Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Sharks and cats have something in common

Hi Sea Fans!

It's been a while...busy busy busy.  I hope you all had a fabulous Halloween and those of you in South Africa, I hope you're enjoying the sunshine.  Those of you living up North, please build me a snowman with the first snow...and send me a pic of it!  It would be great if it was sea-themed too!

Well, I've been very busy with shark work so I thought I'd tell you guys one or two interesting facts:

Reflective catshark eye.    Photo: Ocean Explorer, NOAA
Did you know that when a light shines on a catshark's eyes, they glow—similar to a cat's eyes. That's because cats and sharks have special light-sensitive eyes designed for hunting in near-darkness. The shark has a reflective layer of cells at the back of its eyes called the ‘tapetum lucidum’ (carpet of light) which allows it to see underwater in low light, and 10 times better than humans can!

Greenland shark eye parasite.  Photo source: Real Monstrosities
Did you know that the Greenland shark, which is found in the seemingly lonely Arctic, can be found with a "buddy" - a parasite that lives on the shark's eye and eats away at it. This parasite can even cause blindness, but most sharks seem unaffected by having a permanent eye tassle!

Shortfin mako shark.
Did you know that the Mako shark can reach speeds of up to 100km/hour AND jump out of the water repeatedly (so it's not just Great Whites that can do it!)

Jumping Mako.     Source: Herald Sun
Did you know that the Tiger shark is also known as the garbage can with fins because of all the weird things that they've found in their stomachs...like number plates!

Tiger shark.                   Photo: Albert Kok.

Display of Tiger shark stomach contents at the California Academy of Sciences.  Photo: iveneverdonethat.com

So now that you know a little more about sharks, I hope you're even more fascinated with them.

Have a great week Sea Fans and chat soon!

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Thursday, June 11, 2015


Hi Sea Fans!

You might think that they are ugly, have a horrible texture when in your mouth and they don't seem to do much...but you're wrong!  Oysters are high in calcium, iron and protein and once you've got past the 'ickyness" of the flesh, they're quite tasty.  Ask all the posh people, they love to eat oysters :)

I don't want to talk about eating my ocean buddies though, I want to tell you about the Oyster Recovery Partnership (ORP) who I visited recently.  I got to have a look at what they are doing to help the Chesapeake Bay.
Me with Flat Shelly, the ORP mascot.
Let's first find out a bit more about oysters though:

There are true oysters (food oysters) and pearl oysters, but the food oysters can produce pearls too.  Oyster shells are usually pear or oval in shape, but it depends on what they attach themselves to.  I've seen a few that can't be described as any shape!  They have a whitish-grey outside shell and on the inside they have a porcelain white inside shell.  They've got strong muscles that close their shells when they are threatened and they feed by drawing water over their gills and eating the titbits floating around in the water.

Each adult oyster, on average, filters 189 litres (50 gallons) of water a day! Check out this video which shows you how these filter feeders clean up the water:

Not only do oyster reefs purify the water, but they also create ideal habitats (homes) for a number of other animals (crabs, fish etc).  This is why ORP is getting people together to restore oyster reefs:

In order to restore the reefs though, they need shells for the spat (baby oysters) to grow on,
so ORP came up with shell recycling where restaurants get involved by collecting their used oyster shells for the reefs.
Collected oyster shells.
A ship full of oyster shells about to wash them overboard to make another reef.
What a great idea!

I ended my visit with ORP by taking a visit to the Horn Point Lab hatchery in Cambridge, MD - which is the world's largest oyster hatchery of the species called C. virginica.  I couldn't believe it when I learnt that in the 2014 oyster planting season, over 800 million spat-on-shell was produced in the lab and planted back in the local waterways!

ORP work together with scientists to learn better ways to grow oysters and restore oyster reefs, they teach the public how they can help and they work with those people who make the laws so that oyster restoration is encouraged.  I love it when people work together to help our animals!  

If you'd like to find out more, go to: http://www.oysterrecovery.org/

Thanks to Bryan Gomes for having me.

Have a great week Sea Fans!
Chat soon.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2015


Hi Sea Fans!

How funny...I've just been past the fish kitchen and saw a whole bunch of kids
on a behind-the-scenes tour holding their noses!  They think that it stinks - ha
ha ha!  We've all gotten so used to the smell of fish that we don't smell it
anymore.  Fresh fish doesn't smell fishy, but our fish bins that have been sitting
with old bits in for a day don't smell as fresh.

That smell must really stick to us because I've even had a shopkeeper crinkle
up her nose and sniff the air like there's something stinky when I've gone to pay
for something - not great, but if she knew what I got to do all day, I'm sure
she'd wish she could smell like me! : )  Smelling like fish is a small price to pay
when you get to work with turtles,
A baby turtle we rehabilitated and released back into the sea when it was bigger.
Watching a baby penguin grow up is so fulfilling and rewarding.
Hiding mussels and urchins in the sand for these guys makes them look for their food the way they would in the wild.  Very entertaining for the public!
and other amazing animals.
See the pink wormy thing on his head?  That's what he uses as bait.  He wriggles it around to lure food fish closer and when they're close enough...he gobbles them up.
The musselcracker...boy, does this guy have some serious teeth!
A pop-eyed scorpionfish.  They sit so still and then when prey swim by, they're lightning fast!
Enjoy visiting your local aquarium and checking out the hidden lives of all the fishies Sea Fans!  

Chat soon.

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Friday, April 24, 2015

Sapphire Coast, Australia

Hi Sea Fans!

Australia is such a beautiful place and the people are so friendly! 
Blue Mountains, New South Wales.  (Photo: Anne Dirkse www.annedirkse.com)
My latest stopover was the Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre (SCMDC) in Eden, NSW, where I was lucky enough to go to the Eden Whale Festival.  I went on a whale watching cruise with Cat Balou in Twofold Bay and was named captain for a day!   

At SCMDC I joined the education programs and chatted to the students about their favourite marine animals.  
In between, I got to know all the animals in the tanks (I got up close and personal with the octopus…I think he liked me. I could sit for hours at the tank just watching him swim and play, they really are amazing animals) 
and discover their marine artefacts.

The staff and visitors were so nice to me and I loved every minute of my visit.   Thanks Jillian Riethmuller for hosting me!! (http://www.sapphirecoastdiscovery.com.au/who-we-are/)

I was sad to leave the coast and all my new friends, but we can always stay in touch through the internet.
So long Sapphire Coast, hello Dolphin Discovery!
This hoodie for a wetsuit was a bit big!

Have a great week Sea Fans!
Chat soon.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Waddle you do?

Hi Sea Fans!
Saturday was good fun.  A bunch of my friends joined the Penguin Waddlers in Muizenberg and walked 15km to Simonstown in the Cape (South Africa) for a good cause...African Penguin Awareness.  

The hard core waddlers started their 124km route in Gansbaai... 

The Waddle for a Week (13 – 18 April 2015) is an annual event that brings together committed, conservation-minded people keen to raise awareness about the plight of the African penguin. 
There used to be lots of African penguins, but now they're endangered.  (Some scientists reckon that they could become extinct within the next 20 years because of a huge drop in the number of breeding pairs!).

All it took was a few aquarium staff to get this, now much-anticipated annual event, going.     The waddlers walk not for money, but for the love of these amazing animals!  Yes, all they want is for people to show their love for the penguins and the planet. 
Pedestrians, cyclists and onlookers of all sorts are informed about the Penguin Promises campaign as the waddlers walk along the coastline.  The campaign aims to get people promising to do something for the planet’s future, why not pledge your promise? 
·        Don’t buy plastic shopping bags – reuse quality fabric bags
·        Make a pact to be involved in at least one environmental day this year -  What about Earth Hour?!
·        Stay informed about the Penguin - The more we know, and share with others, the greater the chance of people effecting social change.

·        Get involved in coastal clean ups - Litter in our oceans is a threat to the Penguins. If you don’t live on the coast arrange a waterway clean up in your area.

For more info go to: www.penguinpromises.com

Have a great week Sea Fans and don't forget to pledge...not just South Africans!

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Monday, March 23, 2015

Mermaid.....'s purse

Hi Sea Fans!

I've been really busy setting up a new exhibit for the shark section and came across a lady who does something very interesting.  But let me give you a bit of background first...

Sharks keep our largest and most important ecosystem healthy…our oceans.  
Leopard catshark. Photo: (WT-shared) Pbsouthwood at old wikivoyage wts
Being at the top of the food chain in the marine environment, they help to keep fish stocks in the ocean healthy.  As our oceans cover over 70% of the earth’s surface and houses 80% of life on earth, maintaining (preserving and not destroying) this ecosystem is really really really important to life on earth! 

By monitoring (keeping an eye on) and understanding local shark species and what they need in order to do well, we can actually help to protect our natural heritage.  How, as average people who haven't studied science, can we help?  You just have to be willing to help... and you can be a citizen scientist!

Citizen science (CS) is scientific research done by non-professional scientists…Joe Blogs the lawyer, or Betty Boop the PA, for example.  Anyone can get involved in CS projects!

An example of a CS project that I came across was a shark egg case project run by Sheraine van Wyk on the Whale Coast in South Africa.  Regular shark egg case collections by volunteer groups along the Whale Coast shoreline,  provides information on the egg cases found at different beaches. This gives an idea of the shark species that occur offshore at those areas.

About 25% of all sharks reproduce (have babies) by means of an external egg.
These are the sharks that the Whale Coast Conservation project focusses on.

The eggs have different shapes, sizes and colours, but what makes shark eggs unusual-looking is that many have tendrils or hooks with which they attach to sea plants, rocks or other objects under water. 
Inside the egg the embryonic (baby) shark feeds off a yolk sac for up to nine months while it grows and develops.
Photo: Sander van der Wel
When ready, the mini shark hatches from the egg leaving the empty egg case behind.

The empty egg cases usually wash out of the sea and end up on the beach. If these ‘mermaids’ purses’ are found at a certain beach it indicates that the adult sharks or ‘parents’ are in the water nearby.  Scientists working on some of these types of sharks have already found that eggs are shed continuously throughout the year, except for one shark.   The St Joseph shark seems to do things a little differently because more of their eggs are found on the beaches at certain times of the year.  
St Joseph's shark. Photo: L. Barker from the Two Oceans Aquarium.
More research is needed to find out exactly what's going on.

Egg case collection will continue for a few years, so if you’re interested and in the area, contact Sheraine at Whale Coast Conservation (wcc@ocf.org.za) and lend a hand.

Have a great week Sea Fans!

Chat soon.
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Monday, February 2, 2015

Whales and now seals...for free!

Hi Sea Fans!

Remember my visit to WhaleNet with Michael?  Well, there's some great news from Wheelock College. They tagged a Gray Seal on the 19th of January and you can now follow it on their website (http://whale.wheelock.edu/whalenet-stuff/Stop39395-15/) FOR FREE!

Marine mammal researchers are capturing, tagging, sampling, and releasing weaned gray seal pups on islands near Cape Cod and Nantucket. They hope to learn more about the influenza A virus in the gray seal population and fill out a picture of pup movements.  They'll be gathering samples that will teach us more about their health, ecology (ecology = the study of the relationships between living things and their environment), and habitat use (how they move around and what they do in their home area).   Information that they get from the tags will also be used to find out how many males, females, young, sub-adults and adults there are. 

So why not use this pup for your next biology project?  Should be interesting what they find out about this 35kg beauty!

Have a great week Sea Fans!
Chat soon.
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