September 23, 2010 · Uncategorized

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Everything I say here is my opinion and nothing more. No part of this post is intended to represent the thoughts or positions of another person or institution. I take full responsibility for the content of this blog.

In the next series of posts, I want to try to show the public a few images of the biodiversity that is at risk from the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Communities of wildlife that are out of sight are often times overlooked when issues of environmental contamination come to pass. But even communities within sight get overlooked. The Sargassum community and the surface zooplankton community can be seen on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico. However, most people don’t take the time to stop and look at the diversity of wildlife found within the tangles of the plant or floating at the surface. It is truly amazing the diversity that can be observed within a single cluster of Sargassum or from a bucket full of surface water. The oil spill and the dispersant have impacted these communities in the Gulf. I don’t believe that anyone knows the extent of the damage yet.

As a bit of background for this post, “Sargassum Weed” is a common name for a number of marine species of plants. There are several species in the genus (Sargassum), which is in the class Phaeophyceae. Not all species are free floating, or planktonic, but the best known species, and the namesake for the Sargasso Sea, are planktonic. The floating species are probably more strongly associated with the common name Sargassum Weed (eg, Sargassum natans and S. fluitans). Mats of these plants can be observed in small clumps but are sometimes organized in huge irregular masses. At other times when there is wind, the mats can form “drifts,” which are long linear arrangements that stretch for many meters. Sargassum serves as key refuge for dozens of species of fish and invertebrates. The images below will point out that a few key fishery species utilize these mats of floating plant as larval or juvenile habitat. There are some species of vertebrates and invertebrates that are found only in Sargassum and which are adapted to life in the plant (eg, the Frogfish (Histrio histrio) the Filefish (Monacanthus hispidus) and the shrimp (Leander tenuicornis & Latreutes parvulus)).

Sargassum communities, and the general surface zooplankton community, will be impacted by any contaminant that is on the ocean’s surface. It is not just the oil from spills that might seriously impact these communities, but also the chemicals used in some oil dispersants. If you look at the chemicals that are in the oil dispersants (e.g., benzene, propylene glycol, polypropylene glycol butyl ether, DSS, 2-butoxyethanol, and hydrotreated light petroleum distillates (Nopar 13 and kerosene)) it does not take a genius to realize that exposure to them will be a problem for a biotic community. Only time and a lot of good science will reveal the damage that has been done.

Crab Zoea

Crab Zoea

Larval Crab

Larval Crab

Larval lobster

Larval lobster

Larval lobster

Larval lobster

Larval Eel (Leptocephalus)

Larval Eel (Leptocephalus)

Larval Eel (Leptocephalus)

Larval Eel (Leptocephalus)

Larval Eel (Leptocephalus)

Larval Eel (Leptocephalus)

Sargassum Anglerfish (Histrio histrio)

Sargassum Anglerfish (Histrio histrio)

Juvenile Sargassum Anglerfish (Histrio histrio)

Juvenile Sargassum Anglerfish (Histrio histrio)

Juvenile Sailfish

Juvenile Sailfish

Larval Billfish

Larval Billfish

Larval Mahi Mahi

Larval Mahi Mahi

Juvenile Pomfret

Juvenile Pomfret

Larval Fish

Larval Fish

Larval Fish

Larval Fish

Larval Fish

Larval Fish

Larval Flying Fish

Larval Flying Fish

Sargassum file fish (Stenolepis hispidus)

Sargassum file fish (Stenolepis hispidus)

Sargassum Crab

Sargassum Crab

Sargassum Crab

Sargassum Crab

Sargassum Shrimp

Sargassum Shrimp

Sargassum Shrimp

Sargassum Shrimp

Sargassum Shrimp

Sargassum Shrimp

Sargassum Shrimp

Sargassum Shrimp

Sargassum Shrimp

Sargassum Shrimp

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11 comments on “The Gulf of Mexico oil spill – What is at stake at the surface? Zooplankton and the Sargassum Weed Community”

  1. Henry Robison:

    Loved all of these, but especially the larval eel and the juvenile sailfish. This community is really diverse, isn’t it? Again, magnificent shots of a most interesting fauna!


  2. Dante:

    Hi Henry-Larval eels may be some of the strangest creatures I have run into. Their appearance is odd but their texture, like soft plastic, is as strange. They make for great photographic subjects.

    Thanks!!!


  3. Lucien Antonaccio:

    Sup there administrator, I actually wished to give a immediate comment to declare that in fact I appreciated your specific story. Thanks!


  4. Teresa Zubi:

    Hi Danté
    I have a non commercial website about frogfishes. I saw you had some great pictures of Histrio histrio, specially the young one I like a lot.
    I wanted to ask you, if I could use the 2 pictures on my website at http://www.frogfish.ch/species-arten/Histrio-histrio.html. I would put a Copyright there and link to your page.
    If you had large resolution pics I would appreaciate it, or if you have other photos, specially of juveniles or larvae of this species…..
    Could you mail to me? Thanks!
    Greetings from Switzerland


  5. Jan P.:

    I went over this site and I believe you have a lot of fantastic info and amazing photographs, saved to fav (:.


  6. Dante:

    Thank you Jan, glad you enjoyed it.


  7. Michael Fine:

    Dante,

    Went to the web to find a picture of a leptocephalus for marine biol lecture and saw your site. I worked on Sargaassum communities in 1970 (paper in Marine Biology), and I really enjoyed seeing your pictures. There are a lot more Sargassum animals to go.
    Michael


  8. Dante:

    Hi Michael-Glad you enjoyed the images. Yep, lots more to photograph!


  9. isabel:

    Great shots!!


  10. Dante:

    Thank you Isabel!


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