Friday, 27 May 2016

The Old Banks (Gage Burdick and Calli Sautter)

Our first day on the water, our class focused on Florida Bay areas. Our second location known as Old Dan Bank, is a habitat that we visited to explore a rare sight. This place offers organisms that are often found in many different habitats, but in this case, are all concentrated in this one particular area in the keys. This ecosystem provided a home to a combination of corals, seagrasses and sponges that were all living together as a unified organism of their own. These organisms somewhat formed together to create unified mounds that would consist of the sponge and corals bound together by a calcified alga known as Halimeda. This occurred commonly at this location and it made a very interesting and unique site to explore. This in itself is a rare occurrence, and because of this, species that depend on these three individual primary producers are all living in this same area. Examples of this occurred with the following species: ctenophores, mantis shrimp, candy anemones, hermits, tunicates, and brittle stars. This also included the three seagrasses native to Florida manatee, turtle, and shoal grass. The sediment that made up the foundation of Old Dan Bank is a mixture of the remains of dead coral and soft, powdery substrate. It is considered a bank because the soil is not completely hard but also not completely sand either. It was not difficult to stir up the sediments with fins or current, but it would settle quickly due to the heavy, larger particle size.

The next location we traveled to is known as Old Sweat Bank. This habitat has many similarities to Old Dan Bank such as species inhabitants and sediment composition, but had a few notable differences as well. Species such as the ctenophores, candy anemone, and tunicates were present in both locations, but species that were noted to be distinctive to this area were hydroids, sea cucumbers, queen conchs, and barracudas. Also, the presence of the red alga, Dasya, was extremely abundant there compared to Old Dan Bank. It was such a significant amount that a lot of the different species that were only present in Old Sweat Bank were found using Dasya for shelter and most likely for other resources as well. An example would be the few Spiny Lobsters that were observed hiding under bundles of Dasya, whereas none were observed at the previous location. Another notable difference between the two is a drop off into much deeper water and a stronger current that followed into this area. This could also be another reason for the larger diversity of organisms that inhabited this location. The rarities that occurred in both of these location made it a perfect place to explore on our trip in the Florida Keys.
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Photo Credit: Dr. Joshua Voss


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Photo Credit: Dr. Joshua Voss
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Photo Credit: Dr. Joshua Voss
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Photo Credit: Dr. Joshua Voss