Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Welcome to Sunniland

Like a hermit crab, we outgrew our home and had to move to a bigger place. Although L.A. was originally scratched from our home search back in April of 2009, it quickly became obvious that Lehigh Acres, FL would be the only place in Lee county that was suitable and on November 20th, 2009 we moved into our new home. I'll post more on "Sunniland" tomorrow for those interested in named places, oil fields and railroads but for the time being this is our new hermit crab shell.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Isn't it Ironic? Don't You Think?

Coincidence - the occurrence of events that happen at the same time by accident but seem to have some connection.
Example - I write a post about Vultures and later in the day rescue an injured Turkey Vulture on the side of a busy highway.

Disgusting - a marked aversion aroused by something highly distasteful
Example - A black fly in your Chardonnay

Ironic - incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result
Example - A vulture that eats dead things in the road becomes roadkill after being hit in the road retrieving roadkill

State Road 82 is a terror of a two lane highway and collects its share of roadkill, animal and human and although I don't normally take this road home, I did today and hopefully a Turkey Vulture will be the better for it. As dump trucks and horse trailers zoomed by, I grabbed a tablecloth from the back of my car and dodge my way to the other side of the road where the injured bird flapped about helplessly.

I asked it calmly not to vomit on me as they often do to anything that stresses them. It peered up at me to wounded to regurgitate. I covered it and placed it in my car and made a quick call to C.R.O.W. - the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife and asked what to do. They directed me to an Animal Hospital in Lehigh Acres where the bird would then be shuttled to the rehab hospital along with an injured Opossum. It livened me up to see that someone else had rescued a typically unloved animal as well.

It was an utterly efficient process and I can only hope they can patch the bald-headed beauty up so he can get back out there to clean up the roadkill. I don't wish to pat myself on the back. I only wish others might have considered rescuing this bird instead of leaving it on the side of the road to become roadkill itself. Please consider donating to CROW or your local animal rehaber.

Glad I took that route home. Isn't it coincidental? Don't you think?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Recyclers of Rot

I was in a dumpster the other night. Each time a car would go by I would duck to avoid being spotted. I’d like to think friends would understand but strangers might pass by and judge. So I persisted in playing dumpster prairie dog until my goal was achieved.

This whole situation had me thinking of vultures. If one man’s trash is another man’s treasure the same logic might apply to the reviled and repulsive roadkill warriors who eat what few others will. Carrion. Dead stuff. Give them credit, the fresher the better and while eagles are proactive in shortening the lifespan of a fish and panthers are quick to change the expiration date of deer, vultures are more patient and more likely to let time or tires lay out a dinner spread.

Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aura) have an incredible sense of smell which is rare among birds. They also use excellent vision to spot a potential meal. While the notion of “the more rotten the better” has been dispelled, it’s the fresh carcass or the foul funk of a day old corpse that draws the Turkey Vulture in. Leave it for too long and leftovers will cause indigestion. Even vultures have their limits.

Black Vultures (Coragyps atratus) rely entirely on their vision, circling on rising thermals like Turkey Vultures do to spot prey. But they also steal signs from Turkey Vultures, watching their cousins for clues to whereabouts of dead things and often gang up to steal a meal from the more timid red-headed scavengers.

Regardless of their non-lethal approach to feeding, Turkey Vultures and Black Vultures get a bad rap and despite the global movement to “go green,” the recyclers of rot are seen as nothing more than a roadside possum-lovin’ scavenger with a penchant for puking when threatened – which brings me back to my dumpster.

I shouldn’t be ashamed. I’m moving in a few days and I need boxes. Someone suggested I just buy fresh boxes, but why pay for something I can get for free? And like the vultures, I’m recycling. There’s gold in them there dumpsters! It just happens my treasure was in the trash.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Audubon Guides - Go Fighting Owls!

The Piper High School Bengals never had a chance. The Fighting Owls dug in at the 25-yard line and never gave any ground. Literally. A few weeks ago a pair of Burrowing Owls dug a hole in the middle of a football field, forcing the Piper High team to play out their season on the road.

As a species of special concern, the pint-sized bird benefits from the protection of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Birds on the field? No game today.

Burrowing Owls (Athene cunicularia) are found throughout the western US and once inhabited the open prairies of central Florida. Cape Coral, a sprawling, nearly tree-less city on Florida’s southwest coast has the largest population of the ground-dwelling raptors. As development persists in the sunshine state, more and more of the owls preferred habitat is lost which makes the rare sighting at the high school in Sunrise, FL all the more interesting.

Burrows are occupied year-round with nesting occurring from February through July. These birds were firmly entrenched on the green gridiron and clearly had plans to stay.

In the western US the birds may reuse gopher holes while in Florida they recycle old Gopher Tortoise holes. In this case they did the digging themselves.

The owls can be tolerant of some human interaction. While my momentary presence was simply annoying, football players and cheering fans would clearly be apocalyptic. So on a quiet Monday morning I was escorted on the field by Linda, a Piper guidance director. Here we found the mouth of the burrow and a mound of dirt bisected perfectly by the white hash mark of the 25-yard line. A solitary owl peered out – its eyes matching the yellow CAUTION tape that encircled its new den.

The burrow would last only a few more days. The students created a starter burrow in a more appropriate place nearby and with the approval from wildlife officials the athletic department filled in the hole. With luck the owls will take the hint and Piper High School will have a pair of new mascots. Go Fighting Owls!

More good stuff at Audubon Guides -

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Killing Animals is Funny

If a black cat ran on a basketball court on Halloween and a player kicked it to death it would be hysterical right? And if a sinister python slithered among the players until it was beaten to death it would be a hoot. So no doubt when Manu Ginobili of the San Antonio Spurs whacks a bat to death during an NBA game it's a laugh riot. The problem is - it's not. I enjoy ESPN's Mike and Mike in the Morning but when they hosted SportsCenter a few nights ago and played a video of this event I was livid at their humored reaction. I was further annoyed by a guest of ESPN's Scott van Pelt Show who claimed anyone who doesn't find this funny needs to shut up and go away.

Here's where I have a problem:
1) NBA star Manu Ginobili should not be in charge of pest control.
2) A bat flying loose in an NBA arena on Halloween? Coincidence? I think someone captured one and set it loose and if this is the case, they endangered the safety of any one of the 17000+ people in attendance.
3) If the bat wasn't freed upon the crowd than it may have been roosting in the arena and was disoriented or it was sick - potentially with rabies. I'm not saying they needed to evacuate the place but there should have been some attempt to capture the low-flying animal other than a mascot swinging a net at it. Bats can carry rabies but it's rare. Day flying bats in the US should be treated as if they are sick and certainly that is what should have happened here.
4) People in general have a disdain for the night-flying creatures. They are "low on the food chain" as Scott van Pelt suggested on his Tuesday radio show. Bats are intelligent, highly social creatures - so this and other ill-informed comments can be considered woefully ignorant.
5) A San Antonio Spurs official said the bat was taken away and "released". Anyone who comes in physical contact needs to be vaccinated against rabies. One of their players swatted the bat from the air and handed it to an arena employee and they let the bat loose? I would imagine the bat was killed and the team is hoping to avoid a PR mess.
6) PETA as usual needs to take a breath and not take such a hateful anti-Manu stance. It was a split second reaction - not the brightest move but Manu Ginobili is not Michael Vick.

In the end Manu had to get 4 rabies vaccination shots and will have to have subsequent shots further down the road. I hate needles. I've had the vaccinations. It's not as bas as he's making it out. But I'll give him credit - no doubt he was put up to it, but he did speak out against anyone handling bats and the dangers of rabies. If only he or any of the misinformed media would have had a little more respect for bats as a species in general. They are amazing when they are not being demonized.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Audubon Guides - When Push Comes to Shove - Purple Gallinule

I pushed my little sister off a roof once when we were kids. It wasn’t malicious behavior. My sisters and I were filming a backyard action movie and the scene required a spectacular eight foot plunge. The youngest sister had changed her mind at the last minute and with fading light, I gently nudged her. I got the shot. Looking back it reminds me of Bald Eagle chicks and the eldest who unceremoniously shoves the youngest hatchling out of the nest. One less mouth to feed. More for me. It’s called obligate siblicide and it’s not very nice.

Leave a comment when you get there!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Audubon Guides - Rattlesnake

It’s hot – somewhere between 93°F and 97°F degrees on the last day before the Autumnal Equinox. I know this because I have an acute sensory organ known as my skin that is covered in sweat and getting browner by the second. The momma Rattlesnake that just poked her head out from her limestone den can top me. She has a two-chambered pit found between the eye and nostril and on both sides of the head. It can sense temperature differences of less than 1/2°F. In this sultry, sub-tropical Everglades environment I must appear as a bright light on a pitch black night. TO READ THE REST OF THIS POST - HEAD OVER TO AUDUBON GUIDES WHERE I AM WRITING A WEEKLY COLUMN!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Jelly Belly

And people wonder why I hate the beach.... Nothing gets my attention quicker when I'm floating around in the ocean than someone racing out of the water screaming.

"JELLYFISH! JELLYFISH!" - Suddenly I felt a sting on my leg. I was nowhere near this person screaming so apparently my psychosomatic empathy was kicking in. MaLe and I had been relaxing in the ocean for a while so we decided to head out and as I pushed my way towards shore I felt an electric buzz drag from my bellybutton, around my side and across my back. No doubt what that was.

The photo is the rash from belly to back. Nasty. And the rash is nasty too.

Having an allergy to bee stings - I was immediately concerned with the effects of a jellyfish sting and made my way to our beach chairs to find my epi-pen - a needle-injected dose of epinephrine that prevents severe allergic reactions and potential death. I looked through the bag. No epi-pen. I raced back to the car, side swelling, rash burning. No epi-pen in the car. I ran over to the ranger station - no ranger in the ranger station. Peeing on it won't work. My throat was not swelling but my heart was beating twice as fast as normal. When I finally found a ranger he explained to me how rare it is to find jellyfish here, but I was the 10th victim of the day. He explained I'd have to hang upside down while he attached leeches to my skin as a remedy. Seeing as I wasn't believing that nonsense - he used an After Bite stick - apparently the ammonia neutralizes the sting. No anaphylactic shock to worry about anyway. The burning subsided and we retreated back home.

I wouldn't have needed it but it was only the third time I have been without my Epi-Pen. Must remember - Epi means "upon" in Greek. Must have the Epi-Pen upon me if I ever need it.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

What's in the Cave?!? WHAT'S IN THE CAVE!?!

Don't come down here. There's something in the cave! It's rattling. I think it's a Rattlesnake. Everybody stay where you are! It sounds weird. More like a hisssssssssssssss. Are there Rattlesnakes in New York?
For the Labor Day Weekend we drove up from Florida (yes drove) to Glass Lake, New York for a family reunion.
We used to spend our summers here and one of the big adventures was to climb Bearshead Mountain to the lookout and look down at Glass Lake (pictured below with Albany, NY in the distance).
Once most of the mobile family tree had wandered back down, I asked some of the more limber and daring in the crowd if they had ever been to the "boulders" below the cliff. It's a good 100 foot drop from the lookout but if you carefully navigate the foot-wide rock ledge you can shimmy down with relative ease.

When we were kids there was a porcupine den under the boulders and we would snag quills if the den was vacant.
When I hopped down to check it out we all heard a very loud hissssssssss which cousin Sam had also heard moments before my jump. My first thought was rattlesnake and although the noise persisted it didn't sound right. One of the stupidest things you can do is antagonize a rattlesnake but boys will be boys (which accounts for most of the rattlesnake bites each year) and Sam, Will and I continued to poke and prod around the area.
Hey look - bird poop on the rock. Hey - downy white feathers near the cave entrance. Hey! A broken egg a bit bigger than a chicken egg.

Well if it's not a snake we can stick a camera right in there! I see some feathers and a foot.

It is a Vulture. A juvenile Turkey Vulture! Doing what vultures do. Hanging out in caves while mom and dad are out pulling roadkill off the road to bring back and regurgitate for junior. Having taken a picture and solved the mystery, we didn't want to upset the puker any further so we left him to his boulder cave.
Turkey Vultures disappear from Florida in the summer so it was fun to see one up North. They nest on cliffs or in caves with the parents taking care of them for nearly 3 months after their 30 day incubation. The young are born nearly all white but this one is probably about two months old. In a few more weeks it'll fly down south with mom and pop and start feeding on delicious Florida roadkill.
The hissing? When alarmed the adults will vomit or play dead but the young will vomit or hiss. Lovely considering what they eat. Since vultures have no larynx, they can only makes a raspy hissing sound that sounds to a Florida Jungle Boy like a Rattlesnake or at least Sir Hiss from Disney's Robin Hood. Ah the fun of a mystery. Turns out there are no known Timber Rattlesnakes in this part of NY anyway.

I wonder what ever happened to the Porcupine.....

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Red and Black Mangroves (VIDEO)

South Florida is home the 2nd largest mangrove forest in the world. The largest is in Indonesia and typical of mangrove forests the diversity of trees is low. The forest is often dominated by Red, Black or White Mangroves and in the following short video I explain the difference between the reds and the blacks.

All mangroves grow in a salty or brackish water and each has a unique adaptation to survive there. Red Mangroves are capable of blocking salt water from entering their roots, while
Black Mangroves excrete salt trough their leaves. Below you can see the salt crystals on the leaf.
Below are leaves from the four main species found in a mangrove forest. From left to right - Black Mangrove, Red Mangrove, White Mangrove and Buttonwood.
Mangroves grow from Tampa on Florida's west coast around the pennisula and north to Jacksonville. Well....rumor has it they have one mangrove tree up there. We'll count it. But the majority of the mangroves cap the bottom of the Everglades and makes up what is known as the 10,000 Islands National Wildlife Refuge - a vast wilderness made up of well over 15,000 small mangrove tree islands. Can you blame someone for stopping their count at 10,000? I've simply outlined the area below.

View Mangrove Forest in a larger map

Videography and editing by Patricio Garcia and Jose Espaillet

Monday, August 24, 2009

Demographic Content - Hey Baby!

While readership of Jungle Pete's Earthbound blog grows like mold on cheese, the diversity of readers couldn't be greater. The blog is read on 5 continents (come on Africa!) and nearly all of the continental United States except the ones with free range pig laws. What's most exciting is to hear that even toddlers "read" the blog, or just look at the pretty pictures. This is the demographic I'm after since most 2 year olds don't notice my misspellings and grammatical mistakes.
Happy Birthday baby Carter!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Chinese Roulette

Buying a house in Florida these days is like playing Russian Roulette. You might get a break on a foreclosure. You might get a house at 50% of the asking price from 2 years ago. And you might get a house tainted with Chinese Drywall.

As MaLe and I continue to search for an escape from the beehive (apartment complex) here in Fort Myers, we have had to cast a wider net to find the "house of our dreams" which doesn't exist because no one builds tree houses with vine elevators and bamboo cascade plumbing. Instead we're searching in an apocalyptic wasteland of vandalized homes and newly built horrors laced with sulphuric toxified drywall.

Throughout 2007 and 2008 I would decry the Lee County housing boom to my Everglades tourists as we escaped the urban sprawl and headed into the majestic swamp that I love. I despise the growth and never could understand how an economy driven by construction could be sustainable in what was once a natural landscape. Tourism needs to be king.

Lee County was one of the top 5 growing areas in the US from 2004-2008. Not so coincidentally it is now in the top 5 for foreclosures. During that time of catyclstmic growth, the US ran out of drywall and began importing hundreds of millions of sheets from China. It stands to reason that the top areas for residential growth would use the lion's share of Chinese drywall. We have a lot here and we have no idea where it all is.

Early in 2009 reports began to surface of foul smells eminating from the walls of dozens of homes in the area. The problem became a national crisis when it was determined that the sulphuric stench was coming from the drywall rending thousands of homes unlivable. Clearly drwall should not do this and as to date they have no good idea as to why it's off gassing. Nor do they have an idea of how to fix the problem. Builders are hesitant to step in although some have. Home Owner's Insurance does not cover this issue and governmental agencies are seemingly sniffing the gas themseleves and have been slow to react to the wideing crisis, although there are some efforts to support home owners. I'd love for some support for home buyers too.

The fumes are toxic. It corrodes electronics. It eats away at galvanized nails. It burns lungs and causes watery eyes. Some people have no choice but to live in their homes this way.

I feel for the people that live in these homes and have to pay mortgages. I also wonder if those that lost homes to foreclosure consider themsleves lucky to be out of the situation.

For us, the problem is growing more frustrating each day. We have been looking for houses for 5 months now. There are few in our price range and those that are could have Chinese Drywall. Sellers don't always disclose the presence of the toxic drywall. Sometimes they don't know if the house contains it. The new horror is flippers buying houses - tearing the toxic drywall out and rebuilding. They can sell a house that had Chinese Drywall without the buyer knowing. And who knows what the long term effects of the toxin will be even after the drywall is replaced.

I haven't even touched on the issue of 450 million sheets of Chinese Drywall and where it will end up.....

Putting an offer on a house tomorrow. 5 months. Time to pull the trigger.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

My Left Foot - Beach Edition

If you did not have the full function of your arms or legs how would you manage? You might have the opportunity to regain certain abilities. You might remain in that condition for the duration of your life. I've thought about it and my mobility is something I don't take for granted. Nor do I dismiss the great achievements of those that have overcome a perceived disability.

Birds will tuck a leg up under their fluffed plumes to conserve energy while at rest. I've overheard many bird watchers point out a one-legged bird, only to be surprised when the second leg miraculously appeared. Sunday night we walked on Fort Myers Beach and watched a Willet dart back and forth with the inhalation and exhalation of sea foam. Clearly this one has both legs.
Further down the beach we spotted another Willet behaving rather strangely.
It had only one leg. The other leg could have been bitten off. Maybe it was tangled in monofilament fishing line, restricting blood flow and causing it to fall off. Maybe it was born without it. It did have a small stump which was noticeable as it hopped around.
The bird did not feel sorry for itself. It asked for no favors. It simply hopped about in the surf in a very un-Willet like gait, feeding on invertebrates and such. We watched it feed for several minutes, impressed by its determination, balance and grace. It occurs to me that you can do anything when you must. Survival is harsh and beautiful all at once.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

I Give Up

Why is Jungle Pete riding the leg of a 26-foot tall aluminium nurse in this photo? Static electricity experiment? Publicity stunt for the Meat Blog? Bad Mexican food? Do you give up?

The statue "Unconditional Surrender" brings dimension to the famous World War II photo of a sailor smooching a nurse in Times Square. The classic impromptu moment captured the thrill of victory as Japan announced their surrender. Subsequent photos reveal the nurse pulling pepper spray from her skirt and spraying the anonymous sailor in the face.

None of this explains my bucking calf ride.

The statue was first unveiled in New York City in 2005 before it came to the shores of Sarasota, Florida. It remained there for the "art season" before the colossal creation was shipped off to San Diego. Residents of my birthplace of Sarasota were so elated that the steel curtain was falling on this 3-D peep show that they brought it back. Sort of.

Yes people hated it. But enough people enjoyed it that a Category 3 hurricane-proof aluminum replica was created as a modern day Colossus for Sarasota Bay. Although the size pales in comparison (the statue of Helios, aka the Colossus of Rhodes was over 4x the size), the cost to the city drew a few more detractors. At $700,000, the price tag to keep the piece of art was more than the community was willing to bear. Case closed. Haters go home happy...until an 88-year old WWII veteran came forward and offered to pay for the statue which will now apparently remain in the city of.... in the city that.... what the hell is Sarasota famous for???

Which brings me back to the original question - Why am I riding the leg? Friends Rebecca and Eric Gordon, who will remain nameless brought MaLe and me here over the weekend to enjoy the spectacle. As we approached, a passenger in a car passing by yelled "that statue sucks". I disagree and to finally answer the question - I'm riding the leg because there wasn't a sign that said I couldn't.

Thursday, August 6, 2009


OMG! I went to step out into the garage to bring laundry out and a 4 1/2 foot Komodo Dragon Lizard was on the entry ramp!

This was my Aunt ReRe's Facebook status update Sunday night. I laughed when I read it. She lives in SW Ranches in Broward County, FL. I figured it was an Iguana or a Basilisk.

I must apologize I stand kind of corrected.

While a Komodo Dragon would be CNN worthy (or America's Funniest Videos worthy), when she sent the picture I was surprised to see a Nile Monitor next to her A/C unit. Monitor's are the smaller cousins of the Komodos. We have an unfortunate population of them in Cape Coral on Florida's west coast, but I wasn't aware of any on the east coast. The USGS reports regular sightings in the Coral Springs and Tamarac area just north of SW Ranches.

In Cape Coral the monitors feed on the eggs of native Burrowing Owls and Gopher Tortoises as well as other reptiles, birds and mammals. Supposedly they help control the feral cat (and domestic cat?) population in Cape Coral. Score! (Since domestic cats are the #1 cause of songbird decline in the U.S.)

The big lizards are native to Africa

and are highly adaptable, living in a variety of habitats that have a water source nearby. Similar to Alligators, they have sharp teeth as juveniles and blunt powerful teeth as adults. They also have nostrils on the upper side of their snout which means they're good to go in the water. Florida Fish & Wildlife suggest removing them from the wild here in the state might not be feasible.

I walked my aunt and uncle's property on Monday and turned up nothing. I've yet to see a wild one.

Good news for my aunt - this one is probably a stray - maybe an escaped pet - and a small one at that - they can grow another 2 feet reaching lengths of 6 1/2 feet. I'm used to 4 inches Geckos outside my apartment. If I stepped out and saw a Nile Monitor I'd probably wet myself...and then wonder how it climbed the stairs.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

One Fish Two Fish, Hoodfish Trunkfish

Part three of my never ending series of fish that just brushed up against your leg is the Trunkfish a member of the Boxfish family.
They are essentially hydrodynamic, floating squares with wee little fins and bony armor plates that protect them from prey. The one in hand is a juvenile.

The Trunkfish is basically the turtle of the fish world - a slow moving, creature with protective plates. They come from a family of fishes that secrete a poisonous toxin called ostracitoxin that not only can kill would be predators but can also kill themselves. They don't make good aquarium buddies.
In their natural environment they would blend in well with the sea bottom. In a clear hold tank, not so much.

The white line pattern on this one gives it the appearance of sun passing through water.

(photo by Bryan Fluech of the Florida Master Naturalist Program)
Here you can see the tiny little fins that the Trunkfish uses to row its way through the water. They are not fast but with all of that protection - they don't need to be. They may be good whistlers.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Horseshoe Somersault

What has blue blood, feet around its mouth and 10 eyes and legs? The Horseshoe Crab - which isn't a crab at all, but an arthropod that shares a few similarities with other arthropods like spiders and crabs. They predate the dinosaurs and are most closely related to trilobites.

We didn't catch any in our seine netting on Saturday, but a walk in the mud flats at low tide revealed a few bulldozing their way through the mud in search of shelter. This area is essentially a nursery for young crabs. They molt several times in their first 2 years and by the time they get to be this size - maybe once a year - discarding the entire "shell" as they grow.
This young adult was hunkering down in a small pool of brackish water. They prefer the back bays and coves that have low wave energy. This species (of which there are 4 worldwide) is found from New Jersey south to the Gulf of Mexico. The greatest abundance of Horseshoe Crabs is in Delaware Bay where hundreds of thousands of migrating birds stop in to munch on the crab's eggs. Fortunately each female can lay up to 80,000 eggs (yet populations have been declining).
Our instructor placed it upside down to demonstrate how they can do a somersault to right themselves. Here you can see the 10 crab-like legs that surround the mouth (Like the alien in the movie Predator).
The crab is able to use its tail to roll itself over.
And flip itself to a more natural position. Not all are capable of doing so and in some Atlantic states they have instituted a "Just Flip Em" campaign to encourage beach goers to flip the harmless creatures over.
They have light sensitive organs or "eyes" on the front end as well as on their tail that allow them to see the light spectrum that we see as well as ultra violet light.
Despite what looks like a tough exterior, the exoskeleton is relatively fragile. Below - the Horseshoe Crab has burrowed into the mud. A walk in the mud flats is like walking on eggshells if you don't take care - fiddler and horseshoe crabs abound.
Technically their blood is not blue but when exposed to oxygen it turns blue. The blood has been important in medical research as scientists look at the bacteria resistant properties and develop new ways to benefit from it. Currently an extract of Horseshoe Crab blood is used in vaccines and medical devices to prevent bacterial contamination.

They look benign from the road but the mudflat tidal zone is full of a diversity of life including the acrobatic "crabs".

For more info on Horseshoe Crabs check out http://horseshoecrab.org/nh/hist.html

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Stay-Puft Marshmallow Fish

Do you have any idea what's darting beneath the waves when you wade into the ocean? Things that blend in like aquatic ghosts. Things that sting when endangered. Things that blow up 3 times their normal size when alarmed...

I'm taking a Florida Master Naturalist course through the University of Florida extension and program and this morning we went seining on Lover's Key State Park on Fort Myers Beach. The seine is a net stretched between two posts and kept afloat at the top with small orange buoys.
Below - Chris and Jessie pull the seine through the salt water as the tide goes out, collecting whatever may be swimming, floating or crawling in the area. The diversity of critters we captured is impressive. People swim here. People play here. And fantastic animals live here.

The first species in a series of critters caught (and released) that I will post is the Puffer Fish. When alarmed, endangered and/or threatened by consumption, the Puffer will inflate itself, in turn alarming predators and suggesting that they may not make a great meal.
Below - the Puffer floats in a collection bin. It's about six inches long.
When our instructor inadvertently tickled the fish's peduncle (tail fin), it quickly inflated and remained that way for several minutes. Below - the fish bobs upside down.
When under water they fill their elastic stomach with water. When brought above the waves they can fill with air like the one pictured. You wouldn't want to eat one anyway. Some Puffer species can produce a neurotoxin that is poisonous to predators and humans.
Notice the eye? Click the photo to enlarge it. They can change the color and intensity of their eyes when necessary.
Beautiful fish under the sea - and you probably didn't know they were there.