Facing My Deep Water Fear

20170331_111745[1]

So, for the past 2 months my blog posts have been based around sharks; their conservation, natural history and their ancient ancestors. This is because I have been blogging in conjunction with my fundraising event; Facing my Deep Water Fear challenge, which is now over! I had a few goals for conducting my challenge:

  1. Raise awareness for shark conservation
  2. Conquer my fear of deep water
  3. Help alleviate shark stigma
  4. Raise money for The Shark Trust

Happily, this challenge has helped me to get over my fear of deep water. By the end I could swim lengths of the pool, but dear goodness no one will ever, ever get me to lie down on my back in water and trust it to keep me upright! I have also managed to Raise £143 in online and offline donations. Which I am proud to have achieved. I do hope that I have in some small way helped to alleviate Shark stigma and raise shark awareness.

For my last words on the subject. I would like to thank everyone who read my shark posts, everyone who sponsored me and everyone who encouraged me. I appreciate all of it. This has been an amazing experience and even though asking people for money can be quite scary (even when you know you have an amazing cause on your side), and I may have been cursing and panicking in the pool more times than i’d care to mention,  it was still completely worth it!

For my next post…

Stay tuned for my next post if you want to read all about my Adventures in the Jurrassic Coast.

 

Advertisements

Prehistoric sharks: Megalodon

 

prehistoric4-new3-550x350

Size comparison of the biggest and smallest size a Megalodon is thought to get, compared to a great white shark. Image from Sharkopedia.discovery.com

The heavyweight globetrotter of the prehistoric and modern-day…

The Megalodon is the largest predator that has ever called the Earths’ oceans home and lived globally during the Miocene and Pliocene epochs. It is thought to range from heights of 55 feet to 60 on average! We cannot know for certain how big these fish truly got, as a full skeleton has never been found. Estimates have been made of the few skeletal remains we do have,  the Megalodon’s ginormous teeth and using the great white as a method of measuring size from teeth. It is thought that some Megalodon specimens got as big as 100 feet and possibly bigger and weighed 50-75 tons! The only marine animal known to weigh more is the Plankton eating, harmless, blue whale; weighing 100 tons and over!

Giant tooth, the oceans T-Rex, with the most powerful bite ever recorded

The teeth of the Megalodon, where so large they earned it the name giant tooth. The teeth can measure more than 7 inches long and the only known creature they are truly comparable to are the T-rex. The teeth were heart-shaped and serrated, with a bite that inflicted the force of 10.8 -18 tons down on their prey, which was useful for bringing down their meal of choice…  Prehistoric whales. What other choice could there be to satisfy a voracious predator of this size? But don’t worry modern-day whales, this creature is extinct, you’re safe now. Dolphin, squid and giant turtle, they also ate your ancestors but you needn’t worry about the Megalodon either. The reason for this extinction is unknown, but thought possibly to do with the disappearance of prehistoric whales. Or due to the global cooling that was bringing the Earth towards an Ice age. Some conspiracist’s believe the Megalodon could still exist in the depths of the ocean, as so far it has been largely unexplored by mankind. Though there isn’t evidence to support this theory and I personally think that if they did still exist, they would be hunting our modern-day whales and if they did we would surly notice. Especially when we have conservationists out there tracking whales, but that is just my thought on the matter.

A quick note about global warming…

Although the planet has always gone through periods of warming and cooling that does not mean that this period of global warming was not induced by humans and that we should not do our bit to be more sustainable. This epoch has not been named the Anthropocene for no reason. Scientists have noticed for a long time a correlation between human developments and an acceleration in the warming of the planet. Global warming is not just something that will affect other animals it will affect humans too. It will change the crops that can be grown, the distribution of water, places which will be habitable and the distribution of pests, parasites and diseases in the world. It truly is a global issue that we need to work together on. It can be so simple and easy to make everyday changes such as turning the tv off at night, using eco-friendly cleaning products, trying to avoid food waste, or walking round the corner to the shop instead of taking the car (good for your health to). You don’t have to be avid campaigners, or decide you’re not going to wash for a week or live on an eco commune. You can make a difference in the little everyday things.

Well ,that escalated very quickly! Sorry about that, I’m just very passionate about Earth, it’s the only one we’ve got and I think it is beautiful. Next time I will either be Blogging about how my Facing My Deep Water Fear Swim went (as I did the last swim yesterday and am in the process of collecting the sponsor money), or I will be writing a travel post… Destination a surprise. Thank you all for reading my post!

 

 

 

Spitting together a home of twigs, sand and stone; the Caddish fly larvae

 

So today I saw my first ever Caddish fly larvae (as pictured above) and what a strange little creature it is! So of course I have decided to research about it and share my findings with you lovely people.

Pond dipping: The finding of the Caddish

I am an education assistant at one of my local nature reserves and today I was helping out with pond dipping, which is one of my favourite activities ever. Every family I met was so eager to learn and get stuck into netting the water for pond life. It has been a fantastic day! It is days like this that make me more certain than ever that I want to work in environmental education, teaching communities and families about nature and the environment. I did come across one little creature today that I have not seen in the flesh before and this was the interesting looking Caddish fly larvae. Upon the length of its body was an odd miss mash of materials, with its small head peeking out, feeling the bottom of the tub with its antennae. I was so excited by it and so were the lucky family who caught this creature. Indeed it brought all the pond dippers together, as others came to take a peak at this strange creature too. It wasn’t long until the same family caught two more! I was going to post about the prehistoric shark; Megalodon but as soon as I saw this Caddish I knew I had to research its natural history and dedicate this post to it.

A Caddish Natural History

20170407_141242[1]

Caddish Fly Larvae

Caddish fly larvae begin their lives living in the bottom of fresh water ponds, this is where they do something really weird… In order to pupate and turn into their adult forms the Caddish Fly larvae secretes silk from glands around the mouth, which they then use to spin stone, sand and twigs into a protective case around the body (as can be seen in the specimen pictured above). Although, I will note here that there are 200 species of Caddish in the UK and not all exhibit this strange behaviour.

Caddish Flies

The adults are land living and are distant relatives to moths. They are nocturnal and can be found on tufts of grass by the edge of ponds. Caddish flies are an important food source to fish such as trout and salmon.

So this concludes todays post. Thank you for reading!

 

Prehistoric sharks: Helicoprion

This blog post will be centred around prehistoric sharks. It is also an indication to my next travel blog post I will be writing in a few days… For anyone interested in my Facing my Deep Water Fear challenge, will be posting a final summary of how the challenge went and how much money I managed to raise next week. Any who, back to ancient sharks because i’m so excited to be researching and telling you about them!

Sharks are older than dinosaurs, being on Earth for 450 million years. Unfortunately due to shark species having cartilaginous skeletons rather than bone skeleton it is very difficult to find full or even partial fossils of ancient shark species. This is because Cartilage is a softer tissue than bone and as such decomposes faster. The main evidence we have of shark evolution and species is through fossils of their teeth that have been in uncovered from around the world. There is a startling array of modern-day sharks as we have been discovering together this past month, but this is nothing new. Sharks have always been amazingly diverse and always refusing to fit into physiological boxes us modern day humans have pigeonholed and typecast them into. There are far to many shark species to tell you about them all today. So, today I will start with the weird Helicoprion shark. Hope you enjoy the journey through prehistoric time!

Helicoprion

I decided to start with this shark because out of the sea of ancient sharks that are known, this was the first to catch my attention with its rather weird teeth and jaw. I wish I could show you a picture but i’m not sure if I can due to copyright, but please do look them up and prepared to be confused. They where around in the Devonian up until the Triassic and where first known to humans from fossils of their whorl shape teeth. At first these teeth fossils weren’t thought to be the teeth of a shark at all. They were thought to be an ammonite (a type of prehistoric mollusc) due to their strange shape. It wasn’t until a part of the jaw with teeth was uncovered that scientists realised it was indeed the teeth of a shark and not a mollusc shell. The position of these whorl teeth has been debated for a long time, it was finally thought to be positioned at the lower jaw and some think that it belongs further back in the mouth. It is now believed to have been positioned further back in the mouth because it would cost the animal less energy then if the whorl teeth where on the tip, due to drag from the water. This strange shark has seriously got me thinking and conjuring up theories. What a strange conundrum (you really should look them up!) They are thought to have had a carnivorous/piscivorous diet and to of perhaps been around 7.5 meters long. Specimens have been found in various locations around the world including; China, Australia and Canada.

The next prehistoric species will be… The Megalodon. Probably the most well known prehistoric shark species among everyday people like you and me and there are conspiracy theorists out there who still believe they roam our seas. They were the biggest sharks to have ever roamed our seas, far bigger than the great white.

Thank you for reading!

Swimming for Sharks: Made it into the deep

So today was my second Facing my Deep Water Fear swim and I am thrilled to say I made it! I swam in deep water! At first I’m not ashamed to admit that I was thoroughly freaked out, but with support, I eventually made it. To begin with I held onto the side and tried swimming/dragging myself along the edge and I absolutely hated it. The water kept pulling my legs everywhere and it freaked me out that I wasn’t in control and even more so because I couldn’t touch the bottom and I was afraid that I would let go of the side and drown. A bit extreme perhaps, but it’s how I felt. So, The person I was with took a new tactic, teaching me how to turn mid pool in the shallows. Before I knew it, with the sheer concentration of turning and making sure I was still swimming properly I was heading towards the deep end. When I looked up that was where I was. I was utterly amazed and decided to test myself further by doing widths. I ended the hour and half in the pool by managing to attempt a couple of lengths. I hope I can keep this up again tomorrow! But I will have to go by myself and I hope that the lack of support won’t end up with me winding back up at square one. Please do wish me luck!

Swimming for Sharks: The first swim

Today I started my facing my deep water fear swim and I am so proud of what I achieved! I made it to a part of the swimming pool I have never been in before. I made it past the centre line, where it says no non swimmers aloud! So now I must be officially a swimmer because I made it out alive! I even managed to do about 10 widths. Admittedly I only gained the courage to make it that far because I was forced by the pool staff. Due to them closing off the shallow end for an exercise class , but it did prove to me that I could do it! I only stayed where I could still touch the bottom of tippy toes but the person I took with me for support was amazing! They helped me feel really comfortable in the water and taught me how to swim properly and how to push off the side without having to touch the floor. In the end I was able to push off the sides and do about 10 widths!! I’m so proud of myself and now more than ever I have the confidence to believe I can make it to the very end of the swimming pool and what’s more feel comfortable there! As long as I have someone there with me for support… But I am determined to make it for The shark Trust, the sharks themselves, the people who are supporting me, sponsoring me and believing in me and also for me, myself.

The Oceans’ Caretakers

Sharks: Keeping our oceans healthy

For 450 millions years sharks have been evolving within the ocean arena. It would be impossible for this evolution to have not become directly entwined with the evolution of other ocean species. Now, whatever your opinion of sharks, one thing is for sure ocean life would never be the same again without them and here is why…

Caretaker duty one: As Apex predators (So the top dogs of the ocean) sharks do a great service to the ocean, by keeping prey populations in check. It is basic ecology that all organisms have a carrying capacity, and that if their numbers go beyond that carrying capacity they can begin to do damage to their habitat and the species they share it with, this is why the sharks job is vital.

Caretaker duty two: The Shark is what’s known in the scientific world as a keystone species. This means that the whole ocean food chain would collapse without them around. So if you see that label on a species in future, it means they are of high importance.

Caretaker duty three: They keep the human fishery industry healthy. In areas where sharks have depleted so to have commercially important species. Due to chaos within the areas ecology.

Caretaker duty four: They pick of the sick and the weak keeping fish populations healthy. This helps prevent the spread of disease keeping other ocean species healthy as well. Following Charles Darwin’s survival of the fittest, the sharks help to keep their prey species genepool strong. Also scavenging along the sea floor, for dead animals helps keep nutrient levels in the water in balance. Which is important because too many nutrients in the water can make it turn toxic, leading to problems such as coral bleaching.

Caretaker duty five: By modifying their preys behaviour they help prevent overgrazing. Their intimidating presence means that the prey has to hide when the sharks around and as such, have less opportunity to feed,  meaning they eat less. This is a good thing because overgrazing leads to destruction of their habitat and ultimately no more food and no more place to live. Hence why in ecology all creatures have a carrying capacity.

Caretaker duty six: Duty six is purely the benefit sharks bring to humans through ecotourism and fisheries. Shark ecotourism boosts the economy and provides jobs for people and for reasons discussed above the shark keeps fisheries healthy and prevents other predators eating commercially important species in great numbers.

So you see, the shark is very important but currently 90% of the worlds shark species are in trouble. Between 70 -100 million sharks are killed a year, over 10,000 and hour! These numbers really can’t be sustained for so many reasons. So please lets stop hating sharks and fearing sharks. Lets see them for what they really are; vital and important members of our planet who deserve our respect and appreciation. Lets work to protect the shark because if we don’t they will be gone and where would we be then?

I am facing my fears for shark conservation. Please check out my story by visiting my just giving page justgiving.com/fundraising/Kerry-Payton1

 

A tale of two brambles

This is the tale of two brambles, one prickly and one spiny. One rare, the other so data deficient we don’t even know its conservation status! and neither bramble, a threat to human wellbeing. Through, this blog post we will uncover the little that is known about these two bramble shark species.

Hello Reader! I am sure by now you have uncovered that this blog post is not about the  bramble plant, responsible for producing delicious blackberries, but is about the bramble sharks. The two species of bramble shark are classified as such because of the thorny, teeth like denticles that cover the skin, except for around the mouth and under the snout. Both species are also stout and flabby creatures, living in the deep sea. So we can forgive their unfriendly appearance… After all, they are adapted to live in a place where they never expect to have company. Indeed, the spiny bramble shark has not been photographed in its under water home. The only pictures I could find were of those who had been fished from their home and were covered in blood, so of course I did not want to show you those distressing images.

The spiny bramble

The first point I want to make about the spiny bramble shark is that it is so data deficient, that nothing is known about its conservation status. It is this reason why shark conservation and science is so vital. Especially when they are being taken from the sea when we have no idea about their numbers. We could be potentially losing this species forever. We do know that they reproduce slowly, so this could be a factor that could lead to their extinction, if we continue to be ignorant of their natural history. This has just given me the epiphany that I would like to specialise in deep sea sharks! (for context I want to be a conservationist and at my last interview a week ago I was told I need to find a niche, which freaked me out because I love all animals!)

Sorry for rambling and starting off the spiny segment on a depressing tone but here is what we know about the spiny bramble so far…

They dwell at the bottom of the deep sea and when they are found by humans it is at depths of 400 – 900 metres, on continental shelves. The range isn’t known in great depth (how ironic) but we think they swim around in the; North sea, West and East Atlantic, Indian ocean and the West pacific ocean. Now its biology time! They are a very sluggish species, but I suppose their Is no need to hurry in the pitch black of the deep. We don’t know a lot about their natural history but true to their sluggish character we expect them to be slow growing and late bloomers on the sexual front. We know that crustaceans, small sharks and bony fish are common prey for them, so think they must be possible of short bursts of speed, to enable them to catch their dinner! We know they are ovoviviparous (eggs hatch internally in mother) but we don’t know their gestation period, or what happens after birth.

The Prickly Bramble

So, here is what we know about the rare one…

Also a deep water species, the prickly bramble shark is classified by the IUCN Red List as Near Threatened. This is because deep sea trawlers catch them as by catch, and the likelihood of this happening could be on the increase. The Prickly’s live in tropical and temperate areas of the Pacific ocean, on sandy sea beds. They are found on insular and continental shelves at depths of 10-400 metres and have been known from depths of 1,500 metres before! Just like the spiny bramble the prickly bramble is also sluggish but is known to pick up the pace when prey is around. It feeds by sucking prey into it’s mouth, like the shark version of a vacuum cleaner. This bramble likes to eat for its supper; small sharks and their egg cases, crustaceans and small fish. The Prickly bramble is ovoviviparous and can give birth to 114 young at a time! Goodness gracious! Their young ones are born at 40 -45 cm in size, though this is all that is known about their reproduction and courtship. These sharks do sometimes migrate to shallower inland waters and the reason is absolutely unknown.

3 days to go…

In three days time I will be facing my fear of deep water to raise money and awareness for shark conservation. As you can see from this post, shark natural history is very under researched, which is why I am raising money for the Shark Trust. In tomorrows post I will be explaining to you why sharks are so fundamental to our eco-systems! If you want to know more about my fundraising story and show your support then you can visit my just giving page. But it really does mean so much to me that you are reading my posts and showing an interest in sharks!

The Oceans Gentle Giant: The Basking Shark

BASKING SHARK

The (not so) lean, mean, plankton eating machine

The Basking Shark (Cetorhinus maximus) is the second biggest shark in the world and is completely harmless. They eat tiny little creatures that live at the oceans surface, called plankton. They don’t even use teeth to feed! So I suppose you could think of them as elderly care home residents, searching the seas for soft foods. You know, if that kind of random thought brings you joy in life. Any who, I have a spot of audience participation for you reader (I know exciting right?). So, who would like to pretend to be a feeding basking shark? To participate all you have to do is open your mouth and keep it open like a basking shark (it will be a comical sight for whoever you’re with). The Basking Shark has a metre wide mouth which they keep open all the time they are swimming, so that they can catch tiny morsels of food, floating near the oceans surface. Then, to filter the water to extract food they close their mouths and let the water pass out through their gills, retaining the food to go down their throats and into their bellies. Now confession time, I closed my mouth  after about 10 seconds. I’m not  a basking shark, its tiring! and they have the advantage of being specially adapted to live that way.

Lets move on to basking shark behaviour shall we? Little is known about basking shark natural history, but what we do know is they are usually seen in the summer months, feeding at the waters surface. This is why some people think they were given the name Baking Shark. They have also been known to swim in schools of up to 100 sharks. Basking sharks are known to be ovoviviparous (Which means that the female produces eggs, which hatch internally, rather then externally like with crocs.) The gestation (so length of time these eggs are carried in the females body for) are unknown, it is thought they could gestate for 2-3 years given the animals size. Though, basking sharks are known to live up to 50 years (So, they could really be the elderly care home residents of the sea).

Giant Fish Facts

Fins: Can reach 2 – 3 meters long (wow!)

Tail: Shape of a crescent moon

Liver: Is 20% of the sharks body weight

Weight: around 3,000 – 6,000 kilograms

Length: Around 6.7 -8.8 metres

Habitat: Lives in cold, temperate waters off continental shelves and range shifts to were the food is. Their lives really do revolve around food. Well it has to, a creature that large eating food that tiny!

Classified vulnerable

The Basking shark is classified as vulnerable by the IUCN Red list of endangered species. This is because they are fished for the value put on their oil, fins and liver and indeed their populations took a series decline 20 years ago and have not yet recovered. Though thankfully some countries such as; the UK and New Zealand have chosen to protect them. Which is great news!  We can’t let an amazing creature such as this become lost from our oceans.

Most shark species are under researched and are in need of conservation assistance. This is why in 4 days, I am facing my fear of deep water to raise money and awareness for shark conservation. Check out my Just giving page (as hyperlinked) if you want to check out my story, but no pressure. I hope you enjoyed reading and learning about the basking shark as much as I enjoyed writing this post! Please join me tomorrow evening when I will be blogging about the bramble shark.

Facing my fear of deep water for charity

5 days to go…

In five days time, I will be taking to the water to conquer my fear of water and raise money for charity. I will be doing this over the space of two weeks, as I don’t think I can make that progression over night and am hoping to gain lots of pledges (no matter how big or small) to spare me on.

I have wanted to conquer this fear for a while and took lessons to learn to swim in shallow waters, but still could not get past the centre line of my local baths. So, one sleepless night (not brought on by thinking of water may I add) That I could use charity as an excuse to make it past that line. I had this notion a few months ago and brushed it off as being a little crazy, but the idea didn’t leave me and so I thought, well why not?

My chosen charity was easy for me as an aspiring conservationist and this event being water based; I decided on The Shark Trust. Now before I lose half the readership please do here me out on this. I know many people don’t like sharks and that was kind of the point. I thought this was the perfect excuse to not only conquer my fear but to challenge peoples misconceptions about shark species. There are many species of shark in the world and most are harmless to humans and are in fact integral to our eco-systems. Also, if someone can conquer their fear for charity, and chose the shark as a conservation species, then they can’t be that evil and perhaps you could own important members in our oceans; VIP’s of the oceans if you will?

So, far I have raised £67.00 in pledges, with more pledges to come I am told. I am also hoping the lovely people I volunteer with at various places have taken pen to paper for me. If reading of my crazy (sorry courageous) plan has inspired you to take on your own challenge then that is great and please don’t refrain from telling me about it. If you would like to sponsor me and learn more about my swim please visit my Just giving page  (by clicking on Just Giving, which is highlighted in blue).

I’ll be posting more (probably sure to be humorous) updates of how I’m getting on. As well as a few facts about shark species and conservation, during the course of my Facing my Fear Swim. So I hope you will stay tuned for those. Next post will be about the Basking Shark.