Utilizing Crittercams to Study Animal Behavior

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By Christopher Brown, RJD Intern Two traditional techniques utilized by scientists to study animal behavior include observing wildlife species held in captivity and observing wildlife species in their natural habitats. However, there are limitations to both techniques. Animals that are held in captivity may not exhibit the same behaviors of individuals from the same species observed in the wild, and certain wildlife species may even adopt new behaviors while being held in captivity. Animals that are observed in their natural habitats may never become fully habituated with human observers, may practice specific behaviors that are difficult to observe due to … Continue reading

Rearranging the tree of life: a closer look at Ctenophores

An adult Mnemiopsis leidyi, a representative member of the ctenophore phylum (Ryan et al. 2013)

By Shannon Moorhead, RJD Intern At first glance, members of the animal phylum Ctenophora don’t look like much.  Commonly known as the comb jellies, ctenophores vaguely resemble true jellies of the phylum Cnidaria: marine organisms with translucent, gelatinous bodies that spend the majority of their time suspended in the water column.  Like cnidarians, comb jellies utilize tentacles with specialized cells to capture prey, usually zooplankton and animal larvae.  However, instead of nematocysts, stinging cells typical of jellyfish and anemones, to subdue prey, ctenophores have developed colloblasts, cells found in no other metazoan, animal, group (Ryan et al. 2013).  These colloblasts … Continue reading

Fishery Collapses Explained by Overfishing, Life-History Traits, and Climate Variability

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By Christopher Brown, RJD Intern Species around the world have experienced significant declines below fixed thresholds that indicate the risk of extinction. Evidence has suggested that the risk of extinction runs high in terrestrial species that maintain large body sizes, feed high in the food chain, and demonstrate slow population growth rates. However, within marine ecosystems, species that exhibit fast population growth rates have been found to be just as likely to face the risk of extinction as species with slower population growth rates. Population growth rates can be understood as one of several factors that determine the risk of … Continue reading

Shark Tagging with Our Lady of Lourdes Acadamy


By Christopher Brown, RJD Intern As dawn broke on Saturday, November 7, 2015, eight sharky RSMAS students and one fearless lab manager awoke to the call of the sea. The RJD team assembled at Diver’s Paradise in Crandon Marina at 8:00am to begin loading the boat with the shark-friendly fishing gear that is utilized to conduct tagging and sampling procedures. Everyone was in a great mood because the forecast for the day called for perfect fishing weather. Once the high school students from Our Lady of Lourdes Academy arrived, brief introductions were made, and the crew set out for an … Continue reading

Living on the Edge: Settlement Patterns by the Symbiotic Barnacle Xenobalanus globicipitis on Small Cetaceans

Figure 1: Barnacles were mainly found on the trailing edges of dorsal fins, flippers, and flukes, over an area ~2cm wide (Dr. Mariano Domingo, Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain)

  By Rachel Skubel, RJD Intern If you were a barnacle, how would you choose your home? For X. globicipitis barnacles residing on striped dolphins, this question was ‘put under the microscope’ by Juan Carillo and colleagues at the University of Southern Mississippi and Cavanilles Institute of Biodiversity and Evolutionary Biology (Valencia, Spain). Of all obligate barnacles studied, X. globicipitis has been found on animals that experience the most intense currents (Bearzi and Patonai, 2010). These organisms will settle on dolphins to optimize for (a) availability of passing current, to provide food, and (b) low drag from said current, to … Continue reading

Shark Tagging With Palmer Trinity High School

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By Melissa Soto, RJD Intern It was a warm November morning as the students from Palmer Trinity high school made their way onto the boat. This was my first trip of the semester so I was just as eager as they were to see sharks. After placing all the gear onto the boat, RJD and our guests were off to tag some sharks. Our trip leader for the day was Christian Pankow, who kindly greeted everyone on board and continued by explaining the work up the team does on the sharks. After a calm thirty-minute boat ride we started deploying … Continue reading