Saturday, August 20, 2011

Snorkeling in a hard-bottom gulf community...

Snorkeling in the gulf in a rocky bottom area brought some new animals and some old... The beach itself was more peopled and it was mostly a sandy bottom habitat with a man-made break wall. It was that break wall that was the object of my snorkeling activities.

There were many more types of fish in the rock areas than in the sandy-bottom area that I had previously visited. The rocks provided an excellent surface for algae to grow. Which in turn, provided excellent foraging opportunities for many fish, like these sergeant major fish.

There were also some predatory fish, like the mini-barracuda which I spotted, but did not get a good photo of, and this large sheephead (not to be confused with the California sheephead) with its attendant remora.

There were also some fish that were present in both spots, like flatfish and this toadfish. Although I did not see the toadfish in the sandy-bottom area, I knew it must have been present because I could hear it. It drove me nuts trying to pinpoint the noise coming from this fish. It was so loud that if I was swimming over it, I could feel it vibrate through my body.

There were also many invertebrates, most noticeably crabs. But unlike the sandy-bottom habitat, most of these crabs did not decorate themselves, nor did they bury themselves in the sand. Instead they hid in rocky crevices. You can also see some of the large colonies of compound tunicates in this shot...

There were some snails, which were laying eggs on the rocks...

and some blennies that were living in the holes of the rocks.

Of course there were also some soft corals at the base of the rocks, many compound tunicates, and urchins... But my favorite find of the day was these beautiful jellyfish.

They had a very mild sting, but I did not know that at the time so I kept my distance. If I had known, I probably would have gotten closer. At times, some individuals played host to fish, and I found out that there may have been crabs living in their bell as well.

My final critter of the day was this octopus, which was caught by a fisherman on the break wall. He let it go and I was able to grab this shot before it scuttled off.

Pretty neat, and definitely a higher diversity of fish than in the sandy-bottom area. I can't wait to compare it to a more natural hard-bottom habitat, such as a coral reef habitat!

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