Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Snorkeling in the gulf...
I went snorkeling a few days ago, in a nice sandy-bottom habitat. Unlike the west coast, the gulf sandy-bottoms are very shallow for a long way out... and warm!
I saw some large sand dollars, a ton of snail tracks, and worm castings. All evidence of a thriving infaunal community.
There were even many egg masses, like this, poking up from the sand.
Most of the life was focused in and around patches of sea grass. It was here you had a lot of the megafauna, like this blue crab, hanging out.
I also saw this puffer fish, and a couple of stingrays...
Of course, I did not really see the stingrays until they moved and swam away from me!
There was a lot of crazy interactions happening all around me too. Like these snails... I don't quite know what's going on here, but I think the one snail is being eaten by the other!
And of course, the obligatory battle between fiddler crabs on land...
All and all a good time... and surprising too. While I expected to see the stingrays, sanddollars, worms, and snails. I did not expect to see urchins, tunicates, and mussels which generally prefer harder, rocky substrates. Many of them were nestled in the sea grass. Perhaps the mussels had settled in the root system of the sea grass, and the tunicates settled on them.
I can't wait to see what a rocky-bottom habitat holds in store!