Ocean Life: Part 2

In my last blog post, I examined some of the creatures featured in Finding Nemo.  Perhaps the most interesting fact that I wrote about involved clownfish, which begin life as males and can change into females.  Hopefully you’ll remember that fact every time you watch those bright orange fish swimming at the aquarium.  I do not recommend purchasing a whole school of clownfish to perform experiments on them.  You definitely should not remove the female from the group just to see if a male will experience a sex change.  Hmm . . .  what would happen if you kept removing the females from the tank and then placed them all back after every male had changed?  Anyway, now that Nemo has found herself, let’s look at some of the other ocean creatures from Finding Nemo.

The Moorish Idol sounds like a relic that Indiana Jones would search for while traveling through Scotland.  Moorish Idols are in fact marine fish that are often kept in small aquariums.  Unfortunately, these fish are difficult to keep and can become quite picky in their food choices.  Moorish Idols are generally around 7 inches long in the wild and spend much of their lives around coral reefs.  In case you’re wondering, Gill is the Moorish Idol in Finding Nemo.  These fish are considered very graceful and satisfy their hunger by nibbling on algae, invertebrates and sponges (Not the kind you wash dishes with . . . or SpongeBob).  Probably the best thing to do with this species is to leave it in the wild for divers to enjoy since many individuals end up dying in private aquariums.  Good thing Gill managed to escape from that dentist office.

File:Zanclus cornutus in Kona.jpg

(Top – Moorish Idols –> Brocken Inaglory, Bottom – Nemo and Gill From Pixar’s Finding Nemo)

Blowfish are unique creatures that are capable of ballooning themselves to escape predators.  More commonly known as pufferfish. these guys inflate their bodies by taking in large quantities of water and air.  Pufferfish have elastic stomachs which allows for this strange transformation.  Perhaps you remember Bloat, the fish in Finding Nemo who kept blowing up due to “gas”.  That’s the non-scientific term for it.  When pufferfish expand to several times their normal size, most predators find them difficult to swallow, not to mention the fact that some species of pufferfish are covered in spines!  They also contain a very posionous toxin called tetrodoxin.  A predator that ingests tetrodoxin will often spit out the nasty tasting fish and may lose its life!  According to National Geographic, one pufferfish has enough poison to kill 30 humans . . . and there is no known antidote!  This of course means that humans would never try to eat pufferfish, right?  Wrong!  The pufferfish is considered a delicacy in Japan where only expertly trained chefs are allowed to prepare them for customers.  These expensive dishes still occasionally result in the death of a customer if not properly cooked.  Some predators are able to eat pufferfish without being harmed by the toxins.  Hmm . . . if we ate a Tiger Shark that ate a pufferfish, would we still ingest the toxin?  Pufferfish eat mostly invertebrates and algae.  Many scientists believe that the fish create tetrodoxin from the bacteria in the creatures that they eat!  That makes pufferfish like the Nintendo character Kirby, who would swallow his enemies to gain their powers!  

Photo: Pufferfish

(Top – Pufferfish by National Geographic, Bottom – Bloat from Finding Nemo)

Hey mon!  Did you hear about the sea turtles?  They were like woah, and then they were woah.  Way cool dude.  The turtle Crush and his son Squirt from Finding Nemo are Green Sea Turtles.  Named for their tinted skin, GSTs can weigh up to 700 pounds and survive for over 80 years in the wild!  While slow on land, GSTs use their large flippers to move gracefully through the water.  Adult turtles eat a vegetarian diet (primarily seaweed and algae) but juveniles like Squirt occasionally munch on crabs and sponges.  Adults have few enemies, though they are eaten by humans and often get injured by boats or fish nets.  Young GSts have to fight hard and get lucky just to survive their first week.  Sea Turtles come to the beach to lay their eggs.  The journey from the sand to the ocean is often a treacherous one for baby turtles.  They have to make it past numerous predators, such as gulls and crabs.  Most of the young are killed before reaching the water and even those that conquer the beach trek often find danger in the form of hungry fish.  

Speak for yourself leatherback. I'm a green sea turtle. I'm shiny. © Corbis

(Top – Green Sea Turtle photo by Corbis, Bottom – Crush and Squirt from Finding Nemo)

Wait just a sec, I hear some eerie music.  Is that the Jaws theme song?  Everyone knows that Great White Sharks are deadly killers.  The problem is that their threat to humans is usually exaggerated.  In my next blog (Yeah, I know. You’re getting annoyed at me for serializing everything.  I promise to tell some crazy stories and show some cool pictures) I will look at the wonderful world of sharks.  There will be a discussion of who would win in a battle between Jaws and the Orca from Free Willy.  You’ll also learn about how acute a shark’s sense of smell is and how they use electrical fields to find prey.  Believe me, it’s totally awesome!  Have a great day swimming through life.  Don’t life’s troubles blow you up!  Stay cool dudes!



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