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New England Seabirds

Wilson's Storm-petrel  Dave Jones

Other Sea Life

Interesting Plants and Animals Seen on Pelagic Trips

If you are interested in seabirds you recognize the importance of all the animals and plants that inhabit their environment. Here are some interesting examples seen on recent trips.

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Portugese Man 'o War

Physalia physalis

Often called a jelly fish, the Portugese Man 'o War or Blue Bottle is actually a colony of 4 different polyps each dependent upon the whole.

The colony is found in warm water. It floats at the surface because of the air bladder (sail) which the colony fills or deflates. It has no means of locomotion and drifts with the currents and winds. It rolls on its side from time to time to keep the sail wet. Sometimes they are washed up on beaches. It is known for a painful sting which is rarely deadly.

The Tentacles that dangle from the body, can be 60 feet long and contain nematocysts which sting and kill small fish and shrimp. The food is then dragged to the digestive polyps.

Portugese Man 'O War Jeff Slovin

Other polyps are for reproduction.

Certain fish are immune to the poison and live among the tentacles. Since the fish gain a benefit without harming the host this is considered a commensal symbiotic relationship.

Photograph by Jeff Slovin

Lion's Mane Jellyfish Cyanea capillata
Lion’s Mane Jellyfish photo by Jon Woolf on the NH Audubon September 2012 trip off the coast of Rye NH. Super photo John. Thanks for sharing

Lion's Mane Jellyfish  Jon Woolf


Folks on the August 28, 2010 BBC pelagic to the Continental Shelf Edge woke up Sunday morning to find that some kind person had placed an example of a Pyrosome on the cooler at the back of the boat with a note "This is a Pyrosome". I looked it up in Wikipedia and found that it is an unusual sighting.
The Pyrosome looked to be made of clear plastic.  Unfortunately there were no pictures taken.

Photo and text from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
"Pyrosomes, or pyrosoma, are free-floating colonial tunicates that live usually in the upper layers of the open ocean in warm seas, although some may be found to great depth. Pyrosomes are cylindrical or conical shaped colonies made up of hundreds to thousands of individuals, known as zooids. Colonies range in size from less than one centimeter to several meters in length.
Pyrosomes are planktonic, which means that their movements are largely controlled by currents, tides and waves in the oceans. On a smaller scale, however, each colony can move itself slowly by the process of jet propulsion, created by the coordinated beating of cilia in the branchial baskets of all the zooids, which also create feeding currents.
Pyrosomes are brightly bioluminescent, flashing a pale blue-green light that can be seen for many tens of meters. "

Pyrosome from Wikipedia

Comb Jellies - Ctenophora

Participants in the Sept 2012 NH Audubon trip out of Rye, NH on
smooth seas observed thousands of small jellyfish looking
creatures usually called Comb Jellies. These little animals are
probably around all the time, but not seen when the sea surface
is even a little rough. Almost impossible to photograph because
they are so small and clear which is why we are so lucky to have Jon's photograph.

From Wikipedia:
"The Ctenophora commonly known as comb jellies are a phylum of animals that live in marine waters worldwide. Their most distinctive feature is the "combs", groups of cilia they use for swimming, and they are the largest animals that swim by means of cilia.  Adults of various species range from a few millimeters to 1.5 meters (59 in) in size.

Their bodies consist of a mass of jelly, with one layer of cells on the outside and another lining the internal cavity. They have a decentralized nerve net rather than a central brain. "

Comb jelly Jon Woolf

Comb Jelly photographed by Jon Wolfe. Really great picture Jon. Thanks for sharing.

Flying Fish
Flying fish are usually indicative of warmer water found to the south of New England. When we see them, we know we have reached one of the warm Gulf Stream cores that circulate north of the regular Gulf Stream.

Usually very hard to photograph which makes this picture by Jeremiah Trimble so astounding. Jeremiah took this photo on the August 2010 BBC Pelagic.

From Wikipedia:
"Flying fish live in all of the oceans, particularly in warm tropical and subtropical waters. Their most striking feature is their pectoral fins, which are unusually large, and enable the fish to hide and escape from predators by leaping out of the water, taking short gliding flights through air just above the water's surface. Their glides are typically around 50 metres (160 ft).[3]"

Flying Fish Jeremiah Trimble

A genus of brown seaweed that contains two species of brown seaweed that are totally pelagic. These pelagic seaweeds are never attached to a rock.

Several species of brown seaweed regularly grow in shallow water along the New England coast and are commonly called rock weed. Sea storms may detach rock weed and blow it offshore. where it floats looking much like Sargassum weed.

As pelagic birders, we are most interested in the pelagic species that circulate in Atlantic Gulf Stream commonly called the Sargassum Sea. The appearance of masses of the yellow brown seaweed indicates that the trip has entered a warm core of Gulf Stream water. Baby turtles and small fish swim with the Sargassum Weed for protection. Tiny red crabs were seen on the 8/28/2010 trip.

Sargassum Weed Emmalee Tarry

Photo taken by Emmalee Tarry

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1. Wikipedia
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