Thursday, June 13, 2013

Belize 2013 | A sharky surprise!

New England Aquarium coral biologist Randi Rotjan, PhD, and aquarist Joe Masi are in Belize monitoring coral health near Carrie Bow Cay. Tune in here for live updates about their research and animal encounters, and see pictures from previous expeditions herehere and here

Today's post comes from Randi.

I headed out to the shallows this afternoon to search for some relatively rare parrotfish species—mainly the rainbow parrotfish (Scarus guacamaia)—that are no longer typically seen on the reef. A year or so ago, I saw a pair of adults while snorkeling at this site, and I wanted to check in and see how they were doing. I found one, and also found an initial phase blue parrotfish! This is a hopeful sign. Big parrotfish used to be much more common here, and sighting them in the no-take marine reserve (new as of 2010) gives me hope that they will grow to be reproductive adults. [Learn about some of Randi's parrotfish research here.]

Rare rainbow parrotfish spotted in the shallows – a sign of hope for a recovering reef.
Blue parrotfish seen by Randi

There are lots of familiar things to love about a coral reef, but it’s also nice to be surprised. Some surprises, however, really get your heart pumping! Ian Gray (BBC film producer) and I came face-to-face with a rather large lemon shark (approx. 6 feet long) in water less than 6 feet deep. Perhaps it was just the shallow setting, perhaps it was because the shark came by us twice, perhaps because I am just not used to seeing big sharks in the water here… but I was definitely taken by surprise and certainly was on high alert. Luckily, my inner shutterbug was still working and I got a photo (proof of our encounter!).

A 6-foot lemon shark surprises Ian and Randi on their snorkel

Though we were looking for parrotfish, we found quite a lot of elasmobranchs on that snorkel. In addition to the lemon shark, we saw a sleeping nurse shark, the baby blacktips that have been living on the backreef, and some rays. Not too bad for a quick swim amidst the long hours of hermit-crabbing. ☺ Speaking of which, the crabs beckon.

A bar jack hopes to catch a snack when this ray forages in the sand

A sleeping nurse shark hides from the mid-day sun

Facebook Comments


Post a Comment