Monday, November 8, 2010

A Wide Array of Aquatic Organisms

Bioluminescent Phytoplankton
Phytoplankton - The bioluminescent dinoflagellate Noctiluca scintillans is widely distributed throughout the world.  It is found in estuaries and shallow places on the continental shelf where there is plenty of light.  Noctiluca thrive by eating plankton, other phytoplankton like diatoms, other dinoflagalettes, and small fish eggs.  They are capable of enormous blooms and their light shows can be spectacular!

The Copepod Macrocyclops albidus
Zooplankton - The copepod Macrocyclops albidus is a tiny crustacean that feeds on mosquito larvae.  Field testing indicates that an adequate population of these voracious little creatures can consume up to 90% of the mosquito larvae that hatch in their environment.  With a fifth leg and hairy antennule that have 17 segments, their appearance is truly alien!

Aquatic Macrophyte - Hydrilla verticillata is an rapid-growing invasive species native to Asia and Africa.  This rooted, submerged plant produces long stems with short leaves that are capable of filling the entire water column to a depth of about 10 feet.  It chokes the channels and boat docks of slow-moving waterways throughout the U.S.  Hydrilla is prolific and is spread easily when careless boaters fail to clean the strands of Hydrilla from their motors.

Grass Carp
Fish - Grass carp (Ctenophyrynogodon idella) are herbivorous fish native to Asian rivers and lakes.  They were introduced into the U.S. in 1963 for aquatic weed control because they EAT up to THREE TIMES THEIR BODY WEIGHT DAILY!  Grass carp grow rapidly, reaching lengths of 3 ft. 9 in. and weighing as much as 40 lbs.  They are available to private land owners for use in their ponds. The Army Corp of Engineers still releases grass carp into public waterways to control aquatic vegetation in reservoirs like Lake Seminole, Ga. but the Corps only releases triploid (artificially sterilized) carp.  They have not been very successful in Lake Seminole.

A Blue Crab
Crustaceans - Blue crabs (Callinectes sapidus) are denizens of many coastal salt and brackish water environs.  They are omnivores, eating some plants but preferring animal protein including other blue crabs and carrion.  They molt, shedding their hard shells and producing a new, soft one in order to grow.  Blue crabs in this "soft-shelled" state are best when lightly battered and fried whole.

Mammal -Narwhal (or narwahls; either can be plural) are Arctic whales that bear the scientific name Monodon monoceros.  They are the so-called "Unicorns of the Sea" because of a single enlarged "tooth" that grows from the left side of their jaw.  All males and some females have this over-sized incisor.  Males may stretch to 18 ft. and sport a tusk up to 10 ft. long.  There is no consensus about what the tusk is used for but some researchers speculate that it may be simply for show!  Do you think maybe these fantastic animals are really just the "Peacocks of the Sea"?

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