Thursday, April 16, 2015

Fieldwork Finds

While it is thrilling contributing to the great pillar that is science, some of my favorite moments are generated from unearthing something new and interesting almost every time I’m out in the field.

Today while I was digging up some oysters in order to install a sediment trap, I was surprised when a fish skipped out of the muddy hole and landed nearby. And then while trying to re-home him nearby, he happily chomped down on the end of my garden cultivator. Can’t say I entirely blame him. I both caved in the walls of his condo and then unceremoniously moved him an inconvenient distance from it. 

I have since found out my little fishy friend is an oyster toadfish, Opsanus tau. This fish is an omnivore associated with reefs, and is known for its less that illustrious appearance. It also has sharp spines on its dorsal fin. During mating seasons, males call for their mates in a manner that has been likened to a foghorn. Males also are standup dads, guarding the eggs and early hatchlings from predators. 

The week prior, I took this macabre photo of a giant fish slowly returning to bone at the shore edge. A defining moment of a scientist is to look closer when everyone else is looking away. Or to put it more eloquently, to say “cool” when everyone else is saying “gross.”

That same day, on my paddle to a nearby reef, I spotted these strange flat white lobes growing on a cluster of oyster shell. It turns out these are the egg cases for crown conch, an added insult to injury as they are major oyster predators.

I appreciate these little biological treasures and their ability to constantly rekindle my curiosity. And I look forward to the continued opportunity to discover, discover, discover.


  1. I just saw this comment. I don't believe they are poisonous, but they do have sharp teeth! It looks like toadfish in a different genus than this one, Thalassophryninae, are venomous.