On Tuesday, May 24th at 1:00pm-2:15pm, we headed out to Long Key Point. This was our first introduction to a calcium carbonate hard bottom reef with familiar algae species. The site was hard coral dominate with a few soft coral patches, such as Pseudopterogorgia and Plexura. This was more shallow compared to the previous sites, but the visibility was much lower due more marine debris and high wave action causing turbidity. Large amounts of boat activity frequently alters the state of this habitat by careless placement of boat equipment, boat fuel emissions, and uninformed visitors. There was less diversity of small fish, but some were unique to this site. Unlike the other reef locations we visited, this one had sparse reef formations making for less hiding spots for bigger fish. Therefore, small invertebrates thrived in what little sturctures were available. Surprisingly, there were large species of mollusks roaming the sea floor, such as the Queen Conch (Lobatus gigas) and the Horse Conch (Triplofusus giganteus). There was an abundance of echinoderms seeking shelter beneath the coral and rock slabs. A multitude of sea stars where present such as Cushion Stars (Oreaster reticulatus) and various types of Brittle Stars (Ophiuroidea spp.). The unique organisms seen were the Scorpion Fish (Scorpaenidae spp.), Flamingo's Tongue (Cyphoma gibbosum), Fireworm (Hermodice carunculata), Feather Duster Worm (Sabellastarte indic a), Strawberry Crab (Neoliomera pubescens), Scrawled Cowfish (Acanthostracion quadricornis), and Banded Butterflyfish (Chaetodon striatus). Mantis Shrimp were heard snapping their claws inside the formations. Among the invertebrates, benthic feeders were common in each species. In between the coral structures, large loggerhead sponges were plentiful throughout the site. Overall the site offered surprises under every rock and in every crevice.
|Fireworm and Sea Urchin under rock|