Fascinating Biology Off the Haitian Coast

While exploring the area off of Haiti, Navassa Island has proved to hold a wide range of interesting sea life. From sea cucumbers and sponges, to multicolored fish, the waters here are teeming with life.

The ROVs have been busy collecting rock, coral, water, and push core samples, and even though this journey may be focused on geology, the biology never ceases to fascinate the scientist. Here are some of the creatures we have seen in the last few dives of the Windward Passage leg of the expedition.

(via: Nautilus Live)

images: Sea Urchin, Anemone, Pelagic Swimming Sea Cucumber, Glass Sponge, and Sea Pig (Ocean Exploration Trust)

Ocean Exploration Trust)
astronomy-to-zoology
astronomy-to-zoology:

Egyptian Sea Star (Gomophia egyptiaca)
…a species of Ophidiasterid sea star which despite its common name is widely distributed throughout the Indo-Pacific (including the Red Sea).  Like other sea stars Gomophia egyptiaca is omnivisrous feeding a range of sessile/slow moving organisms ranging from snails and sponges to algae. 
Classification
Animalia-Echindoermata-Asteroidea-Valvatidae-Ophidiastridae-Gomophia-G. egyptiaca
Image: Alexander Vasenin

astronomy-to-zoology:

Egyptian Sea Star (Gomophia egyptiaca)

…a species of Ophidiasterid sea star which despite its common name is widely distributed throughout the Indo-Pacific (including the Red Sea).  Like other sea stars Gomophia egyptiaca is omnivisrous feeding a range of sessile/slow moving organisms ranging from snails and sponges to algae. 

Classification

Animalia-Echindoermata-Asteroidea-Valvatidae-Ophidiastridae-Gomophia-G. egyptiaca

Image: Alexander Vasenin

libutron
libutron:

Key-hole Sand Dollar - Echinodiscus truncatus
Using its velvet-like covering of small, short spines, the Key-hole Sand Dollar, Echinodiscus truncatus (Clypeasteroida - Astriclypeidae), burrows just beneath the surface of intertidal sands in the Indo-west Pacific waters.
This is a large sand dollar about 8-9cm across, with a pair of elongated holes or lunules close to the disc edge. Various explanations for the adaptive value of the lunules have been put forward. One theory if that the lunule spins assist in burrowing while another ideas is that the holes have a hydrodynamic function in reducing lift in strong currents and thus preventing dislodgment.
Reference: [1]
Photo credit: ©Loh Kok Sheng | Locality: Tanah Merah, Singapore (2008)

libutron:

Key-hole Sand Dollar - Echinodiscus truncatus

Using its velvet-like covering of small, short spines, the Key-hole Sand Dollar, Echinodiscus truncatus (Clypeasteroida - Astriclypeidae), burrows just beneath the surface of intertidal sands in the Indo-west Pacific waters.

This is a large sand dollar about 8-9cm across, with a pair of elongated holes or lunules close to the disc edge. Various explanations for the adaptive value of the lunules have been put forward. One theory if that the lunule spins assist in burrowing while another ideas is that the holes have a hydrodynamic function in reducing lift in strong currents and thus preventing dislodgment.

Reference: [1]

Photo credit: ©Loh Kok Sheng | Locality: Tanah Merah, Singapore (2008)

libutron

libutron:

Peronella lesueuri a beautiful sand dollar of importance in coastal ecosystem processes

The striking Peronella lesueuri (Clypeasteroida - Laganidae), is a large sand dollar up to 15 cm in diameter, with a wide Indo-Pacific distribution. The most noticeable and amazing feature of this species is its bright pink when alive, hence its common name of Pink sand dollar.

It is a shallow burrower and occurs at densities which may influence surface sediment chemistry and community dynamics. Therefore, knowledge of seasonal and diet movement rates and rhythms of this species are a key of interest in understanding coastal sediments biogeochemical dynamics.

References: [1]

Photo credit: ©Loh Kok Sheng | Locality: Pulau Sekudu (Frog Island), off Chek Jawa, Pulau Ubin, Singapore (2009) | [Top] - [Bottom]

Protecting One Fish Could Keep Caribbean Coral Reefs From Disappearing 
by Katie Valentine
Ocean warming poses a major threat to the world’s coal reefs, but with some ocean conservation effort, Caribbean reefs could become far more resilient to this stressor, a new report has found.
The report analyzed thousands of surveys of coral, seaweeds, and grazing fish and sea urchins, and found that the loss of coral grazers such as parrotfish and urchins is one of the most pressing threats facing Caribbean reefs today — so pressing that, if these grazers continue to decline, Caribbean coral reefs could completely disappear in the next 20 years. In fact, the decline of these grazers has driven more degradation of Caribbean coral than ocean warming has over the last 40 years, with 50 percent of Caribbean coral reefs declining since the 1970s…
(read more: TakePart)
photograph by Shutterstock

Protecting One Fish Could Keep Caribbean Coral Reefs From Disappearing 

by Katie Valentine

Ocean warming poses a major threat to the world’s coal reefs, but with some ocean conservation effort, Caribbean reefs could become far more resilient to this stressor, a new report has found.

The report analyzed thousands of surveys of coral, seaweeds, and grazing fish and sea urchins, and found that the loss of coral grazers such as parrotfish and urchins is one of the most pressing threats facing Caribbean reefs today — so pressing that, if these grazers continue to decline, Caribbean coral reefs could completely disappear in the next 20 years. In fact, the decline of these grazers has driven more degradation of Caribbean coral than ocean warming has over the last 40 years, with 50 percent of Caribbean coral reefs declining since the 1970s…

(read more: TakePart)

photograph by Shutterstock

Dying For Fijis Sea Cucumbers

by Amy West

What’s it Worth? Deepening pressure on Fiji’s coral protectors.
Redfish, Greenfish, Blackfish.
Pinkfish, Curryfish, Lollyfish.


They sound like Dr. Seuss characters and certainly look like they should be. Yet these sausage-shaped, rubbery animals stippled in fleshy bumps are not fish at all, but an invertebrate in the group that includes sea stars, sea urchins and sand dollars. Sea cucumbers, referred to as “bêche-de-mer” or “trepang” when sold as dried food, are largely motionless creatures, which is why divers scoop hundreds of them up daily to export to Asia. A single high value individual in Fiji can fetch about $80 US, notes one report.
Sea cucumbers are not a new food craze; the Chinese have eaten them at least since the 1600s and sought this delicacy from Fiji since the early 1800s. Today, the increasing market demand and the push to dive deeper for these invertebrates and start new fisheries in other countries have sent stocks declining worldwide. Some have disappeared locally in Pacific Island nations, and in Fiji, divers are actually dying for them…
(read more: Monga Bay)
photographs by Stacy Jupiter

Scientists zero in on what’s causing starfish die-offs

Starfish are dying by the millions up and down the West Coast, leading scientists to warn of the possibility of localized extinction of some species. As the disease spreads, researchers may be zeroing in on a link between warming waters and the rising starfish body count…

(read more: PBS NewsHour)

Video by Katie Campbell/Earthfix. Laura James also contributed to the video

Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

Our colleague Chris Mah at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History recently described new species of deep-sea starfish, including one named for MBARI’s ROV Tiburon, which collected the specimen.

Click the link to read more about these new species: http://www.echinoblog.blogspot.com/2014/06/the-hippest-post-you-know-new.html

libutron

libutron:

Pink Spotted Sea Cucumber  

Psolus phantapus (Dendrochirotida - Psolidae) is species of sea cucumber (Class Holothuroidea) widespread in the Arctic and North Atlantic Ocean, on both the European and American side.  This sea cucumber may reach 20 cm length. It has a crown of five pairs of large bushy, orange and white tentacles. Together with the front section of the body, they are covered by red spots.  It is usually found deeper than 20 metres on gravel or muddy habitats. It prefers current exposed location where there are good access to food drifting by. Most of the body is hidden in the ground. It retract its tentacles when disturbed.

References: [1] - [2] - [3]

Photo credit: [Top: ©James Stepen Lynott | Locality: A-Frames, Loch Long, UK] - [Bottom: ©Stig Sarre | Locality: Lovoy, Telemark, Norway]