The theme song above for some reason has been stuck in my head so in an effort to excise it I am using it as the entry to my next collection of animals. The only thing they do have in common beside their misnomers is their habitat, the ocean. They are relatively small but are no less fascinating.
Seahorses just define the word cute – they are small, ranging from 0.6 inches to 14 inches in height. They are poor swimmers having only that little fin for propulsion, so instead they attach themselves to whatever is near, be it a stalk of seaweed or floating flotsam (from the internet):
Perhaps the most striking fact concerns the seahorses’ childcare system. The male has a pouch into which the female lays as many as 2000 eggs. The male incubates these eggs for 2-3 week’s and then at birth spews the “fry” into the water. Despite the large numbers less than 1000 will survive into adulthood.
As I have mentioned in an earlier post, some seahorses utilize startling camouflage to protect them from predators – hard to tell them apart from the seaweed:
Fun fact: A group is seahorses is called…a herd (of course, of course).
Talk about diversity – There are 1,500 different species of starfish that can be found all the world , living on seabeds from the tropical to arctic waters.
Starfish fun facts:
They are not fish. They are star-shaped echinoderms, and are related to sea urchins – you can see the similarity:
They have a long lifespan – up to 35 years and while the five-arm starfish is most common – there are also species with 10, 20, and even 40 arms.
With all their arms, it seems quite advantageous that the starfish has the unique aquatic ability to regenerate an arm when they lose one. Starfish can lose an arm not only from a predator bite, but they can also break off their own arms in an attempt to escape. A very “handy” tool, indeed.
Starfish and anemone photos are from my trip to the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska.
I am sure many of you have come upon a jellyfish that has washed ashore onto a sandy beach, or for the more unlucky of us, have been stung while in the water by one of these seeming helpless creatures. They can be as small as a pencil eraser-head, or have bodies that are 8 feet in diameter with tentacles reaching out over 200 feet.
Jellyfish are not fish and they are anything but helpless, despite their gelatinous bodies or lack of a brain. While there are many species that are harmless, a few “jellies” have formidable with deadly poisons in their tentacles.
There are the peaceful jellies, content to pulsate through the waters, like these Aurelia:
Backlit you can see all their working parts:
I have come across a strikingly colorful Portuguese Man of War while swimming in Florida, but its floating purplish blue body is a warning to stay away, for its long tentacles can deliver quite painful stings:
Then there is the box jelly whom I luckily have never met, nor hope to. Their venom is among the most deadly in the world as it attacks the heart and nervous system. The sting is so painful that victims can go into shock or have instant heart failure, and even if a person does survive, the pain can continue for weeks.
Box jellyfish are found off the warm waters of Australia and the Indo-Pacific (Indian Ocean, and the seas around Indonesia). I will not be swimming there anytime soon.
Aurelia photos also taken in the Kenai Peninsula, backlit jelly reside in the New England Aquarium and the rest of the jellies are from the internet.
More deep thoughts about nature coming next week.