Monthly Archives: November 2014

Salty Topics: Simple Submersibles as Tools in Ocean Exploration

RIOVThe Salty Topics marine research speaker series is in its 4th year at Weedon Island Preserve in northeast St. Petersburg, Florida. Join us on Thursday, December 4th, as Erica Moulton takes us deep into the world of ocean submersibles. Registration and refreshments will open at 6:30 and the talk will begin at 7pm at the Cultural and Natural History Center, 1800 Weedon Drive NE, St. Petersburg, FL 33702. Register online. For questions, contact Florida Sea Grant Agent Libby Carnahan at

When exploring the world’s oceans, it is best to have the right tool for the job!  Today, thanks to technological advances, scientists are obtaining more information than ever before about our ocean’s biology, geology, and chemical and physical processes. Erica will touch on the similarities and unique differences of Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs), Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) and submarines. The presentation on ROVs will also examine how scientists, explorers and citizen scientists are using them to contribute to what we know about our ocean planet.  We will also have a short hands on opportunity to demonstrate how all ROVs function.

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Tripletail…Beyond Crab Trap Buoys

tripletail buoy Boat US

October in Florida means the start of stone crab season, but for many anglers in southwest Florida, this time of year also means an increased likelihood of seeing the uniquely shaped Atlantic tripletail (Lobotes surinamensis) as they are commonly spotted floating near crab trap buoys. While they inhabit Florida waters year round, it is thought tripletail migrate to warmer waters during cooler months and back to northern latitudes during warmer periods.
Globally, tripletail inhabit mostly tropical and sub-tropical coastal waters, but in the U.S. they can be found from Massachusetts south along the Atlantic coast throughout the Gulf of Mexico. They are not thought to be very abundant in any particular location, and are unique as they are the only member of the family Lobotidae found in the region. Individuals can reach over three feet in length and weigh as much as 40 pounds although anglers commonly encounter much smaller individuals.

tripletail floatingTripletail derive their name from their large rounded dorsal and anal fins, which in addition to their caudal fin, makes it look like they have three “tails”. The fish has a deep, laterally compressed body and a large mouth. They also have small eyes and a sloping forehead.
There are still many unknowns about the life history and reproductive biology of tripletail, but it is thought they can live up to ten years. Spawning takes place offshore in deeper waters during summer months, and females are thought to spawn multiple times during the spawning season.
Like many fish, tripletail can change their color to match their surroundings. Juveniles tend to be mottled with yellow, brown and black and have white pectoral fins and a white mar-gin on their tail. They are commonly associated with Sargassum and other drift algae and resemble leaves or debris. Adults also have varied mottled patterns ranging from dark brown to reddish brown or brown with a tint of gray. They are found in the open Gulf waters but can also occur in passes, inlets and bays near river mouths. Typically tripletail are solitary, but occasionally will form schools. They tend to float on their sides beneath objects such as crab trap buoys or debris or near structure such as pilings or navigation markers.

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