Monday began with a field trip to South Bimini. We hopped on the water taxi, after waiting for the rain to pass, and then boarded “the fun bus,” a colorful old school bus from Bimini Sands. Grant & Katie introduced us to a Bimini boa and they stressed to us that it is extremely unlikely to be hurt by this type of snake. The Bimini boa is only found on Bimini and they are endangered. The one we saw was 3-4 years old and about 5 feet long. We got to hold it and touch it and learn a bit about the ongoing tagging program. The dwarf boa is another snake on Bimini and is capable of auto-hemorrhaging as a defense mechanism. Thanks to the early rain, the mosquitoes were out in full force. The nature trail itself was interesting, and we were able to see a green iguana (invasive). The whole walk was a nice natural history lesson – including some pirate history! We found a huge termite mound and had a chuckle at the white crown pigeon. There was a poisonwood tree growing right next to its antidote counterpart. Ashley Saunders came up in conversation and we had met him earlier at his Dolphin House! We saw another snake, a racer, and we learned about the only fresh water turtle on Bimini which lost its only habitat due to the current airport expansion. This will add to our on-going conversation about eco-tourism.
After the nature trail, we headed to the SharkLab for a tour. Their outreach education program has just been revamped and our guide, Zach, was extremely enthusiastic. We had a seminar/presentation in the lab which was designed like a research boat. During the presentation we learned that some sharks return to their place of birth in order to give birth themselves. The conditions weren’t right to finish our tour, so we headed back to the Sea Crest for lunch.
Some of us saw a frigate bird circling above as we planned alternative activities because we couldn’t go on the boat due to high winds. We headed back to the SharkLab to finish our tour and we waded to their sea pen, dodging Cassiopeia (aka upside down) jellyfish on the way, to see the young nurse and lemon sharks. We were able to touch the sharks and we learned about tonic immobility and their lack of bones (cartilaginous) which means that when you hold them, you need to be careful as they can bend and bite you! We learned lots of shark physiology and the on-going research of the lab, including their great hammerhead shark projects and the importance of tagging this species while free-swimming. Hammerheads have a high mortality rate when caught on a fishing line.
Back on North Bimini, we watched BBC’s Inside the Animal Mind and we all realized our dolphin boat is an international celebrity! It discussed the social lives of dolphins, how this relates to brain size and compared them to several other social animals. It was interesting to see how scanning fossils of extinct dolphin relatives can inform current research. Dinner was festive – local pizza from Edith’s and Bahamian beer. It was sooo good!
Until next time,
“Cetacean Nation” (SHU 2014)
PS: Photo to follow!