Today’s First (Community Free Day at the Seymour Marine Discovery Center) was quite educational, I will provide bullet points of what I learned. As for the bones below: This is the blue whale skeleton that sits outside the center that washed ashore near Pescadero (north), in September of 1979. Students, scientists and volunteers from UC Santa Cruz helped retrieve the bones. Named “Ms. Blue” by volunteers, the blue whale has become the mascot of Long Marine Lab.
What I learned during the 45 minutes I spent at the center:
- An “otolith” is a specialized bone in a fish’s ear. This tiny bone allows fish to hear and sense its surroundings. Just like growth rings in a tree, an otolith is formed with daily and yearly growth rings. That’s how we can determine a fishy’s age 🙂 Better yet, it can record where the fish was born and even where it may have lived at different stages of its life. Scientists use this info to create a complete history of a fish’s life and determine the best ways to manage the fishery.
- A swell shark swallows water to swell up to 2x its size when it feels in danger. This lets the shark appear larger and helps it wedge in rocks.
- Abalone live as long as 30 years. Growth is SLOW and highly variable. They spawn many eggs, but only 1% survive to adulthood.
- Abalone on the market that are bigger than 4 inches are likely to be illegal. Be sure to buy only farmed abalone.
- Farmed abalone are also sold as red abalone, green abalone, pink abalone, or awabi (when in sushi)
- Blue whales filter their food through their baleen* plates. Blue whales eat krill (euphausiids) and copepods. A blue whale can eat up to 8,000 lbs. of krill during its peak consumption period! It is estimated to take 2,200 lbs. of food to fill a blue whale’s stomach.
*“One group of whales has specialised in feeding on tiny shrimp-like crustaceans, krill, which swarm in vast clouds in the sea. Just as teeth are of no value to mammals feeding on ants, so they are no use to those eating krill. So these whales, like ant-eaters, have lost their teeth. Instead they have baleen, sheets of horn, feathered at the edges, that hang down like stiff, parallel curtains from the roof of the mouth. The whale takes a huge mouthful of water in the middle of the shoal of krill, half-shuts its jaws and then expels the water by pressing its tongue forward so that the krill remains and can be swallowed. Sometimes it gathers the krill by slowly cruising where it is thickest. It also can concentrate a dispersed shoal by diving beneath it and then spiralling up, expelling bubbles as it goes, so that the krill is driven towards the centre of the spiral. Then the whale itself, jaws pointing upwards, rises in the centre and gathers them in one gulp.” (Attenborough 1979:242)
- PISCO stands for Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans and monitors three main habitats reaching from Baja California to Alaska (coastal oceans, rocky shores and kelp forests)
- Shark skin is made of a matrix of tiny, hard, tooth-like structures called dermal denticles or placoid scales. These structures are shaped like curved, grooved teeth and make the skin a very tough armor with a texture like sandpaper. – Got to feel for myself!
Community Free Days
(Thanks to the Sponsor: www.montereybayseaglass.com / Nancy Allen)
The Seymour Marine Discovery Center is open to the community free of charge on the following days: