Thursday, August 12, 2010

Wonderful Wednesday in the Sun

Helen with Marguerita

 We woke up after dreams of a night snorkel that the group took the night before. Seeing reef creatures at night adds a special dimension to reef ecology. As Kathy Dole said, “Put your PJ’s on!” describes how some fish change their daytime or diurnal coloration to the coloration they show for the nocturnal period. A juvenile butterflyfish can show a brown splotch where a white body side had been. Others, like parrotfish, completely darken their coloration; or, a surgeonfish adds bars to its “PJ’s” at night. Night snorkels also bring sightings of crabs, lobsters, and the octopus!

Wednesday morning started with an algae lecture and then came the highlight of the week: an encounter with Atlantic bottlenose dolphins that call AKR home. Our dolphin, Marguerita, proved to be a young, enthusiastic female, who put on a real show for us. We all got to hug her and get a dolphin smooch from this sweet little cetacean. After our encounter with her, we got to spend 30 minutes snorkeling with the entire pod of 28 dolphins, but Marguerita, seemed to stand out. She eagerly squeaked and squealed as we played with her, using seagrass and shells. Garry occupied her attention for over 10 minutes by playing “catch” with her using a pencil sea urchin. She would gently grasp the urchin, carry it away, and then drop it for him to “fetch” it back for her. Hmmm..who’s training whom? We all left the seaside enclosure with big smiles and warm memories of the little dolphin who showed off her gentle ways.  
The day also included 2 snorkel/dives where we picked samples of algae to observe up-close, providing some experiential learning. The dives/snorkels also let the group get some more practice identifying the reef fishes and invertebrates we have been learning about.

The evening brought the island barbeque that offers a taste of island food, hermit crab races, limbo dancing contest and breath-taking fire dances from a troupe of native entertainers. It was a nice ending to a memorable day at AKR.

Octopus from night snorkel


Arrow Crab

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