Grouper excavating holes
Holes, holes everywhere, but nobody seems to be making them. Well, as maddening as that seemed to Felicia Coleman director of Florida State University’s Coastal and Marine Laboratory as she sleepily gazed at the seafloor.
Then suddenly the digger appeared. It was a red grouper.
The young grouper instinctively began clearing away the rocks, sand and debris from around one of the sandy depressions and carrying mouthfuls of seabed dirt away. When the hole in the ledge was large enough the fish would cosy down into its new home. These young red groupers were creating lodging for itself and other species to come later.
When they leave the hole behind, spiny lobster become the grateful next tenants.
The red grouper excavates and maintains complex, three-dimensional rock ledge structures that provide critical habitats for the spiny lobster and many other commercially important species in the Gulf of Mexico. Coleman and other researchers watched it work hard to remove sand and rocks from the sea floor, exposing hard rocks crucial to corals and sponges and the animals they shelter.
Grouper grow and move slowly, maybe that is the secret to their longevity of 29 years.
These homes sites serve to attract mates, and other beneficial species such as cleaner shrimp that pick parasites and food scraps off the resident fish. The shrimp in turn attract other predators that the red grouper like to eat. They prefer to dine at home by inhaling their food through their gills and rapidly drawing in a current of water. Their diet includes fish, crustaceans, cephalopods like octopus and squid, plus other invertebrates. Why move much when dinner is served to you while your lounge in comfort of your self designed hole on the sea floor?
Most abundant along Florida’s west coast, Red Grouper are found on watery ledges and in crevices and caverns from North Carolina to Brazil.
Excerpts courtesy of http://bit.ly/51hinp
Excerpts courtesy of http://bit.ly/14FWCA
Image courtesy of http://bit.ly/bPIxcS