Fish Review

Fish Anatomy (two minute time limit)
Open the links below in a new tab and play "Scatter" or "Space Race" with BOTH sets. Please do not spend more than five minutes on each (ten minutes total).
Fish - caudal fins, mouths, body shapes and coloration
Unit 7 Fish Words and concepts including harvesting

Friday, September 28, 2012

Gastropods

Gastropod means "stomach foot" and includes all snails and anything else that makes one shell. Gastropods have one foot, one shell, and one siphon.

Some shells are spiral and have an operculum to act as a door for when they hide inside. The snail lives in the entire shell (all the way up into the top and retreats inside to hide when it feels threatened or exposed. The operculum blocks any would-be attackers and is made of a material similar to fingernails. These types of molluscs include whelks and moon snails.

Other shells are not spiral and the snail has good suction power so that predators have a difficult time pulling the snail off the rocks. These types of molluscs include slipper snails, abalones, and limpets.

Nudibranch (naked-gills) are sea slugs that have lost the ability to make a shell over evolutionary history. They are still classified as gastropods.

Even though they don't have a shell, they do however have some interesting adaptations to keep from getting eaten. Most nudibranch exhibit warning coloration because they are poisonous or have stingers - none that they make - they acquire them from the prey that they eat!

National Geographic did a great article a few years ago full of lovely photos. Both are linked here. Watch the video for a full-range spectrum of photos.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Slimy Slugs


Today classes got a close up look at the Limax maximus and their slimy mollusc bodies. Thank you Cassie for bringing in Professor Paulie Slops! Students looked at the two sets of tentacles (eyespots and sensory tentacles) and the hole the land slug breathes through. Some touched it to see what the slug felt like and quite a few third period students let the slug slime all over them. Way to be brave!

Slugs can be considered gross because of the copious amounts of mucus they leave behind. The mucus helps them get a better grip on surfaces and helps prevent dessication, drying out. It can also make the slug more difficult to pick up by predators. More information about slugs can be found here.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Pearls

Pearls can be made by any mollusc that has a shell. I passed around my pearls and some shells that I have with pearls on the sides - not all pearls are free floating - they can be attached to the side of a shell.

A mollusc makes a pearl to cover an irritating spot like a piece of sand that gets inside the shell. Pearls can be "glued" to the side of the shell or free to move inside the mollsucs shell. We prefer the "free" kind.

Here is a great short video that explains the process!

Any mollusk that produces a shell can produce a pearl. Nevertheless, naturally occurring pearls are rare, found in perhaps one of every 10,000 animals. The cultured pearl industry, which has flourished since the early 20th century, has developed techniques to greatly improve these odds. Indeed, more pearls are produced now than at any time in human history.( SOURCE This is a good website for lots of information on pearls)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Molluscs

Students are in the midst of Unit 4 Molluscs busily learning about the different classes of Molluscs and trying to learn a variety of sea shells. Students have learned the basics about sea shells
  • The shells found on the beach are from dead organisms.
  • Any mollusc that has a shell, makes it shell.
  • Sea shells are made of calcium carbonate.
  • Shells are smooth on the inside because slimy molluscs don't want to rub their soft bodies on something rough. If they are smooth on the outside, then the mollusc also wears its body on the outside of its shell.

Today's cool mollusc was the chiton, an odd mollusc that has 8 overlapping plates held together by its soft squishy mantle, and the plates come apart when the animal dies. Chitons are built like armored cars and have great suction to stay on the rocky coast in waves and storms. They spend their days sliming around scraping algae. When pulled off a rock, it can roll into a ball to protect its squishy parts. More info can be found here.

Students also learned the four major classes of bivalves - clams, mussels, oysters, and scallops. Bivalves have 2 shells and 2 siphons, as well as adductor muscles to help keep their shells from opening for hungry predators. Bivalves include some of the more well know shellfish like scallops, clams, oysters, and scallops as well as a few like jingles, ark shells, and cockles. Pictured to the right are a clam (tan), oyster (grey), and mussel (black).

Mussels make byssal threads for attaching (so do ark shells and jingle shells) and scallops have eyespots to see predators. Oysters make cement to stick together and clams have a powerful foot for digging down and hiding.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Weird Biomes

Students have been learning all the different biomes that exist in the oceans. Most people have heard of coral reefs and think about the beach, but there are actually many different biomes in the ocean.

One of the weirdest, but also most interesting is Whalefall. Whalefall is when a dead whale settles to the bottom of the ocean and organisms move in to feed on the carcass until even the bones are decomposed. Hagfish are a dominant scavenger as well as bacteria. It may not seem like a big deal, but this biome boasts over 160 species that are not found on the surrounding benthos. More info can be found at the link above, or here. Listen to a podcast here.

Deep sea benthos is another biome and it is pretty boring. Its a gooey squishy substrate populated by some dd scavengers, but there is not a high biodiversity and not a lot of food to eat.

Photic vs Aphotic is an odd one involving the light and dark zones of the ocean. Some organisms hide in the dark aphotic zone during the day and migrate up to the surface (the photic zone) at night to eat the phytoplankton. Predators also migrate to eat the things that are eating the phytoplankton.


Not all biomes are found at the bottom of the sea or in the dark. Along coasts you can find rocky coasts, sandy beaches, salt marshes, mangroves, sea grass beds, kelp forests, and fouling communities.

I think fouling communities are really interesting... because all these organisms need is a hard substrate (surface) to stick on. This could be a dock, a pier, a boat, or anything that's in the water long enough. Most people have seen all the 'stuff' growing on the pole legs of piers and docks, but don't really think of the variety of organisms that grow there - or their importance. Most of these organisms are filter feeders and do a lot for water quality. They also break down the surfaces like scavengers... not something we want for our boats and docks we use, but important nonetheless.

There is a lot of information to learn this unit. Students will be given two review sheets one general, one biome specific. The Unit 3 Test is one of the hardest of the year, and it is coming soon!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Beginning Biomes



Students have been learning all the different biomes that exist in the oceans. Most people have heard of coral reefs and think about the beach, but there are actually many different biomes in the ocean.  On the East Coast right here in Virginia, we can find salt marshes, sea grasses, sandy beaches, and maritime forests. In Florida you can find mangroves (trees that grow in salt water) and coral reefs. On the west coast, rocky coasts and kelp forests are the two dominant biomes.

 Along some coasts you can find rocky coasts, sandy beaches, salt marshes, mangroves, sea grass beds, kelp forests, and fouling communities.  Kelp forests are dominated by kelp that can grow to 300 feet tall. The kelp is held near the surface by lots of air bladders. Kelp forests are important because they provide a lot of substrate and habitat for organisms to live, hide and eat.

We also discussed sea grass beds. Sea grass is super-important for stabilizing the substrate and holding the sand down. This promotes water clarity and decreases turbidity. Nothing eats sea grass when it is alive except for manatees. Everything else eats it after the bacteria have decomposed it a bit.

Salt Marshes are one of the most productive ecosystems, but nothing eats the salt marsh grass when its alive... once the anaerobic bacteria break it down into black mush, then other organisms eat it. 

Mangroves are trees that can grow in salt water. They have crazy prop roots or finger like roots called pneu- mato- phores that stick up out of the water so the tree can get oxygen during high tide. The roots provide a lot of substrate that a lot of fouling organisms will colonize and use as habitat.

 There is a lot of information to learn this unit. The Unit 3 Test is one of the hardest of the year.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Zonation

Today we discussed zonation in Marine Ecology. Zonation happens when organisms are adapted to a very specific set of conditions. Because some organisms are better adapted to these certain conditions, we see bands of organisms occupying zones. Today we talked about zonation and specifically how it affects the rocky coastline.


Students identified zones on rocky coast pictures and took notes on the material. Here is an example of a photo where the zones can clearly be seen by changes in dominant seaweeds. The yellow layer is the upper zone and the white pink is the middle zone. It is easy to see the high water mark or where the high tide will reach. You can also see the lichens in the spray zone.

The spray zone is one of the hardest areas to live in because of the huge changes in salinity and temperature.


We also talked about tide pools. Tide pools are depressions that trap water when the tide recedes. You can find all kinds of things in tide pools, but tide pools in the lower zone have a higher biodiversity than tidepools found in the upper zone. This is because they are more often "refreshed" with water that keeps salinity, dissolved oxygen, and the temperature stable, as well as add nutrients and more food! Here is a neat article from National Geographic about tidepools (and where this photo is from). 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Seaweeds

Students learned about the three types of seaweed. Seaweed and algae are the same thing and they are classified by pigment type - red, brown, or green. 

Red seaweeds are the most common, but we don't see a lot of them because they like tropical waters and deep waters. 

Brown algae is the most common seaweed on our coast, whereas green algae is the most common in the freshwater of Virginia.

There is also cyanobacteria - or the blue green algae which we discussed during the plankton part of the unit. 

Some algae is calcareous - meaning it stores calcium carbonate in its tissues. This makes it crunchy and deters herbivores. The most common is a calcareous red algae that makes a pink crust on just about everything left in the ocean.

A lot of seaweed has air bladders to help it float towards the surface.  Air bladders ensure adequate sunlight for photosynthesis. Other important adaptations include flexibility and gels to stay hydrated when the tide goes out. Students observed samples of dried seaweed.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Plankton Grand Prix 2012

Here are two masters of plankton design, Joe & Patrick, in a head to head race. Patrick is the all around champ for this year with a time over three minutes, and Joe may be a winner on a technicality (technically it sank, but was still near the surface). 


Plankton had to start sinking within one minute and sink slowly. Slowest sinker wins.

Plankton want to stay near the surface for access to sunlight if they are phytoplankton and access to phytoplankton to eat if they are zooplankton. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Plankton!



Today students got new seats and started a new unit on Plants, Plankton, and Biomes. This is probably our longest and most difficult unit because of the large amount of information that needs to be learned and applied.

We started class with a discussion about phytoplankton (cyanobacteria pictured above) and its importance to the ocean and to the world. Phytoplankton are responsible for feeding most of the creatures that live away from the shore and they are important for adding oxygen both to the water and to the atmosphere.

We are learning about plankton! Plankton include organisms that drift through the seas that cannot swim and do not attach to the bottom. Plankton can be classified a variety of ways.

The first way is to classify them by size. Microplankton and nannoplankton require a microscope if you want to see them because they are so tiny. Macroplankton are small, but you can see them without a microscope. Megaplankton are big enough to pick up and include things like jellies.

Another easy way to classify plankton is into plants and animals. Phytoplankton are tiny plants that photosynthesize and make their own food. Zooplankton (belong in the the zoo) and are animal plankton.

Plankton can also be classified as holo- plankton and mero- plankton. Holo- plankton are plankton for their whole lives (forever) and meroplankton are only plankton for part of their lives. The meroplankton may be plankton when they are eggs, larvae, juveniles, all of those stages, or only some of those stages. Most of the invertebrates and fish in the ocean spend some time in their life as a plankton because it allows them to spread around the ocean and find new places to live. This photo is a meroplankton snail larvae that grows into a poisonous cone snail. Part of its body hardens in to the shell it carries for the rest of its life. This is my favorite website about plankton and it is where all my photos come from. Check out the other types of meroplankton.

Students have drawn their own plankton, tried to match meroplankton to the adult forms, and are currently designing plankton to compete in the Plankton Grand Prix - where the object is to sink slowly. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Keystone Species

We talked about keystone species. Keystone species are important members of the food web because they help maintain biodiversity and keep everything in balance. An example is a sea otter. Sea otters eat sea urchins and keep their population in check. Trey loves sea otters - even though I keep telling him they are vicious and have scary teeth!

When the sea otters are removed (like when they used to be hunted for their fur), the sea urchin populations go crazy, eat all the kelp (as in many many 300 foot tall plants), and the loss of kelp leads to a drop in biodiversity because there is less food and habitat for the many other species that like to live in and on and among the kelp.

Look at these before and after food webs when the sea otter is removed from the kelp forest.


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.