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Marine Life Blog » National Aquarium in Washington DC » A Fishy February

A Fishy February

February 7– What do we do in frigid North Florida, when we aren’t diving? We head to sunny South Florida to visit Paul, because the next best thing to watching fish is talking fish. Yikes – it was even cold in Ft. Lauderdale! On my morning power walk I encountered two dead Green iguanas in a one-mile stretch near Paul’s house. These destructive invaders can’t tolerate cold weather. I felt sorry for them, because it wasn’t their fault that they were here. Just like the invasive lionfish in the Atlantic, humans introduced them. In case you’re interested in learning more about the lionfish problem, check out  my video on YouTube:

OK, disbelievers, here it is: Proof that the fabled Tropical Pacific Invertebrate book is really in production…Ned and Paul at work, going over layouts!

Ned and Paul with the invert book.

Ned and Paul with the invert book.

I left Ned and Paul to work on the book and headed to Key Largo to meet up with Shark Week guys, Andy Dehart and Mark Rackley (yes, our very own National Aquarium/ REEF Board of Trustees, Andy – the man wears many hats.) Andy’s wife Jess and daughter Paige joined us to work on a video project. 

Andy, Jess, Paige, Mark and Lad

Andy, Jess, Paige, Mark and Lad

  The cold weather followed us south making it too rough to dive so we did some top-side filming, which included picking my way through mangroves to keep up with Andy and Mark as they visited Goliath Grouper nursery grounds.

February 20 – Off to Washington, DC where we spent Friday evening and Saturday with the Washington Area Marine Aquarists Society (WAMAS.) This 500-member strong organization is an impressive group of people dedicated to the responsible husbandry of marine animals in aquariums and to education and conservation.  Ned gave a talk about our dives to the Coral Triangle area in Indonesia.

Chunnie and Shirley join us at WAMAS

Chunnie and Shirley join us at WAMAS

Our dive buddies Chunnie Wright and Shirley Wescott attended the program. We discovered that WAMAS has many Scuba divers amongst its membership. What fun to talk to so many people who like to sit in one place and watch fish!

 

 

Boxer Crab - Libia tesselata

Boxer Crab - Libia tesselata

We learn a lot from aquarists, who aren’t constrained by 80 cubic feet of air – they can spend as much time as they want observing their fish and critters. In Ned’s talk, he showed one of our favorite little crustaceans, Lybia tesselata, a.k.a., the Boxer or Pom-pom crab. Common wisdom among divers is these tiny creatures carry anemones for defense; however, after Ned’s talk one gentleman told me that when he feeds his tank, his crabs come out and use their anemones to mop up the copepods to eat. Others agreed that at least in tanks, the crabs use their anemones for feeding.

Our host for the weekend was Doug Arthur, a WAMAS officer and our friend from one of the REEF/National Aquarium Lionfish expeditions. Doug recently raised 250 clown fish from eggs and was taking good-natured teasing at dinner Friday night because he has become attached to all of his little fish and doesn’t want to part with any of them. Saturday afternoon we all applauded when he showed us his first baby to leave home.

Doug with doug

Doug with Doug

  Dave Sandstrom adopted him and named him Doug, in Doug’s honor. Check out Dave’s comments and photos at http://www.wamas.org/forums/index.php?showtopic=28433&hl

 We made many new friends during our time with the WAMAS group and look forward to partnering with them on some educational projects.

WAMAS members Byron and John

WAMAS members Byron and John

 Sunday we headed up to Baltimore to spend time with Andy and Jess Dehart. Andy is Director of Biological Programs at the National Aquarium in D.C. and Jess is an accomplished aquarist formerly with the Baltimore Aquarium. More fish talk! On Monday, we were guests of the National Aquarium in Baltimore for a full day of visits and tours with their very dedicated staff. My favorite exhibit was Animal Planet Australia because they have fruit bats, a.k.a., the Gray-headed flying fox. Bats are my favorite above-water animals in the world and I’ve been just waiting for a chance to use some of my bat video, so here it is: 
 

 But it didn’t take me long to be distracted by another exhibit, this time by the Pineapple fish, one of the top fish on my wish-list. They are bigger than I thought – now that I have the correct search image for them I’m ready to go look for them in the wild.

 Ned gave a talk Monday evening as part of the Marjorie Lynn Bank Lecture Series. We had the opportunity after his presentation to meet many more of the aquarium staff and volunteers.

Ned speaking at the Baltimore Aquarium

Ned speaking at the Baltimore Aquarium

In my January post about our trip to Papua New Guinea, I talked about the mystery of the disappearing Crabeye goby (Signigobius biocellatus.) Well, it turns out that the female seals the male into a burrow for two-to-three days after she lays her eggs in there. That explains why one of the pair I had been watching disappeared for three days then reappeared! This behavior was described from aquarium observations and that’s how I learned about it.

I’m digressing a bit here but my point is that we learn a lot from responsible aquarists and that’s why we are fans of aquariums. We finished up our long weekend with a dinner hosted by the National Aquarium in DC where we listened to staffers share stories of triumphs in raising captive bred animals in their facilities.

Dr. Bill Smith-Vaniz

Dr. Bill Smith-Vaniz

 

 

February 28 – Off to Gainesville to visit one of our heroes, Dr. William Smith-Vaniz.  Recently retired from the US Geological Survey, Dr. Bill is an ichthyologist who specializes in taxonomy of jacks and jawfishes. Ned just wrote an article for Scuba Diver AustralAsia about the plight of the marine taxonomist because there is so little funding for the discipline. We spent two days, hosted by Bill and his gracious wife Esther, sharing stories and info about recent fish discoveries.

 Thanks to Bill, I have another mission for our upcoming trip to Indonesia:  Find and photograph the newly described species of Sling-jaw wrasse. Bruce Carlson and Jack Randall had suspected a second species for a long time and just recently confirmed it with results published in the scientific journal, Copeia. Evidently this Sling-jaw wrasse has a range that includes several areas we‘ve dived recently so we’ve probably seen them and didn’t even realize it – I love it!

Rob Robins and his fish collection

Rob Robins and his fish collection

Bill is also a Research Associate at the Florida Museum of Natural History, so we headed over for a quick tour, and met Rob Robins, Collection Manager for the Ichthyology Department. Rob showed us their impressive collection, which houses the largest fish collection in the state, including many “orphaned” collections from other institutions. 

 
  We rounded out our visit with a meeting with Dr. Gustav Paulay, Curator of Marine Malacology. His name has come up many times during recent correspondence with other scientists so we were very pleased to learn that he is so close to home.

Dr. Gustav Paulay

Dr. Gustav Paulay

We toured his collection and spent time discussing inverts for – you guessed it – the fabled Tropical Pacific Invertebrate book! OK, I’ll stop with the invert book, already….

Off to Indonesia for a month.  We’re going to try to send photos and video from the road.  ~Anna DeLoach, February 2009

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