By Katie, Coastal Studies for Girls
This past week, we took a science trip to the Darling Marine Center in Walpole, Maine, which is the marine lab for the University of Maine. At the start of the trip, we met up with Jenn McHenry, a graduate student there. We went out on the Damariscotta River and collected a cornucopia of marine creatures by dredging, or dragging a net from a boat. The boat was piloted by a man named Robby, who even let some of us steer! Back at the lab, we took the many creatures and placed them in glass containers, ready for identification and organizing by phylum. We collected multiple kinds of sea stars, which are in the phylum Echinodermata, as well as sea sponges, kelp, and many species of crab.We collected a couple of small brown and slippery fish called rock gunnels, or Pholis gunnellus. We found out that the rock gunnel lives in low-tidal levels of pools and under stones. It also is rather slimy. However, it is “seasonally absent” in Maine, because it migrates to sub-tidal levels as the season turns to winter. This is how we caught some when we were dredging in 50 feet of water!
Pholis gunnellus are about 9 – 10 millimeters in length at birth. Their egg masses are adhesive and are found in shallow water under stones or in empty oyster shells. The adult fish guard the eggs until they hatch. Fully grown, Pholis gunnellus are about 7 centimeters long.We also collected another even smaller fish that we identified after considerably more work with keys and field guides. This fish wasn’t even in the book we were using! Jenn had to help us. We found out that the subject of our inquisition was an inquiline snailfish, or Liparis inquilinus. This new tadpole-ish looking creature is brown and slippery and has a suction-cup-like structure on its underside. These grow to be about 2 centimeters long.
This video shows the Inquiline Snailfish, Liparis inquilinus, collected from the Damariscotta River, October 1, 2011
Liparis inquilinus live inside scallops! The scallops are hosts, and are not affected by their guests. Liparis inquilinus eat larger crustaceans, while scallops are microplanktonic filter feeders. Liparis inquilinus usually take up residence in scallops during the day, and come out to search for their food at night.
During this trip, we learned a lot about many different species of marine creatures. We also learned how to use a certain type of identification book to figure out exactly what species each animal is. We will be able to use this to our advantage in the future, because we will use books like these to identify other life and learn more about species or marine creatures!
Coastal Studies for Girls is the country’s only residential science and leadership semester school for 10th grade girls. CSG is dedicated to girls who have a love for learning and discovery, an adventurous spirit, and a desire to challenge themselves.