‘JUMPING FOR JOY’: CHEERFUL DOLPHINS IN ABACO WATERS


Dolphin, one of a pod of 50

‘JUMPING FOR JOY’: CHEERFUL DOLPHINS IN ABACO WATERS 

To be totally accurate, one or two of these photographs may have be take from the BMMRO research vessel at some point during an expedition to Andros. But since the boat set off from and returned to Abaco, with an Abaconian team on board, I have stretched a point  with the title… 

It would be hard to view a dolphin leap as high as this (top photo) as anything other than an expression of pure enjoyment. Difficult to tell the exact height, but it’s fairly spectacular. Dolphins always seem to be looking, or acting, happy. Here are a few more, a mix of bottlenose and spotted dolphins,  to spread some cheer… 

Dolphin Leap Abaco ©BMMROSpotted Dolphin, Abaco ©BMMROSpotted Dolphin Abaco ©BMMROHappy Dolphin Abaco ©BMMRO

This dolphin was one of a large pod of 28 seen on a recent BMMRO research tripOne of a large pod of 28 dolphins

Time to get my… erm… paintbox outLeaping DolphinPhoto credits: Bahamas  Marine Mammal Research Organisation BMMRO

In an earlier post I name-checked BMMRO intern Oscar Ward’s blog SeventyPercentBlue.  You can read Oscar’s account of his continuing adventures HERE

LIONFISH: FURTHER RESEARCH INTO THE CARIBBEAN POPULATION EXPLOSION


LIONFISH – MARMITE DENIZENS OF THE OCEAN

A short time ago I posted in some detail about the poisonous LIONFISH. I included material about the rapid increase of this Pacific species in Caribbean and Floridian waters following accidental / deliberate releases in recent years. I also included videos from Grand Bahama scuba-expert FRED RIGER to balance the anti-lionfish orthodoxy, showing that the fish in fact do some good on the reefs. The post provoked a few comments, and had a surprising number of hits. Here is some further research courtesy of the excellent SEA MONSTER which adds a dimension to the debate and concludes with a very good point… Incidentally, in a recent morning snorkelling at Fowl Cay Marine Preserve, Abaco, I did not encounter a single one of these creatures (Mrs RH was unluckily stung by a jellyfish, though…). But I guess the Preserve is well policed against such intrusive species, which are otherwise found in large numbers in the area.

Why are lionfish populations exploding across the Caribbean?

Author: John Bruno on June 6, 2012

Lionfish are an exotic fish now found throughout the Greater Caribbean and eastern Atlantic that have become incredibly abundant on many reefs, especially in the Bahamas and off North Carolina. Lionfish are piscivores (fish that eat other fish) and were introduced from the Indo-Pacific by the aquarium trade in the late 1990s off Florida. Mostly likely, someone got tired of their fish and released them purposefully.

One hypothesis explaining their great success is the absence of natural enemies; predators, parasites and competitors.  This is probably compounded by the fact that few Caribbean reefs have any predators left that could eat them (thanks to overfishing).

Another – and I think much more likely explanation – is because there is so much to eat in the Caribbean! Not because there are more fish, but because it is so much easier to catch them. Unlike fish in the Indo-Pacific, native Caribbean fishes do not appear to recognize lionfish as a potential threat.  So the lionfish gobble them up, grow faster, make more babies, spread to new islands, etc.

Case in point: My lab group was working in Belize last week on the lionfish invasion. One of the things we were doing was collecting the otoliths and gonads from lionfish that we speared on a number of reefs to compare their fitness across the Caribbean (e.g., on reefs with and without native predators, etc).  We also looked at stomach contents and many of them had parrotfishes in their tummies or still in their throats!  The photo above is of the eggs from one lionfish we caught near Glovers Reef Atoll and the partial contents of it’s stomach (a juvenile striped parrotfish)!

Lionfish appear to be little more than machines that convert parrotfishes to baby lionfishes. Which is pretty much the purpose of all animals (consuming others and transforming them into your own genotype and species).  But jeez, couldn’t those aquarium hobbyists have released a herbivore that could be converting macroalgae to fish biomass? That would have been much more useful.

INTERNATIONAL MARINE BIODIVERSITY DAY – MAY 22


INTERNATIONAL MARINE BIODIVERSITY DAY – MAY 22

Yesterday was an important day in the marine conservation and research calendar. Me neither! I had a heads up from the redoubtable SEAMONSTER late last night. So at least I found out on the right day. I am posting the excellent logo to help to raise awareness retrospectively… I ‘get’ everything depicted in this clever sea creature globe – except for the tiny dinosaur… or is it a sea otter?

CLICK this large logo to link the the relevant website, where there are articles catering for every conceivable marine interest

BAHAMAS MANATEE UPDATE – CHECK OUT RITA & GEORGIE’S PROGRESS


The BMMRO’s brilliant new  charting the progress of mother Rita and calf Georgie after their release (and showing wonderful pictures) is becoming addictive. How far have they ventured this week? Are there any more out there? 

Here, Rita and Georgie are wearing their tags. I really recommend a visit to the  for the full reports, but here’s a quick review of the highlights of weeks 2 and 3 since their release:

WEEK 2

  • Rita & Georgie are beginning to attract a bit of a following
  • During the week their confidence grew and they undertook a longer expedition (see map below)
  • During their travels they were joined by 2 other manatees, first a juvenile male, then an adult male
  • Rita’s tag became disconnected. It was retrieved, the data downloaded, and it was successfully reattached
  • Audio recordings were made of underwater manatee communication
  • At one stage there were six manatees seen together, with manatees Gina and JJ joining the 4 others

Rita nurses Georgie

                  

WEEK 2 ADVENTURES

A far more complicated pattern than the simple explorations in WEEK 1

WEEK 3 

  • Continued careful monitoring of more complex (= braver) exploration
  • A great deal of local interest generated. 
  • A ‘Save the Manatee’ campaign started
  • Presentations for groups of school students, including involving them in actual monitoring. 
  • The juvenile male has stayed with Rita and Georgie.

——————————

Rita examines the camera. Meanwhile Georgie checks out the bottom of the BMMRO boat…    

                                               A tender moment between calf and mother                                                                   

 WEEK 3 EXPEDITIONS 
Confidence growing, and more interest in investigating to the south


SOUNDS UNDER THE SURFACE: NOISE EFFECTS ON WHALES


The NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration) has produced a short video with the conclusions from recent research into the effects of extraneous (i.e. non-natural) noise on the habits of whales. The cooperative project involved a number of organisations including the BMMRO and Florida State University and lasted two years.

The study concentrated on beaked whales, pilot whales, and melon headed whales. Using readings from tagged whales, the scientists created animations showing the whales behavior before, during, and after being exposed to low levels of a variety of sounds; including sonar. The results showed that beaked whales, known for diving to extreme depths, were much more sensitive to sonar than other species.  Even low levels of these sounds disrupted their diving, vocal, and likely feeding behaviors.

The complete report including a VIDEO and a transcript can be found by clicking LINK==> Sounds Under the Surface | Science and Technology | Ocean Today   (I haven’t been able to embed the Video, so you’ll get the whole page)