Search Results for: naturalist

Test your knowledge: Marine mammals

SeasideNaturalistCoverIt’s time for another “Test your knowledge” quiz. This time it’s brought to you by page 211 of one of my favorite books, Seaside Naturalist (written and illustrated by Deborah Coulombe). Here’s a true/false quiz all about those marine mammals we all know and love … well, take the quiz and see how well you know them. First 3 people to submit all correct answers below as comments (before I post the correct answers in a week) will get a free DVD of Ocean Frontiers.

1. Whales sweat profusely while diving.
2. The blue whale is the largest animal ever known on Earth.
3. Whales can drown.
4. Whales can be told apart by the way they spout.
5. Whales never sleep.
6. Baby whales are born tail first.
7. When whales breach, they jump completely out of the water.
8. Whales spout by blowing water out of their blowhole.
9. In Japan, dogs eat whales meat.
10. Manatee are the only vegetarian marine mammals.

Know anyone that might want to share a passion a marine science, environmental education, or ocean conservation by writing for Beach Chair Scientist? Guest posting is always welcome!

99 reasons I’m in ‘Limulus Love’

It’s no secret that I love those horseshoe crabs. Well someone on Twitter this week asked me why I am so crazy over them so I thought I’d take the time to outline 99 reasons I think Limulus polyphemus are a fascinating species.

  1. Three Nobel Prizes were awarded to scientists who did some or all of their research using horseshoe crab physiology.
  2. As far as the horseshoe crab’s Latin name translation, Limulus mean ‘askew’ and polyphemus is taken from a one-eyed giant in Greek mythology.
  3. The very intriguing name of Xiphosura (Greek ‘Xiphos’ meaning sword and ‘ura’ meaning tail) was given to the order of the Atlantic horseshoe crab and its three closest living related species.anatomyhsc
  4. There are 4 living species of horseshoe crabs and only one of those inhabits the western Atlantic waters – the Atlantic horseshoe crab. The other three are found in the Pacific Ocean.
  5. Samurai warrior helmets were modeled after the prosoma of a horseshoe crab.
  6. The body of a horseshoe crab (top picture) is divided into three parts – the prosoma, opisthosoma and telson (tail).
  7. Horseshoe crabs tend to be no more than 7-14” across.
  8. There once was a 50 foot long, 113,000 pound artificial reef horseshoe crab off the coast of NJ.
  9. Takeshi Yamada (pictured 3rd down) is a world-renowned artist often creating masterpieces using horseshoe crab molts.
  10. Horseshoe crabs have remained fairly unchanged over the past 300 million years (that’s 100 million years before there were dinosaurs on earth!).
  11. Horseshoe crabs are the perfect representative for Darwin’s theory that ‘the most adaptable species will prevail’.
  12. Horseshoe crabs are one of the world’s oldest animals.
  13. Before the last ice age, horseshoe crabs didn’t live much farther north than Florida.
  14. Scientists believe that horseshoe crabs (even perhaps many different species of them) were among the most dominant of animals 300 million years ago.
  15. Horseshoe crabs used to be called ‘horsefoot crabs‘ because their shell was thought to resemble a horse hoof.bcs_limuluslove
  16. Horseshoe crabs are sometimes referred to as a ‘living fossil’.
  17. Adult horseshoe crabs are often referred to as ‘walking museums’.
  18. While horseshoe crabs are opportunistic feeders, they are not aggressive animals!
  19. Most people do not understand the value of horseshoe crabs.
  20. People have organized workshops to understand bait alternatives for using horseshoe crabs to catch eels and conch.
  21. Horseshoe crabs are “the single most-studied invertebrate animal in the world”.
  22. While a horseshoe crab’s telson (tail) helps to create the appearance for an intimidating animal, they are not dangerous animals!
  23. Horseshoe crabs are so misleading – they’re actually more closely related to scorpions and spiders than crabs!
  24. Horseshoe crabs do not have mandibles, antennae, or pincers like true crabs.
  25. Native Americans ate horseshoe crab meat, used the shell to bail water, and used the tail as a spear tip.
  26. A juvenile horseshoe crab is easily identifiable because they look just like adults (see 4th picture down).
  27. Horseshoe crabs molt, or as naturalist Samuel Lockwood stated, “it is spewing itself from its own mouth”.
  28. Horseshoe crab molts are excellent shelter for mud crabs, sand shrimp, and spider crabs.
  29. A female’s lucky number is 17. That’s how many times they’ve molted before they’re ready to mate.
  30. As a horseshoe crab gets older and molts more often, they venture into deeper waters.
  31. Each time a horseshoe crab molts they grow an average on 25%.
  32. A horseshoe crab exoskeleton is made up of chitin – a material with wound healing properties.
  33. Horseshoe crabs spend most of their lives hidden.
  34. At the turn of the 19th century, horseshoe crabs were valued as a fertilizer, particularly for poultry, corn, and tomatoes.
  35. Today fishermen use horseshoe crabs as bait to catch eels and whelk.
  36. The threatened loggerhead sea turtle feasts on adult horseshoe crabs.
  37. American eel, killifish, silversides, summer flounder, and winter flounder rely on horseshoe crabs eggs and larvae for food.
  38. Horseshoe crab eggs are green.
  39. Horseshoe crab eggs are rich in fat and protein.
  40. Horseshoe crabs are big midnight snackers and love to feast on worms and mollusks.Horseshoe-crab-eggs-larvae-visible
  41. The mouth of the horseshoe crab will tickle your fingers if you’re lucky enough to have a job where you get to show people how they eat.
  42. Horseshoe crabs use their legs to chew up food and guide food into their mouths right in between their legs.
  43. Horseshoe crab legs are so strong they can crush a clam.
  44. Horseshoe crabs are expert javelinists – using their telson (tail) to act as a rudder and right itself when it tips over.
  45. The 13 pairs of horseshoe crab appendages are very multipurpose – using them for locomotion. burrowing, food gathering, and/or water flow.
  46. Horseshoe crabs use their dozen legs to swim upside down in the open ocean.
  47. Horseshoe crabs (predictably) participate in an annual orgy each May and June when thousands descend on the eastern Atlantic coastline to spawn (see fourth image down).
  48. Horseshoe crabs have a ritual of spawning during high tides of the new and full moons in May and June.
  49. Horseshoe crabs reach sexual maturity around the ages of 9-12.
  50. Horseshoe crabs tend to live a long time, usually 10 years or so after they’ve sexually matured.
  51. If horseshoe crabs can keep their gills moderately damp their survive to the next high tide in case they were to get hsc_orgystranded.
  52. Horseshoe crabs are great vessels for other animals.
  53. The highest concentration of horseshoe crab spawning on the Atlantic coast takes places along the Delaware Bay.
  54. Approximately 10 horseshoe crabs will survive to adulthood from each of the 90,000 eggs a female lays during her spawning cycle.
  55. A female horseshoe crab will lay almost 20 clutches of eggs each season.
  56. It’s a community effort making certain the eggs get fertilized. Often times many males with aggregate to a female (the males not attached are known as ‘satellite’ males.
  57. In adult males, the second pair of claws (having a distinguishable “boxing-glove” appearance) are used to grasp females during spawning.
  58. If it wasn’t for horseshoe crab eggs, many migratory shorebirds wouldn’t be able to survive.
  59. Many think there is a link between the decline in shorebird populations and horseshoe crab over-harvesting.
  60. The four most abundant species of shorebirds (relying on horseshoe crab eggs) along the Delaware Bay shore are the red knot, ruddy turnstone, semipalmated sandpipers, and sanderlings.
  61. Almost 50% of the red knot population uses Delaware Bay as mid-point stopover to consume thousands of horseshoe crab eggs. These robin-sized birds impressively travel from southern Argentina to the Canadian high Arctic to breed.
  62. The horseshoe crab-shorebird phenomenon helps to generate a large portion of the $522 million  annual ecotourism industry in Cape May County, NJ.satmenhsc
  63. The world’s leading authority of horseshoe crabs is Dr. Carl N. Shuster, Jr.
  64. In March of 2001, NOAA Fisheries Service established the Dr. Carl N. Shuster, Jr. Horseshoe Crab Sanctuary in federal waters off of the  Delaware Bay.
  65. Horseshoe crab blood is blue (see 7th picture down).
  66. Horseshoe crab blood is blue because it contains copper-based hemocyanin to distribute oxygen throughout their bodies (We use an iron-based hemoglobin to move oxygen around).
  67. Horseshoe crabs are essential to biotechnology.
  68. Horseshoe crabs are one of the pioneers in using marine organisms to save human lives.
  69. Horseshoe crabs are what we have to thank for our flu shots.
  70. Horseshoe crabs are sometimes referred to as ‘man’s best friend’.
  71. Horseshoe crabs are often captured to have their blood drained, all in the name of science.
  72. Horseshoe crabs can be released after they have their blood drained.
  73. Horseshoe crab blood cells (amoebocytes) congeal and attach to harmful toxins produced by some types of gram negative bacterias.
  74. Limulus Amoebocyte Lysate (LAL) is the name of the clotting agent made using their blood to detect microbial pathogens in medical intravenous fluids, injectable drugs, and supplies.
  75. The global market for LAL is approximately $50 million per year.
  76. The adaptation for the ability of the horseshoe crab’s blood to congeal in the presence of either living or dead gram negative bacteria has never been able to be reproduced.
  77. Horseshoe crabs have used in the development of wound dressings and surgical sutures.
  78. Horseshoe crabs have a body shape that poses difficulty for predators.wireddotcom_drainblueblood
  79. Horseshoe crabs have ten eyes.
  80. The vision of a horseshoe crab is equally as impressive at night as it is during the day with the use of their lateral eyes.
  81. With a pair of compound eyes, each with 1,000 black disks, horseshoe crabs can see to each side, ahead, behind, and above.
  82. Scientists have learned quite a bit about how human eyes function from research with cells found in horseshoe crab eyes.
  83. Horseshoe crabs have a lateral inhibition mechanism using their eyes which allows them to distinguish mates in murky water.
  84. Horseshoe crabs need a book to breathe, that is – ‘book gills‘ to be more specific.
  85. Horseshoe crab gills have small flaps resembling the pages of a book.
  86. Horseshoe crabs tell time with their tail.
  87. Horseshoe crabs have a heart that cannot beat on its own.
  88. Horseshoe crabs eat through their brain.
  89. Horseshoe crabs chase females that run away!
  90. The black disks, also known as ‘ommatidia‘, found in the compound eyes of the horseshoe crab are the largest known retinal receptors in the animal kingdom.
  91. Horseshoe crabs are able to adapt to vast changes in salinity (i.e., they’re euryhaline).
  92. Horseshoe crabs are able to adapt to vast changes in oxygen availability (i.e., they’re euryoxic).
  93. Tracking juvenile horseshoe crabs with your eyes can be a great way to spend time at the beach.hsceyecloseup
  94. You can also track horseshoe crabs and other wildlife with your iPhone while at the beach.
  95. You can get involved in helping stranded horseshoe crabs and ‘Just flip ’em’ (see last picture).
  96. If you are a classroom teacher in Maryland you can raise horseshoe crabs as a way to increase student’s ocean literacy.
  97. Monitoring programs, like this one in Long Island Sound, are helping to advance the understanding of horseshoe crabs and their impact on humans.
  98. Development, pollution, water quality, and over harvesting have impaired the horseshoe crab’s habitat.
  99. Today and in the future we have the chance to protect horseshoe crab populations at a sustainable level for ecological and commercial uses.smilowitz

What is your favorite ocean-themed children’s book?

Summer is unofficially here and with that comes trips to the beach! To keep the theme going at home I am on a mission to discover new ocean-themed books to share with my little one. I compiled this list after some research and from your feedback on Facebook and Twitter. Please share by commenting below if you have a new book to add to the list. Also, scroll down and fill out the survey to share which one(s) are your favorite.

‘The Serpent Came to Gloucester’ by M.T. Anderson: (Ages 6 and up) Drawing on a true story, an award-winning author and illustrator present a picture-book tribute to the beauty and mystery of the ocean, and to the mesmerizing creatures that may frolic there.

‘Commotion in the Ocean’ by Gil Andreae: (Ages 3 and up)  The sequel to the best-selling “Rumble in the Jungle”, this delightful new collection of poems includes fun rhymes about the creatures who live in and around the ocean. Children will delight in the snappy poems and colorful illustrations about whales, walruses, penguins, polar bears, stingrays and sharks.

‘Over in the Ocean: In a Coral Reef’ by Marianne Berkes: (Ages 3 and up) This coral reef is a marine nursery, teeming with parents and babies! In the age-old way of kids and fish, children will count and sing to the rhythm of “Over in the Meadow” while pufferfish “puff,” gruntfish “grunt” and seahorses “flutter.”

A House for Hermit Crab‘ by Eric Carle: (Ages 5 and up) His modern-day fable is both wise and simple; based on the true habits of the hermit crab, it not only introduces young readers to the wonder and beauty of the marine environment but also contains an encouraging message for small children facing the inevitable challenges of growing up.

‘Mister Seahorse’ by Eric Carle: (Ages 2 and up) When Mrs. Seahorse lays her eggs, she does it on Mr. Seahorse’s belly! She knows he will take good care of them. While he swims waiting for the eggs to hatch, he meets some other underwater fathers caring for their babies: Mr. Tilapia, who carries his babies in his mouth; Mr. Kurtus, who keeps his on his head; and Mr. Catfish, who is baby-sitting his young hatchlings.

‘The Magic School Bus on the Ocean Floor’ by Joanna Cole: (Ages 4 and up) When Ms. Frizzle drives the Magic School Bus full speed ahead into the ocean, the class takes a submarine expedition that’s anything but ordinary. With a well-meaning lifeguard in tow, the class takes a deep breath and learns about hot water vents, coral reefs, plant and animal life on the ocean floor, and more!

‘Abby’s Aquarium Adventure Series’ by Heidi de Maine: (Ages 5-10) Stories that teach about different types of fish and how to remember their names easily, it also shows the kids what an aquarist does in his/her job at the aquarium.

‘The Disappearing Island‘ by Corinne Demas: (Ages 6-10) Carrie wonders about the mysterious island that her grandmother plans to take her to on her ninth birthday, a place that is visible only at low tide and the rest of the time remains a secret beneath the waves.

Crab Moon‘ by Ruth Horowitz: (Ages 6-10) June’s full moon casts an atmospheric glow over Kiesler’s (Old Elm Speaks, 1998) soft-focus shore scenes in this brief consciousness raiser.

‘A Day in the Salt Marsh’ by Kevin Kurtz: (Ages 5 and up) Enjoy A Day in the Salt Marsh, one of the most dynamic habitats on earth. Fun-to-read, rhyming verse introduces readers to hourly changes in the marsh as the tide comes and goes.

Carry on Mr. Bowditch‘ by Jean Lee Latham: (Grades 2 – 6) The story of a boy who had the persistence to master navigation in the days when men sailed by “log, lead, and lookout,” and who authored The American Practical Navigator, “the sailor’s Bible.”

‘Swimmy’ by Leo Lionni: (Ages 4 and up) Deep in the sea there lives a happy school of little fish. Their watery world is full of wonders, but there is also danger, and the little fish are afraid to come out of hiding . . . until Swimmy comes along. Swimmy shows his friends how—with ingenuity and team work—they can overcome any danger.

The Coast Mappers‘ by Taylor Morrison: (Grades 2 – 6) In the mid-nineteenth century, little was known of the west coast and waterways. The ships that sailed those waters did so at a considerable risk, sometimes depending on only a school atlas to navigate and all too often crashing into the rocks.

‘The Young Man and the Sea‘ by W. R. Philbrick: (Ages 9 and up) Award winner Rodman Philbrick’s powerful middle-grade novel is a story of determination and survival–of a boy’s exhilirating encounter with a fish that first nearly kills him but then saves his life.

‘Beach Day’ by Karen Roosa: (Ages 4 and up) In this charming picture book, a cheerful family tumbles out of the car and onto the beach, ready for a perfect day.

‘Hello Ocean‘ by Pam Munoz Ryan: (Ages 4-7) This rhyming picture book about the pleasures of a day at the beach goes through the day while using the sense.

‘I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean’ by Kevin Sherry: (Ages 4-7) When a giant squid takes inventory of all of the creatures in the ocean, he realizes that he?s way bigger than most of them! Of course, there are bigger things lurking around . . . but maybe this giant squid with a giant touch of hubris doesn’t really care?

‘The Suzanne Tate Nature Series‘ by Suzanne Tate: (Preschool – 4th grade) Suzanne Tate’s Nature Series is a unique series of 34 books about marine life. Teaching guides are available for books 1 through 28. In each colorfully illustrated book for early childhood (Pre-K-4), biologically accurate information is combined with an exciting story line. The books also promote self-esteem and environmental awareness.

The Boathouse Buddies Series’ by Karen Thomason and Ilene Baskette: (Grade 2 – 6) The Boat House Buddies deals with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in a series of ten books.

‘Far From Shore: Chronicles of an Open Ocean Voyage‘ by Sophie Webb: (Ages 9 and up) In extremely deep waters (two miles deep), the vast sea appears empty. But as naturalist and artist Sophie Webb shows us, it is full of fascinating—yet difficult to study—life. Together with her shipmates, Sophie counts and collects samples of life in the deep ocean, from seabirds to dolphins, from winged fish to whales.

‘Flotsam’ by David Wiesner: (Ages 4 and up) A bright, science-minded boy goes to the beach equipped to collect and examine flotsam–anything floating that has been washed ashore.

‘The Seashore Book‘ by Charlotte Zolotow: (Ages 3 and up) A young boy, who has never seen the sea, asks his mother to describe it. From there, Zolotow carefully chooses her words to create a poem full of the colors, sounds, and sights of a day at the beach.

The summaries and book covers can be attributed to the link associated with the title of the book.

Which book(s) are your favorite?

Limulus Love

One common topic on this blog is the Atlantic horseshoe crab, Limulus polyphemus. Most certainly this is a product of where I grew up. As a person from Cape May County, NJ, I came to appreciate the horseshoe crab in all its humility and glory. There is also a story that will be told for decades of how I ended up having to bring my dear mother on a late night horseshoe crab survey of which the data sheet blew away in the wind when we completed our task (… always have a rubber band around the clip board!).

Here is a listing of the horseshoe crab posts found on BCS:

  1. The short and sweet of horseshoe crab spawning
  2. 99 reasons I’m in Limulus Love
  3. The world’s horseshoe crab research finally finds a home
  4. Do all horseshoe crabs molt?
  5. What happens if the tide leaves the horseshoe crab stranded?
  6. How to track a horseshoe crab
  7. Witness the horseshoe crab molting process
  8. Why is the blood of horseshoe crabs blue?
  9. How have horseshoe crabs been able to remain unchanged for centuries?
  10. Atlantic horseshoe crab infographic
  11. “The Timeless Traveler” a new documentary by River Bank Studio
  12. What do you spy with a horseshoe crab eye?
  13. Scientists discover new living fossil. What is a living fossil?
  14. 13 apps for your day at the beach
  15. 30 reasons to be grateful for the ocean
  16. “Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.” P.J. O’Rourke
  17. It’s as easy as A, B, Sea: X for Xiphosura
  18. It’s as easy as A, B, Sea: H for Horseshoe Crab
  19. Where have all the horseshoe crabs gone?
  20. Just Flip ‘Em
  21. Why are horseshoe crabs essential to biotechnology?
  22. Are horseshoe crabs dangerous?
  23. More reasons why I love the Atlantic Horseshoe Crab…
  24. The First Beach Chair Scientist post is about my favorite animal – The Atlantic Horseshoe Crab

limuluslove_beachchairscientistweb

Horseshoe crab resources:

  1. Ecological Research & Development Group
  2. Fish and Wildlife Service
  3. Maryland Department of Natural Resources
  4. University of Delaware: Sea Grant
  5. The Assateague Naturalist

Please feel free to email if there is anything you would like covered on this topic or any great resources you’d like to share (info@beachchairscientist.com).

Also, here are some of my horseshoe crab pictures from the excursion with my mom.

Check out more pictures here!

More than One Week

Tomorrow is the final day for National Environmental Education Week! It is a special week in schools because all of those children with an aptitude for understanding concepts with examples about nature have finally been able to comprehend all those complex topics they might otherwise have found overwhelming simply because the examples used in class do not inspire them to learn.

The concept of infusing environmental education in all parts of the classrooms is a concept that is few and far between. And, at this point is set aside for this very special week. It is not even part of the requirements for a school to be listed as LEED certified. That is simply based on how the school is constructed. And, one could hope that the students are going to absorb the fact that their classroom lightbulbs are better for the environment than the other school down the block but I doubt it.

I rarely get on a soapbox on this blog but I want to take the time to ask you what does it mean for a school to be green? To me, it should mean integrating environmental themes throughout the year. In recent years an eighth learning style has been identified. This new learning style is the ‘naturalistic’ and many students would benefit greatly from year round green in the classroom. If you would like to learn more on how to integrate environmental themes in the classroom check out these websites:

Where have all the horseshoe crabs gone?

If you’ve kept on eye on the sandy shores of the Atlantic Ocean or eastern Gulf of Mexico over the past twenty years you’ve noticed a significant decline in the number of horseshoe crabs, Limulus polyphemus, covering the beach. As a marine educator and naturalist in my past life, I always said the decline was due to over harvesting for bait and pharmaceutical needs. This is only half the reason. Recently scientists also noted that climate change, with the sea level rise and temperature fluctuation, may be a cause of the decline.

Tim King, a scientist with the United States Geological  Survey, thinks that what happened during the Ice Age could happen again. With climate change comes a loss of habitat and a loss of diversity. These issues could have severe implications, not only for horseshoe crabs, but also for species that rely on them for sustenance. For instance, along the Delaware Bay the red knot eats the horseshoe crabs eggs at the midpoint of their migration. In the Chesapeake Bay, loggerhead sea turtles are struggling to find one of their favorite food sources, horseshoe crabs, and are retreating elsewhere to find food. Now that the link of a decline in the horseshoe crab population and climate change has been made fisheries managers can take this into consideration.

Images (c) Greg Breese, US Fish and Wildlife Service

About BCS

Do you have a great question Beach Chair Scientist needs to answer? Are you interested in having the Beach Chair Scientist visit your classroom, camp, or community event? Or, do you just want to tell us how we’re doing? Please leave a comment below or email info@beachchairscientist.com. You can also find Beach Chair Scientist on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

Ann McElhatton

Teacher. Storyteller. Environmental Educator. Science Communicator. Ann has defined what it means to be a 21st century armchair scientist. She finds creating opportunities that make marine science accessible to the general public (those without science degrees or in the science field day-to-day) to be a very rewarding experience. In fact, Ann enjoys it so much that in 2008 she founded Beach Chair Scientist!

The site has been featured in Diver Magazine, the NOAA’s Information Exchange for Marine Educators, National Science Teacher’s Association blogNewsWorks, and linked on numerous websites and blogs (including Ian Somerhalder Foundation, USGS, WildCoast, Wild New Jersey, and Conservation Law Foundation). Ann has also presented at various conferences, such as the American Fisheries Society and Science Online Oceans, sharing knowledge of online writing techniques.

Ann has been a field biologist and a naturalist instructing various audiences for over a decade. As a south Jersey native, she loves any teachable moment where she can demonstrate the gentle and extraordinary attributes of the Atlantic horseshoe crab, Limulus polyphemus.

Ann has a B.S. in Marine Resources Management from Richard Stockton College of New Jersey and an M.Ed. in Environmental Education from Florida Atlantic University. She currently teaches high school biology in northern Virginia and is a member of the North American Association of Environmental Educators, National Marine Educators Association and the Mid-Atlantic Marine Educators Association. Ann also follows many land-to-sea initiatives.

Lastly, Ann loves spending time with her husband, daughter, son, and precocious dog in and around Oak Park, IL. Her favorite piece of literature is The American Scholar by Ralph Waldo Emerson. “The day is always his who works in it with serenity and great aims.”

Other Contributors

Dr. J. G. McCully

Jim is a retired medical doctor, who wrote Beyond the Moon: A Conversational, Common Sense Guide to Understanding the Tides. See publisher’s link: http://www.worldscibooks.com/environsci/6015.

Jim Wharton

Jim Wharton is the Director of Conservation and Education at the Seattle Aquarium. After 8+ years in Florida working for the Smithsonian Marine Station and Mote Marine Laboratory, he feels at home again in the Pacific Northwest where he started his career in marine science education as a volunteer, then educator at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. Jim is also deeply involved with the National Marine Educators Association (NMEA) where he is a member of the Board of Directors. You can learn more about Jim at about.me/jimwharton. Follow him on Twitter for more marine science miscellanea @jimwharton.