We love to make learning about our area fun! In the print edition of Inside Track Almanac we feature a trivia quiz about all of the unique and, sometimes a little weird, things that make the Florida’s Treasure Coast so special. The hot summer months draw people to Florida’s sparkling coastal waters. Marine life in our area is both abundant and fascinating. Here are the answers and stories behind our Summer 2021 Treasure Coast Trivia!
Which is the most common dolphin found along the Treasure Coast?
a. Atlantic Spotted Dolphin
b. Spinner Dolphin
c. Bottle-nosed Dolphin
d. Clymene Dolphin
ANSWER: The answer is the Bottle-nosed dolphin, and the Indian River Lagoon is year-round home to a significant but declining population of these marine mammals. As adults they are typically 6 to 12 feet long and can eat more than 20 pounds of fish and marine invertebrates daily. Atlantic Spotted Dolphin are also off our coast but prefer the deeper waters along the continental shelf. Spinner Dolphin can be found in the tropical Atlantic but are more widely distributed throughout the Indian, and western and central Pacific Oceans. The Clymene dolphin is related to the Spinner and the only confirmed hybrid endemic to the Atlantic Ocean, descending from spinner and striped dolphins.
There are three species of Manatees. Our Florida manatees are a sub-species of which?
b. West Indian
c. West African
ANSWER: There are two species of the West Indian Manatee (Trichechus manatus manatus), and the Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris). The Florida Manatee is conservation success story. When surveys began in 1991 there were only about 1,200 or so documented in the state. Today, Florida is home to more than 6,000. Amazonian manatees are strictly freshwater mammals that inhabit the Amazon River and its tributaries, and the West African species are found in coastal marine and estuarine habitats, and in freshwater river systems along the west coast of Africa from the Senegal River south to the Cuanza River in Angola. No manatees have any natural predator except for human beings and the main cause of their deaths throughout the world is destruction of habitat and boat strikes.
The Indian River Lagoon is one of the Atlantic Coast’s most significant nurseries for this shark.
a. Spinner Shark
b. Blacktip Shark
c. Bull Shark
d. Lemon Shark
ANSWER: While all of the sharks listed above and then some, are ever-present in Florida’s waters, the Indian River Lagoon is the most significant Bull Shark nursery on the US Atlantic Coast. Bull Sharks are known for their unique ability to live in both salt and freshwater environments, taking advantage of the latter to bear “pups” in the safer waters of the estuary. Adult females give birth to anywhere between 1-13 young and return to the ocean afterwards. The young remain in the Lagoon until they have reached around 6 feet and then head out to sea.
The Portuguese Man-of-War is a type of jellyfish.
This is actually false. Found frequently along our coast, the Man-of-War is neither a jellyfish nor from Portugal. “Physalia physalis” are found in every ocean except the Arctic. Known as siphonophore- it is colony of animals comprised of specialized organisms known as zooids. Zooids cannot survive on their own, so they merge into a tentacle structure, each one serving a different communal purpose such as catching prey, digestion, reproduction, and facilitating travel. These tentacle "colonies" grow to an average of 30 feet but can extend as much as 165 feet!
Which is the most commonly seen whale species along the Treasure Coast?
a. Humpback Whale
b. Finback Whale
c. Sperm Whale
d. North Atlantic Right Whale
While several whale species migrate off our coast, including Humpbacks, the critically endangered North Atlantic Right Whale is the most common visitor to our waters because their only known calving ground is located off the coasts of Georgia and Florida. According to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission “Historically, right whales were hunted to near extinction. They were given the name “right whale” by fishermen because they were the easiest whales to catch because they swim slowly, float when dead, and they contain large amount of oil that could be utilized. In 1949, the International Whaling Commission made it illegal for right whales to be hunted commercially.”
How many species of stingrays occur in the Indian River Lagoon?
Answer: Ten species of rays occur in the IRL including 3 species of stingrays, the manta ray, spotted eagle ray and cownose ray. Relatives of sharks, rays have evolved flattened body. Rays can detect the electric field around other organisms and use this ability, along with excellent senses of touch and smell, to detect prey items. They hunt ambush style, settling motionless on the bottom, excavating a shallow pit with their pectoral fins. Manta rays are among the largest species to enter the lagoon while spotted eagle rays are considered the prettiest of our ray populations.
Of the three species of sea turtles that nest along the Treasure Coast, which is the only carnivore?
ANSWER: Green turtles are herbivores as adults, primarily feeding on algae, seagrass, and seaweed. Leatherbacks are often referred to as gelatinivores, owed to their nearly exclusive diet of jellyfish and other soft-bodied invertebrates including tunicates and sea squirts. The Loggerhead, which comprises our largest population of sea turtles are carnivores, feeding on crabs, conch, whelk, and horseshoe crab.
Which of the following about manatees is true?
a. They evolved from the same species as elephants
b. They can walk on land
c. They are herbivores
d. They live in salt and freshwater environments
e. All the above
ANSWER: The answer is E, all the above. Florida manatees, like all manatees, are most closely related to elephants and can indeed walk on land. It is not uncommon to see a manatee belly up to an attractive patch of grass for a snack. Though Amazonian manatees live strictly in freshwater, Florida manatees are tolerant of salt and freshwater environments.
(photo by Edgar Stout, Stuart Florida)
Of the many non-native species of fish in Florida waters, which is considered the most invasive?
b. Peacock Bass
d. Asian Grass Carp
ANSWER: Currently, Lionfish are public enemy number one in Florida. They decimate native fish populations, especially reef fish, and are considered an epidemic among conservationists. Florida is “ground zero” for their proliferation. Fortunately, Lionfish are a delicacy and there are wildly popular state-wide events and tournaments that target removal and harvesting. The Snakehead runs a close second but is only found in freshwater. Alternatively, Peacock Bass are a success story among non-natives. They were introduced into our waters in the ‘80s, having originated in Brazil. Now they are a popular gamefish and haven’t posed a threat to native populations. Asian Grass Carp are another example of a beneficial non-native. They are used in lakes and ponds to fight invasive plant life. FWC stocks “triploid” Grass Carp that have been adapted to make them sterile.
Learn more about marine life in Florida with these resources: