Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A day late and a dollar short!

It's not that easy to come up with a St. Patrick's Day bird (other than the obvious green heron, and that's too easy), but Jim had done it. Unfortunately, the day somehow totally escaped me. I want to share the photo with you anyway, as it is so beautiful. What a lovely creature with such amazing colors - just enough green to keep him from getting pinched! I'll never call anybody turkey again.

If you have not ventured over to our companion site, Space Coast Eco, today would be a good day to do it - just finished a post on rain barrels. This barrel is one that Margie and I saw during our adventure to Enchanted Forest (see the field trip report in the Eco blog also). Now if we could just get some rain!

Faithful readers will remember the blue glaucus photo and story that Blair Witherington sent us (you unfaithful ones can read about it in this February 28 post). That reminded Dr. Duane DeFreese of a blue glaucus story from his young and foolish days, and he graciously gave me permission to share it with you thusly. I did my MS and PhD on sea slugs, and it is one of my favorite species. I found my first one during a northeast storm in the early Fall of 1978. The surf was incredible, large and breaking way outside. As the always curious scientist, I was shaking out Sargassum as I waited for a set wave, and 6 specimens fell out of the weed. The iridescent blue was amazing as most drifted down and away from my grasp. I was able to grab one specimen. I was so excited about the find, I thought I needed to bring one back to the lab and Dr. Kerry Clark at FL Tech for a taxonomic ID (I had never seen Glaucus atlanticus before). I got the bright idea that if I popped one in my mouth, I could catch a last wave in without losing the specimen. I waited for a set wave, popped the Glaucus in my mouth, and took off. Within seconds, my mouth started to tingle and then burn. By the time I hit the shorebreak my mouth was on fire. Turns out that Glaucus, like many nudibranchs, eat cnidarians and are able to retain some of the stinging cells (nematocysts) from the cnidarian in a functional state so that they are able to reuse them in their own defense. By the time I got to the lab, my hand was itching and my mouth was swollen for about 24 hours. The cool thing was that the specimen survived for months in the lab aquaria with Sargassum and small man-of war supplied as food. The lessons learned for a young field biologist : DON'T put anything in your mouth you don't know is safe and eatable. Don't handle any species in the wild that you are not familiar with (even if they are really small and pretty). Even the very small critters can do you great harm! Dr. Clark was impressed by both my enthusiasm and stupidity...

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