by Johanna Imhoff, FSUCML graduate student
Leg one of the 2016 Florida Restore Act Center for Excellence Program (FLRACEP) cruise threw many challenges our way, including rough seas and heavy currents. Our first fish of the year was a yellowedge grouper (Epinephelus flavolimbatus, top left). This is one of the species that we have caught repeatedly over the five years of our survey, as well as hakes (top right), gulper sharks (Centrophorus granulosus, middle right) and shortspine spurdog (Squalus cf. mitsukurii, bottom). Repeatedly sampling these species over the years and in several different regions (i.e. West Florida Slope, east and west sides of DeSoto Canyon) provides valuable toxicology samples so that Dr. Jim Gelsleichter and his students at the University of North Florida can continue to evaluate the presence of persistent contaminants such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH’s) from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.
The hake pictured in the top right is actually a new species for our survey (Carolina hake, Urophycis earlyi) and it will be preserved in the FSUCML Ichthyological Collection. Typically, we catch Gulf hake (U. cirrata) and Southern hake (U. floridanus), and rarely, Spotted hake (U. regia).
Just in case you were wondering about the strange letters in the middle of the shortspine spurdog’s scientific name (cf.), this stands for “conferred as.” This species is part of a circumglobal species complex that is currently undergoing re-description. In other words, there are several species around the world that look like this one and have all been called by the same name. However, they are actually different species. This one in particular is being re-described by Mariah Pfleger, a recent master’s student in Dr. Toby Daly-Engel’s lab at University of West Florida. She found that this species in the Gulf of Mexico is in fact distinct from the others around the world. It will have a new name in the next year or so.
We find some amazing invertebrates in the deep sea. This beautiful urchin and basket star (middle left) came up from the bottom tangled with each other and around our longline. We don’t know what species they are, but perhaps FSUCML faculty Dr. Sandra Brooke will be able to tell us! NOTE: We asked Dr. Sandra Brooke, and here’s what she had to tell us – the right hand side of the picture is a basket star, member of the family Gorgonocephalidae, and the left hand side of the picture is a pencil urchin, member of the family Cidaridae.
Clark Morgan was lucky enough to see his first bluntnose sixgill shark on leg one before he had to head back to school. Unfortunately, she broke the barb on the hook and swam away before we were able to get good photographs or tag her.
Another UNF master’s student, John Whalen, took Clark’s place and FSU research technician Bryan Keller joined the team for leg two. We are headed out to our first set of stations in the northern Gulf. We’ve rigged some new weights for the longlines, added two more hanks of line to our spool, and we’re being treated to calm seas. Everyone is ready to start fishing again. Wish us luck!