Date: 18 May 2013
Weather: Slight swell, Patches of Fog
As we continue to survey the waters off the south coast of Newfoundland, we are encountering a wider variety of species in our fishing sets. The depths of the ocean offer a whole array of weird and wonderful creatures! Some of the ‘fan-favourites’ over the past few days have included: Hagfish, an odd eel-shaped, slime-producing and ancient fish that attacks both living and dead prey and literally eats them from the inside out; and Lampreys, a jawless, parasitic fish that attaches to larger fish using its disc-shaped mouth and sucks the blood of its host. Nature is not always pretty! We have also seen a few Longhorn Sculpins, the species with the distinction of having the longest scientific name in the North Atlantic –Myoxocephalus octodecimspinosus – now that’s a mouthful!
Brynn battles the slime of the Hagfish, trying to get a measure of its length
Photo: Laura Carmanico
We also had a bit of a reprieve from the fog, allowing the scientists and crew a chance to keep an eye out for marine mammals and sea birds. Those who were patient enough were rewarded with a bounty of sightings! Minke and humpback whales have been spotted near the boat, and dolphins were seen jumping in the distance. For the birdwatchers among us, we continue to see many of the Northern Fulmars, Gannets and Herring Gulls that have been hanging around throughout our trip, but we are now starting to see a wider variety of species, adding Shearwaters and Guillemots to our list.
A Humpback whale shows its fluke (tail) as it dives.
Photo: Brynn Devine
Northern Fulmar, Fulmarus glacialis
Photo Credit: Laura Wheeland
On Friday we were lucky enough to see a Basking Shark Cetorhinus maximus. Basking sharks are the second largest species of fish (second only to Whale Sharks), and can grow to be nearly 32 feet (10m) long!! We estimate that the one we saw was likely around 12-15 feet long. Despite their massive size, these animals are not to be feared – Basking sharks are filter feeders, swimming around near the surface with their large mouths open, which passes water through their gills. Fish eggs, larvae, and small invertebrates, such as krill, get filtered out of the water by rakers in the gills, and are then ingested by the shark. These food items may be tiny in comparison to the shark, but they are extremely high in both nutrients and abundance.
|Basking sharks spend much of their time swimming near the surface with their gaping mouths open, collecting small prey. Photo Credit: Greg Skomal/NOAA Fisheries Service|
The presence of these large krill-eating animals is not a surprise. Over the past few days we have been detecting large amounts of plankton in our acoustic data, and last night’s plankton tow yielded the most abundant krill sample we have collected in the waters around Newfoundland so far.
With just a few days left of the survey, we are all excited to see what surprises the ocean still has in store for us before we return to life on land!
Blog by Laura Wheeland