Thursday, March 6, 2014

A melting pot of sea creatures around us


Adam Kovarsky
Aquarist & Education Specialist
Our Exploration Center & Aquarium in Newport is a melting pot. Local fishermen bring in live specimens they discover while fishing Narragansett Bay and Rhode Island Sound. These fishermen are the most active explorers of the Bay and are the first people to see many of the examples of life that are present in our waters. 

Last week was no exception when one of our interns - who happens to also work on a local fishing vessel - brought in some amazing examples of life rarely seen in our waters. Let's have a look:

Northern Red Sea Anemone 

Northern Red Sea Anemone
The first of these unique creatures is a Northern Red Sea Anemone. It is a brilliant red with finger-like tentacle projections radiating from the mouth. The mouth is located in the center of its body and is up to 4.5 inches wide in diameter. Along with this vibrant invertebrate were half a dozen Blood Stars which feed on native sponges such as the Red Beard Sponge.

Barnacle Nudibranch 

Barnacle Nudibranch
The most exciting specimen for the inner marine biology nerd in all of us is the Barnacle Nudibranch, also known as a sea slug. Nudibranch, which translates from Latin meaning “naked gill,” relates to the characteristic bronchial plume that is in a rosette pattern on the back of all nudibranchs. This organ is an exterior gill used for respiration. 

The gill is unique as most marine fish have interior gills hidden from view to the human world, yet this sea slug presents its breathing organs for all to view. Being exposed to the world has given many nudibranchs amazing adaptations, including eyes, antennae, and poisonous tentacles to sting oncoming predators. Using a modified tooth structure called a radula, this sea slug feeds primarily on barnacles. The Barnacle Nudibranch can grow up to four inches long.

The inhabitants of our aquarium are constantly changing. Our staff and volunteers seem to fall in love over and over again with the natural worlds of southern New England and look forward to what the mysterious Bay will bring in next.

- Adam

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