Tag Archives: dissection

Lionfish Guts

May 27, 2019

Today, we cleaned up marine debris on the island. Part of the experiment was looking at the amount and composition of trash in different areas of the island, so three brave souls (Kaela, Amy, and Kelsey) volunteered to cover the Mangroves of Death.

After going through the collected marine debris, Scott brought out some coconuts, and we got to try fresh coconut water and coconut meat.

In the afternoon, we dissected the lionfish that Scott and Herbie speared a couple days ago. This involved estimating sex and reproductive maturity of the fish and then identifying its different organs. When Liz and I opened the stomach of our lionfish, we found a whole undigested fish in it! We identified it as a juvenile slippery dick.

Day 14: Symbolic Sunsets

Things are winding down here in Belize. It’s our last full day here and I can’t comprehend how quickly the time has passed.

This morning, we started out by dissecting lionfish that Scott has been finding and spearing these past few days at the reef. Lionfish are invasive species, meaning that they were unnaturally reduced to the area around here. Because this ecosystem didn’t evolve with lionfish in it, these guys don’t have any natural predators here, and the native fish don’t recognize lionfish as a threat. This means that lionfish can gorge themselves on helpless native species without fear of predation.

Because of all this, killing and eating lionfish is actually encouraged here! Even all the vegetarians on this trip tried the lionfish – they are detrimental to the environment, after all! We first took measurements of each specimen to contribute to a database about lionfish. In the individual that Claire and I dissected, we found a mostly undigested fish still in its stomach!

Scott made us some delicious ceviche using the lionfish after we finished the dissections. Made for a nice (and eco-friendly) snack!

After lunch, a few of us headed out for one last snorkel on these incredible patch reefs. Today was a great day for lobster sighting, as I spotted 5 large Caribbean spiny lobster hiding in caves in the reef. We also got the chance to watch the colorful ecosystem of the reef one last time before we head out tomorrow. And we finally spotted a starfish, a type of Echinoderm, in the sea grass. I hadn’t seen one yet out in the field, so I was super excited when Jessica spotted it on the way back! It was a cushion star, quite plump and with spiny orange skin. Its tube feet suctioned to my skin.

This afternoon was purely an afternoon of fun and relaxation, which was a strange but welcome change of pace. Apparently it’s an old tradition of TFBs past to travel to a nearby island, Southwest Caye, to hang out at the bar and enjoy the island. We spent a happy afternoon sitting on the dock, dancing to Belizean music with one of our marine safety officers, Rose, and exploring the island.

I was pretty skeptical at the beginning of this course about becoming comfortable with my classmates on the trip. But by now we’ve been the grossest and smelliest of our lives together, experienced nature at its best with each other, and picked ticks off of each other’s backs like gorillas. And later tonight, after we returned to Middle Caye, we had a short group meditation session led by Scott.

I guess it’s impossible to experience these things together without becoming good friends.

Today has been a bittersweet day, for sure. I can’t believe we’re leaving this place.

Last sunset in Belize.


Why must good things come to an end? 

  • Why must good things come to an end? 

    Today was a day of many lasts: snorkeling at Glover’s Atoll, sitting at the pier with the squad, and interacting with the lion fish. The post-Belize depression will be real but I will be sure to return to this lovely, peaceful, and unbelizeable place (credit: Sami).

    First things first: food was amazing today. After dissecting the lion fish we have gotten from the surrounding reefs, Chef Scott turned the white meat fish into a delicious bowl of ceviche, lime-marinated fresh fish mixed with diced onion and tomato.

    10/10 would eat again!

    Even the vegetarians helped finish the fish, an environmental friendly act due to the lionfish’s devastating effect on native fish species. Nonnative to this region, the piescivorous lion fish feed on smaller fish that are native to the region, at a disproportionally high rate. This causes up to 70% decrease in 

    native fish populations.

    A similar trend can be said of brown algae, Sargassum seaweed in particular, which has crowded out large populations of coral because of its ability to grow from dissembles parts of itself and its tolerance to hot water.

    At the Southwest Caye of Glover’s Atoll, we hung out at the resort and savored the beverages that the Caribbean had to offer, including Belizean pineapple Fanta which instead of using corn syrup as sweetener uses cane sugar. We noted the amount of conch shells on the island and thought about the regulations in place at this region for conch fishing. We hope they weren’t collected from restricted fishing zones, weren’t undersized, or caught during the mating season. 

    As our pilot research project has shown, marine protected areas support more corals and number of species, which can be worthy contributions to the coral reef ecosystem. Illegal harvesting of conch would instead be a detraction.

    In the waters around Southwest Caye, we observed the abundant sargassum seaweed. They are especially obvious because of they float free on the surface of water. Under water around the patch reefs near Middle Caye, I saw a lot of lobophora and White scroll algae. Most of these algae communities are near or inside coral communities, and share their habitat with many species of fish, spiny brittle star, and anemones. If one made a conclusion about the role of algae in the coral reef ecosystem from these observation, it may be that algae seems to be living in good relationships with its neighboring corals. However, comparing the algae and coral compositions of today to that of the last couple decades, the correlation between algae growth and coral decline can be alarming. We wonder if our grandchildren will see the corals that we got to see today.

    For about a week now we have been coordinating  a group mediation.

    Alas, tonight we meditated together as a class and some of us mentally prepared ourselves for the end of what feels like an era.