Monthly Archives: May 2015

What’s up with those baby horseshoe crabs swimming upside down?

babycrab (Medium)

Juvenile horseshoe crab swimming upside down in upper Charlotte Harbor – Bruce Kuechmann Photo

Recently horseshoe crabs about 1-2 inches in size have been observed swimming upside around sunset in upper Charlotte Harbor and people are asking “what’s up with this?”

Well it turns out horseshoe crabs do swim upside down, or at an approximately 30 degree angle to the bottom; we just don’t typically see it. One might ask, why in the world would an animal that is already awkwardly shaped for efficient movement in the water, choose to swim upside down?  How could that possibly benefit them?

Well first, let’s explore why horseshoe crabs swim at all.  Scientists believe swimming my help distribute crabs to other areas. It may help them hurdle barriers that they can’t climb over or around.  Swimming might also help them escape from predators or waters with oxygen levels too low for continued survival.

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Calico Scallops….Florida’s Other Native Scallop

When it comes to native scallops in Florida, perhaps the most recognized and sought after species is the sweet-tasting bay scallop (Arctopecten irradians.) CalicosHowever, did you know that a similar species, the calico scallop (Arctopecten gibbus) also inhabits Florida waters? Calico scallops get their name from the colorful patchwork of red and pink patterns on their top shell; their lower shell tends to be yellow to white in color. While bay scallop may have markings on their shells too, they tend to be more drab in color and do not have the bright colors found on calico shells. Their colorful shells are often found washed up along local beaches.

Unlike bay scallops that are commonly associated with shallow seagrass communities, calico scallops are found in deeper offshore waters. They are associated with shell rubble or other hard bottom substrates and can be found along Florida’s east and west coasts.

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Deciphering Scientific Names

Tarpon, Megalops atlanticus - Photo: Capt. Billy Barton

Tarpon (Megalops atlanticus) – Photo: Capt. Billy Barton

So when was the last time you bragged to your friends about catching a big Megalops atlanticus or a nice Centropomus undecimalis?

Umm, yeah … probably never! Most of us don’t speak scientific geek and aren’t impressed when others do. But for geeky scientists there’s good reason to use those scientific or Latin names.

Worldwide, there are around 28,000 named fish species. Some species have multiple common names, often differing by geographic region. For example, the black crappie. No, wait, it’s a speckled perch — unless, of course, it’s a sac au lait. These are all the same fish — Pomoxis nigromaculatus.

Even more complicating, some common names are used to describe more than one fish species; think kingfish. Depending where you are, this name might be applied to the fish we usually call king mackerel, whiting, cobia, wahoo, giant trevally, jack crevalle, opah and Pacific yellowtail. Scientific names might be tongue twisters, but they do eliminate confusion, which is exactly why scientists rely them. No matter where they are in the world, when they say Mycteroperca microlepis, it means the same thing (most of us would call it a gag grouper).

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