Marine Life Around World

Part of what makes the Florida Keys such a fascinating place to visit is the abundant natural beauty and wildlife unique to this region. With the Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, the Florida Keys are at the confluence of two subtropical ecosystems that are distinctive to the area. If you’re a nature lover hoping to spot unique wildlife while visiting the Florida Keys, here’s what to look for.

In the Sea

Whether you’ve come to fish, snorkel or simply take a dip in the crystal clear waters surrounding the Florida Keys, there’s an abundance of fascinating marine life to discover. The Florida Straits barrier reef stretches 170 miles up the coast and much of it is designated as a protected nature preserve. This is where you’ll find colorful subtropical fish and coral formations.

If you go snorkeling, keep your eyes peeled for yellowtail snapper, blue tang, rainbow parrotfish, angelfish and more. You also have a good chance of spotting sharks and sea turtles, as well as some of the more deep-water, pelagic fish that anglers are trolling for, like grouper, tuna and mahi-mahi. Hiding within the coral formations are the Keys’ own spiny lobsters. The region is also home to a healthy population of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins who often traverse the water in pods. It’s possible to spot them from land and sea.

In the Air

The Florida Keys are a true birder’s paradise. After all, John James Audubon discovered many of the bird species unique to the Florida Keys during his travels in the 1830s. The shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico’s backcountry are characterized by mangrove islands, turtle grass and sandbars, which are ideal nesting and breeding grounds for a wide variety of both fish and birds. Some of the Keys birds are migratory, like pelicans, and others live in the area year round, like kingfishers.

In the backcountry, you’re likely to spot cormorants diving for their lunch or sunbathing on a branch, while frigate birds sail on the air currents high above. Herons, cranes and even flamingos are sometimes found wading through the backcountry. The Keys are home to a wide variety of hawk species, including the bald eagle, but the osprey is the most common. On land, you’ll also spot seagulls, green parrots and pretty pink ibis pecking around for food or flying from one tree branch to the next.

On Land

rooster chickenA simple stroll down the sidewalk in the Keys can lead to some unique wildlife encounters. The Lower Keys are home to Key Deer, a specific breed with unusually short legs. You’ll also spot neon green iguanas in abundance. While they seem to fit into the scenery nicely, they’re actually an invasive species.

If you’re in Key West, there’s no shortage of chickens and roosters roaming freely, as well as cats. They’re part of the history and character of the island. You can also visit attractions like the Key West Aquarium and the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory to discover unique wildlife that’s typically found under the sea or fluttering through the air. Both destinations are excellent places to learn more about these fascinating animals.


September 6th, 2017

They key to the jellyfish’s 500-million-year uninterrupted reign on this earth is its adaptability. Jellyfish can range from infinitesimal sizes to sizes larger than freight carriers! The 200 classified species can be anything from the fingernail-size star-shaped stalked jellyfish,which is native to northern Pacific waters, to the giant Lion’s mane, which lives in arctic waters and can grow up to eight feet in diameter, with tentacles spanning 100 feet. Some jellyfish are luminescent, others live upside-down, and some possess stings that can cause excruciating pain for ages.

Soft Coral

August 16th, 2017

Soft corals are members of the phylum cnidaria, a group of stinging celled animals that include anemones, jellyfish, hydroids, sea-pens, the the true corals and other coral-named groups. Soft corals acquired their name from their fleshy and flexible forms which are constructed of a bizarre assembly of structural elements that help the corals to keep their shapes and support their form. As you can see, the lack of the external hard, calcareous skeleton hte small and large polyp stony corals possess make it easy to distinguish the soft corals from the stony corals. Soft corals are found worldwide, more in tropical than temperate reefs, mainly in depths of 5-30 meters.



July 5th, 2017

Clownfish are also known as anemonefish, which is a genus of the pomacentridae family and consists of 29 recognized species. They primarily inhabit coral reefs in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. They are also found as far north as the Red Sea and inhabit the Great Barrier Reef off the east coast of Australia. They are not native to the Atlantic/Caribbean Oceans or the Florida Keys.

You can find a clownfish exhibit at the Key West Aquarium. The clownfish in the exhibit were aquacultured at ORA (Oceans Reefs and Aquariums) in Ft. Pierce, FL. Farm raising is a common practice for this species due to the increase in their popularity. Aquaculture reduces the collection of wild caught marine specimens in high demand and diminishes our impact on the environment.

Creature of the Deep Sea

June 15th, 2016

Similar to the Black Devil, the Fangtooth resembles what a monster you might see in a horror movie, stays in the deep waters, and reaches a maximum of 6 inches in length.

When comparing the size of teeth to the proportion of the body, the fangtooth has the largest teeth of any fish in the world.

Read the rest of this entry »

A Deep Sea Mystery

May 18th, 2016

What makes the Black Sea Devil a deep sea mystery is there is less known information about it than the giant squid.

What we DO know is this:

A Female black sea devil can grow to be about the size of a baseball. The males are even smaller and are actually more of a parasite than a fish. In order to survive, the males must bite on to the female. Their tissues will fuse together, and the male provides sperm while the female sustains the male.

Black sea devils have a gaping mouth, needle-sharp teeth, a slightly startled expression,  and a lure atop their head that lights up. It’s unknown if there is a pattern for the illumination or if the light is continuously kept on. This lure is used to attract prey.



For most of us, when we hear the word “squid” we either think of fishing bait or calamari. For Scientists, we can assume that they think of the Giant Squid– one of the largest mysteries of science.


To see a live giant squid is a privilege not many have had. Most of everything scientists know about the giant squid has come from carcasses hauled in from fisherman or being washed up onto shore.

They are the largest invertebrate on Earth. The largest ever found of the species measured 59 feet in length, and weighed a ton. The largest found (while fishing off the coast in Japan) while still alive was 24 feet in length.

Identical to other squid species, they have eight arms and two feeding tentacles which help them bring food to their beak-like mouths. Their eyes can grow to be the size of beach balls (about 10 inches in diameter). Having large eyes allows them to detect other objects in the deep depths of the ocean where other animals would see nothing. Their diet primarily consists of fish, shrimp, and other squids.

The giant squid maneuvers their massive body with fins and use their funnel as a propulsion system, which draws water into their mantle and then they force it out the back.


Do you like going to the beach? Sunbathing and playing in the sand? Have you ever wondered if it was imported or not? I’m pleased to inform you that the sandy beaches of the Florida Keys are all natural, recycled excrement of the beautiful, locally fed parrotfish. That’s right, excrement!

Parrotfish adopted their name from having a fused-beak structure– like a parrot! A parrotfish’s diet is primarily algae. To eat, they use their beak to pulverize coral to reach the algae filled polyps hiding in the coral reefs. Sand is ground-up, undigested remains of coral. SO, thanks to parrotfish we are able to have sand on the sea floor, sand bars, and beaches.

Another reason why the name parrotfish is so fitting for the marine animal (closely related to the wrasses) is like a parrot, they are very colorful. There are several different types of parrot fish- the Key West Aquarium houses rainbow parrotfish and  midnight parrotfish.

Like the wrasses, parrotfish use their pectoral fins to swim. Occasionally for speed they use their tail fin. The largest of the parrotfish family is the bumphead parrotfish found in the indo-pacific, measuring more than 4 feet and reaching a weight of 100 pounds. The average size for the 80 identified species of parrotfish is 1-4 feet and they can live up to 7 years.

Parrotfish can be spotted either by their unique coloring or by the clouds of waste that trail behind them as they swim.

Like most fish, male parrotfish contain harems of females. This means that in the event of there being no dominant male in a school, the largest female changes gender and color to become the dominant. This transition is not just scale deep, the new male, once fully transitioned can mate with the remaining females in the school.

Similarly to how humans wear pajamas to bed, a parrotfish produces mucus bubbles blown from their mouths and creates a translucent nightgown to protect themselves while in slumber. Scientists have a theory that this mucus gown masks their scent and therefore makes it harder to be found by nocturnal predators such as parasites and moray eels.

You won’t find many places in the United States that serve parrotfish, but in some places in the world, like Polynesia for example, will consider it a delicacy. In Polynesia, parrotfish was once considered “royal food” and was only eaten by the king.

Choosing which characteristic is most remarkable is a difficult task. What feature sticks out most to you?


Save the Seahorses

November 4th, 2015

What exactly is a seahorse? Well, it’s a fish! It’s horse-shaped head gives it it’s name. Other features include their monkey-like tail, and their color changing abilities like chameleons.







































































What makes seahorses endangered? Their preferred habitats are coral reefs, mangroves, sea grass beds and estuaries, which are threatened by development and water pollution.

Threats to the seahorse include:

  • Legal and illegal trade for ornamental display (sold dried as souvenirs), aquarium fishes, and traditional Chinese medicine. More than 20 millions of seahorses are estimated to be traded each year for Chinese medicine. Hundreds of thousands of seahorses are sold for the aquarium trade driven primarily by North American. Most of these seahorses are juveniles where they usually die within a short period.
  • By catch in the shrimp trawl and other fisheries off of Florida, Mexico, Central America, and South America.
  • Habitat degradation and destruction due to coastal development, marine pollution, coral reef destruction, and land-based deforestation. Deforestation leads to increased siltation in surrounding marine waters, thereby suffocating sea grass bed and killing coral reefs.


















































Fun facts about seahorses:




































































• They use long snout to absorb tiny shrimp, fish, and plankton.








































• In a seahorse’s life cycle, the male is the one to give birth.











































• Male can give birth to up several hundred young from one pregnancy.


































• They are cousins to pipefish and sea dragons.




















































• They lack teeth, a stomach, and a caudal fin.

















Fin vs. Flipper

August 12th, 2015



Fins have no true bones or skeletal structure within and are composed primarily of cartilage. A flipper has a bone structure as well as cartilage, joints, and tendons. If  you x-ray the flipper of a dolphin it looks almost identical to a  human arm from the shoulder down to the fingers.