Tuesday, May 17th, 2016, we visited our fourth snorkel site, Long Key Point, while staying at the Keys Marine Lab. The weather conditions were optimal, with slight cloud coverage; however, the site did have more wave action due to being on the Atlantic Ocean side of the island. Long Key Point’s depth ranges from about 3.5 feet to 6 feet, which was relatively deeper than any other previous site and covered more area by being an open ocean snorkel site. This site had a hard bottom, meaning it was made up of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) materials. Long Key Point’s waters consisted of a higher richness of organisms (including fish, sponges, invertebrates, echinoderms, arthropods, and algae), which means that there were a larger variety of different species than previous sites. The organisms were also much larger than observed in previous snorkel excursions, probably due to not having a nursery-like structure for juveniles. This site consisted of heterogenetic habitats. We also noted that there were more soft corals than hard corals. Soft corals, like Plexaura, Gorgonia ventalina, Pseudopterogorgia, and Pterogorgia, are able to dominate this area because they can be more fluid in the way they bend with the high wave energy. Our favorite organisms to see were the Giant Horse Conch (which is actually a snail) and the Flamingo Tongue Snail (Cyphoma gibbosum). We would definitely recommend this snorkel site to people who want to see the beautiful wildlife of Long Key, FL.
|Two Flamingo Tongue Snails, Cyphoma gibbosum|
|A Plexura soft coral|