Thursday, January 19, 2012

Indigenous Iguanas Get Counted

A special subspecies of the Cuban rock iguana found only on the Brac and Little Cayman has been the subject of a census to determine their numbers. The Department of Environment is spearheading the count of this endangered species to preserve their habitat and educate the public to ensure their continued survival. The last count numbers 63 and rising with the help of researchers and many school aged children as volunteers. Fellow Brackers and members of the Brac National Trust are also coming out to help with this undertaking. The US International Reptile Conservation Foundation has also been in support of the program.

The rock iguana faces many of the same perils as its Blue cousin on Grand Cayman. Feral cats and dogs and speeding cars have taken their toll on their numbers. With the help of a hotline number, researchers take location information of the iguanas and capture them to record pertinent information such as length, weight and gender. A microchip is inserted which will record its entire life span and be regularly monitored. A small number is then painted with white-out on its side to be visible in case of future capture. Photos are taken and the animal is released back to its original location. Continued monitoring will also determine the mating and births of these recorded iguanas, which will also be added to the growing data collected.

If you spot a rock iguana, call the hotline number at 917-7744.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

New Life Form Found in Cayman Trench

A marine expedition to the Cayman Trench has resulted in the gathering of first ever species of eyeless shrimp and white-tentacled anemones by scientists aboard the research vessel Atlantis. A 6cm long eyeless shrimp with a light sensing organ on its back was discovered by a group of scientists from the National Oceanography Centre. During a visit in 2009, the Cayman ridge found home to two seafloor chimneys - the Von Damm and the Piccard. These chimneys emit scorching seawater of 450 degree Celsius rich in minerals to support life never seen before. Scientists suspect these mineral-rich sea vents gave rise to the world's first organisms. The Cayman ridge is the deepest spreading ridge on Earth, plunging to nearly 20,000 feet in some places.

"Studying the creatures at these vents, and comparing them with species at other vents around the world; will help us to understand how animals disperse and evolve in the deep ocean," Dr. Jon Copley, a marine biologist at the University of Southampton said about the discovery.


A tube worm at the Von Damm site, the first ever spotted at a hydrothermal vent in the Atlantic. (The worms had been seen at cold seeps, but not the superheated vents.)CREDIT: NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program, MCR Expedition 2011.