There aren't many pictures of these guys...right side is the mouth!
This week’s blog is going to feature some sea creatures some would consider frightening, in honor of Halloween. First off is the gulper eel (officially the Umbrella mouth gulper eel), a member of the order Saccopharyngiformes. These scary looking fish live at depths of up to 3,000 m! The eels eat shrimp, plankton, fish and basically whatever else swims into their mouths. To attract prey they have a bioluminescent organ on their tails.
The blobfish (Psychrolutes marcidus) is something you would not want to run into unexpectedly on a night dive (not that it would be possible to go as deep as they live!). The blobfish has a reason for being so gelatinous though; its flesh is a lower density than water, which allows it to float without expending energy. Blobfish are facing extinction due to practices such as bottom trawling and deep sea fishing.
A far stretch from the roly-poly bugs in your backyard, giant isopods (of the genus Bathynomus) are much more frightening. Their bodies are composed of many interlocking plates, and their eyes are compound with over 4,000 individual parts. Giant isopods are scavengers, and they live in the benthic environment, often at great depths.
We spend a lot of time talking about aquariums today, so we thought it would be interesting to take a look back at the origins of aquaria and the hobby that we love.
While fish have been kept in ponds and other manmade structures for food and entertainment for thousands of years, the aquarium hobby didn’t really take off until the 1850’s when more was understood about what fish and plants need to live. Many early aquarists kept ‘balanced aquariums,’ which contained fish, plants, and scavengers. This allowed nutrients to cycle and oxygen to remain high enough for the animals to live without aeration. Philip Gosse, a British naturalist, first used the word “aquarium” in 1954 instead of “aquatic vivarium" or "aqua-vivarium," as they were called previously (and in the pretentious title of this blog entry).
Aquariums changed drastically when better technology was developed in the 1900’s, allowing for improved aeration and filtration of the tanks. ‘Toy’ fish began to be sold in toy stores in the 1920’s, marketed to children. While World War II decreased the amount of enthusiasm towards aquaria, the technological developments of the 1950’s and 60’s lead to massive expansion of the hobby. People began keeping more ‘exotic’ species including coral reef fish from distant locations, which could now be shipped due to air freight.
There are so many different aspects to the hobby and how it changed, both in terms of technology and aesthetics. If you want to learn more about the history of aquaria, check out these sites:
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In today’s blog we will be giving you a little bit of background information about the company run by our guest speaker (coming in tomorrow) and the organisms they feature. Marine biologist Colin Foord, who is coming to talk to us, and musician Jared McKay are the people behind Coral Morphologic, a scientific art experiment that strives to showcase the natural beauty of corals.
Corals are cnidarians, which means they are radially symmetrical. Their basic body plan consists of a polyp stage that grows together with other polyps in a colony. These colonies can have diverse shapes and sizes; some are branching, some are large and round such as brain coral, some grow in flat plates, and others grow in different ways entirely! ,
As anyone who has seen a coral reef can attest to, they can be quite gorgeous, but they are also important to the ecology of the world’s oceans. Coral reefs offer a habitat for many organisms, including but not limited to: sponges, algae, crustaceans, worms, and an incredibly wide variety of fish.
While Coral Morphologic focuses on the aesthetic value of coral colonies, they also have an eye on the future and are studying the ways corals reproduce, grow, and are affected by their environment. Corals are fragile organisms, requiring specific ranges of temperature, salinity and nutrient levels to grow. Global changes such as ocean acidification are negatively affecting corals and the responsibility falls on us to preserve the diversity of these natural wonders.
Here's a link to one of their awesome videos:
Make sure you come out to our meeting tomorrow to hear more about the folks at Coral Morphologic!
This weekend, UMAC traveled up to Tampa with the goal of visiting the Florida Aquarium! It was an excellent weekend full of nature, fun, and of course, our fish friends (and otters and octopus and so much more).
On Saturday afternoon, we went canoeing on the Hillsborough river. While the starting point looked a little unimpressive, the river was gorgeous, flowing through a peaceful cypress swamp. We saw many birds, including ibis, osprey, anhinga, and several different species of heron. Other wildlife included spiders (my canoe had at least 15 8-legged hitchhikers by the end, most likely due to our tendency to steer into trees), damselflies, and alligators! The river was surprisingly pristine and a great escape from the busy metropolis of Miami.
After a bit of swimming, dinner, and a walk around downtown Tampa, we headed back to the hotel to rest before the Florida Aquarium on Sunday.
Although we missed meeting the penguins in the lobby, the Florida Aquarium was worth seeing! We enjoyed all of the exhibits, including a stingray/bamboo shark and a Pacific Northwest invertebrate touch tank. There was even a special section devoted to the art of home aquariums with helpful tips and tanks filled with species you could have in your home. The centerpiece of the aquarium was an enormous tank filled with sharks, moray eels, barracuda and a very wide array of fish species.
My favorite exhibits were those featuring Florida ecosystems, including both freshwater and saltwater species. In addition to native Florida animals, the aquarium houses aquatic species from regions around the world, including the North Pacific and the Indo-pacific. Some remarkable displays included tanks featuring garden eels, sea dragons and seahorses, and even an octopus guarding her eggs. The Florida Aquarium was truly spectacular.
-Kathryn Doering with Allison LaChanse
This week’s blog post is about an ecosystem that a few of us will be visiting this weekend, the Hillsborough River watershed. With water sourced from Crystal Springs, this river and its surrounding areas are located near Tampa.
The Hillsborough River runs for about 54 miles before emptying into the Gulf of Mexico. The water in the river is regarded as very clean and is used for drinking water in much of the area surrounding Tampa. The river is also used for many recreational activities, including canoeing and kayaking. In fact, UMAC will be kayaking down between its lovely banks.
The wildlife of the river and surrounding area is also very diverse and ecologically important. The river is divided into two zones by a dam. The lower zone is primarily saltwater, while the upper zone is primarily fresh water. In the lower zone, animals like manatees commonly congregate. Other organisms including a very wide variety of both freshwater and saltwater fish and several species of sea turtles are known to frequent the area.
Get excited for our Tampa trip if you’re going, and if not, go out and see this amazing river if you get the chance!
We are the University of Miami Aquarium Club. Blog topics will include anything and everything aquarium related.