Friday, September 21, 2007

Monterey Bay Dolphin Patrol

Whenever I get the chance, which is usually twice a week, I take the five minute drive from my office to Marina State Beach to eat my lunch. It's the hangliding beach for the Monterey Bay so it's usually not a great place to picnic with the family. There is always blowing sand. But there is also always something going on in the water.

For example, there appears to be a pair of resident Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). Each time I was there this summer they came lazily cruising by. When recent CSUMB graduate Todd Endris was hit by a white shark while surfing here a few weeks ago the dolphins appeared to try to help him. In an interview on MSNBC Endris describes the dolphins as forming "some kind of barrier" between him and the shark, foiling subsequent attacks. Meanwhile Endris was helped to shore by his very brave buddies. An unusually "close to the scene" account of the attack is at the Surfline website. And you can watch Todd Endris being interviewed a couple of months later on MSNBC.

The first news accounts were typically overblown claiming a "twenty foot white shark" had made the attack etc., But if a 20 foot white shark had hit him there would be absolutely nothing left. I have watched a 14 foot white shark cut a female elephant seal in half in the blink of an eye. She was three times my diameter.

White sharks begin their lives eating fish and only graduate to marine mammals at puberty... which is when they are about 12-14 feet. It is my hypothesis that many of the humans that are hit by white sharks are victims of this transitional period, when their prey search image is fuzzy. By the time they are larger they stop mistaking bony humans for blubber rich marine mammals.

If you really want to convince yourself that there are two dolphins in this photo, click on it, choose "all sizes" and then click "original" to see the full size photo.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Turtles and Tarantulas

photo of turtle

This past Saturday, September 8th, 2007, I had the good fortune to be driving on Arroyo Seco Road at about 8am... when sunlight is still enriched in morning spectra. Even though I was a bit late for my destination, I had to stop and shoo a Tarantula (Aphonopelma spp.) off the road. It's Fall and they start that bad "out on the road" action, just like the mule deer. Ever since I heard about the one at the San Diego Natural History Museum that lived to be 30 years in captivity, I have a hard time with seeing them squashed on the asphalt.

Later I also spotted Western Pond Turtles (I prefer the name Pacific Pond Turtle) Clemmys marmorata which is both a Federal and a California Species of Special Concern. They also live a long time... 40 years. Flicker Photos here:

I gave up trying to upload a six second clip of the tarantula to YouTube, so here it is on Google Videos instead

The quality really degrades on these sites, but you get the idea...