Sunday, 22 May 2016

A stroll through Bahia Honda

Bahia Honda State Park


Photo by: Jenna Marie
Photo by: Laura Wardrop
          On a stormy Thursday, after visiting the super awesome Mote Marine Lab, our cohort headed to Bahia Honda Key to take a walk on the beaches at the Bahia Honda State Park. It turned out to be a lovely, sunny afternoon where we investigated the natural rocky intertidal of the beach at low tide for about 90 minutes and then a couple of students and I snorkeled the shallow beach to look for other organisms. The rocky intertidal zone consisted of the remains of a coral reef system and was helpful in identifying the coral species we were learning in our lectures. 

          In comparison to the other sites visited, this one was a half dry and half wet site due to the tidal influence, the low tide exposed a majority of the coral within the beach area. Along the back beach area and approaching the vegetated dunes was massive piles of seagrass, algae and sponges that had washed ashore, now being used as a source of detritus for amphipods and land organisms to intake. When I was snorkeling the shores of the beach, the only living coral species found was Siderastrea radians, and there were small mounds sighted quite a bit throughout the sandy bottom. The fossilized hard corals that dominated were as follows:
  • Pseudodiploria strigosa
    Photo by: Devin Widrick
  • Colpophyllia natans
  • Diploria labyrinthiformis
  • Manicinia areolata
  • Orbicella annularis
  • Montastrean cavernosa
  • Siderastrea radians
  • Siderastrea siderea
     The algae found around the site were mainly washed ashore, which included:
  1. Cymnopolia barbata
  2. Padina gymnospora
  3. Neogoniolithon sp.
  4. Dictospaeria sp.
  5. Penicillus capitatus
  6. Dasya sp.
  7. Laurencia sp.
  8. Sargassum sp.
     The seagrass species found were Thalassia testudinum, Syringodium filiforme, and Halodule wrightii. While snorkeling, and within some of the tide pools created within the fossillized coral pits were some species of fish that included high hats, gobies, juvenile sergeant majors, and a juvenile great barracuda. By far, the most species rich area of organisms were invertabrates. Snails and crabs dominated the intertidal community, but there were some celebrity appearances by sea stars, a large sea anemone, a ragged sea hare and two different species of sea urchins. Within the arthropod sector, there were four different crab species identified, the tricolor, decorator, blue and sargassum crab. Mollusks, mostly the snails, were very numerous which included the banded tulip snail, Littorina irrorata, an Antillean nerite, but also a frond oyster and even one chiton was found.

Photo by: Jenna Marie 
Photo by: Jenna Marie
Photo by: Jenna Marie
Photo by: Laura Wardrop
Overall, I believe that the Bahia Honda walking tour experience was one of my favorite because we got to observe the coral up close and personal so we could differentiate between the species we were being tested on, even if the specimens were fossilized. This location was such a difference of pace than all of the underwater reefs, seagrass meadows and mangrove islands that we previously experienced. I learned a lot from our excursion and cannot wait to go back to see it at the different parts of the day to analyze the differences of habitat use by all the related organisms of the site!

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