May 5, 2013

Copepods, angel fish, and sponge crabs

Friday morning we explored the microscopic world of the marine system. After a lecture on the epipelagic zone we completed several plankton tows to better understand the base of the marine food chain.  While not the megafauna that most tourists come to see in the Keys, without the copepods, diatoms, dinoflagellates, and other microscopic critters the ocean would be devoid of red snapper, manatee, and coral fish!

To press the point, after our plankton tow, we visited several patch coral sites in close proximity to the field station. The conditions were perfect – we saw butterfly fish, angel fish, and loggerhead sponges.

Today we spent the morning exploring a mud flat called Old Dan Bank. Leaving after breakfast, we were in the water by 9:15 and enjoyed snorkeling until about 11:00.  We found sponge crabs, octopus, new green and red algae, copious numbers of brittle stars, soft coral, among many more species.  In the afternoon, students spent several hours in the lab sorting through our collections and adding species to their list.

The day closed with free time to enjoy the sunset, take a walk, or catch up on reading.  We all enjoyed Key Lime pie for desert!

 

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