Each of our fish tanks at the Visitor Center holds a different array of marine life present in the Great South Bay. The fish tanks and the seining program to fill the fish tanks are valuable for teaching the public about the bay ecosystem and the importance of protecting it. For instance, kids and adults alike learn about the different types of fish that live here. These fish include flukes, pipefish, needlefish, striped bass, and mummichogs. We also have crabs, shrimp, and snails making homes in our fish tanks.
One of my favorites is the spider crab living at the Wilderness Visitor Center. This little guy taught me that spider crabs are super interesting! They are one of the only crabs that can move forwards and backwards. Usually, crabs can only move side to side. However, spider crabs can move anyway they please with their six tall walking legs and two claws. Something else that is interesting is that they are self-decorators. If they see something they like on the ocean floor, they attach it to their back. This allows them to camouflage, save a snack for later, and look extra cute. But, like most crabs, they can be a tad crabby. The other day, I walked in on our spider crab feeding on a fluke! Our spider crab also terrorizes the other fish by waving its claws. This crab really lives up to its name.
Another one of my favorites is our pipefish. There used to be seahorses in the Great South Bay, but only until a decade or two ago. But their relatives, the pipefish, are still around. Like seahorses, the male pipefish carries its own young. They also have a similar curvature and snout as seahorses. If you ever want to find one, make sure to look near the eel grass!
Lastly, Ranger Steve and I caught something interesting the other day. We have now added a puffer fish to our fish tanks! Seeing this little guy intrigued me to research more about them. I found out that puffer fish are naturally very slow. However, they compensate with excellent eyesight and an interesting defense mechanism. Puffer fish blow up by swallowing a bunch of air or water into their extremely elastic stomach. And when they blow up, they become very hard to swallow. Therefore, they become less palatable for other fish.
It is interesting to see and learn the different types of fish roaming around the Great South Bay. It is even more rewarding to teach the public what’s in the Bay and the importance of protecting it.