On the coral reefs of the Caribbean sea in Florida and the Bahamas, a colorful gastropod has found its home. Commonly called the Flamingo Tongue Snail, this isn’t your ordinary slimy friend from any fresh water lake. This snail is not only a predator to soft corals, but it is also poisonous to just about everything else. Corals often have toxins inside of them that the Flamingo Tongue stores inside of it’s tissue, making it poisonous to other predators. That is the reason for it’s brightly colored shell, it is a urgent warning saying “DO NOT EAT ME”. Now, the poisons won’t harm humans, although it is still encouraged to leave these creatures alone. The Flamingo Tongue will also lay its eggs on coral, and after 10 days the eggs will hatch and be immobile. Their offspring often stay unnoticed on the underside of coral leaves until they are fully grown and able to be mobile.
These snails are often taken out of the sea by shell collectors who are lead to believe that they have colorful shells. This is not the case at all. Their colorful spots come from their mantle tissue that goes over the top of their real shell. So, when they are collected for color, eventually all the collectors are left with is a boring, plain shell. Although, the snails are able to retract the tissues from their shells, they only do so when being attacked. Although they aren’t endangered, Research Divers have begun to see less and less of the beautiful Flamingo Tongue Snail, due to the myth of their shell color. It is strongly urged to take a picture with the snail, instead of keeping it. It’ll be better for both the snail and yourself.
How many people are scared of or have a strong dislike for spiders? A ton I am sure. Well, deep in the Pacific Ocean there is something that resembles a Daddy Long-Leg. Except it’s even worse. It is called the Japanese Spider Crab, and has eight legs that can grow up to 12 feet long and can weigh up to 44 pounds! This monster can be found off the coast of Japan, and loves to stay at the bottom of the ocean floor where it eats just about anything. The Spider Crab will eat fish that are alive, or dead, shellfish, and plants. But, these creatures aren’t just amazing because of their great size, they can also live to be up to 100 years old! That is older than the average human life-span. Although the Spider Crab’s legs are very long, they are also very weak. In a research study, marine biologists found that over three-quarters of Spider Crabs have at least one of their limbs missing. These crabs can only survive with up to three limbs missing, anymore and they are done for. Although when they are in the larva stage, they have no legs at all, and are transparent. So, basically they float around in the ocean eating any little bits of food that they can until their legs develop.
These creatures are also very hard to catch for fishermen, because they like to hide-out around vents in the ocean. This is why they are considered a delicacy in Japan. Not only are they hard to catch because of their habitat location, but these creatures also have a sense of style for camouflage. Spider Crabs like to decorate themselves with kelp, sea anemone, and other sea animals to help blend in with the ocean floor. These living fossils have been on the earth for a very long time, and it does not look like they plan on leaving any time too soon.
In 1958, researchers discovered a new species called the Vaquita. This marine mammal lives only on the shores of the Gulf of California in Mexico. In Spanish, Vaquita translates to “Little Cow” (Don’t ask me why they call it a cow, when it is clearly not), but a lot of mexicans also call them the “panda of the sea” due to the unique dark rings around their eyes and mouth. The Vaquita’s diet consists of sea life such as squid, various fish, and crustaceans. This species has always been rare, but more recently these animals have become the most endangered marine mammal in the world. The reason for their near-extinction is due to illegal fisherman casting nets, called gillnets, into the sea. These shy creatures then get entangled in those nets and eventually drown. Very sad, right? To add onto these creature’s bad luck, they are only able to reproduce every other year, because Vaquita babies take 11 months to be born and then spend the first year with their mother. So, the Vaquita is unable to reproduce enough babies to stay afloat (sorry, cruel pun intended).
To try and mend the problem, a Vaquita Reserve in Mexico set up a “safe zone” around the main migratory paths the mammals take in hopes that it will save the remaining few. Senators have also banned the use of gillnets, but they haven’t seen much hope of improvement. Yet. This species has never been captured and kept in captivity, but researchers estimate that there are only about 30 Vaquitas remaining in the wild. Their population gets cut down about half every couple years, and it is predicted that these elusive animals may go extinct very soon.
Deep in the ocean, scientists have discovered a prehistoric shark called the Frilled Shark. These sharks have little known about them, because of the fact that it is very rare to encounter them in the wild. They are quite abnormal for a shark, because they have the body of an eel, with the exception of many rows of teeth and having fins. These sharks usually enjoy eating squids, but will also eat other fish and even other sharks. Weird right? Talk about cannibalism. They are also very adept at being able to eat their prey-of-choice whole. Another strange thing that these creatures do is that during pregnancies they do not connect their young to their placenta, but instead give them energy and nutrients through a yolk sac. Then, they will not give birth to their babies until they are old/big enough to care for themselves. This can take up to three and a half years! Imagine being pregnant for that long.
These sharks are a rare species, but are not a major species on the threatened list. Many scientists say that Frilled Sharks are a “naturally rare” species, which means that they are not endangered due to anything that humans or other animals have done. Only because they can’t reproduce as fast as they are dying out. I disagree with what some scientists think. I believe that they are an endangered species because they have bigger predators eating them in the depths of the ocean, which is where they inhabit. Or, another thing to think about is if pollution has affected more than just the shores and reefs in the sea. These sharks are older than humans, and are on the list of being the oldest living sea creatures on Earth. It will be disappointing to watch them leave the world that they survived in for so long.