Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sea Turtle Hatchlings

Baby sea turtles, hatchlings, have a very tough life. Mom digs a nest, deposits her eggs (about 100), and then leaves. She may lay eggs four to six times a season. The eggs are about the size of ping pong balls and a little more flexible (they have a ways to fall).

Later, the hatchlings have to fight their way out of the nest and through sand to the surface... and then make their way to the ocean. One of the biggest threats to hatchlings is photopollution. For more information about how lighting affects baby turtles, click here.

For other threats to Sea Turtles as hatchlings or as adults, check here or here

Monday, November 29, 2010

Beginning Reptiles

In class we have been working on final projects and today we began discussing reptiles!

There are four types of reptiles found in saltwater, but they aren't that common. Marine Iguanas are the only marine lizard and are only found on the Galapagos Islands. They dive into the cold seas to feast on algae and as a result have to spend a lot of time basking on rocks to warm back up. They expel salt through their nostrils via salty snot rockets.

Sea Snakes are found in the Indo-Pacific and are venomous, but not aggressive - meaning they can kill you, but aren't likely to attack you. They have really big lungs to hold their breath for a long time and special nose flaps to keep the water out.

Saltwater crocodiles can be found in the Florida Keys, but are more common in Australia. These menacing reptiles are especially scary because they are found on beaches where people want to swim.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Shark Conservation

Today we discussed conservation of sharks. Millions of sharks are killed each year by humans. Some are caught by sport fisherman, some are harvested for oils, meats, and other things; many of them are being harvested for their fins. Finning wastes 95% of an animal, and the sharks are often tossed back in the ocean alive after being finned to die a slow painful death. For more information, click here.

The fins are harvested for shark fin soup. Shark fin soup is considered a delicacy in some countries and can sell for upwards of a hundred dollars a bowl.

The next thing we talked about was shark attacks. Most shark attacks are actually provoked by humans. Other shark attacks like bump-and-bites and hit-and-runs are the shark investigating a human to see if it is something good to eat. Once the shark tries it, it finds it doesn't like humans, it will swim away. Unfortunately for us humans, we are not so tough and kind of squishy and shark attacks damage us.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

build a fish interactive

Build a Fish!

Skates and Rays

Today in class we talked about skates and rays. Skates and rays are depressed relatives of sharks that often spend most of their time on the benthos. (There are a few exceptions like manta rays pictured in the upper right)

Skates and rays are really similar and often hard to tell apart. Some rays look like flat sharks and some flat sharks look like rays, so we are going to be general in identifying skates and rays. In general, skates have fins on the tips of their tails.

Only rays can have stingers, and not all of them do. They can have 1 to 3 stingers from 5 to 15 inches long. See the picture below.

I often get asked about Steve Irwin, the famous Crocodile Hunter when we talk about stingrays. Yes, Steve Irwin was killed by a stingray, but his type of accident was very rare. Steve got stabbed in the heart which injected venom right into an important organ. Also, he removed the barb which caused just as much damage going in as it did coming out because of the sharp serrated edge. For more information about Steve Irwin's death check here and here.

Still worried about shark attacks? Check the newest stats here at the Florida site.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Shark Review

We are finishing up sharks and finishing up final projects. Final Projects are due Tuesday November 30th, after Thanksgiving, but students will get 5 extra points for turning in a quality project before Thanksgiving Break. (It's not worth it to turn in a substandard project before Turkey time)

Try this review of Shark Anatomy. It covers what we did and a bit more. MsJ got a 95% in 38 seconds.

Try this quick Shark ID game. MsJ got a 75% the first time because of a reef shark!

Check out Nate's shark model with the strong man fighting his way out!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Shark Senses

Today we learned about shark senses. Sharks have a large brain to help process the sensory overload they must get from the SEVEN senses they have. They have the five we have plus a lateral line (pressure and vibrations) and the ampullae of lorenzini (electro-reception).

Follow this link for a cool interactive about how shark jaws stick out when they attack their prey! The interactive is down at the bottom.

If you are doing a final project on a shark... check out this new link! www.shark.ch

And once again... one try only... how much do you know about sharks? MsJ scored a 1467. Try Shark Weeks Ultimate Shark Challenge to see how much you know. Please limit yourself to 15 minutes.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Fe fi fo fishies!

Students have finished up fish for now and took their test Friday. Students have excelled at the many fishy challenges set before them and it would be impossible for me to say who the winners were of the many challenges we have completed.

Next up is SHARKS! Great whites in the waters off the coast of South Africa leap out of the water to chase the fur seals they want to eat that also leap out of the water.

Try Shark Weeks Ultimate Shark Challenge to see how much you know. (Play only once) MsJ scored 1370.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Fishing Methods and Sustainable Harvesting

Monday and Wednesday we discussed fishing and seafood harvesting, the good, the bad, and the just plain ugly.

The truth is that our oceans are being fished to extinction and emptiness. We are harvesting more and more fish from smaller and smaller populations. What is a person to do that wants to eat seafood, but not hurt the environment?

BECOME AWARE. Most people do not know where their seafood came from or how it was caught.

How it was caught makes a big difference. Different fishing methods have pros and cons for the environment and regarding bycatch (fish and other organisms like sharks, sea turtles, sea birds, and dolphins, that are caught, often killed, and not really wanted).

One of the biggest things to avoid is any kind of imported shrimp. Imported shrimp are either caught with destructive trawl nets that destroy habitats and that do not have TEDs that allow turtles and dolphins to escape unharmed or they are farmed in aquaculture plants that are built on destroyed mangrove forests that then leach pollution and kill nearby coral reefs.

The United States requires all shrimp trawlers to be outfitted with TEDs and regulates where they can trawl. The US has higher standards for pollution laws and laws protecting shore habitats that result in less damage to the environment. Choose US shrimp ONLY!

If you would like more information - check out SeafoodWatch, a non-profit organization that independently evaluates fisheries for their sustainability and environmental impacts.

This article also has some really nice information and photos. Sustainable seafood.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Fishing Methods and Sustainable Harvesting

Today we discussed fishing methods and the advantages and disadvantages of different methods. Netting is the most popular method of commercial fishing because a lot of fish can be caught in short amount of time without a lot of effort.

One the major problems with most commerical fisheries is the amount of bycatch. Bycatch is anything caught in the net that you do not want. This could include edible fish that your company is just not equipped to process.

Most organisms brought up in nets as bycatch do not survive because they are crushed or drowned. Sea turtles and dolphins sometimes get swept into nets and drown because they cannot make it to the surface to breathe.

Most scientists and fisherman agree that the oceans have been and are being overharvested. People may not like regulations, but without regulations, many fish species that we used to commonly consume would be extinct.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Fish Reproduction

Fish reproduce in a variety of ways. Most are broadcast spawners, meaning that when the time is right, the females release their eggs, the males release their sperm and they both meet and mix producing fertilized eggs that develop into fish fry and eventually into adult fish. These snapper are spawning and you can tell by the large cloud of gametes in the water.

By producing a lot of eggs, the snapper hope to overwhelm any predators trying to make a meal so that there is no way all the fry are eaten and some will have a chance of surviving.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Jawless Fish

Today we discusses jawless fish. Jawless fish are primitive fish with a notochord instead of a backbone and a flat rasping mouth that cannot close like ours. As a result thes fish cannot bite... only scrape and hold on.

Pictured to the right, you can see five lamprey mouths and one lamprey head with blue eyes and seven gill holes.

Jawless fish include lampreys which are parasites and hagfish which are detritavores. Neither one will ever win a beauty contest.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Crustacean and Echinoderm Costumes

Today in class we did our final review of crustaceans and echinoderms. Groups drew a random card and had 15 minutes to make a costume for one of people to wear. Materials included a stapler and a piece of paper. Mr. Straley stopped by in the middle of the fashion show and snapped this photo of Corrinn's crab walk (I am in the background wearing a barnacle hat). He posted this photo to his blog - you can check it out here.
Elijah is helping Moe with her Mantis Shrimp gloves

Tommy is helping Lindsey with her antennaes (and looking evil)

making feathery legs for the gooseneck barnacle

Lindsey's spiny lobster antennae is getting lots of help

Amanda is a decorator crab

Corrinn is a male fiddler crab

Courtney is a barnacle with feathery legs

Morgan is a sea cucumber complete with yellow tentacles

Friday, October 15, 2010


Today was POKING DAY! Which is just a more interesting title for Crustacean - Mollusc - Echinoderm Observation Day. I go to the grocery store in town and see what kind of seafood I can find and the students make measurements and observations and see some of the organisms we've been discussing first hand.

It does smell a little bad.... but it is pretty fun, and the students do learn a lot. Here are some of the photos from today. 

Corrin and Rachel with Echinoderms (check out Corrin's cool new do)

ready to learn

shrimp with heads and super long antennae

ouch it's got me!

Kaitlin and the horseshoe crab

Jeremiah and the octopus

Kaitlin, Michelle, Bruce, and Jess at the Crab station

Alex, Tommy, and Lindsey at the lobster/crawdad station measuring claws

Bruce held the octopus (I think because of peer pressure)

More peer pressure for Amanda and Delafayetter

Cruella has nothing on Carlton and the shrimp heads :)

Harley and the crab get to know each other
My apologies for not turning any of them... sorta in a hurry. I have a feeling some of these might end up on Facebook and that is OK with me. :) Have a FAB weekend.

Nate and the octopus, demonstrating something

This photo makes me laugh.

Brittney and the blue crab (it's a male)

Meet the shrimp (via Carlton) - BEST PHOTO of the DAY

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Crustacean Basics - A Review for Marine Ecology Class

Crustaceans have bilateral symmetry and a hard crunchy exoskeleton. Because the crustacean grows and the exoskeleton does not, crustaceans have to molt or shed their hard outercovering, exposing a new softer bigger covering that will harden in a few days.

There are two basic lobsters to be familiar with - the clawed lobster and the spiny lobster. Both are primarily scavengers. The clawed lobster has two different claws - a lighter faster shredder and a heavier more powerful crusher. The clawed lobster is more solitary because it is more aggressive. The spiny lobster does not have big claws, but can defend itself with its long whip like antennae. This lobster likes to congregate in groups and is not as aggressive. Both lobsters carry their eggs on the swimmerettes protecting them from potential predators.

Left: male ; Right: Female
CRABS - In general, you can tell the difference between boy crabs and girl crabs by looking at the shape of the plate on the abdomen. Boys have a thinner more pointy plate, girls have a wider more rounded plate because it is used to hold the egg mass. The mothers carry the eggs because not many predators will mess with them to get to the eggs.
  • Blue Crabs are found in the Chesapeake Bay. They are very agressive, like to pinch, but are good to eat. They have a pointy-ended shell and swim fins. (you can kind of see the swim fins on the last leg of the crabs on the right)
  • Spider Crabs have a rounder body shape, often a bumpy shell that will grow algae for camouflage, and longer more spindly legs. Spider Crabs include snow crabs and king crabs like the ones seen on Deadliest Catch.
  • Fiddler Crab males have one claw that is a lot bigger than the other. This is for impressing the ladies, and used to show dominance over other males. 
  • Hermit Crabs have a weak exoskeleton and thus protect it with a stolen mollusc shell. They have adapted to this lifestyle and have modified back legs that hook on the inside to hold the shell on and one claw that is slightly larger to use as an operculum.

SHRIMP - miniature lobsters... use their swimmerettes to keep themselves moving - most Americans have never seen one with its head and legs still attached!
  • Gulf shrimp are the ones people most people are familiar with because these are the ones we eat!
  • Shore shrimp live in sea grasses, are fairly small and clear, and are not commercially harvested because no one would make any money.
  • Snapping shrimp have slightly larger claws and can use them to make sonic waves to stun their prey with sound. 
  • Mantis shrimp whack their prey with arms that can unfold and strike lightning quick. 
  • Cleaner shrimp make their living eating parasites off of fish and other sea creatures. 

If you look at a diagram, barnacles are like little shrimp glued on their backs with a white fence around them. They stick their feathery legs out to filter feed plankton. They are plankton for a while and once settled and glues onto a hard substrate never move again. This makes mating difficult, but the hermaphroditic barnacles have special talents. Gooseneck barnacles have a stalk that they attach to substrates with.

Computer Lab Etiquette

You are in the computer lab to do work for this class. If you are not doing work, then we will have problems.

Do not pack up early. Work until the bell or until MsJ says.

SAVE OFTEN. And if you save to a key, also save it to your number. If you lose it, you will have to do it again.

If MsJ asks for your attention, stop what you are doing and listen to what she has to say.

You may watch videos about your organism through reliable websites.

You may listen to music through the computer if you have your own headphones. Rule1 MsJ cannot hear it. You get one warning. Rule2 Turn it on and listen – no million clicks and constant changing. Take both ear phones out when MsJ is talking.