THOSE MALES: DEER AND URCHIN, A BIT OF INFO....

I always think it interesting to learn more, first hand, about the deer on the island. What are they eating, for example? Are there any bucks on our shores and how are their antlers growing? These two questions were answered this week and are shown in this picture. I watched as this male reached up and chewed off a branch of Staghorn Sumac. It proceeded to chew the leaves, and even the red bunched flower/fruit. I was interested in the antlers that were covered with soft "fur" at this stage of growth. I thought it odd that the two antlers were of different length. They will continue to grow on this young male and perhaps branch. Eventually that velvet covering will be rubbed off and hard antlers will proclaim his gender! Maybe next winter or spring, we will be lucky enough to find these antlers as they are dropped.
I learned a few more deer tidbits in a hunting magazine this week. One you might be able to confirm, the other you will have to come back in the snowy winter to check. Deer defecate 13 times a day. A pile of scat may contain 20-40 pellets, ranging in size from ½ to 1 ¾ inch. Sometimes, these pellets clump together depending upon what they are eating. In winter, upon finding their oval beds, a buck will urinate in the middle of the bed upon arising, while the female will urinate at the back of the oval! In case you were wondering……

Also, the crabs are in an amorous mood. We found two in a crab embrace - the hard shelled male was protecting the recently molted female while mating. What next?

Our nature cruise was able to go despite rain in the morning and high winds in the afternoon. We headed up the New Meadows River searching for calmer seas. We saw where the seals hang out on the rocks at low tide in Cundy's Harbor, then headed into the Basin to observe the Osprey. While so engaged, one of our campers noticed that a large urchin in one of our "touch and feel" pans started oozing white material out of the top of its shell (test). I was summoned, and was delighted to witness the spawning of an urchin! I had never observed this, only read about the white sperm that is released into the ocean by the males. The females also exude their eggs which are fertilized in the open sea by the sperm which somehow find each other. There is no mating in these animals. I would say it is hit or miss fertilization. The male and female urchin can not be distinguished externally, and from what I understand, the gonads look the same when the animal is cracked open.

See if you can see the urchin releasing its sperm in the picture taken on board the Yankee. A closer look at the urchin is to the left with a Hermit Crab and Sea Star watching the action.

IT'S OFFICIAL! The crab we found last week has been confirmed by the Bigelow Marine Laboratory as an Asian Shore Crab! This week we found another empty shell from this crab in another site, left when the crab molted. Also, I found a small (half inch) crab with the distinguishing striped legs. We'll continue to look for these immigrants that may be making waves on our shores. Just what does it mean to our existing mix of sea creatures? Only time will tell.

8/13/04 Not so Crabby Ronnie