hdr_home (36K)
  HOME COLLECTION EDUCATION IMAGE GALLERY SOUTH FLORIDA ORGANIZATIONS MEETINGS STAFF
  SHARK FRESHWATER
RESEARCH
BIOLOGICAL
PROFILES
JUST FOR KIDS SITE LINKS FLMNH

South Florida Aquatic Environments

Seagrasses




LIFE IN THE SEAGRASSES

Green Sea Turtle
© Don DeMaria
Seaturtle


Seagrass life:

Reptiles

Several species of sea turtles reside in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean, including the green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas). The main food of this sea turtle is Thalassia testudinum, commonly referred to as turtle grass. The American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) occurs in the shallow waters of Florida Bay and the northern Florida Keys. Although it is unknown to what extent the crocodile utilizes seagrasses, they are known to feed in these areas.



White Pelicans
courtesy South Florida Water Management District
White Pelican-SFWMD

Birds

Large numbers of birds utilize seagrass beds, especially wading birds searching for food. The three common feeding modes of birds are waders, swimmers, and plungers.

Great Egret
courtesy South Florida Water Management District
Great Egret-SFWMD

The great egret (Casmeroidus albus), reddish egret (Egretta rufescens), and little blue heron (Egretta caerulae)are among the wading birds that frequent seagrass beds in search of food.

Double-Crested Cormorant
© Don Getty
Double-Crested Cormorant

Double-crested cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) pursue fishes throughout the water column. Other swimming birds include the white pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) and red-breasted merganser (Mergus serrator).

Osprey
© Tom Brakefield, California Academy of Sciences
Osprey

Brown pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis) fly over seagrass beds in search of prey. Once a fish is spotted, the pelican plunges into the water using its pouch-like bill to scoop its prey. Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) and southern bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus leucocephalus) seize prey from the water surface with their talons.


Great Blue Heron
© John White
Great Blue Heron

Seagrasses also provide excellent foraging for large wading birds such as herons.


Manatee
courtesy U. S. Geological Survey/Sirenia Project
Manatee-USGS

Mammals

Manatees (Trichechus manatus) and bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) feed within the waters over seagrass habitats of Florida. Manatees are primarily tropical in distribution, however in Florida waters, manatees are found in shallow seagrass meadows or in spring-fed warm water rivers during the cool winter months. They feed on aquatic vegetation including seagrasses.

The bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) is the most common marine mammal in this region, feeding over seagrass beds, even in waters less than 3 feet (1 m) in depth. They feed primarily on large fish, squid, and invertebrates.

Bottlenose Dolphin
© Anne DuPont
Bottlenose Dolphin