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Jennifer Kennedy

Marine Life

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Monday's Mystery Creature

Monday April 14, 2014

Mystery Creature / Jennifer Kennedy, Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation

Can you identify this species? I took this image yesterday off of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Jennifer Kennedy, Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation

Creature Feature: Gray Seal

Monday April 14, 2014

Gray Seal / Johan J. Ingles-Le Nobel, FlickrLast Monday's Mystery Creature image featured two gray seals. Unlike some other seals, who have a rounded, dog-like head, gray seals have more of a horse-like snout. Their scientific name Halichoerus grypus references another terrestrial farm animal - it translates to "hook-nosed pig of the sea."

Gray seals are fairly large seals. Males can reach lengths up to 10 feet and weights up to 880 pounds, while females grow to about 7.5 feet and 550 pounds.  They live in cold water in the Atlantic Ocean and Baltic Sea.

Gray seal populations have expanded in many areas, prompting a debate about culling the animals. But they do face threats - natural predators include sharks and orcas, and they can get entangled in fishing gear.

Learn More:

Gray seal image courtesy Johan J. Ingles-Le Nobel, Flickr

Pinnipeds: Fin-footed Marine Mammals

Tuesday April 8, 2014

Steller Sea Lions / David B. Ledig/USFWS, FlickrThe term pinniped refers to the group of about 27 species of seals, sea lions and walruses.   The term pinniped is Latin for wing- or fin-footed, and refers to the flippers that all pinnipeds possess, which makes them adept swimmers.

There are 3 types of pinnipeds:

  • Otariidae (eared seals and sea lions) - animals with a visible ear flap on each side of their head
  • Phocidae (earless, sometimes called "true" seals) - animals that have ears, but they don't have a visible ear flap
  • Odobenidae (walrus) - one species of walrus

This week's Mystery Creature is a species of pinniped - do you know which one?

Learn More:

Image: Steller Sea Lions, Courtesy David B. Ledig/USFWS

Monday's Mystery Creature

Monday April 7, 2014

Gray Seals / MGSpiller, Flickr

Image courtesy MGSpiller, Flickr

New Content

Monday March 31, 2014

I've added some new content this month, much of which I've blogged about today! But here's a list in case you want to check out these new articles:

Is there something related to marine life that you'd like to hear more about? Leave your suggestion in the comments!

Word of the Day: Bioerosion

Monday March 31, 2014

Midnight Parrotfish / TravelsWithTam.comYou've probably heard the term erosion, which is when waves, wind or ice can carry pieces of earth or rocks away. But have you heard of bioerosion?  Bioerosion, used in reference to marine life, is when marine organisms such as invertebrates, fish or even algae break off pieces of rocks or coral.

One example of bioerosion is feeding by parrotfish (I've been a little obsessed with parrotfish after seeing some beautiful ones in the Florida Keys this winter!). The midnight parrotfish, for example, feeds on algae housed within coral. When the midnight parrotfish feeds, it uses its beaklike jaw to bite off pieces of coral, then crunches them up with additional teeth in its throat. The fish eats the algae, while the crushed coral gets excreted as waste (search for parrotfish online and you'll probably see lots of references about parrotfish pooping sand, and this is why).

A lot of times, erosion isn't a good thing. Think of your favorite beach getting washed away, bit by bit, as sea level rises. Not so much fun. But in the case of parrotfish and corals, bioerosion is a good thing.  Breaking up the coral results in two things: small pieces of coral that can form new reefs, and ground-up coral falling to the ocean bottom in the parrotfish's waste, which recycles the nutrients necessary for reef-building.

Learn more about bioerosion and see other examples here.

Image: Midnight parrotfish, Courtesy Tam Warner Minton, TravelsWithTam.com

Creature Feature: Northern Quahog

Monday March 31, 2014

Quahog / NOAALast week's Mystery Creature was a type of clam called the northern quahog, or hard-shelled clam.  Northern quahogs are a clam with a large, thick shell. They are found buried in mud or sand in waters from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to Florida and Texas.

These clams are filter-feeders. They have an inhalant siphon that extends to the surface of the sand and draws in water.  The water is drawn through the gills, where sheets of mucous pick up small organic particles and algae, which are then passed to the mouth.  The leftover water is expelled via another siphon.  This filtering allows the clam to get food, and also filters the surrounding waters. So we want to keep clam populations healthy, because the filtering of clams improves water quality.

Quahogs are an important food source, and are referred to by size. Little clams (up to about 1.5 inches) are called littlenecks, medium-sized clams (about 2 inches) are called cherrystones, and larger clams are called quahogs or chowders.  The pronunciation of the word can differ, but usually sounds something like "co-hog" or "qwa-hog."

Learn More About the Northern Quahog

Image: Northern Quahog, Courtesy NOAA Photo Library, Flickr

Monday's Mystery...Creature?

Monday March 31, 2014

Guess What This Is / Silke Baron, Flickr

What is it? Leave your answer in the comments below!

Image Courtesy Silke Baron, Flickr

Monday's Mystery Creature

Monday March 24, 2014

Monday's Mystery Creature / Courtesy NOAA Photo Library

Can you identify this species?

Image courtesy NOAA Photo Library, Flickr

Creature Feature: Stoplight Parrotfish

Monday March 24, 2014

Stoplight Parrotfish / NOAA Photo LibraryThe stoplight parrotfish is one of about 80 parrotfish species. This species has several color variations, and can even change sex.

Stoplight parrotfish are primarily found in warm, shallow waters over reefs and seagrass beds in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico from Florida to Venezuela.  These fish can grow to about 24 inches in size, although they average about 12 inches.

The coloration of juvenile stoplight parrotfish, and some adults, is reddish-brown. This reddish-brown coloration can be present in both females and males. But some males are born female and then change sex to become "supermales."  These supermalesexhibit bright green coloration. As you might expect from their brilliant color, they lead "harems" of female parrotfish, and have a better chance at mating during the spawning season.

Have you seen a stoplight parrotfish?

Learn More:

Image: Stoplight parrotfish - an adult female or "primary" male with reddish-brown coloration. Image courtesy NOAA Photo Library, Flickr.

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