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Dive bunny
06-02-2008, 10:59
H2O Below Newsletter – May 2008


Questions…

We get a lot of questions from folks that are traveling to dive the Oriskany. Here are some common questions and hopefully some answers.

Q – Does anybody run trips during the week?
A – Yes. Several boats run during the week in Pensacola. The H2OBelow is available seven days a week.
Q – Have boat prices gone up with the price of fuel?
A – Some have. We went up five dollars but the increases range from five to fifteen dollars per trip. Some boats are charging a “fuel charge”, the H2O Below is not.
Q – Can we book directly with the boat?
A – Yes. The H2O Below has not been set up to take credit cards directly but starting next month you will be able to pay at the boat with a credit card. Cash is still welcome!
Q – Where do we get tanks?
A – If you are staying in Orange Beach give Gary at Gary’s Gulf Diver a call. In Pensacola give MBT a call.
Q – Do you have extra weight on the boat?
A – Yes. We keep 3 and 4 pound weights on the boat. Just let us know if it is a group and everyone needs weights so we will have plenty.

Meet the crew…

The H2O Below family is growing by the day. I wanted to take this chance to introduce a few more of our crew members.

Dive Master Big Rich – We have a little Rich and a Big Rich. They are both instructors with MBT in Pensacola. Big Rich has been diving for almost 40 years. Seems impossible since he only acts 20 but it is true. He has recently become a full-fledged instructor. He is a master spear fisherman, so if you want to talk Spearfishing he is your man.

Dive Master Cathy – She is the only female instructor with MBT in Pensacola. If you are looking for patience and calm, she is the instructor for you. Cathy is also a licensed Boat Captain as well as a great Dive Master. Cathy just loves the water.

Dive Master Nathan – He is also a recent graduate of the Instructor Training program at MBT. Nathan’s real job is working for the Navy at Whiting Field. Nathan is 150 pounds of energy and that all goes into his students and our customers.

The crew of the H2O Below welcomes you on board and hopes that you will give us the chance to make your memories exceptional!

What are we seeing on the Oriskany?
This month’s marine creature is the sea horse. Recently on the Oriskany we saw a two sea horses floating by hanging onto grass. After our research this is what we found…
Seahorses are a fish belonging to the family, which also includes pipefish (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pipefish) and leafy sea dragons (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leafy_sea_dragon). There are over 32 species of seahorse, mainly found in tropical (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tropical) and subtropical (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subtropical) coastal and reef waters. From North America (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_America) down to South America (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_America) there are approximately four species, ranging from very small in size (dwarf seahorses are only about an inch long) to those much larger, found off the Pacific Coast of Central America (a foot-long). These fish form territories, with males staying in about one square meter of their habitat while females range about one hundred times that area. They bob around in sea grass meadows, mangrove stands, and coral reefs where they are camouflaged by murky brown and grey patterns that blend into the sea grass backgrounds. During social moments or in unusual surroundings, seahorses turn bright colors. According to co-founder of Project Seahorse, Amanda J. Vincent, mates can blush a shade of creamy yellow when meeting each other in the morning. She even encountered one male who took the shade of the orange tape she used to mark the grid in the study area. Seahorses and pipefishes are notable for being the only species (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Species) in which males become pregnant (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Male_pregnancy)
Courtship

When two parties discover a mutual interest at the beginning of breeding season, they court for several days, even while others try to interfere. During this time they have been known to change color, swim side by side holding tails or grip the same strand of sea grass with their tails and wheel around in unison in what is known as their “pre-dawn dance”. They eventually engage in their “true courtship dance” lasting about 8 hours, during which the male pumps water through the egg pouch on his trunk which expands and cleaves open to display an appealing emptiness. When the female’s eggs reach maturity, she and her mate let go of any anchors and snout-to-snout, drift upward out of the seagrass, often spiraling as they rise. Most seahorse species' pregnancies lasts approximately two to three weeks.
As the female squirts anywhere from dozens to thousands of eggs from a chamber in her trunk into his pouch, her body slims while his swells. Both seahorses then sink back to the bottom and she swims off. The eggs then hatch in the pouch where the salinity of the water is regulated. This prepares the babies for life in the sea. Throughout the male’s pregnancy, his mate visits him daily for “morning greetings”. The female seahorse swims over for about 6 minutes of interaction reminiscent of courtship. “They change color, wheel around sea grass fronds, and finally promenade, holding each other’s tails. Then, the female swims away until the next morning, and the male goes back to vacuuming up food through his snout.”
In some recent studies, it has been noted that male seahorses frequently seem to take unusual interest in each other, particularly in the months leading up to the breeding season. They have been observed engaging in rituals in which they pair up and appear to orally stimulate the egg pouches of their partners. It has been speculated that this might serve to clean the pouches in preparation for breeding, as well as to provide sexual pleasure. Homosexual behavior has been observed in some 1500 other species throughout the animal kingdom, so to researchers these findings come as no great surprise.
Birth

The male seahorse can give birth to as many as 2,000 babies at a time and pregnancies last anywhere from 10 to 25 days, depending on the species. When the babies are ready to be born, the male undergoes muscular contractions to expel the “fry” from his pouch. He typically gives birth at night and is ready for the next batch of eggs by morning when his mate returns. Like almost all other fish species, seahorses do not care for their young once they are born. Infants are susceptible to death from predators or being swept into ocean currents, where they drift away from rich feeding grounds or into temperatures too extreme for their delicate bodies. Fewer than five infants of every 1,000 born survive to adulthood, helping to explain why litters are so large. The survival rates of these infants are actually fairly high compared to fish standards, because they are initially sheltered in their father’s pouch during the earliest stages of development, while the eggs of most other fish are abandoned immediately after fertilization. This makes the process worth the great cost to the father of incubating his offspring.
Costs

This entire process costs the male a great amount of energy. This brings into question why the sexual role reversal even takes place. In an environment where one partner incurs more energy costs than the other, you would expect the lesser of the two to be the aggressor. Within the seahorse species, males are shown to be the more aggressive sex and sometimes “fight” for female attention. According to Amanda Vincent of Project Seahorse, only males tail-wrestled and even snap their heads toward each other.
That’s all for now – come see us soon.
How to Contact us…

Email – h2obelow@cox.net (h2obelow@cox.net)
Captain Douglas Cell - (850) 291-3501