Sailing on the Seafloor at Monterey Bay Aquarium

Hi Jammers, I have a new favorite fish this week at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It’s the sailfin sculpin (Nautichthys oculofasciatus).  One of more than 500 species of fish that call Monterey Bay home, these little guys are easily distinguished by their extra long dorsal fin--hence the name sailfin!


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Their common name is eye-banded sailor fish and they can grow to be 20 cm long.  Most the ones I’ve seen however, are half that size.
After one collecting trip, the folks at the Aquarium discovered that one of their sailfin sculpins had an orange mass of eggs attached to it! 


With extra love and attention, they were able to hatch those eggs and now there are lots more of these fish both 

in the kelp tank and the touch tanks.


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They blend in well to the rocky seafloor and are hard to spot as they forage for little crustaceans like shrimp. I think they really look like a floating piece of debris, don’t you? Yay to the sailfin sculpin!




Turkeys Turkeys Turkeys!

Turkeys Turkeys Turkeys!!

Howdy Jammers,
 
As Thanksgiving draws close, I am so thankful for the beautiful wild turkeys roaming my neighborhood. 16 of them foraging around my house!  They eat everything from acorns to salamanders! I’ve even learned some of their calls and did you know turkeys can even swim?


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 Wild turkeys have been around for 5 million years and they didn’t come from Turkey! No sireee! They’re native to Mexico where they were domesticated by the Aztecs. In the early 1500s, Spanish conquistadors exploring North America brought them back to Spain and here’s where their story gets interesting. 


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 Merchants from Turkey traded and sold these birds through North Africa, Turkey and beyond and the fowl made their way onto dinner plates throughout Europe and England. Since they were being wholesaled out of Turkey, the English labeled them turkeys. 


 Anyways, learning all about turkeys made me wonder what those Aztecs, the original domesticators of the bird, called them. Turns out their word was huehxolotl. The scientific name is Meleagris gallopavo  which translates to guinea-fowl-rooster-peacock. Hmmm, those are both a mouthful. Maybe I think I’ll just keep calling my fine-feathered friends, turkeys!

I hope you Jammers get to see some wild turkeys someday!! They are truly gorgeous. I can see why the eminent Benjamin Franklin admired them so much. You may have heard that ol Ben  nominated the turkey to be our national bird instead of the bald eagle but that, alas, is a myth. While he did admire them and called them a “bird of courage, he never formally suggested them to be our national symbol.  


But that's a whole other story. . . . .


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Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!



Incredible Live Cameras!

Hi Jammers! We live in an amazing world brimming with animal-obsessed people just like you and me. These people love being with and watching animals in wild and have set up hundreds of these cameras (live cams) in the wild. They’ve then linked them to the Internet so that people like you and I can watch these animal behaviors in real time. I’ve shared some live-cams with you already on this blog--like the jelly cam from the Monterey Bay Aquarium--one of my all-time favorites. But this week I’m going to share the goldmine! Drumroll please!!! You gotta check out http://explore.org!


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Whatever your favorite animal may be, I bet you can find it on http://explore.org and watch it streaming live from one of its hundreds of live cameras! For example there are live cameras on colonies of bats, bears (brown, panda and polar), bees, belugas, birds (cormorants, eagles, falcons, herons, hummingbirds, owls, penguins, puffins and to name a few) bison, lions, leafy sea dragons, tigers and even coral reefs in the tropics, pastures in Wisconsin and Lake Tahoe in California.  You could pick any camera and even devise a science fair experiment around measuring activities of the animals at different times of the day.

 

What I found most amazing about http://explore.org is that you can even tune into a live camera on the Grotto hydrothermal vent which is located 2186m (7171 ft) under the sea off Canada’s Pacific coast! You’ll have to schedule your viewing though since the camera operators only have the lights on for 20 min intervals at specific times of the day to limit bothering these darkness dwelling critters.  You have to check out the giant tube worms on the vent. They don’t need sunlight to survive but instead have bacteria inside their bodies that can convert noxious chemicals from the vent into nutritious food!


Penguins at Monterey Bay Aquarium


Don’t you just adore penguins? I know they may all look alike, but did you know every penguin has its own distinct personality and markings. If you’re a careful observer, like the husbandry staff  at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, you can learn to identify specific individuals. 


The Aquarium’s penguins are African penguins (Spheniscus demersus)--the only native penguin in Africa. Unlike most other penguins, these tuxedo-clad charmers are adapted to warm temperatures and can even tolerate up to 30˚C (86˚F)! The fact that we rarely get snow here in Monterey California is just fine with them.


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African penguins live at the southern end of Africa and can dive  up to 2.5 minutes searching for prey like sardines. In the wild, their population numbers are dropping sadly and they’re endangered due to the destruction of their nesting grounds and overfishing of their favorite foods. Groups like Birdlife International are establishing new safer places for them to live with greater food resources. Hopefully the transplanted birds will like their new digs. Wouldn’t it be a rewarding job helping to save these beautiful birds from extinction?


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Look for Bee--she has a few white feathers on her back that distinguish her from the others.   Dassen has a line of black feathers on his neck that distinguish him from the rest of the group. Molopo has a necklace of small dark spots on her neck. Umngane which means “friend” in Zulu has three small black spots on the right side of her neck. Walvishas black spots on her stomach in the form of an “M”.  Good luck and remember Play Wild!