THE CONCH QUEST OF ABACO…


Conch ©Melinda Riger @G B Scuba

THE CONCH QUEST OF ABACO…

Conchs are gastropods. They are food. They are decoration (anyway, the shells are). For some, they are a living. And on Abaco they are everywhere – alive in the waters, and as shells scattered on  beaches or piled up outside restaurants. So the quest for conch is an easy one. There are fears of overfishing, however, and an active organisation The Bahamas National Conchservation Campaign exists to protect them. Another similar Bahamas organisation is Community Conch.conchs-at-sandy-point-1 We found a nice half-buried conch shell at Sandy Point. It was full of sand grains and tiny shells – mini gastropods and bivalves – that took some time to wash out of the spiralling internal structure. Here are some studies of the shell. IMG_2438IMG_2442IMG_2444IMG_2445IMG_2448IMG_5279IMG_5278 The damage to the shell above is the place where it has been bashed in to enable removal of the occupant. In order to do so, it is necessary to break the strong vacuum that would prevent extraction if you tried by the conventional route. Effectively the conch anchors itself to its shell and must be cut out. The best way to make the hole is with the spiral tip of another conch. This breaks the suction and enables you to prise out the occupant…

935327_499742893413409_191944192_n                                                               CC_logo2

Finally, you can usually rely on me to go off-piste. So here is a video of how to make a conch horn to annoy your friends and neighbours with…

TAKING A CLOSER LOOK: ROCK POOLS ON ABACO


Rock Pool, Abaco 2

TAKING A CLOSER LOOK: ROCK POOLS ON ABACO

Here’s a promising-looking rocky outcrop a short distance south of Crossing Rocks. The action of the sea over centuries has eroded and pitted it – ideal for the formation of pools in which marine life can thrive.Rock Pool, Abaco 1

Time to clamber up to see if the theory holds good… the prospects are encouraging. There are certainly plenty of sea urchins here.Rock Pool, Abaco 4

Let’s zoom in on the nearest pool. There are clearly 2 different-coloured sea urchins here, but I’m not sure if that’s an age thing or a species thing. Rock Pool, Abaco 6

Apart from the sea urchins, there are some shells and other things that need a closer look…Rock Pool, Abaco 5

At the bottom of these photos, you can see that a zebra-marked nerite is quite happy to share a hole with an urchin. There are two brownish accretions on or in the rock. My tentative suggestion is that these are the shells of some sort of worm, perhaps petaloconchus.

UPDATE Rick Guest helpfully comments “Yes, it’s quite the invertebrate hotel mostly due to the urchin’s talent for scouring out protective “rooms”. Of interest is the Magpie shell (Livona pica) in frames 4 and 5. The rather ubiquitous Livona’s very thick shell, (Up to 5″ diameter) and ability to withstand most attempts at removal by predators, including Homo sapiens, assures their continued presence on littoral shore lines. They are edible, but not particular tasty to my palet. All these “Condo” residents “party” at night and will even leave the rock in search of food and perhaps romance, so a flash pic of the condo at night would be an interesting contrast to a daylight shot”.ROCK POOLS, ABACO 11

In a snug little cave (top right) just above the water-level of the pool is a primitive-looking chiton, a species that has been around for millions of years. Below, there’s a clearer image of one from a different pool. These creatures always remind me of school projects on prehistoric trilobites.Rock Pool, Abaco 7Rock Pool, Abaco 10

The rough rocky surfaces close to the pool are covered in shells. The stripey nerites are small, the grey shells really are miniature.  They are mostly littorines/ periwinkles and perhaps ceriths, I think.Rock Pool, Abaco 9Rock Pool, Abaco 12

Close-up views of nerites showing their distinctive markings and spiralsRock Pool, Abaco 13Rock Pool, Abaco 14

SMALL SHELLS FROM CASUARINA, ABACO


Abaco Shell 3b

SMALL SHELLS FROM CASUARINA, ABACO

Abaco Shell 1Abaco Shell 4Abaco Shell 2Abaco Shell 5Abaco Shell 6

The shell species below (also in the header picture) is an olive. It turns out to have potential to star in a small maritime horror movie. Capt Rick Guest, who kindly keeps an eye on my shell and other sea-related posts, writes “Interestingly, the previous occupant of the first and last shell pictured here is a major predator of the other Bivalve shells shown. The Olive shell hides under the sand by day, then emerges at night to feast upon small Bivalves, and any other available prey. One can often trace the nocturnal trails of this Olive shell in sand on calm mornings with mask and snorkel, and thrust a hand under a trails end for this fellow. When kept in an aquarium, they will consume any meat offered.” “Olive and Let Die”, maybe?Abaco Shell 3aAbaco Shell 7

CONCH SHELLS & CONCHUPISCENCE ON ABACO


Conchs at Sandy Point a1

CONCH SHELLS & CONCHUPISCENCE ON ABACO

Most conchs encountered in daily life are lying peacefully on the beach; or are artfully displayed; or are found in conch heaps (often in the vicinity of restaurants) like the ones below at Sandy Point. Conchs at Sandy Point Abaco 2Conchs at Sandy Point Abaco 4

These shells at Sandy Point are so plentiful that they form a small spit of ‘land’ into the seaConch at Sandy Point (Clare)

An attractive display of conch shells in Marsh HarbourConchs Marsh Harbour Abaco

A less formal arrangement along the jetty at Man o’ War Cay (after a storm)Conch Man 'o War Cay jetty Abaco

It’s easy to forget that these shells are more than just a garden adornment, or pretty containers for a ubiquitous Caribbean food. Under the sea, and not very far at that, are living creatures going about their daily lives.Conch ©Melinda Riger @G B ScubaConch ©Melinda Riger @ GB Scuba

And that includes reproducing. This sounds as if it might be a cumbersome process, but (like porcupines) they seem to manage. Here is a pair preparing to mate. The male behind is presumably about to… well never mind. I’ve never seen the process, so it’s a case of using imagination. Or just accepting that, whatever it is that they do, it works. [I haven't located a video online - I'll post one if I do]Conch preparing to mate ©Melinda Riger @ GB Scuba

You’ll find some more about Conchs in a previous post HERE, including 12 Unputdownable Conch Facts, notes on conservation matters and… a photo of Honeychile Rider, arguably the most famous conch-carrier ever. Oh, she was fictional, you say? But I always though she… How very disappointing.

And if you want to know how to clean a conch, a dude will  show you in a video on this page HERE 

Finally, check out the very informative website COMMUNITY CONCH, a charitable conservation organisation community conch logo

Photo credits: Melinda, Clare, RH

“PISHING IN THE WIND”: BIRDING IN A BREEZE AT DELPHI


Abaco Cloud Map 5:29

“PISHING IN THE WIND”: BIRDING IN A BREEZE AT DELPHI

The Bahamas weather has been uncharacteristically dire. Rain and cloud for the past week, and a poor forecast for the next week (see above). I arrived on Abaco yesterday, with the short internal flight from Nassau last night nearly cancelled due to a humungous downpour. Instead, people were boarded in bare feet, having had to wade through 3 inches of water to get to the small plane floating on the undrained concrete. Yet today, there was sunshine at Delphi this morning (though cloud to both north and south). A stiff breeze was keeping the clouds off-shore. The weather is fickle and very local.

ROYAL POINCIANADCB 1.10

I took a small camera and strolled for half and hour for about 200 yards along the Delphi drive and back (for those that know it, to the first corner of the guest drive) to see what the first of June had to offer in the way of wildlife. The birds were clearly enjoying some unaccustomed sunshine, and I have listed those I saw below. Not all were photogenically posed, and many were flicking around the coppice too quickly to capture.

RED-LEGGED THRUSHDCB 1.2

GRAY KINGBIRDDCB 1 3

The smaller birds were unusually responsive to ‘pishing’, the unattractive but effective noise that can bring a bird to the front of woodland or scrub to investigate. A black-whiskered vireo was interested, but flew off just as I pressed the button. He was immediately replaced on the branch by a

BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHERDCB 1 5

A pair of Western Spindalises (see recent post HERE) joined it in the adjacent treeDCB 1.4

DELPHI 30 MINUTE STROLL BIRD LIST 1.06.13

  • Red-legged Thrush 3
  • Western Spindalis  3
  • West Indian Woodpecker 2
  • Black-whiskered Vireo 2
  • Cuban Emerald 2
  • Turkey Vulture 2
  • Bahama Swallow 1
  • Gray Kingbird 1
  • Loggerhead Kingbird 1
  • Greater Antillean Bullfinch 1
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 1
  • Bananaquit 1
  • {Heard only} Abaco Parrots 2

The flowers were also enjoying some sunshine after the rainDCB 1.8DCB 1.9DCB 1.12DCB 1.11A couple of other things caught my eye, including a cute baby lizard, before I headed for some restDCB 1.7DCB 1.6DCB 1.1

‘BEAUTY & THE BEACH': A CLOSE LOOK AT ABACO SHELLS


Abaco seashell 11

‘BEAUTY & THE BEACH': A CLOSE LOOK AT SOME ABACO SHELLS

Abaco seashell 10Abaco seashell 7bAbaco seashell 6bAbaco seashell 3bAbaco seashell 2bAbaco seashell 1bAbaco seashell 4bAbaco Shells 12bAbaco seashell 5bAnd to end with, not a shell but a somewhat unattractive head shot…Abaco seashell 9b

BEAUTY PARADE

Abaco seashell 7aAbaco seashell 6aAbaco seashell 3aAbaco seashell 4aAbaco Shells 12 aAbaco seashell 5a

UGLY BUG BALL…

Can anyone ID this? It’s not what I thought… *later* yes they can! See comments for the debateAbaco seashell 9b

Skull 2

All shells – & the spider crab carapace – collected from the beach at Casuarina

KING HELMET SHELLS (Cassis tuberosa) MORE DELPHI CLUB SHELLS


KING HELMET SHELLS (Cassis tuberosa) FROM THE DELPHI COLLECTION

It’s time to look at another shell from Delphi. The club has glass jars displaying small shells in the Great Room. Larger shells like the ones below are displayed on shelves. The King Helmet is the largest of the helmet shells of the family Cassidae. They are found in the Western Atlantic from North Carolina through the Caribbean and the gulf of Mexico down to Brazil. They tend to bury themselves during the day, becoming active and feeding at night. In humans this behaviour is found mainly in students and in those involved in the music business and similar louche occupations.

King Helmet Shell 1 King Helmet Shell 2

King Helmets prey mainly on sea urchins and other echinoderms, using their foot to grip their meal. The dining arrangements are somewhat protracted. The snail makes a hole in the urchin through the combined action of a glandular secretion which is rich in sulphuric acid, while using its RADULA to rasp and dig through the shell to get at the trapped occupant, which it gradually consumes… That’s enough about that.
King Helmet Shell 3
King Helmet Shell 4

FLAMINGO TONGUE SNAILS & SHELLS: COLOURFUL GASTROPODS OF THE CARIBBEAN


FLAMINGO TONGUE SNAILS & SHELLS: COLOURFUL GASTROPODS OF THE CARIBBEAN

The FLAMINGO TONGUE SNAIL Cyphoma gibbosum is a small sea snail (marine gastropod mollusc), related to cowries. The live animal is brightly coloured and strikingly patterned, but that colour is only in the ‘live’ parts – the shell itself is pale and characterised by  a thick ridge round the middle. These snails live in the tropical waters of the Caribbean and wider western Atlantic. Whether alive or dead, they are easy to identify.

This snail on the left (thanks, Wiki) is snacking on a coral stem, leaving a feeding track behind it. The structural shell ridge is clearly visible beneath the distinctively marked live tissue.

The flamingo tongue feeds by browsing on soft corals. Adult females attach eggs to coral which they have recently fed upon. About 10 days later, the larvae hatch. They eventually settle onto other gorgonian corals such as Sea Fans. Juveniles tend to live on the underside of coral branches, while adults are far more visible and mobile. Where the snail leaves a feeding scar, the corals can regrow the polyps, and therefore predation by C. gibbosum is generally not harmful to the coral.

The principal purpose of the mantle of  tissue over the shell is as the creature’s breathing apparatus.  The tissue absorbs oxygen and releases carbon dioxide. As I have seen it described (unkindly?) “it’s basically their lungs, stretched out over their rather boring-looking shell”. 

This species was once common but is becoming rarer. One significant threat comes from snorkelers and divers who mistakenly think that the colour is the shell of the animal, collect up a whole bunch, and in due course are left with… (see photos below)

These photos are of flamingo tongue shells from the Delphi Club Collection. Until I read the ‘boring-looking shell’ comment, I thought everyone thought they were rather lovely… you decide!

Finally, a couple of videos. The first is rather charmingly titled ‘FLAMINGO TONGUES DOING…. SOMETHING’. Any (printable but amusing) suggestions via the Comment box are welcome (Hi Trish!). The second punchily summarises this post. Maybe that’s all that was needed!

ABACO SHELLS: 3 MORE FROM THE DELPHI CLUB COLLECTION


ABACO SHELLS: 3 MORE FROM THE DELPHI CLUB COLLECTION

I have recently featured some of the shells from the collection amassed at Delphi –  see SHELLS 1 and SHELLS 2. They are kept in vases or bowls for display and examination. They may not all come from the immediate vicinity, but they are all, for sure, from South Abaco. It’s time for some more.

PINK TRIVIA SHELL

 

LETTERED OLIVE  SHELL

  

COMMON SPIRULA  

For further details about Spirula(e), please see the comment box where Capt Rick Guest gives a lot of fascinating info about them and related marine cast-offs. You’ll also find out which are the real prize ones to look out for…

  A vignette of RH examining shells on the balcony at Delphi 

 

TULIP SHELLS & SUNRISE TELLINS: MORE BEACHCOMBING TREASURES FROM ABACO


TULIP SHELLS & SUNRISE TELLINS: MORE SHELL TREASURES FROM ABACO

Here are two contrasting shells from the Delphi Club collection that has been haphazardly accumulated over the last 3 years or so. The first post in this shell series was about SEA URCHINS & SEA BISCUITS

TULIP SHELLS Fasciolaria tulipa

The term ‘Tulip snail’  includes 3 related species of sub-tropical gastropod worldwide, of the genus Fasciolaria. They are medium-sized predatory molluscs that breed throughout the year in warm waters. Their reproductive lives deserve some attention, if they will pardon the intrusion. 

Research by the Smithsonian Marine Station Fl. reveals that the male’s penis is to be found on the right side of its body, directly behind its head… When they mate the (larger) female stays in an upright position on the sand while the male ‘flips over’ to align the apertures of both shells, before inserting the penis into the female (RH comment: the research is not specific about precisely where the female keeps her own genitals). Once joined, snail pairs may remain locked together for up to 2 hours, even when being watched by researchers. They have plenty of stamina: mating may occur several times in one season, and individual tulip snails have been observed to mate up to 3 times in a single week. Respect!

SUNRISE TELLINS Tellina Radiata

I included these pretty shells, with their striking pink radials, in an earlier post BEACHCOMBING BIVALVES The ones shown here are larger specimens. The hinges (muscles) are very delicate, and in these shells the two halves of the shells have separated. STs are not uncommon, but these are the largest I have come across (I realised after I had taken the photos that I should have used a coin for comparison…). They grow up to about 7 cms, and  these ones were that length, or very nearly so.

I can’t assist with their sex lives I’m afraid, which may well be completely conventional, dull even. However, as I discovered when I previously researched these shells,  “in most countries it is illegal to bring back these shells from holidays”. To which I can only repeat my comment: Whoops!

BAHAMAS CONCH QUEST – GASTROPODS, SHELLS & CONSERVATION


BAHAMAS CONCH QUEST – GASTROPODS, SHELLS & CONSERVATION

Conchs are among the most familiar of all shells. On Abaco they are everywhere: in the sea, on the beach, used ornamentally in gardens, piled up wherever conch is on the menu… (basically, anywhere serving food)

Conchs have other uses besides being a staple food. They provide sought-after pink pearls.  Only about 1 conch in 10,000 has a pearl, so bear in mind that if you miss one during your search, you may have another 10,000 to wade through… Conchs can produce music, of a sort (such as when used enthusiastically by the famous ‘conch-blower’ home-team supporter during cricket Test Matches in the West Indies). They are undeniably decorative on a porch or on a shelf.

Conchs have featured in literature and film. In William Golding’s Lord of the Flies the conch represents power and order. A conch is blown to call meetings of the marooned boys. Its power is symbolised by the rule that you have to be holding it to speak at the meeting (an idea that many – all? – Parliaments could benefit from…)

Ian Fleming mentions conchs in several of the Bond books, all such references being totally eclipsed by the memory of the appearance, in the film Dr No, of Honeychile Rider emerging from the sea, conch in hand. Oh, I see. That’s just men is it? Or (good grief) just me? Anyway, may we all agree amicably that Ursula Andress was a most decorative conch carrier?

CONCH CONSERVATION

The supply of conchs is not infinite. Overfish them, take them before maturity  or pollute their habitat and this valuable marine resource depletes – and conchs, as with so many marine species, will become threatened. Fortunately there is a Bahamas-wide conservation organisation with a website packed with interest. 

COMMUNITY CONCH is “a nonprofit organization that aims to protect queen conchs in the Bahamas, a species of mollusk threatened by aggressive over-fishing. We promote sustainable harvest of queen conch through research, education and community-based conservation”

community conch logo

“Helping to sustain a way of life in the Bahamas”

Much of the research has been carried out in Berry Is, Andros and Exuma Cays. However the team has recently been based at Sandy point, Abaco. To see some of their work on Abaco CLICK LINK===>> ABACO EXPEDITION   

In many past posts I have listed ’10 Essential Facts’ about the topic discussed. In that spirit I have borrowed and slightly edited CC’s conch facts; and added a CC video of a conch’s stately ‘full speed ahead’ progress. NB No zoom… 

12 CONCH FACTS

  • The queen conch is a large edible sea snail native to the coasts of the Caribbean, the Florida Keys, the Bahamas, and Bermuda. Conchs are herbivores – they eat algae and other tiny marine plants
  • Main predators include nurse sharks, loggerhead turtles, other snail species, blue crabs, eagle rays, spiny lobsters, and other crustaceans
  • Mating aggregations may contain hundreds or even thousands of individual male and female conchs
  • Female conchs lay hundreds of thousands of tiny eggs in a sandy egg mass. The larvae emerge after 5 days and may drift on ocean currents for a month before settling in suitable habitat on the sea floor
  • In their first year conchs live under the sand during the day & come out to feed on the surface at night
  • A queen conch may take 5 years to reach maturity and can reproduce
  • They live an average of 7 years, but are known to live as long as 20 – 30 years
  • Conchs produce natural pearls that come in a range of hues, including white, brown, orange & pink
  • The conch is listed by CITES as a species which may become threatened with extinction if trade is not tightly controlled
  • It is now illegal to take queen conchs in the state of Florida due to severe overfishing
  • 80% of legal internationally traded conch is consumed in the United States. The smuggling of conch meat into the U.S. is a significant challenge to conch management in The Bahamas
  • Queen conch are vulnerable to overfishing because they are (1) relatively slow to grow (2) late to mature (3) aggregate to mate (4) easily harvested in shallow waters

A SPEEDY CONCH

(Conch photos taken by RH / Mrs RH at Sandy Point, Abaco)

BEACHCOMBING WITH KASIA: EXPLORING A ROCKY SHORE


Kasia’s back! She recently explored a rather unpromising-looking stretch of Abaco coastline, and it proved to be anything but… Kasia writes: The story goes: one day I took myself for a walk and a bit of beachcombing. I usually don’t bring my camera with me but luckily this time I did. This particular beach looks very barren but on close inspection and a patient eye there are some lovely treasures to be found. Here are some of the treasures I captured!

A tangle of 3 bleached trees, with their roots apparently intertwined

CHITONS

Great close-ups… are those eggs behind this first one? There’s a similar image in the Macmillan ‘Marine Life of the Caribbean’ but unfortunately neither the caption nor the text refers to them. ADDENDUM: Colin Redfern writes: The “eggs” behind the chiton are fecal pellets

NERITES (Nerita)

 

WEST INDIAN TOP-SHELLS (Cittarium Pica) 

In this image, several very small chitons can also be seen on the rock

It looks as if someone… or something… has been having a Nerite feast on the shore. A bird maybe?  I had taken the shells above and below to be another variety of Nerite, but as so often scientist and shell expert Colin Redfern has kindly corrected the error. He writes: “Very nice photos. The “nerite feast” is actually a pile of broken West Indian Top-shells (Cittarium pica). The photo immediately above shows a live group of the same species. This is what Bahamians call a whelk (or wilk), and in the lower photo they have been harvested, probably for a stew.

 ROCK POOL MISCELLANY

I am trying to ID a much as I can in this pool. All suggestions welcome via ‘Leave a Comment’. So far, the corals are Brain Coral and Pink Coral (I think) but I am going see what else can be given a name…

These are my favourite! :) Kasia

COMET SEA STAR (possibly juvenile, with 3 such short stubs?)

A SPONGE (?) OF SOME SORT (any help with ID appreciated…)

                RED ROCK URCHINS

STOCKY CERITH – A RANDOM ABACO SHELL FROM THE BACK OF A DRAWER


A RANDOM ABACO SHELL FROM THE BACK OF A DRAWER 

We recently discovered this shell loitering at the back of a drawer. It may well have been there for a couple of years… I had no idea what species of gastropod it might be, so I turned to a book I recently bought (and am about to review), the Peterson Field Guide on Shells. It is extremely thorough and well-illustrated, and almost at once I was able to pick the shell out as a STOCKY CERITH Cerithium Litteratum (Colin – are you still keeping an eye on the shell ID errors in this blog, I wonder? Later: yes… and he confirms the ID. Many thanks). It’s a couple of inches long and has 7 spirals before the tip part, with pronounced nobbles on the lowest 4. There’s a neat hole in it, but I don’t know whether caused by sea / beach damage or a predator. These creatures live in shallow water and are common throughout the Caribbean. So this one is nothing unusual, but I am pleased that it has eventually turned up…

STOCKY CERITH Cerithium Litteratum

5 CREATURES ON ABACO THAT YOU MAY WISH TO AVOID…


 has published an article entitled “15 cute animals that will cause you horrible harm”. For some of these, the word “cute” may be overstating the case. For others, the risks to humans appear to be very remote. A few are nominated despite being the most surprising and least likely harm-bringers (“KITTENS” – don’t ask).

What is undeniable is that 5 of the 15 may be encountered on or close to Abaco… Fortunately staying on dry land is a sure way to avoid them all – they all live underwater. With due credit to BRAINZ here are the Fearsome Five with his trenchant commentary, except for the last which I have censored for present purposes owing to its graphic adult content and anti-cetacean tendencies… 

1. PUFFER FISH “Puffer fish are hilarious and adorable just on general principle. It’s hard see one inflated, and refrain from uncontrollable giggling at it’s cartoonish defense mechanism. But puffer fish don’t just rely on their inflatable belly as a way of dissuading predators, they’re also packed with the deadly neurotoxin tetrodotoxin. Of course, they’re renowned as a delicacy just for this reason. Apparently, when prepared correctly, the minute traces of the toxin give you tingly lips and light-headedness. However, if the sushi chef doesn’t prepare it properly, you’re going to have a rather nasty death. See, tetrodotoxin is a muscle paralyzer, with no known cure. So if you overdose, your muscles no longer move, including your diaphragm. You become paralyzed, and unable to breath, slowly asphyxiating under the weight of your own chest

MORE ON PUFFER FISH SHARPNOSE & CHECKERED, IMAGES & 10 FACTS

2. LIONFISH “Lionfish aren’t so much cute as stunningly beautiful. They’re covered with majestic spines, which float elegantly along with them, as they swim around the ocean, eating their prey whole. So, what’s the problem with this stunning fish, and why wouldn’t you want one in your aquarium? Well, remember the rule of thumb when dealing with any animal: if it’s brightly colored, it’s poisonous. The Lion Fish’s spines are coated with a painful venom, which it will happily spear you with if you piss it off. While this venom won’t kill you, it will cause extreme pain, vomiting and difficulty breathing. Now imagine that happening while you’re scuba diving. Sounds pleasant, doesn’t it?”

MORE ON LIONFISH FACTS, VENOM &  CRISIS CONTROL and  POPULATION EXPLOSION RESEARCH

3. CONE SHELLS “Cone Snails are small aquatic snails that litter the oceans of the world. They have intricately patterned and eye-catching shells, which are exactly the sort of thing little kids like to pick up and eyeball when on the beach, which is when they strike. They have a thing called a “radular tooth” which is like a fleshy ribbon coated with tiny teeth, which are linked to a poison gland. It launches this harpoon of pain out of its mouth at any threat, including you. Now, a small snail will give you a sting like a bee or wasp, enough to hurt but not a major problem. The bigger ones? They shoot with enough force to penetrate gloves. You might not feel the symptoms for days, but when they kick in, you get pain, swelling, numbness, tingling, muscle paralysis, changes in vision, and eventually respiratory failure leading to death. What is with sea life suffocating you? Dang!”

MORE ON CONE SHELLS CONE SHELLS

NOV 13 ADDITION Capt Rick Guest adds to this by way of comment: “Hi RH ! At least for right now there is only one species of Cone shell in the Atlantic known to be a fish-eater and therefore potentially fatal to humans; Conus ermineus. It is one of the largest Atlantic cone species. I published a paper on this species in “The Veliger”, California Malacozoological Society, vol 19, Oct 1, 1976, if you want to bother searching for it. I observed this species spearing and swallowing sizable fish whole. Also, the Cones don’t have a radula ribbon. Their radular “teeth” are shaped like Capt Ahab’s harpoon, it’s hollow and is attached to the venom gland by an almost hair-thin tube. It is then forcibly ejected from the proboscis into the fish. A larger fish’s brief struggle will usually break the connection, but the venom works extremely fast, and the prey doesn’t go far. It is quickly located,seemingly by olfactory perception, and swallowed whole. There are now videos of this out there. Definitely look ‘em up!”

4. STINGRAYS “Stingrays are generally completely fine with humans. If disturbed, they’ll generally just run for it, but sometimes are happy to hang around and play. While shy by nature, they can become accustomed to human contact, and will let you play with them. Hell, many aquariums have touch tanks with rays in them, where you’re free to stroke the fish. The only problem is what happens when you step on them. If you disturb them in almost any other way, they’ll just dash away, but if you step on one while it’s hidden in the sand, there’s a fairly good chance you’ll get a stinger jabbed through you. For most people, this hits their leg, and the stinger remains after the ray swims off, like the lower half of a bee. In addition to being impaled, the sting also injects a hefty dose of poison, which leads to horrible pain, swelling and cramps. Again, not something you want to happen while you’re underwater. And sometimes, just sometimes, it’ll be fatal. Like when Steve Irwin—the Crocodile Hunter—got stabbed through the heart by one, dying soon after.”

MORE ON STINGRAYS SOUTHERN STINGRAYS and YELLOW STINGRAYS

5. DOLPHINS Oh, dolphins, lazy stoners of the sea. They just spend all their time floating around, eating fish, doing flips, and generally living the good life. Yeah, dolphins, they’re awesome. After all, who doesn’t love Flipper? Except, it turns out Dolphins are…” [tremendously detailed allegations follow. The general tenor is that these gentle creatures are apt to be overgenerous  with their sexual attentions, to the extent that when excited... well, they are large, powerful and agile, and they may try to do that thing that dogs do to human legs, only more attentively, to a diver. That'll do as a summary. Oh, use your imagination]

MORE ON DOLPHINS  HERE and HERE

ONE MORE ABACO SPECIES TO STEER WELL CLEAR OF SPIDER (PEPSIS) WASPS Spider or Pepsis Wasp; Tarantula Hawk

‘CONCH CENTRAL’ AT SANDY POINT, ABACO, BAHAMAS


‘CONCH CENTRAL’ AT SANDY POINT, ABACO

The serious conch action in Sandy Point is to be found at the jetty. I learned a simple beginner’s lesson on our first visit to Abaco. If you choose a large gorgeous-hued conch from the huge pile in the 4th photo to take back home, it will quickly start to smell dodgy, followed by evil… until you clean it properly!

KING VENUS CLAMS & CRAB SHELLS (NO SPACE DEBRIS): ABACO BEACHCOMBING WITH KASIA


ANOTHER STROLL ALONG THE SHORE WITH KASIA

After all the recent excitement – well I was excited, anyway – involving Mars Mission space rocket debris washed up on the Delphi Club Beach CLICK MARS ROVER it’s a gentle touchdown back onto a sandy beach for some more of Kasia’s finds. First, a shell which I believe (tempting fate) I have correctly ID’d for once. Then a half crab shell, at a guess a spider crab’s roof. 

KING VENUS CLAM Verenidae – Chione Paphia

These bivalve molluscs seem to be inoffensive, and to lead rather dull lives: so far all I have discovered is that “they live buried in sand at depths of 1 – 20 fathoms” I shall investigate further & report back – there must be some small creature they molest or upset in some way…

CRAB SHELL, FORMER HOME TO A SPIDER CRAB

SOUTHEAST COAST & GULF OF MEXICO MARINE / COASTAL FIELD GUIDE: 5* YALE BOOK REVIEW


BOOK REVIEW

This is a superlative field guide: comprehensive, clear and approachable. The illustrations are excellent, and include helpful examples of birds in flight, different views of marine creatures (basking shark side view and head on), whale fluke comparisons and dolphin profiles. The 11 Chapters comprise marine and coastal plants and habitats; invertebrates; sharks; rays; fish; sea turtles; crocodiles and alligators; marine and coastal birds; baleen whales; toothed whales and dolphins; and finally seals and manatee

Yale University Press 386pp, £20 / $24  ISBN 978 0300 11328 0

rollingharbour rating: a rare and coveted 5*****

Obviously this isn’t the guide for land-based birds – you’ll still need Hallett  or Arlott to help with all those warblers, for example. But for all aspects of marine and coastal wildlife it is as thorough as you could ever wish for in a book that is readily portable. While slightly too large (8″ x 6″) and heavy for a pocket, it would be perfect for a day-bag. Convention dictates that the most enthusiastic reviews should include a couple of tiny niggles to prove a book has been read… so,  the shell section is very brief at 2 pages; and the coral section also, with some types (Mustard Hill, for example) omitted. But such an ambitious yet compact book couldn’t possibly be exhaustive. In practical terms, it has everything you could want from a Field Guide when exploring or researching this area.

Publisher’s Summary [added here to indicate the scope & depth of the book]

  • Entries on 619 coastal and ocean species including seabirds, cetaceans, fish, turtles, invertebrates, and plants
  • More than 1,100 color illustrations & 121 colour photographs
  • 452 up-to-date range maps
  • Overviews of key ecological communities, including mangroves, salt marshes, beaches, sand dunes, and coral reefs
  • Special attention to threatened and endangered species
  • Discussions of environmental issues, including such catastrophic events as Hurricane Katrina and the Deepwater Horizon blowout
  • Glossary
  • Excellent organizational aids for locating information quickly
To which I would add:
  • Clear text alerts for endangered / red list species
  • 12-page index (which works very well)
  • Handy front and back flaps place-markers
  • Colour-coded section divisions

To see the publisher’s UK or US webpages for the book CLICK LINK===>>>  YUP UK   or   YUP US – it can also be obtained from the other  conventional sources already mentioned in the book section of this site

Finally, a declaration of interest: Mrs rh works in the London office of YUP, so I have been consciously avoiding partiality. However this just happens to be an excellent book by any standards, so fortunately the frosty domestic fall-out from a bad crit has been easily avoided…

KASIA’S MYSTERY ABACO SHELL: A PUZZLE FOR XMAS


KASIA’S MYSTERY ABACO SHELL: A PUZZLE FOR XMAS

Kasia’s beachcombing exploits have produced some lovely seashells that have already featured here. Precise identification has sometimes been difficult for an amateur, because of the many varieties of a particular type of shell or close resemblance to other shell families. This one has got me stumped. I have trawled the  internet. I have studied field guides. I’m still baffled. It hasn’t quite matched any other shell…

XMAS PRIZE the first person to ID this shell correctly will enjoy a bottle of ice-cold Kalik being drunk on the Delphi balcony swing in February 2012. By me. Suggestions to rollingharbour.delphi@gmail.com welcome

STOP PRESS: NOW SOLVED – SEE UNDER IMAGES

Helpful thoughts: I’ve considered a  form of King’s Crown (but I’ve not found a close enough match) or a Ram’s Horn Snail (but they don’t seem to have spines)

First entry by Kasia (potentially disqualified as the shell’s owner): Angaria, a form of Turban shell. However these seem to be confined to Pacific areas…

The Solution:  And the winner (within 24 hours) is… Kasia!

I sent the link to the post to Bahamian seashell expert Colin Redfern at http://www.bahamianseashells.com, author of ‘Bahamian Seashells: 1000 Species from Abaco, Bahamas’. He confirms Kasia’s ID as an ANGARIA SHELL , one of a large number of species of turban shells TURBINIDAE found throughout the world. It is indeed a Pacific shell, probably from the Philippines. So what on earth was it doing on a beach on the east coast of Abaco? Colin has encountered this sort of anomaly before, and gives various possible explanations:

1. Homeowners’ shell collections come from areas other than the Bahamas & are sometimes thrown out onto a beach. They may be washed up along the coast

2. Shops sell packets of shells, including Pacific shells, which may become dispersed

3. In Fl. it is not unknown for resorts to “seed the beach” with Pacific shells, which are cheaper & more easily bulk-bought than Atlantic shells

4. Rare Pacific & Indian Ocean shells washed up on a beach were once traced to the owner, whose beach house had been lost in a hurricane some years before

Many thanks, Colin, for your help with this puzzle; and congratulations Kasia – I’ll claim my Kalik in February please. Oh I see, I’ve got to buy you one, have I?

PETERSON CONCISE GUIDE TO SHELLS OF NORTH AMERICA: REVIEW


PETERSON CONCISE GUIDE TO THE SHELLS OF NORTH AMERICA

This pocket guide is part of the well-known Peterson series of natural history guides. It’s called a ‘First Guide’ to denote its ‘beginner’ / condensed status, and to distinguish it from the serious business of the excellent and comprehensive Peterson Field Guides (I shall review 2 of these in due course. When I have read them. In 2012).                                  rh rating **

SUMMARY: this 128pp ‘concise field guide to 224 common shells of North America’ is a simple pocket guide, with quite basic descriptions, and colour drawings rather than photos. All the main gastropod and bivalve species are represented, each with a few variants. The vast majority of these will be found on Abaco and more generally in the northern Bahamas. For the used price I paid for a 1989 edition with a creased front cover (1 pence + P&P on Amazon UK!) I have actually found it quite useful for comparing or confirming IDs, or for snippets of additional information. However, it’s not the one to rely on entirely to identify your beachcombing finds or to get species details. Apart from anything else the illustration colouring is often somewhat approximate. At best, I’d say it’s a useful preliminary tool for ID on the beach if you don’t want to lug a much larger field guide around with you. Don’t use it for your doctoral thesis. Overall, some use, but not a great deal. There are better books: see FISH & SHELL BOOKS

DELPHI CLUB ABACO & ARIST RICHARD BRAMBLE: BONEFISH, CRAWFISH & PERMIT ART


Well-known artist Richard Bramble already features in his own page here under the CONTRIBUTIONS drop-down menu. For the previous post of RB hard at work on new designs at the Delphi Club CLICK EXAMPLE PHOTO BELOW

RB and Crawfish model posing (both)

Richard has broadened his already considerable range of paintings and ceramics to include the Abaco marine life he painted while at Delphi. In addition to his very elegant Bonefish, there are now Permit and Crawfish plates (with the original ‘life model’ pictured above). Some weeks later I was at Richard’s studio in Dorset as he prepared to transfer these designs to ceramics, with crawfish cut-outs artfully strewn around the floor. Here are his new items, with his characteristic captions:

 (I have an oval bonefish plate to remind me of the ones I… I…’let go’ by mistake)

Richard’s comprehensive website featuring his entire oeuvre is to be found at the sign of the Crawfish   together with an elementary purchase method to take advantage  of the excellent online shopping opportunities (he might be too modest to say). I write this with Christmas-tide a mere 2 weeks away. You’ll find sea water and fresh water fish / creatures, shells, all manner of game birds and farmyards animals, on every conceivable type of ceramic platter, utensil and kitchen gizmo. 

(With apologies that this site seems t0 be turning into a cross between an online Mall and an advertising agency… Nature Tours. Boat Expeditions. Arts & Crafts. Kitchenware. Books. Cameras. Yup, ticked them all. But there’s plenty of other stuff to look at in these pages)