Living like kings for my last night at Carrie Bow

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Tonight is my last night at Carrie Bow for this field season. It’s been a great two weeks and I’ll be sad to leave this tropical paradise. However at least we celebrated the last night in style!

A couple of the other researchers had speared some lionfish over the past few days. In case you don’t already know, lionfish are a huge pest in the Atlantic. They are introduced (from the aquarium trade) and totally decimate local species’ populations. Nothing really eats them because of their poisonous spines.

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Anyway, tonight we ate lionfish sashimi with avocado, soy sauce and wasabi. It was delicious! I definitely recommend everyone trying lionfish, particularly because you’re helping the environment when you do.

The lionfish coupled with some Belizean rum and good company really did make for an excellent last evening. 

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Snorkelling at night is where it’s at!

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Last night I went for a night snorkel with a couple of the other researchers also at Carrie Bow Cay. It was fantastic! I think I should switch to studying nocturnal animals!

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I was really hoping that I would see an octopus on this snorkel, and, luckily enough, I did! In the photo above is a Caribbean reef octopus (Octopus briareus). When I first saw it, it was completely whitish blue (photo directly above). After I started trying to get a photo, it added in the mottled brown colour (top photo). I followed it for quite a while until it neatly sucked itself into a crevice.

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I also spotted this cute guy, a white lined toadfish (Sanopus greenfieldorum). These are not very common so I was very lucky to see one. It didn’t seem to fazed as I duck-dived to get a photo.

The other photos I took are pretty blurry (still figuring out underwater night photography, I think I should get a strobe!) but I also saw a large eagle ray that swam about 1m from me, lots of Caribbean reef squid, a basket star, several yellow stingrays and a couple of lobsters roaming the reef.  Added bonus: if you turned off your torch, the seagrass would flash from the worms I’ve mentioned previously; and, if you waved your hand around, plankton in the water column would bioluminesce. Overall it was a fantastic snorkel and the night life on the reef is amazing!

Christmas tree worms

christmas tree worms

I took a photo of these worms thinking to myself “I’m going to write a post about how these worms are little Caribbean Christmas trees”. Can you imagine my delight when I looked up the worms in an ID book, only to discover their common name is Christmas tree worms (Spirobranchus giganteus)!

I noticed quite a few of these guys on my snorkel today. Each pair of ‘Christmas trees’ is actually just one worm. There are different colour morphs and they are common across the Caribbean and up into Florida. Keep an eye out for these cute little guys next time your diving/snorkelling around here!

Damn wrasse ate my stomatopod!

This morning I was trying to get some photos of stomatopods in the wild (as I have mentioned previously) but I was outsmarted by a wrasse. The fishes must have been hungry because as soon as I snorkelled out they were all around me.  I managed to shoo most of the wrasses away, but clearly I wasn’t efficient enough. One slippery dick (that’s actually the common name for this fish. Very apt!) was much too fast and far too sneaky for me. You can see the results below.

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Our own little sargassum sea

Sargassum

Today the beaches at Carrie Bow Cay are covered in Sargassum seaweed. It all washed ashore overnight. However, we did have an inkling that it was on the way. Yesterday we could see big mats (~10-15m long) of it floating around the island. Surprisingly, yesterday was really calm, and we haven’t had big winds or waves since about Friday. So I do not know what caused it to arrive yesterday. Other scientists on the island reckon that no-one knows where it comes from. If any of you have an idea, let me know!

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What a night

Tonight was a fantastic night in the island. Partly because I finished my work before dinner.  But we also had an amazing sunset (see below), I was shown how to find the north star (you don’t understand how many people I have asked this since moving to the US. I’ve never got a good answer until tonight) and we saw amazing bioluminescence. The water was so clear tonight we could see flashes like Christmas lights from the sea floor. It was threadworms which flash and release parts of themselves as a sperm packet. These float to the surface and if they meet eggs they explode into a bioluminescent display like fireworks! It was so amazing and beautiful. This is why I love marine biology!

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