Fish eat the darndest things – this baby abalone shell no bigger than your pinky nail came from a gopher rockfish stomach. Can’t imagine it was all that satisfying…
Posts Tagged ‘feeding and diet’
by Paul Tompkins, Phycology Lab
The gulls first caught my attention, a small flock in a tight swarm above the waves just beyond my surfboard. Others floated on the surface below. Suddenly the sea below them erupted, and the birds on the surface took flight. A frothy pink spray of water shot into the air; there was blood in the water. As the water calmed the gulls swooped and dove, feeding. A few seconds later the scene repeated itself, another violent splash of bloody water. My instincts were screaming, telling me turn and paddle in, to get out of the water.
My curiosity got the better of me, and I sat transfixed as something was being ripped to pieces only a few hundred yards away. Other gulls were making a beeline to join in the feast, and the flock grew. I watched the attack for another minute, until at last a large black fin broke the horizon and my suspicions were confirmed. This was no sea lion or orca, but a large white shark, eating lunch.
I swung towards the beach, catching my last wave on the way in. As I crested the dunes to get a better vantage, I saw the shark hit twice more. I ran to the parking lot to grab my binoculars. By the time I looked back to sea, the gulls had stopped flying, all were swimming on the surface. I peered through the lenses for a few more minutes, but the attack had ended. I walked back down to my car, relieved that I had been a witness to a raw display of nature’s brutality, rather than an unwilling participant.
Dr. Scott Hamilton will be joining the Moss Landing Marine Labs faculty in Spring 2011 as the new Ichthyologist. Currently a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California Santa Barbara, Scott has participated in a variety of exciting research projects. He gave us a chance to ask a few questions about his current work, and his future plans. Keep reading to find out what we learned. (Interview by Brynn Hooton).
Q: Scott, how did you get your start as an ichthyologist?
A: My interest in the world of ichthyology began when I was kid and tried to read every book I could find about sharks. However, my first research project started during college. Through a tropical field studies program in Panama, we examined the ability of large roving parrotfish schools (important grazers on coral reefs) to circumvent the defenses of territorial damselfish and gain access to their algal gardens.
Q: What is the one thing about MLML that you are most looking forward to?
A: At Moss Landing I am most looking forward to working closely with students to develop exciting research projects that will get us diving in the beautiful kelp forests around Monterey Bay
Q: Anything new with your research that you would like to share?
A: We just started a new research project examining differences in reproductive behaviors and mating success of California sheephead inside and outside of marine reserves at Catalina Island. Unfortunately, this summer the waters have been unseasonably cold due to strong La Nina conditions and the fish were not courting or mating at any of our sites. So, we shifted gears and instead conducted experiments to examine size-selective foraging of sheephead on sea urchins and differences in predation rates inside and outside of reserves. There was a strong lesson here that sometimes there are factors outside of your control that affect research. We also overlapped on this trip with Diana Stellar and a number of students from Moss Landing, which provided for endless good times.
Q: When do you plan to relocate?
A: My wife and I are hoping to move to Monterey sometime around December and look forward to becoming integrated in the Moss Landing community.
That’s all from Scott for now, but check back during the spring semester to find out about all of the new adventures he’s having at Moss Landing Marine Labs.
by Deasy Lontoh, Vertebrate Ecology Lab
It usually takes me 17 to 20 hours to fly from San Francisco to Jakarta, Indonesia, which covers about 9,000 miles of distance. Most of my family members live in Indonesia and I come to visit them every few years. Long hours in a plane seat and missing a day because of a 15-hour time difference are not my favorite things. But my journey is comparatively fast and plush. In 2007, I learned that a leatherback completed a similar trans-Pacific journey in 647 days covering 12,477 miles! On flippers! Scientists put on a satellite transmitter to track this turtle when it was nesting in Papua, Indonesia, which is about 2000 miles northeast of Jakarta. It traveled all the way from Indonesia to Oregon to feed on abundant jellies.
We know now that the leatherback turtles that feed all along the west coast of North America, including Monterey bay, CA in late summer and early fall, come all the way from the nesting population in Papua. Their satellite tracks show that these leatherbacks spend one season to forage on our west coast, spend the winter in Hawaii (probably because the water here is too cold), then come back to our west coast and eat more jellies. The body of a jelly consists of mostly water, although their gonads are a richer source of nutrients. Can you imagine how many jellies they need to eat? They have to eat enough jellies to fuel their return migration to the nesting beach in Indonesia and to produce eggs. Scientists predict they can their weight in jellies per day to get that much energy – about 800 pounds!
To learn more about the leatherback visitors to Monterey Bay, check out Scott Benson’s great blog through the TOPP project.