EcoPosts: Coming to You Tuesdays

Conservation is a passion of mine. I love finding new ways to be more eco-friendly and to spread the word.

Every Tuesday, I’m going to post about my eco-adventures in my daily life. Talking about what products I’ve tried or actions I’m taking. I want to share my eco-experiences with y’all, and I’m hoping it inspires and encourages other people to take steps to be more eco-friendly.

We can all pick up trash, consider the animals living in the habitats we live in, and be conscious of our everyday purchases!

Let me know what you would like to see more of or have questions about, and I will take on the assignment. πŸ˜…πŸ™Œ Thanks for reading and I look forward to the future EcoPosts! πŸ¦‰ 🌎 🌍

Turtles & Crabs = FireCrabs

Crabs that look like bejeweled tortoises, and when threatened, fire exits their little behinds… 🐒 πŸ¦€ πŸ”₯

Native to Fiji πŸ‡«πŸ‡― and protected there from poaching wizards, as well as Muggles. Their shells are so beautiful, wizards feel the need to collect them for outlandish cauldrons! A similar plight to the sea turtles we know and love.

Different variants exist and they are identified by the jewels on their shells, coming in rubies, sapphires, and emeralds. Otherwise, they have grey skin, black eyes, and 6 legs (crab legs, crab claws, tortoise legs, who knows!?! πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™€οΈ)

Sometimes these FireCrabs are exported as pets, however special licensing is necessary. Our dear beloved Hagrid (as we say in the South, bless his heart πŸ™„) decided to cross breed the FireCrab with the Manticore (a very dangerous beast with the head of a man, body of a lion, and tail of a scorpion, what the heck, Hagrid?! How the heck?!! 😳 Okay, another post for another day…)

Let’s figuratively dissect this creature: Crabs πŸ¦€ Aquatic crustaceans in a variety of shapes and sizes. They have exoskeletons and many appendages, similar to spiders, so they shed their outer layer to continue to grow.

In my area, we have lots of Ghost crabs, like the photo above, scuttling around the beaches, in fact a predator to baby sea turtles!

Hehe, this is my watermelon FireCrab.

But anyways, let’s look at the crabs that actually live in Fiji. Go to the location to better understand what FireCrabs might be about:

Coconut crabs Birgus latro

Also known as the Robber Crab or Palm Thief.

Also found on other islands in the Pacific and Indian Ocean, they are the largest terrestrial crustacean at a span of about 3 feet and weighing about 9 pounds! They can be found in the purplish-blue color, like the photo above, or in orangish-red. Makes sense why FireCrabs come in similar colors!

These crabs are enormous!!! They have 4.5 times more the amount of strength in their big claw than a strong human hand grip, and it’s similar to the bite force of hyenas, lions, and tigers. Yikes! But I guess they need a good handle on cracking coconuts…you know, coconuts kill more people than sharks or FireCrabs.

The Coconut Crab also happens to be a grouchy, nonsocial creature…might help to explain the sociable nature of the FireCrab. You certainly don’t want them setting fires often.

Moving on to other Fijian crabs, including the Golden Tree Crabs…

Lemon yellow clawed Fiddlers… (apparently there are different Fiddler dialects within their unique sign language).

Now we need to examine the other side to the FireCrab: Turtles & Tortoises.

Quick Chelonian Facts:

  • Chelonians are turtles and tortoises.
  • Their carapace is the upper (dorsal) part of the shell (in the case of the FireCrab, the bejeweled portioned), and their plastron is the lower (ventral) part of the shell, with a bridge that connects the two on either side of the body.
  • The shell is covered in scales, known as scutes, and continue to grow with the chelonian as it grows. They can never leave it and find a new one…like hermit crabs, like the Coconut Crab.
  • They have endoskeletons, like us and unlike crabs. Their spine is fused to the shell as well as their ribs. They have nerve endings in their scutes, so they have been known to enjoy a good back scratching, just like us!
  • Tortoises are largely terrestrial and turtles are fully or semi aquatic.
  • Like the FireCrab’s issue with wizard poaching, many real turtles and tortoises experience poaching. Most notable the Hawksbill Sea Turtle is poached for their shells to turn into “tortoiseshell” products like glasses and hair clips, and it continues today despite the critically endangered status.

Hawksbill Sea Turtle Eretmochelys imbricata

Found throughout the tropical waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans, eating sponges, mollusks, and crustaceans, etc. They likely visit the same protected habitat of the FireCrab, perhaps if only to lay eggs on the sandy beaches.

For a semi aquatic turtle to examine, we can look at the Common Snapping Turtle Chelydra serpentina

These snappers can be found along the eastern side of North America, from southern Canada on down throughout Florida, inhabiting fresh and brackish waters.

They have a grumpy personality and a nasty bite! Turtles have no teeth but they have serrated and sharp beaks, and these snapping turtles also have fleshy lures on the inside of their mouths that act like worms to lure prey closer and in the blink of an eye, chomp!

Lastly, let’s look at the ultimate tortoises, the Galapagos Tortoises! Chelonidis species (there are about 15 species). As their name suggests, they live on the different islands of the Galapagos in the Pacific Ocean.

Sometimes, these giant land dwelling tortoises are found floating in the ocean from island to island, even with ocean creatures (epibiota) attached to the shells!

These guys love munching on watermelon! I can’t blame them, though; watermelon is my favorite, too!

Watch out watermelon FireCrab! 😳

Ooookay: the FireCrab looks like a terrestrial tortoise with crab claws, probably like the terrestrial Coconut Crab. So I wonder if they have strong claws like the Coconut Crab, personalities like the Coconut Crab and Snapping Turtles, and domed shells like tortoises…pondering…

Then, there’s the defense mechanism…obviously no animal breathes nor farts fire…but wowsers! That would be interesting how that would happen. We know skunks are noxious, plus octopus and squid can disappear in an cloud of ink, but how would igniting a fire be possible? πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™€οΈ well, of course it’s magic, so that’s the easy out, but maybe a rough scale creates enough friction when the FireCrab is startled that it ignites the combustible substance. πŸ€”

Or maybe, it’s like the Bombardier Beetle…

Check out this YouTube Video for a great explanation:

Amazing, huh?!?! So not that far fetched from reality!

Thank you for indulging me on the FireCrab creature! I had a lot of fun with this one. So much so, don’t be surprised to see more FireCrab stuff on my social media platforms. πŸ˜…πŸ’πŸ¦€πŸ”₯

P.S. I’m thinking of selling these FireCrabs and other creations to help support conservation programs. A MuggleZoologist Creature Shop? What do y’all think? 😊

References:
Pottermore; Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them; My photos are the watermelon FireCrab, decorated firecrabs, Snapping turtle, and Ghost crab; the rest of the photos are from Google Images. Information from National Geographic, The Galapagos Conservancy, Nature.org, and the Nature Conservancy.

Throwback Thursday to Argentina πŸ‡¦πŸ‡·

This trip was not that long ago, πŸ˜… . It was just this past May (2018 in case you’re not reading this post any time soon, ha!). We were visiting Santa Fe, Argentina for an IUCN Crocodilian Specialist Group meeting, which is where my main photo was taken. 😁

I’m holding a young Broad Snout Caiman, Caiman latirostris.

Quick Caiman Facts: πŸ€“πŸŠ

  • Found: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay in mangroves, marshes, and swamps.
  • Caimans are related to Alligators, but these are small to medium crocodilians at about 4-6 feet long.
  • Their strong jaws are suited to tough animals like turtles, snails, fish, and a variety of other small prey.

IUCN status: Least Concern, although many of our scientists are keeping an eye on different populations.

  • These are some of my favorite crocodilians because they have cute short snouts and feisty personalities. While all of the different crocodilians can wiggle their ears, I’ve never seen any other species do it as often as these Broad Snout Caimans. Usually a behavior signaling excitement (either positive to food or negative to a threat), and in addition to growl-y little hissing, it’s just too cute a combination. 😍❀️🐊
  • Although make no mistake, they have an incredibly strong bite! You can lose digits or worse if very unlucky to have any part of your body end up in their mouth. The photo above looks a little grainy, but that’s because it was taken through binoculars by an iPhone. It as a lone Caiman in a lake close to the conference room, which would be visited anytime the sun came out, which wasn’t often! β˜”οΈ
  • Getting back to Argentina…a Spanish speaking country but many people try to help out someone who doesn’t speak the language. Santa Fe was beautiful and had many areas for the active individual to explore the city. Huge sidewalks and some outdoor gyms. There were a lot of runners and cyclists, and even swimmers out in the river!
  • If you’re interested in birds, this was a great place for the Birder! We saw lots of cool birds, but I was surprised to see Burrowing Owls…everywhere! Well, where we were staying at least. The meeting was held at a local university and there were so many Burrowing Owl nests.
  • We also went exploring, and in addition to swarms of mosquitos, we found a beautiful turtle…
  • It rained nearly the whole time we were there, which was not fun for walking back and forth from the conference room to the hotel. However, the rain did bring out some other critters that we would otherwise have not seen, like this cool toad! 🐸 Toadly cool! Lol 😝
  • The fun part of traveling and exploring also includes experiencing different cultures. While trying to order coffee off a menu, this came to my table. Fun πŸ™Œ but then I thought what the heck it this little shot glass of water? Sparkling water? Well, it’s there to help cleanse your palate between bites and other yummy food. Now we know, ha!
  • Instead of exploring trails around lakes, we also went on a search through the city for unique souvenirs to bring home. But I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try this strange doorway as a way to get into the Argentina Ministry of Magic. I was unsuccessful. πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™€οΈ
  • This trip was unfortunately rained out but nonetheless it was wonderful to catch up with old friends, make new ones, and exploring another place on the globe πŸ—Ί Keep adventuring and always keep your eyes ready for opportunities. After all, you never know if you’ll ever make it back!
  • Since we were down in South America, we thought, “Let’s just pop over to Peru πŸ‡΅πŸ‡ͺ!” So we did! But that’s for another time… πŸ˜ŽπŸ‘‹
  • References:
  • This is a great site to learn more about all the crocodilians that I will eventually talk about. 🐊🐊🐊
  • http://crocodilian.com/cnhc/csp_clat.htm

    Plus, my husband John, took some amazing photos. Thank you! ❀️

    Shark Krum: Chomp, Chomp!

    We can’t leave Shark Week without mentioning Victor Krum, the Bulgarian Quidditch team Seeker & Drumstrang champion!

    First appearing in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JKRowling. This fourth book was centered around a Triwizard Tournament at Hogwarts, and in the second challenge, the champions had to figure out how to navigate the lake and it’s mysterious creatures to retrieve something they would surely miss.

    Come seek us where our voices sound,

    We cannot sing above the ground,

    And while you’re searching, ponder this:

    We’ve taken what you’ll sorely miss,

    An hour long you’ll have to look,

    And to recover what we took,

    But past an hour – the prospect’s black

    Too late, it’s gone, it won’t come back.

    – Excerpt from Goblet of Fire

    Krum attempted, although not entirely successful but it did the job, to transfigure into a shark. 🦈 Within the hour time limit, he was able to locate and free a sleeping Hermione from the mermaids, who were guarding someone each champion would miss. I don’t think I need to go into too much detail and differences between the book and movie versions, or do I?!? πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™€οΈ Nah, you should go enjoy the book or movie or both! 😜

    This clip looks pretty crazy, lol. Is Hermione surprised at Krum or taking a deep breath of air? An image she’ll never get out of her head. Thankfully we all know who truly had her heart ❀️ hehehehe😊

    And how cute is this LEGO Krum? Lol, πŸ˜‚ Well, this was fun! πŸ¦ˆβ€οΈπŸ¦ˆπŸ–€πŸ¦ˆ

    Shark conservation doesn’t stop just because Shark Week is over, so never stop trying to make our oceans better! For sharks and for us. 😊

    πŸ‘‹πŸ˜

    References:
    Pottermore Website, Harry Potter Wiki, Film Clips from Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire

    Respect the Fin πŸ’™πŸ¦ˆπŸ’™

    Many people see sharks as trophies πŸ†. Something to be battled and killed, just for a photo and bragging rights. Fishermen catch them, slice their fins off and toss them back in the ocean, alive to drown. Sometimes, their livers are taken for cosmetics like lipsticks, as well as other products. At least some fishermen will use their entire body; eat the meat and use parts for souvenirs.

    Many of these acts against sharks are just horrific…it’s just tragic. But there’s always hope that things can change!

    Through education, our voices joined together, and how we spend our money, can make a change for these beautiful creatures!

    To keep the sharing of shark experiences going, I’m going way back to one of my earliest interactions! I was on a pier and fishermen were braving the cold winter weather to catch fish to take home and eat. Every once in a while, they pull a little shark up.

    🦈 Smooth Dogfish Shark Mustelus canis

    These guys prefer to live in the warmer waters of the Western Atlantic Ocean, and munch on crustaceans and mollusks as they have teeth designed for crushing rather than sharp blades like many other sharks we know and love. 🦈 This species also stays on the smaller end of the scale, at about 4′ for a full grown adult. So the dogfish pictured here is clearly a juvenile! Awe! πŸ™ŒπŸ˜…

    Fishermen pulled this little guy up during the winter months, here in north Florida, while they were really fishing for Whiting fish. At least while I was there, they threw the sharks back into the water. Along with Dogfish sharks, the fishermen also pulled up young Bonnethead sharks (small hammerhead sharks).

    At the time, I was just excited to see and touch a shark, and while we knew the seconds were ticking how long this shark could be out of the water, getting some photos I thought were necessary. Not only for identifying, but getting a good message out to the public. This was before selfies, but we need to be sensitive to animals when we want a photo with one. We can’t stress them out or kill them for a simple photo.

    So as we celebrate sharks and want to save them, get to know them! I love Peppermint Narwhal’s graphics and they sell this as a great poster!

    The top photo is from Respect the Fin company, so you should check out their social media and website. A Miami based group wants to keep fins on sharks and keep sharks in our oceans. Apparently, Miami is a huge hub for the shark finning industry! 😱

    We can all do something and we SHOULD! We can’t let shark finning happen right under our nose and simply do nothing.

    Let’s try to keep up this excitement over shark conservation and be the change. πŸ’™πŸ¦ˆπŸ’™πŸ™Œ

    References:

    Smooth Dogfish shark Facts https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/fish/discover/species-profiles/mustelus-canis/

    Whale πŸ¦ˆπŸ’™πŸ¦ˆπŸ’™πŸ¦ˆ πŸ˜…

    Whale Sharks…πŸ’™πŸ’™πŸ’™ absolutely beautiful creatures! These are the largest fish in the ocean, about 30-40 feet long as adults and about 20 tons, you can see why they got the name Whale shark. πŸ‹ 🦈

    Rhincodon typus, as enormous as they are, these sharks are filter feeders. Like many of the giants in the oceans, including Baleen whales, they live off of plankton, krill, and small fish. However, they still have teeth! Teeny tiny nonfunctional teeth making up 300 rows in each jaw. Whale sharks are also generally found in warm tropical waters around the world, and have quite an eco tourism economy built around them. Unfortunately, they are also still hunted in places like the Philippines! Crazy!!! The IUCN has listed them a Vulnerable species because their populations continue to decrease.

    At the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, GA, you can swim with their whale sharks! Woohoo! As well as manta rays, other elasmobranchs (throwing some science at yeh, aka more sharks and rays 😜) and even a giant Green Sea Turtle 🐒. They call it Journey with Gentle Giants, and it’s really very nice! πŸ‘Œ That’s scuba signal for “Okay!”

    We went for our anniversary and John’s birthday, so this is scuba for “I’m going to kiss you now with my mouthpiece because I still want to breathe oxygen” No gillyweed used on these trips! 🌱

    πŸ’™Be sure to get the video of your dive on the way out because of all the cool photos you can use off of it to post to social media. πŸ™ŒπŸ˜

    And fun fact about their whale sharks: they have them trained to different colors to make sure that each one gets enough food. Since they’re filter feeders, it’s not easy feeding one piece of krill at a time, so training them to different spots or colored buoys helps to make sure they get good gulps of food. Training is not only possible, but helpful from keeping one from eating all of the food provided. Plus you don’t want to see whale sharks fight…it would ruin the peace image I have of them. πŸ˜…

    With my whale shark print swim leggings from Waterlust, I’m not only supporting whale shark conservation but they look really cool and are functional for swimming in the pool when the temps outside start to drop! And each pair is made from 10 recycled plastic bottles! 😳 wow! Even better!

    I love swimming with Sharks and other ocean animals, because you really feel a connection to the ocean. Most of us don’t live on or near the beach, so it can be difficult to see why the need to change habits is so important. But giving up plastic bags, straws, and other disposables is an easy habit we can adopt, and then getting out into nature can help us make that connection.

    Start the change & be the change! Happy Shark Week and get in the water! πŸŠπŸ»β€β™€οΈ

    πŸ‘‹πŸ˜

    References:

    National Geographic and Florida Natural History Museum for the what sharks facts.

    Here’s a link to the Georgia Aquarium, Journey with Gentle Giants program:

    https://www.georgiaaquarium.org/experience/explore/programs-activities/animal-interactions/journey-with-gentle-giants/swim-with-whale-sharks

    Great White 🦈🦈🦈

    Cape Town, South Africa πŸ‡ΏπŸ‡¦

    Yes. THE Great White Shark 😍Carcharodon carcharias

    A large shark at 15-20 feet and over 2 tons. Lots of pointed, serrated teeth. Found worldwide, mostly in warmer waters but can also be found in cooler temps.

    Also classified by the IUCN as Vulnerable. Many regions are still hunting them for parts and game fishing, unfortunately, but they also suffer from entanglement in fishing equipment and shark fences, prey depletion, and habitat degradation.

    In May to June 2016, we were visiting South Africa for an IUCN Crocodilian Specialist Group meeting in Kruger National Park (photo above is me presenting a poster and talking to other scientists and crocodilian enthusiasts), and we couldn’t leave without a quick trip to Cape Town and a dip in the chilly waters with the White Sharks! I had been saying for years, that knowingly being in the same water as Great White Sharks was on my Adventure Bucket List, if it was the last thing I did on this planet, I had to make this happen. πŸ™Œ I was NOT disappointed. πŸ˜† Thank you, Apex Predators Expeditions! πŸ¦ˆπŸ’™πŸ¦ˆπŸ’™πŸ‡ΏπŸ‡¦

    Firstly, I’m sorry if these photos look funny, because my sweet hubbie took them off the video the tour guides gave us. Or maybe these images are from the GoPro we had…either way, use that and get the video when you’re doing a perhaps once-in-a-lifetime experience like this!

    Secondly, this was an excellent tour group. They picked up us before the sun rose, and delivered us to their main building. Provided a hearty hot breakfast and coffee. Brought sandwiches on the boat. Had yummy lasagna waiting for us when we got back! It was an all day event and I greatly appreciated the good, hearty food! (Because that water was really cold! ❄️ β„οΈπŸ˜…)

    They used a few fish heads instead of chumming the water, as well as communicating with a limited number of vessels on the water that were there to see the White Sharks. The different shark diving operations are not only limited to spots, but only a few can be out on the water at a time, so as to not overwhelm and chase off the White Shark population.

    But here we are! Check this off the Bucket List βœ… A super excited John and then a near hypothermic but super excited me, lol. 😬

    They used an 8 person cage, attached to the side of the 30+ person boat (huge!) and provided us everything except the swim suits we were wearing. You can’t be naked, and you shouldn’t, because good grief! It was so freaking cold! But I was too excited to be concerned with freezing waters because I was about to be in the water with White Sharks, and know that they’re there. Haha, I may have already been in the water with White Sharks, and never knew it. 😳

    There are my hands! πŸ˜…πŸ™Œ The sharks came so close, the caudal fin (the tail) hit my face! Where’s the photo for that? πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™€οΈ

    And there it is, Shark diving hair don’t care! This was amazing!!! I’m hooked πŸŽ£πŸ˜‚ I want to do this again!!!

    Great White Sharks are so incredibly beautiful. We can’t afford to see them disappear!

    Here’s the link for Apex Predator Expeditions: http://www.apexpredators.com/mobi

    You’ve probably seen them on Shark Week because I knew I recognized the guy! Haha!

    Thanks for stopping by again, and if you have something on your bucket list, don’t wait! Start planning, saving money, researching. Live life and make some memories. Plus, don’t forget to get all the photos and video you can so you can relive the experience and show off to your friends and family, lol, I mean inspire them to go exploring and on adventures.

    πŸ‘‹

    References:

    Www.arkive.org/great-white-shark/carcharodon-carcharias