Belize Expedition, 2011
Yesterday, we had to snorkel out in the lagoon to collect some algae for some nutritional ecology experiments. Along the way, we stopped to admire the beauty of the underwater flowers. Thalassia testudinum is a common tropical seagrass (commonly known as turtlegrass), and it is a true vascular plant (not an alga). It forms thick and beautiful meadows in the shallow waters surrounding Carrie Bow.
One of the amazing things about Thalassia flowers is that they are wave pollinated. There are both male and female flowers (below is a photo of a male flower). It is white (almost clover-like), with 9 stamens. Pollen gets released into the water column and waves then transfer the pollen to female flowers, which will eventually produce greenish/yellowish fruits.
Thalassia is also commonly grazed by parrotfishes - see the semi-circular bite mark to the left of the flower above?
In the past (and later on this trip), we've conducted experiments looking at the grazing rates of parrotfishes on Thalassia seagrasses. You can see the seagrass blades below (L) before deployment; and (R) afterwards. Delicious!
Never a dull moment here, we have to head off to continue our surveys of reef health, measure more hermit crabs, collect more algae, and replace more temperature loggers. But it was nice to take a brief moment to stop and smell the flowers. :-) How fitting - May Day - when all of the flowers at home are also beginning to bloom.
Randi, Pete, and Jay