Monday, June 2, 2008

Blog #5: 15 Days, Over 1,000 Species

The dive gear has dried in the sun. The collections are packed away. It's time for my last entry before returning home.

In 15 days, 5 divers collected, cataloged, and photographed over 1000 species of invertebrates from the coastal waters of Nosy Be, Madagascar. Our main targets were echinoderms, mollusks and crustaceans, though we collected many interesting animals from other groups as well. Our suspicion is that we have species of sea stars, shrimp and sea cucumbers new to science, including the one in the photograph:

Despite intensive assessment of a relatively localized area--never venturing farther than a two-hour dinghy ride from the research station--we were still picking up new trip records on the last day of diving. Many of these were not just small critters but also large and conspicuous echinoderms. This suggests that we did not reach a point at which the addition of new species records was abating. How welcome and useful it would be therefore to return here for more research!

Just as the marine biodiversity did not disappoint in this rich corner of the Indian Ocean, we were equally fortunate in having consistently great weather and CNRO as our base of operation. We were treated superbly by all the staff, and were not wanting for much. They have an incredible knowledge about their living marine resources, and I am indebted to the kindness they showed us during our stay.

On to the publications! I leave you with these photos from our trip.

Francois enjoying a solo game of "Cat's Cradle" with cuvierian tubules.

It took lemurs to show Gustav that his real passion is vertebrates after all.

Tim and visitor to the wet lab.


Art caught in post-dive reflection: "And again, the echinoderm biologists pick a lousy dive site low in crustaceans ... "

Ever the urban trend-setter, Roberto sports the latest fashion in Nosy Be.

Giselle, on break from sakai preparation, in search of invertebrates.