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California Academy of Sciences - Seahorse Sleuth 

June 30, 2009

Diving with Sharks and Syngnathids in Sharks Bay

From the Log of David McGuire, Field Associate

Monday we drove another 300 kilometers North to the town Denham: a small town on the Peninsula bisecting Sharks Bay. Heading north past the last coastal town of Geraldton, the road veers inland so there will be no diving at this stage, but a landscape of the outback rolling past in a montage of red dirt, green scrub, Eucalyptus trees and dead kangaroos. At last we hit the coast at Sharks Bay and after inspecting the ancient stromatolite mats and shell beds of accreted clams at Hamelin, we continue scouting the peninsula looking for likely dive sites. Pulling into a touristy spot on the remote highway before Denham, we spoke to the manager at the Sharks Bay Ocean Park, a marine tourist outpost before the major resort areas of Denham and Monkey Mia. This small aquarium holds a 2.7 m tiger shark, a Loggerhead sea turtle, and several other local animals from the bay. The young manager was extremely helpful and we hired his boat and dive gear and were able to camp out near the aquarium on the bluff overlooking the sea. Norah’s first snorkel at sunset revealed two sea moths and a pipefish living in the sea grass beds bordering the rocky beach: a promising sign.

Shark's Bay

From Norah Saarman, Shark’s Bay

“We pull up in the evening. The low scrub and savannah stretches to meet the calm water of Shark Bay. I am a little nervous as I pushed out into the shallow water of the bay, my mind cognizant of the wild things lurking beneath the dark ripples. Once my mask enters the underwater world, my thoughts slow to meet the rhythm of the sea. I observed the seagrass beds, marcro-algae and rippled sand bottom. Something catches my eye; Pegasus volitans, a sea-moth. Pegasids are distant cousins of the seahorses, but their armor body-plates and mystical translucent wings give the impression that they come from the same far-off lands. I am excited, and swim back to shore to share the good news. With such a good start, I can’t help but re-enter the water even as the sun kisses the blue horizon. Another Pegasid! And then, the fish we have traveled so far to find; the endemic Festucalex scalaris. The pipefish gives me a look of indifference as if he is protected by a magical barrier. The camouflage this group of fishes wears is admirable. I am lucky to have paused over this particular bed of sea grass among the other densely covered bottom of Shark’s Bay. What a lucky find.“

Sea Moth   Photo by Graham Short

Filed under: Uncategorized — hhamilton @ 3:04 pm

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