 to 30 years, and they believe that American paddlefish could live up to 50 years. 3
The American paddlefish can be found in the Mississippi River at present. 3 Though they are primarily freshwater, paddlefish can also be found in areas of brackish water. 3 These fish inhabit deeper, slow moving river waters with low visibility. 3
Sadly, the American paddlefish is considered vulnerable due to habitat changes and overfishing. 1 The roe, or eggs, of this animal are considered high quality cavier to many people. 3 Also, due to their size, paddlefish are considered highly prized catches among sportfisherman. 3 Dams in river systems create habitat changes to which these fish cannot adapt, considering they migrate to reproduce. 1
Read more about the American Paddlefish at the following sites:
3. Jerome, Johnhttp://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Polyodon_spathula.html
Howdy Explorers! Welcome to the first week of September. Now, you may have noticed that I have been somewhat biased toward marine creatures thus far. This must be remedied, for there are many freshwater creatures that are incredibly fascinating. So, for the four weeks of September, I will feature a freshwater creature each week for our Creature of the Week. Our first creature in this theme month is the longnose gar.
Now, the longnose gar is also known as the needlenose gar. It is one of seven species still in existence that belongs to the gar family, Lepisosteidae. 1 The gar family is a member of an ancient order of fish, Lepisosteiformes, which contain many now-extinct members, including other gar species, whose fossils date back to the late Cretaceous. 1 For those who didn't take a geological, archaeological, or paleontological course in college, the end of the Cretaceous was marked by the mass extinction of the dinosaurs. Gars, along with other members of Lepisosteiformes, are considered "primitive" ray-finned fish. 1 On a side note, the evolution of and scientific classification of the members within the superclass Osteichthyes, aka the "bony fish", is a very interesting subject, which I urge you to research if you are interested.
Longnose gar are primarily freshwater fish, but they are found in certain areas with brackish water. 2 Brackish water refers to areas where freshwater and saltwater meet and mix, creating waters that are substantially diluted, though still contain salt. Longnose gar range from Florida to Quebec, and can extend as far west as Texas. 2 These fish are generally found in slower moving waters. 2 They prefer areas rich with vegetation with warm and relatively shallow waters. 1
Photo by Matt1583The most distinctive feature of gars are the elongate mouth. Longnose gars have very long and slender mouths with sharp teeth that aid in capturing and holding onto prey, allowing them to thrash their heads side to side to tear. 2 Obviously, one can gather that gars are predators, specifically ambush predators, preying primarily on other fish species.2 They have the characteristic gar bodyshape: elongate and cylindrical with diamond-shaped scales.1 Longnose gars can grow up to 6 feet in length, and they can live between 17-20 years.1 These creatures are slow growing and take a while to reach sexual maturity: females become mature at 6 years, while males are mature at 4 years of age. 2
Read more about these ancient fish at the links below:
2. Goddard, Nate.http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/Gallery/Descript/LongnoseGar/LongnoseGar.html