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River Science: Wildlife

An aquarium fully stocked with saltwater flora and fauna from the Connecticut coast.

Although none of our students are specifically studying the river ecology on this Voyage of Discovery, the Half Moon still provides us with an excellent vantage point to examine the flora and fauna of Long Island Sound and the Connecticut River.

Mouse over for a hearty scuttle.
A spider crab scuttles along the bottom of a bucket.

During our research layover in Niantic Bay, we took groups of students out on Zodiac expeditions to explore the nearby wetlands and search for specimens of native plant and animal life to study.

A blue crab.

Once on board, we place our specimens in the aquarium for closer observation. Here's a few of our more notable crab specimens:

These blue crabs are common along the northeastern coastline, and are even a common sight at the Half Moon's winter home at Verplanck, NY.

A green crab.

Green crabs are known for their aggressive pinching, which has earned them the common nickname of angry crabs.

Mouse over to get crabby.
A hermit crab cleans its mouthparts.

We have quite a few hermit crabs scuttling around the tank, some of whom may have already taken over the homes of some of our formerly-resident snails.

A semi-transparent shrimp.

We have shrimp in great abundance as well. This one is perched on (and seemingly feeding from) a cluster of rockweed which dominates the central tank.

An unidentified, red sponge-like organism.Unidentified sessile larve on the glass walls of the tank.

We're still debating the identity of the species on the left -- specifically, whether or not it's a natural sponge -- but we're fairly sure that it is what's spawning the larvae on the right. Too small for our camera to clearly see, these "dirt specks" are actually miniscule invertebrates which have attached themselves to the sides of the tank.

A spider crab wearing a "hat" of red seaweed.

The prize of the collection, however, is this fine and fancy fellow wearing the jaunty crimson plume. Neither its fuzzy "hair" nor the red wig are a part of this creature, which is actually the same spider crab seen scuttling around above. Spider crabs meticulously adorn themselves with available seaweed or debris for use as camouflage; you might notice that the crab is perched right under the seaweed from which it borrowed its fiery red locks. The "fuzz" covering the rest of its carapace is algae.

We have two spider crabs in the tank, and both have camouflaged themselves in nearly identical patterns.

Bonus Gallery!

During the Half Moon's return voyage to the Hudson River on June 22nd, while sailing just north of Kingston, NY, we spotted a pair of bald eagles scanning the shorelines. We captured these photos of one of them as it soared across the river to the eastern shore. Goodwin College also has a pair of bald eagles roosting just across the river from its Riverside Campus, but we never quite manged to catch them on camera.

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