Mr. Potato head is that you?
Updated: Apr 8
Aristotle famously wrote, "The more you know, the more you realize you don't know. As a master naturalist and eco tour guide I spend my days educating people on the natural world, which leads to people asking me a lot of questions, and ‘I am the first to say I know enough to know I don’t know anything and to admit when I don’t know something. I make it a point to learn something new every day and sometimes that happens on an adventure when I find something I cannot identify, which I was lucky enough to experience this week.
While exploring the sandbar with a tour I stumbled across a little brown ball on the sea floor. Being the mermaid that I am, I of course pick it up, because that is my job and passion. To learn, connect and understand the natural world and to share that passion and understanding with tourist and the local community. I pick up this little brown ball that feels like a sand dollar, but it was obviously not a sand dollar. By examining the specimen, I could tell it was a living critter because of its little brown spines and moving tube feet. I was so excited to find this new little critter I had never come across before and explain to my guest that I didn’t know exactly what species it was, but it was likely related to the sand dollar. To get help on identification of my new little friend I posted his picture on social media and for some skoolin'. It wasn’t long before several friends educated me on what this critter was. A sea potato, a name perfectly fitting, and now that I had a name, it was time to research.
So here is what I learned about my new potato friend.
Species Meoma ventricose
Mr. sea potato can be found in the Caribbean Sea, the Bahamas, Florida and Bermuda inhabiting reef flats, grass flats and deep reefs. They burry themselves in the seafloor and their depth range is intertidal down to 200 metres (660 ft). The sea potato is one of our cleaners, they feed on the bacteria and algae film that covers the sand… mmmm yummy. As for who eats Mr Potato, stingrays, fish, loggerhead turtles and sea stars and some species are enjoyed by humans as well.
Another cool find during this week’s adventure was a very large horse conch (Triplofusus Giganteus). The horse conch is the Florida state shell and a gastropod I find frequently, but typically the ones I find are juveniles. The horse conch is 2nd biggest conch shell in the world can grow up to 24 inches and weighs over 11 pounds! They are carnivores and feed on large bivalves or even large lighting whelks. They can be found on the ocean bed about 20 feet deep hunting for prey. And during the Maya civilization, the horse conch shell was used for holding paints because of its beaty and size.
If you think these critters are cool and would like to come meet them for yourself, come out to the Gasparilla Sound for a mermaid adventure! There is all sorts of marine life friends to be made and fun to be had and cool things to learn!