Monday, May 23, 2016

Marine Mammals and the Complexity of Life in the Aquatic

Much can be said about the complexity of life beneath the surface of the sea,  the constant battle between small organism and large, all interconnected and reliant on one another much to their ignorance. While sailing into what appeared to be the open sea, I couldn't help but find myself overwhelmed with deep thought on the vast ecosystem teeming below my very feet. Starting with the large mammals we observed on the island to the tiny microorganisms bobbing through the water with no brain or any type of complex system within them.This kind of complex thought really helps to put things into perspective. I found myself feeling incredibly small in the vastness of the unknown beneath the water's edge.  Most of my life I never really had to think about my place in the food chain/circle of life; however, in this kind of environment it becomes important to determine one's place in this instance or else you can find yourself at the very bottom.

When arriving at bird island and looking over the edge of the boat, in the distance tiny little black spots would pop up from the water's edge for a quick glance at the boat we were drifting on.A sneak peek of the overall curious nature of these beautiful animals.When we finally started getting into the cold water, the sea lions cautious at first slowly moved their way towards us. Their behavior was something I couldn't have predicted, I was told they would be playful, but was delightfully surprised to see the full extent of that meaning. At first I found myself a bit frightened by this creature with large canines and sharp whiskers. It seemed so foreign to me since I had never approached an animal of that nature in it's natural environment before. However, as time ticked by I began to form a relationship with the sea lions. As I became bolder I began testing the reactions of the sea lions to different types of movement. The common playful behavior I observed from them was their shooting forward towards me, face forward with their mouth open as if they were going to bite me, but turning at the last second and swimming around me in a circle. This I tried to turn into a fun game with the sea lions by turning with them at the last second and swimming/following in the direction that they were swimming and keeping my face pointed towards them. This they seemed to find amusing, and would continue to circle me until I would have to stop because I would start to become dizzy. The sea lions at one point began involving the fish in their playful acts. While swimming a tiny school of fish began being corralled by all of the sea lions, they swam in what appeared to be in a circular pattern as if they were trying to corral them into the right place. Whether this was simply their own way of playing or if I was witnessing them hunt I'm not to sure. But it was incredibly intriguing to see. It was also fun to watch the sea lions involve objects in their playful antics. At one point a sea lion picked up what appeared to be coral or seaweed and exchange it between multiple sea lions. This is definitely an indicator of their overall intelligence and was incredibly fascinating to see.

What I found interesting is that as time continued to tick by and I remained in the water, they seemed to become more comfortable with my presence. They began to all group together around me, some flipping upside down with their tail fins breaching the surface of the water, others floated beside me watching me and observing my actions with curiosity. It is very rare to see an animal up close and have it be as equally curious about you as you are about it. As I've interacted with various different species in different environments i've found that most animals have become desensitized to my presence, behaving in a disinterested manner; however today the sea lions reminded me of the wonder of discovering someone/something new. It became almost surprising how comfortable I soon became with these animals, thought constantly reminding myself of their danger I remembered to keep my distance from the shore knowing full well that the adult sea lions were incredibly territorial and dangerous. The adult sea lions had several different warning signs they would use to indicate that you were swimming a bit to close to their nesting area.

As I discovered how difficult it was to tear myself away from my new friends it made me reconsider the life path I have chosen for myself. I cant accurately describe the happiness I felt interacting with the animals and watching their playful behavior; as well as the overall excitement teeming on the boat with the instructors eager to explore the islands edge. I imagined myself in that position and with further reconsideration I might look into going into the marine biology field.

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