Observation of the Week, 3/16/16

This larval Elopiform seen in Texas by saraj is our Observation of the Week!

Sara Jose is the Recreation Coordinator at the Oso Bay Wetlands Preserve & Learning Center in Corpus Christi, Texas, and the Learning Center itself will be opening to the public this week. She and her colleagues, including iNat user @justinquintanilla were using a seine net to catch fish and other organisms for the Learning Center’s freshwater tank, “meant to highlight our local freshwater species.” (They have an Educational Display Permit to do so.) After collecting specimens of interest for the tank, Sara and a park technician were returning stranded fish to the water when this tiny, transparent larval fish caught her eye - she thought it could be a larval eel. “I recently attended the Texas Academy of Science conference and knew that researchers in the central part of the state were beginning to do eel research, specifically larval eels and were hoping people in coastal areas would begin contributing sightings.” After taking some photos, she returned the larva to the water.

Once Sara posted her photo on iNaturalist, Dr. John Friel (@friel on iNaturalist), Director of the Alabama Museum of Natural History, was able to help her ID it as an Elopiform, which he says includes “ tarpons, tenpounders and ladyfishes with a total of 9 species worldwide…[they] are closely related to bonefishes, halosaurs, and true eels, and evidence for this includes the fact that all these fishes have a unique larval form known as a leptocephalus.”

So what the heck is a leptocephalus? Leptocephali are the larvae of Elopomorpha, and are transparent due to their insides consisting of clear, jelly-like substances, and due to their lack of red blood cells. They won’t gain red blood cells until they enter the “glass eel” stage of metamorphosis. Oh, and at this point they lose the sharp fang-like teeth they have has leptocephali.

The aquatic world is where Sara got her start in science and studied marine biology in college, intending to do research. However, she says that “by the end of my four years I realized that I enjoyed sharing science with the public more than spending time in the lab. I began learning more about local, native species as I took environmental education jobs that required me to share this information with the public.”

Sara found out about iNaturalist through her colleague Colleen Simpson (@colleenm on iNaturalist) and together they started a project to document the life of the Oso Bay Wetlands. Colleen has taught iNaturalist to educators in Texas, and Sara plans to incorporate it into public programs at the Learning Center there. “iNaturalist has encouraged me to look for more ‘small stuff’ on the trails,” she says. “Since I know that the members of iNaturalist can help me ID insects, bugs, and flowers I am more inclined to pause and check out those life forms these days.”

- by Tony Iwane


- Here are two awesome videos of leptocephali swimming - one a presumed moray larva off of Bali, and the other an ophichthid with green chromatophores, swimming off of Hawaii.

- Photos of leptocephali were also used as part of a “scary” meme, which purported them to be giant water parasites

- Sara is a Windows Phone owner, and while there is no official iPhone app for Windows Phone, iNat user @coachbenson created the iNaturalist Observer app for Windows Phone. It’s a cool use of our open API.

Posted by tiwane tiwane, March 16, 2016 16:30

Comments

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This is great! :)

Posted by sambiology over 4 years ago (Flag)
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Thanks Sam!

Posted by tiwane over 4 years ago (Flag)

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