A World Adrift: Life in the Sargassum Slideshow
Smithsonian Marine Science Network Postdoctoral Fellow, Seabird McKeon, returns from the Smithsonian field site in Belize. Together with Dan Barshis of Stanford University, Seabird reports on the seemingly invisible inhabitants of drifting sargassum seaweeds. As with many parts of the ocean, a ball of sargassum is more than meets the eye. Check out his blog post to learn about the world adrift:
Shrimp hides in the sargassum
The shrimp Latreutes fucorum is perfectly colored to hide on the leaf-like blades of the sargassum. That could be why they are popular members of the seaweed community. Dive in to see more creatures hidden in this drifting habitat.
Floating Sargassum Seaweed
Sargassum fluitans, a.k.a. “Gulfweed,” forms dense clumps up to the size of a beach ball that slowly rotate as they drift. The fronds are quite dense, but if you look carefully, sometimes you can see hints of the rich community that hides in the floating sargassum.
Adult Swimming Crab
When they get larger, Portunus sayi are formidable predators, quick to consume any smaller animal that comes within reach.
Juvenile plane-head filefish
Relatively slow moving, juvenile plane-head filefish Monacanthus hispidus (Monacanthidae) travel along with the algae. They pick off and eat small animals as they move around in the rotating sargassum ball. Adult filefish only grow to be about 11 inches long.
Seaslug Camouflages in Seaweed
Winner of the ‘best camoflauge’ contest, the nudibranch Scyllaea pelagica is usually betrayed only by its motion. Along it’s back, the sea slug has growths called papillae that help its masterful disguise. The papillae resemble the sargassum's own hydroids that these sea slugs love to graze.
Brown Grass Shrimp
Another common species of sargassum shrimp, Leander tenuicornis (Palaemonidae) can be spotted by its long transparent claws or "chelae". Very similar shrimp are found in near shore habitats all around the world. Using genetic tests we may determine if they are the same species, or two different species that look the same.
The sargassum frogfish Histrio histrio is a small but voracious predator - it can ingest animals up to it’s own size! The fins of the frogfish are perfect for creeping around in the algae and stalking unsuspecting prey.
Frogfish Histrio histrio
The Sargassum frogfish Histrio histrio is a small but voracious predator - it can ingest animals up to it’s own size! The fins of the frogfish are perfect for creeping around in the algae and stalking unsuspecting prey.