Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Don't Pet the Sea Life: It might follow you home or worse.

When snorkeling, I try to follow the rule "touch nothing."  It simplifies my life, because I don't have to remember which things are dangerous and which are not.  I can simply enjoy myself, and the sea life appreciates it, too.

Bill doesn't always follow the "don't touch rule."  Most notably was the time we were walking on the beach near the Gulf of Mexico.  Bill handed a large shell to his young son to hold up to his ear and listen to the sea.  Only after Eric handed the shell to me and I tried to listen, did we discover it had a large hermit crab residing inside.  I envisioned my son wearing living hermit-crab earrings.  Bill laughed at his mistake, but it cost him.  We took two crabs home in a plastic box with moist towels, and I bought a large saltwater aquarium and all the expensive supplies that entails.  The crabs were fun and educational.  We purchased a collection of larger shells, so that they would had a "house" to move into when they grew and molted.  We kept them for two years and then made a 400-mile trip to return them to the ocean, the tank later went on to house an iguana and later baby chicks.  I'm sure Bill wishes he'd never picked up that crab!    

By the way, the typical hermit crabs one finds by the ocean aren't like the land crabs people purchase as pets.  The aquatic crabs need a saltwater aquarium.  They are hardy aquarium pet that you can take out of the tank and hold.  A few months after we set up our salt water aquarium, we purchased a damsel fish.  It was quite different from the tropical fish I'd enjoyed in the past, because it spent almost all the time hiding.  I did some reading and found that I should have purchased a captive bred fish.  I found a place that had farm-raised fish and purchase another damsel fish.  What a difference, this bold fish had always been around people, and it made a much better aquarium quest.  The main reason not to purchase wild-caught saltwater reef fish (which is the majority of what is sold) is that the aquarium trade is destroying the reef.  Literally.  People take the coral that the animals depend upon, and they take the fish that clean the algae from the coral.  To make matters worse, most of these fish die in transit or soon afterwards.

Years later Bill handed me another beautiful shell while we were walking along the beach in Grand Cayman.  Eric was grown, but I still envisioned him as a young boy holding a hermit crab to his ear.  I asked Bill if he'd checked the shell for a crab.  He said, "Yes." Later his hand was stained a bright purple that lasted for days.  Searching on line to get more info on the purple snail dye, lead me on a quest where I read about another snail for the first time:  The lovely yet poisonous cone snail.  Some have enough toxins to easily kill an adult.  I never would have imagined that picking up an occupied shell could be dangerous.  

Yep, best not to touch. 

OK, I admit I break my own rules, but I knew this was a harmless cowry (also spelled cowrie);
and after taking its picture, it went back to the tidal pool  where I found it.

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