All posts by Alisa Vinzant

The Whale Detective

Here at CIMI our backyard is full of all kinds of marine animals. The biggest of these animals includes the many species of cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises), which pass through the channel between Catalina Island and California quite frequently. As large as these animals are, chances are that you will be viewing them from a distance whether it’s on land or on a boat. Most of the time the only thing you will get to see from these magnificent creatures are there whale spouts, flukes (tail fins), or their backs whenever they surface and dive.

Whale Watch

When whales spout, you will see a geyser of water shoot up into the air that can be seen from miles away. This water that is shooting out however is not seawater but it is the condensation of the warm insulated air that is being shot out of the whales lungs mixing with the comparatively cold air from outside. Every species of whale has a distinctive kind of shape of their blowholes and also has different sized lungs therefore each type of spout shape and size. Each species of whales also will have different shaped flukes and ridges of their backs. The whales that frequently go through our channel include some larger baleen whales such as the grey whale, blue whale, fin whale, and humpback. Baleen Whales have two blowholes whereas toothed whales like dolphins and porpoises only have one single blowhole.

The grey whale can have two very widely dispersed spouts in a “v” formation and can be between 9 and 16 feet in the air. They lack a dorsal fin but have several knuckle like ridges on its back that show as it surfaces or dives down. Their flukes are convex and usually ragged with a distinctive deep notch in the middle making the shape of a “whale” groomed mustache. They may pass through the Catalina Channel coming from the arctic on their way to forage for food in Southern California and Mexico.

Whale Blowholes

Blue whales have been in the channel migrating to tropical waters in order to give birth to breed and give birth to their young. Their flukes are much less robust than the grey whales fluke with much more straight trailing edge and a shallow notch in the middle. Their spouts can be up to almost 40ft high and look like a slender column of spray that looks like the green stalk of a carrot. Blue whales have a small triangular and variably curved fin dorsal fin sitting towards its caudal region and have a smooth back.

Whale Fluke

Fin whale are very similar in appearance to the blues where they have a slightly more robust and curved dorsal fin and fluke and can be seen year round near the sea of Cortez.

Humpbacks have a rugged looking fluke with robust curves and many ridges through out the fluke as well as a deep v shaped notch in the middle of the fluke. They have a low stubby dorsal fine with a broad based followed by slight ridges going down its back towards the fluke. Their spouts can be up to 9 feet high and can be heart shaped. They can typically be found in higher latitudes during the summer to feed in colder water and in the winter will head to warm watered breeding grounds.

The most common toothed whales that come through Catalina Island include the Rissos, common, and bottlenose dolphin and on a rare occasion even an Orca or killer whale. Orcas can be found on the Pacific coast especially in Washington but will sometimes follow food all the way down to Southern California. They have a very distinctive black and white pattern on their tails and have a very widely dispersed spout.

Whale Migration

So just based on their fins, spouts, and flukes you can be an expert in recognizing these magnificent animals. Next time youʼre out on the ocean be sure to bring a pair of binoculars to see if you recognize any whales from a distance!

Sources:

http://www.oceanlight.com/stock-photo/blue-whale-surfacing-picture-09497-518553.jpg

http://archives.evergreen.edu/alumni_writers/Calambokidis/WhaleSpout.jpg

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/fc/0f/2a/fc0f2abe2d88afeeaefbd0bdf28aa635.jpg

http://2ap93t1x1l6e2f6gfo3ag4vw.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/ uploads/2017/11/f0k5103-2-1000×480.jpg

http://www.north-atlantic-society.com/_Media/ 75987_441852565862752_91248_med.jpeg

https://voicefortheblue.files.wordpress.com/2017/07/ fin_whale_hero_and_circle_image_107654.jpg

https://www.whalestaildepoebay.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/

page_photo2_5B1D2673-371C-4C42-B2A7-9D1F5D604403.jpg

https://dumielauxepices.net/sites/default/files/tail-clipart-whale-fluke-790764-9645110.jpg

http://wildwhales.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/greydorsal_popup.jpg

http://www.marinemammalcenter.org/assets/images/education/folkens/gray-whale-732×334.jpg

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/8a/ f0/92/8af09277f26585a428ae9d2fa9a8f64a.jpg

https://c1.staticflickr.com/5/4291/36112710621_f6056fcd30_b.jpg

https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/2000/1*kae3mQ7ExsE2GyjO3vfHig.jpeg

Whales Dolphins And Porpoises by Mark Carwardine 1995, 2002

The Perks of Being Wildflowers

Spring is in bloom and wildflowers of all colors are decorating our hillsides on Catalina Island.  Just look at them! Bright red Indian Paintbrush, Castilleja affinis (Fig. 1) and white Bush Anemone (Fig. 2) are some you are likely to see while hiking around. Starting with the south facing slopes, the island begins a transition from the more earth toned brown landscape of summer and fall into one of vibrant and cheerful colors from February through May.  The Shooting star, Dodecatheon clevelandii, is a favorite for many people, with its purple shape (Fig. 3), while the Blue Dicks, Dichelostemma capitatum, are a form of wild onion that was used by native Tongva for food (Fig.4)

Wildflowers

Wildflowers 4Wildflowers 5But where do they hide all year long? Well, one of the perks of being a wildflower is that you don’t have to make an appearance all year long!  These wildflowers are known as “annuals”, meaning the seeds will germinate in the fall or winter rains, flowers will bloom in the spring, and then they ripen to seed towards the end of the spring season. This completes the annual cycle and allows it to start again.  

As the south facing slopes are exposed to more sunlight for longer periods throughout the day, these slopes will tend to bloom earlier in the wildflower season, followed by the shadier north facing slopes.

After a heavy rain season this year, the abundance of wildflowers is noticeably greater than in past years of drought.  As it turns out, in order for the wildflower seeds to germinate, they require continued moisture, or at least enough that the soil remains moist.  Without this, the plants will dry out before they get to flower! We really enjoy these annual bursts of color, so rain, rain, don’t go away!

Wildflowers 2

Baby blue eyes, Nemophila menziesii, is only known to exist in one population on Catalina Island. Photo by Amy Catalano

Wildflowers 3

Deerweed, Acmispon dendroideus, are endemic to the Channel Islands. Photo by Amy Catalano

Photos by Monica

CITATIONS

https://spark.adobe.com/page/5D5eNAaxOKeli/

https://www.catalinaconservancy.org/index.php?s=wildlife&p=wildflowers_in_bloom

https://www.larnerseeds.com/basics-sowing-wildflower-seeds

Catalina Island Animal Calls

Raven Animal Calls

On Catalina Island there is a wide variety of animals. Some of the animals that we see include ravens, foxes, bison, sea lions, and whales! Each of these 5 animals make vocalizations, or sounds, for specific reasons.

The common raven typically tends to use one of two calls. The first call is a loud caw or groan. Ravens use this call to communicate with each other. Their call can be heard by ravens that are a mile away! The second call that ravens make is a fast, repetitive caw. Ravens typically use this call when they are hunting prey like rodents, worms, or insects!

The Channel Island fox, Urocyon littoralis, is a relatively quiet animal. However, it can make up to 40 sounds and calls! These calls are used by a foxes to convey different messages to one another. For example, foxes will bark to alert other members of its skulk about danger, such as an approaching predator. The male foxes bark to attract a mate and growl to protect their territory. Female foxes bark to locate their cubs. Sometimes, the small cubs will let out a little  bark just to get mom’s attention!

Bison Animal Calls A bison can often be heard snorting, grunting, and even coughing! Male bison attract a mate by making a deep, low rumbling sound called a bellow. The length, volume, and frequency of the bellow indicates which male is the most dominant and therefore the most likely to find a mate! The female bison uses calls to locate her young. She will produce low grunts and wait for the calf to respond with high-pitched grunts! They repeat this process until they can find each other.

Sea Lion Animal Calls Sea lions communicate both audibly and visually. When they make a sound, they also strike a distinct pose! Male sea lions lift their heads up high in the air and bark when they are claiming their territory. When they are barking to defend their territory from other sea lions, they will bark right in the face of the trespassing seal lion! The female sea lions bark to locate and protect their pups. The female sea lion lets out a loud yell and listens for her pup’s weak crying response!

Whale Animal CallsWhales use clicks, whistles, and calls to communicate with their pod. Toothed whales called odontocetes use echolocation to help them navigate and find food! When echolocating, whales will make a clicking sound and wait for the sound to echo back to them. When the whales hear the echo, they are able to identify the location of the object or animal they are trying to find! Some whales can echolocate prey that is over 1,500 feet away! Whales also whistle and call to socialize with other members of their pod. Scientists discovered that whales have different dialects to help them differentiate between their pod and strangers! Certain low frequency calls can travel more than 10,000 miles across the sea. Pretty wild, right?!

Sources:

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Common_Raven/sounds

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Corvus_corax_(Common_Raven),_Yosemite_NP,_CA,_US_-_Diliff.jpg (Raven photo)

http://www.thefoxwebsite.net/ecology/ecologycommunication

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Jil7lxOl3w

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jofNR_WkoCE

https://www.flickr.com/photos/usfws_pacificsw/16512606125 (Fox photo)

https://www.nwf.org/Educational-Resources/Wildlife-Guide/Mammals/American-Bison

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T9yw3kvvfKA

https://www.flickr.com/photos/don34685/22654449684/ (Bison Photo)

https://seaworld.org/animals/all-about/california-sea-lion/communication/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L5zCbrcmuGM

https://www.flickr.com/photos/catsnorkelscuba/7826945136 (Sea lion photo)

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/whalesounds.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8MTsgdWuU0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJGeeryk0Eo

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dory_(buscando_a_nemo_o_buscando_a_dory).jpg

Winter: It’s Here But What Is It?

It’s getting cold! The wind is starting to blow! Rain is falling! The grass is starting to grow! The waves are getting bigger! IT’S WINTER!!

WinterBut what exactly is winter?

There are two kinds of winter, astronomical winter— having to do with the position of the earth and the sun ranging from the winter solstice to the vernal equinox— and meteorological winter— based on the annual temperature cycle and the calendar.

In California this manifests in shorter days, cooler temperatures, increased rainfall and onshore winds. Many animals begin to migrate south to  winter in warmer climates or find food.

Just as seasons affect life on land, changes are brewing in the oceans as well. Relative changes in sunlight, day length, wind and ocean temperature all impact phytoplankton— small, plant-like organisms at the base of our ocean’s food web— eventually working its effects throughout the ecosystem.

In the summertime, the dominant California Current sweeps cold cool nutrient rich water from the Alaska current down along the west coast while winds generally blow north to south. Because of the Coriolis Effect these winds veer westward and surface water is pushed offshore. As this water moves westward deeper, nutrient rich water rises to replace the migrating water in a process known as upwelling. In areas where upwelling occurs, phytoplankton blooms are common, attracting fish and other ocean life to the area.

As winter approaches, the wind shifts direction and the California Current meanders westward to be replaced by the northerly flowing Davidson Current. Strong winds from the south pull surface water to build up along coastal margins, resulting in downwelling— essentially the opposite of upwelling where warm surface water sinks down. Even though surface water temperatures may drop rapidly with the arrival of winter, deeper waters (below 200 feet) can actually become warmer due to the mixing with warmer surface waters and the northerly Davidson Current. This warming of deep water could benefit bottom dwelling fish which breed during the winter months.

Many beaches also undergo drastic changes. In the winter larger and more frequent waves pick up sand from the beach and move it offshore, sometimes forming sandbars that buffer beaches from storm erosion. Beaches can become rocky or appear to  disappear! But don’t worry, when the summer returns gentler waves bring the sand back on to the beach just in time to lay out and soak up the sun. Just don’t forget to wear sunscreen!!

By Sachiko Lamen

Sources:

(https://rashidfaridi.com/2016/10/04/california-current/)

(https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/upwelling/)

(http://www.thisisyourbrainonawesome.com/2012/07/why-is-californias-coast-so-cold-anyway/)
(https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/education/kits/currents/03coastal4.html)

(http://943thepoint.com/what-happens-to-our-ocean-sand-and-sea-creatures-in-winter/)

(https://www.livescience.com/25124-winter.html)

Ravens: Clever and Intelligent

RavensFor thousands of years cultures all across the world have told tales of raven’s intelligence. The clever trickster in many native tribes’ stories, a sacred animal to Apollo the God of prophecy, a bringer of wisdom to the Norse gods, even Game of Thrones shows a three eyed ravens during prophetic visions. It’s obvious people recognize these birds as pretty smart, and as it turns out, many scientific tests back this up. There are several characteristics that put ravens up there with the cleverest species, sometimes even out smarting great apes and human children!

Recognizing friend or foe

Ravens birdsRavens are social creatures, in many ways very similar to some humans! When ravens are old enough to leave their parents’ safe and cozy nest, the juveniles will join a crew and spend their time there. When a raven eventually finds a one true love, it will separate off and mate for life. They even hold funerals for their lost loved ones!

With all these social interactions, what is really interesting is ravens’ ability to recognize friend or foe. When interacting with other ravens, these birds will be friendly with birds they know and like, even if they haven’t seen each other for years. But you don’t want to get on their bad sides. Not only have they been known to act suspiciously towards ravens they don’t know and give the cold shoulder to birds that have wronged them, but they recognize human faces as well! If you cheat a raven out of its food, it will remember you and hold a grudge for months!

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0003347217301161

Tools and Toys

ravens animalsUsing tools and playing games are sure signs of intelligence seen in only the most clever of animals such as monkeys, dolphins, and -you guessed it- ravens! In the wild, ravens are known to drop rocks on people threatening their nests, and to use sticks and other tools to get food. In one test, a majority of ravens figured out in only 30 seconds to pull down a string, anchor it, and keep pulling to reach a treat. But they’re not all work and no play! Ravens have been seen skiing down snow covered roofs and hillsides, making toys out of pinecones and golf balls, etc (a very rare animal behavior), and even playing “keep away” to taunt other animals just because it’s funny!

http://mentalfloss.com/article/53295/10-fascinating-facts-about-ravens

 

Planning Ahead

ravens intelligentWhat really sets ravens apart is that they have proven to be able to plan for the future, something scientists thought for a long time only humans and our close animal relatives did. In one study, ravens were given a tool to get food. Not only did they figure out how to use this tool, but later when they were offered this tool or another less tasty snack, many would chose the tool to use later. They continued to chose tool over snack even when it would be a long time before they would get the food. This type of delayed gratification test has been presented to monkeys and human children, and the ravens out performed! Talk about self control!

https://www.lucs.lu.se/2017/09/korpar-kan-planera-som-manniskoapor/

On Catalina Island, we have tons of huge raven friends, and If you have ever left your backpack outside while at CIMI, you may have experienced just how clever these ravens can be when on the search for your tasty food. Now that you know how impressively intelligent these majestic birds are, don’t forget to hide your snacks!

Sources:

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0003347217301161

https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/07/ravens-problem-solving-smart-birds/

https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/06/ravens-memory-unfair-trade/

https://www.lucs.lu.se/2017/09/korpar-kan-planera-som-manniskoapor/

The California Halibut Part 1

First, they wait, buried up to their eyes…  As soon as their prey is within reach…AMBUSHl!  TEETH! GOT EM. And guess what? Halibut can chase their food as well, even leaping out of the water to do so.. if it’s their favorite (anchovies)…  Who doesn’t love anchovies?!

california halibut

Paralichthys californicus, the California Halibut, is a large flatfish found in nearshore waters, though they can be found as deep as 600ft.  Full grown halibut can get up to 5ft and 72lbs. You may see more of them in shallow waters from February to September because this is when the adults migrate from the continental shelf to spawn.  Juveniles spend their days in shallow-water bays and estuaries, making them especially vulnerable to habitat destruction by human activities such as dredging and pollution. Let’s be careful, friends!

california halibut 1

Halibut, despite what you may think, are laterally flattened fish, as opposed to dorso-ventrally flattened.  One side of their body always faces up, and the other always faces down, with the halibut always swimming on its same side.  With both eyes on the top facing side of their body, halibut rely heavily on a visual ambush as a method for feeding. They may be hard to spot due to their ability to change their skin pattern and camouflage with sandy and rocky bottom terrain, but this helps them to ambush their prey by catching them off guard.  

california halibut 2These fish are most abundant from central California to Baja california, and tip the charts as far as “yum” factor.  In fact, California halibut is one of the most important commercially-fished species among all state-managed fisheries.  To learn more about halibut, like how its eyes migrate to one side of its face, look out for part two!

SOURCES

comic: http://talesofabsurdity.com/comic/today-in-fish-news/

https://www.montereybayaquarium.org/animal-guide/fishes/california-halibut

https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Marine/NCCFRMP/Halibut-Studies

Ravens and All Their Dark Glory

ravensHere on Catalina Island there is never a dull moment when the ravens are around. One may see them as a pestering omen of darkness due to their long mythical history. However, once recognizing how incredibly intelligent the large black mystical creature really is, one may nevermore see them that way again. (Quoth the Raven)

The Raven” by the famous American poet Edgar Allen Poe was published in 1845 and is notoriously known for its uncanny atmosphere and the talking raven.

Ravens are considered to be one of the most high intelligent birds on the planet. They are capable of utilizing tools such as rocks to crack open shells, drop rocks on nest invaders, learn to talk when in captivity better than some parrots, and have the ability to recognize human faces and other birds up to three or more years after the first encounter!  Due to their highly functioning brain the ravens alway seem to be up to something mischievous whether it be playing “keep away” from other animals, rolling down snowy roof tops, trying dangerous flying maneuvers to impress a future mate or just taunting other animals for fun.

Adult ravens pair up with life long mates and as adults, are typically less likely to flock with other ravens. As adolescent, ravens that live together in a group referred to as an “unkindness” in order to help support each other in finding protection and food. Adolescent ravens can be the professionals at mischief by working together to trick other animals and steal their food. This may be the reason why a flock of ravens got the name “Unkindness”! 

ravens 1Where can I find one of these tricksters you ask, well, ravens are everywhere! They can be found just about anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere making them one of the largest widespread naturally occurring birds in the world. Ravens have very few natural predators so no matter the weather or the surrounding habitat ravens can live it up anywhere from snowy mountains, thick forests, hot deserts, to beaches of Catalina Island!

Next time you see a raven make sure to make a friendly gesture and you’ll have a life long feathered friend!

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Common_Raven/lifehistory

https://www.catalinaconservancy.org/index.php?s=news&p=article_61

https://birdsna.org/Species-Account/bna/species/comrav/introduction

Happy Halloween with Exoskeletons

Happy Halloween! CIMI staff love to wear costumes, but not just on Halloween! We wear them every time we teach squid dissection. You can often see us dressing up like fairies, senior citizens, mad scientists, pirates, and even ghostly skeletons, which brings me to my next point. Did you know crustaceans, like crabs and lobsters, participate in Halloween every day? They wear skeletons on their outsides all the time! Unlike a costume or an internal human skeleton, called an endoskeleton, crustaceans have external skeletons, called exoskeletons. Exoskeletons are made up of chitin, a compound rich with calcium. This is similar to keratin, which comprises your nails and hair. Exoskeletons are tough, like armor, and relatively inelastic, so much like buying a new costume when you outgrow your old one, crustaceans must shed, or molt, their exoskeletons as they grow in a process scientists call ecdysis.

Ecdysis can be a pretty scary process to undergo. It is comparable to taking off your wetsuit without being able to use your hands! When an organism begins ecdysis, it enlarges the skin cells beneath its old exoskeleton and begins secreting calcium to form its new one. It then pumps in seawater to force the old exoskeleton away from its tissues, splitting it in half at the base of the carapace, or the upper body, and the tail, so it can escape. Now here comes the really scary part… In addition to shedding their outer covering, crustaceans must also shed their eye surfaces, throat and gut linings! Crustaceans have grinding teeth in their stomachs, called their gastric mill, that they use to break down their food. Since these grinding teeth are composed of chitin, the crustacean must shed them to grow a larger gastric mill for a larger stomach. It is possible during this tricky molting process to accidentally tear of an eye or a limb, or get stuck all together! How terrifying! Fortunately, crustaceans have the ability to regenerate, or regrow, their lost appendages just for this occasion. If a crustacean loses an eye, however, they must regenerate it quickly because the hormone that prevents them from molting continuously is distributed from a gland in their eye stalk. Without an eye, and without this hormone, crustaceans are unable to cease ecdysis and perform other normal body functions. Hurry, grow it back!

Escape from an old exoskeleton can take anywhere from several minutes to a half an hour, depending on the species, size, and environmental conditions. While escaping, clawed crustaceans must dehydrate and shrink their tissues enough to pull their whole claw through a hole the size of their wrist! Once all the way out, the crustacean swells with seawater, becoming up to 15% larger in size and 40-50% heavier in weight, only to release that seawater once it is done calcifying, or hardening, its new exoskeleton. This ensures that the newly molted crustacean has formed a larger exoskeleton and provided ample growing room for the future. Often, in order to speed up calcification, the crustacean eats its old exoskeleton to reabsorb some of the calcium it put into making its old armor. This may seem ghastly, but this way, the crustacean guarantees that it has enough calcium to generate its new exoskeleton.

While the crustacean hardens its armor in the next few hours after molting, it is too soft to defend itself against predators or other larger crustaceans. Newly molted lobsters are so rubbery and squishy that they are fondly referred to by fishermen as ‘jellies.’ To prevent a fight they cannot win, crustaceans tend to molt and calcify in the safety of their burrows, whether that be a hole in the sand or a deep crevice in the rocks.

With how spooky a process ecdysis can be, it is a good thing that crustaceans molt less with age as their growth slows. This is especially true for adult females, who naturally molt less because they cannot undergo ecdysis while they are laden with eggs. While an adult male lobster will molt once a year, an adult female lobster carrying eggs will molt once every two years. Regardless of sex, crustaceans grow slower, and therefore molt less, in colder waters. It is then safe to assume that crustaceans are always hoping for a colder Halloween!

Written By: Kathy Miller

The Types of Clouds

The Types of Clouds

Have you ever been watching the clouds move across sky and wondered what you were actually looking at? Do all the names of these clouds seem to sound the same? You are not alone, however, today we are going to alleviate this confusion. Clouds are normally identified by their elevation in the sky and their physical appearance. There are 10 major distinctions of clouds that will cover most patterns you see in the sky. Below are photos and descriptions associated with each cloud type:

Types of Clouds 1

Low Elevation Clouds

  1. StratocumulusTypes of Clouds 2

Below 6,000 feet

Stratocumulus are low lying, white, stretched, puffy clouds that may appear dark in places. These clouds are similar to your average cumulus cloud; however, they are much larger and can appear darker.

  1. Nimbostratus (rain)Types of Clouds 3

Below 6,500 feet

When you see nimbostratus clouds you are almost surely being rained on or will be rained on. These dark, thick clouds lay at mid to low levels because they are weighed down with water concentration.

  1. StratusTypes of Clouds 4

Below 6,000 feet

Like fog, stratus clouds lay very low in the sky and have very little structure. Stratus clouds are great movie days associated with mist, spit, or a light drizzle. Although stratus clouds look like fog, they are higher in the atmosphere, normally lining the horizon.

  1. Cumulus (fair weather)Types of Clouds 5

Below 6,000 feet

If you picture yourself having a picnick on a beautiful day. Now look up. If you are seeing clouds on this beautiful day, you are probably envisioning cumulus clouds.The classic white, puffy cloud with a rounded top and a flat bottom.

Mid Elevation Clouds

  1. AltostratusTypes of Clouds 5

Between 6,000-20,000 feet

Altostratus clouds are reserved for those hazy days when the dark blue-grey clouds seem to engulf the sky. Sometimes the sun or moon will shine through and appear fuzzy.

  1. AltocumulusTypes of Clouds 6

Between 6,000- 20,000 feet

Altocumulus are the classic cotton ball clouds. These puffy, white clouds are the most common mid-level clouds and sometimes signal that a storm is on the way.

High Elevation Clouds

  1. CirrostratusTypes of Clouds 7

Above 18,000 feet

Cirrostratus clouds are spread across the entire sky and almost seem transparent. This wispy cloud formation signals that there is warm weather ahead.

  1. CirrusTypes of Clouds 8

Above 18,000 feet

Cirrus clouds are extremely common year-round on clear days. At their high altitude, ice crystals are spread apart as if they are painted across the sky. Less widely spread as cirrostratus clouds and more

  1. CirrocumulusTypes of Clouds 9

Above 18,000 feet

Cirrocumulus clouds are similar to cirrus clouds in height, however, they appear more splotched than stretched. To elaborate, cirrocumulus clouds are groupings of packed ice crystals (cloudlets) that are more uniform than their sister cirrus clouds.

Both Low and High Elevation

  1. Cumulonimbus (thunderheads)Types of Clouds 11

Near ground level to above 50,000 feet

Cumulonimbus are the clouds most closely compared to what you would imagine a thunderhead would look like. These giant billowy towers are composed of water droplets in its’ base and ice crystals towards the upper levels. Cumulonimbus clouds almost always signal that there is a thunderstorm happening.

Web Sources

https://www.thoughtco.com/types-of-clouds-recognize-in-the-sky-4025569

https://scied.ucar.edu/webweather/clouds/cloud-types

https://www.zmescience.com/science/types-of-clouds/

The California Moray Eel

It is reaching the end of your orientation snorkel on day one of your field trip to CIMI and your instructor dives down one last time before exiting the rocky reef structure of Pinnacle rock. As you watch his luscious blonde locks flowing underwater, you realize that he isn’t attempting a subsurface dance move, he is frantically signaling toward a giant, terrifying, green head looming from the darkness of a crevasse. The organism has incredibly sharp teeth and seems to have a problem keeping its mouth shut. Although you may think you are looking at a scene from Alien vs. Predator, you are actually looking at a California Moray Eel (Gymnothorax mordax).

Moray EelThe California moray eel is relatively common in our Channel Island’s shallow rocky reef habitats; however, they range from as north as Point Conception and as south as Baja California. They tend to conceal their entire bodies between rocks while peaking their heads out to stay aware of potential predators and prey. How aware are they? Well, like most eels, these morays have awful eyesight that does not significantly contribute to their hunting capabilities. CA moray eels are nocturnal ambush predators and rely on acute chemosensory organs (nares) to detect their prey. Common snacks include crabs and crustaceans, small fish and surprisingly, octopuses.

Although CA moray eels look like an alien creature, they are much more familiar than the appear. They are part of the taxidermic classification Osteichthyes or “bony fish” along with other beloved bony fish like the garibaldi. The reason these eels look so foreign is because they lack scales, a gill cover and both pelvic and pectoral fins. CA Morays are different from their relatives through an adaptation that allows a second set of jaws (pharyngeal jaw) to extrude from the back of their throat and pull their meal further into their mouths after the initial bite. The thought of this is so terrifying that it inspired Ridley Scott to model an extraterrestrial being after it in his movie Alien. Our worldly aliens can grow up to five feet in length at around 30 years of age.

Moray Eel 2The moral of the disgustingly horrifying California moray eel is that they are truly misunderstood. These organisms are extremely unique and are so ugly they’re cute, so next time you see this green slimy friend stashed in a crevasse blow them a kiss or better yet, sing them a song!

The California Moray Eel Fact Sheet

The California moray eel – Gymnothorax mordax

Movie Alien?

Our moray eels live in shallow rocky reef habitats from Point Conception down to southern Baja California.

Although California moray eels may not look like fish with their lack of scales, apparent fins and an operculum, moray eels are part of the Osteichthyes (bony fish) taxonomic group.

The moray is thought to have a life span of up to 30 years and possibly longer.

Moray eels have adapted a second set of jaws that extrudes from the back of their throat to pull their meal further into their mouths after the initial bite.

Being an ambush predator can be difficult when nearly blind, however, these eels have an excellent sense of smell that allows them to pin point prey.

https://www.montereybayaquarium.org/animal-guide/fishes/california-moray-eel

http://www.aquariumofpacific.org/onlinelearningcenter/species/california_moray

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_moray

 

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We would like to thank you for visiting our blog. Catalina Island Marine Institute is a hands-on marine science program with an emphasis on ocean exploration. Our classes and activities are designed to inspire students toward future success in their academic and personal pursuits. This blog is intended to provide you with up-to-date news and information about our camp programs, as well as current science and ocean happenings. This blog has been created by our staff who have at least a Bachelors Degree usually in marine science or related subjects. We encourage you to also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Twitter, and Vine to see even more of our interesting science and ocean information. Feel free to leave comments, questions, or share our blog with others. Please visit www.cimi.org for additional information. Happy Reading!

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