Amid Covid-19 pandemic RI had decided to close all of the state parks on Friday, April 3rd. Just before the lockdown we decided to head to Fort Wetherill and found out that the barriers were already placed at the entrance. Since the parking restrictions had not started, yet, we figured we could park at the entrance and started getting ready for our last dive until next notice.
It was a beautiful, sunny spring day. While the planet was breaking down under the viral pandemic, the nature was on its course, the flowers were coming out, the spring was blooming. Regardless, in the future, I will remember these days being dark and gloomy, just like how I imagine the war scenes.
Winter/Spring dives are for nudibranchs. We never think of Fort Wetherill as a site to go in winter, because it is not known for its nudibranch bearing nature. For us, Cape Ann divers, Fort Wetherill is a site to go towards the end of summer for swarming squids, lost tropicals and -more recently- seahorse.
However, due to the favoring weather conditions and recent sighting of a really cool sea slug at a site close by (see link below), we decided to go to Fort Wetherill. And, per usual, it did not disappoint us.
We observed a good variety of creatures including spider crabs, red terebellid worm, sea nettle with two amphipods (?) taking a free ride, several different shrimp species (I aways love seeing shrimps!!). I saw two different kinds of nudis, D. formosa and E. pallidus (which is relatively rare in Cape Ann).
I cannot decide on the most exciting sighting of the dive. For one, we saw a totally new species of seaslug!!! First, Amy and I thought it was a nudibanch. We compared our photos and decided that it was indeed a slug we never saw before, and it was not there in the book of nudibranchs (link to the: book). As we were working on the naming of this species (I was thinking on the lines of ‘covidis‘, Amy was trying to come up with something with out kids names), I quickly sent a message to Jerry (Jerry Shine himself) and unfortunately he responded in 10 seconds with the name of the species, Placida dendritica, and told me that it was not a nudibranch but a sacoglossan.
The main difference between nudibranch and sacoglossan is their diet. nudibranch are carnivores while sacoglossan (sap-sucking sea slugs) eat contents of algae. Some really cool members of this family of sea slugs actually can take genetic codes for the proteins responsible for photosynthesis and continue making their own food, indefinitely, even if there are no algae available. Actually, some of our dive buddies (Timurs blog) recently had sighting of one of those species (Elysia chlorotica) at a site in Providence. In contrast, P. dendritica can take the contents of algea, can continue photosynthesis to make their own food until the proteins degrade, and then they would need to get more algea. Still damn cool!
The second most exciting sighting? Oh, towards the end of the dive Feng showed a seahorse! We were wondering if they stay for winter. I mean, they can’t get far, right? They had to be around, but we didn’t see any reports during winter. Also, it is really hard to find seahorses during day light, due to optics. But awesome Feng saw one and pointed to us. So, now we know that they stay all winter!
So, once again pretty cool dive at Fort Wetherill. always exceeding expectations.
Buddies: Amy, Feng.
#402: 42F, 27ft, 82min.