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My first 48 hours...

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The long drive from San Antonio, Texas, to Gulfport, Mississippi, gave me plenty of opportunity to think about the various deep sea creatures I hoped to see on this trip.  You could cut the excitement with a knife by the time I crossed the border from Louisiana to Mississippi.  Loading gear onto the Point Sur brought all of the anticipation to reality, and then we were off.  The seas have been calm and we made it to our first trawling station without incident.  Then we started to fish as the trawling nets disappeared into the depths.  A few hours later and the biologists on board, including me, were giddy – a net full of deep sea species was hauled on deck.  It always seems like Christmas morning when a net is hauled up; you really never know what you are going to get…and these first few trawls have not disappointed.  Cup after cup of great wildlife were handed to me.  One of my jobs is to photographically document our encounters, which included a beautiful Johnson’s Abyssal Seadevil, Melanocetus johnsonii.  These small predators have enormous teeth for snaring other small animals.  Anglerfishes are also known for the glowing lure that they use to hunt. The technical term for the lure on an anglerfish is an “esca,” the fishing pole that connects it to the anglerfish’s forehead is an “illicium.”  Anglerfishes are among my favorite fishes…hopefully more of these!


Another of my favorite groups of fishes, the dragonfishes, has made several appearances so far.  This Scaleless Blackdragon, Echiostoma barbatum, is a deep-water predator.  In contrast to anglerfishes, dragonfishes have a “fishing rod” hanging off of their chin with a lure attached.  The entire structure is known as a barbel. 


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Danté Fenolio grew up in the fog-shrouded redwood forests of the Santa Cruz Mountains in California. Banana Slugs, Pacific Giant Salamanders and Red Legged Frogs were a regular part of his daily childhood experience. His father and grandfather were avid outdoorsmen, imparting a love of nature in Danté that remains today. Field work in the tropics began at an early age and evolved into summer months that were spent in the Amazon Basin performing herpetological surveys. Fenolio earned a combined undergraduate degree in Biology and Environmental Studies from the University of California Santa Cruz. He continued on and earned a Masters degree in Zoology from the University of Oklahoma, where he examined the population ecology of the Ozark Blind Cave Salamander. His concurrent involvement with the Subterranean Biodiversity Project gave him the opportunity to work in hundreds of caves across the Ozarks of Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Missouri. Danté then earned a Ph.D. in Biology from the University of Miami, Florida, involving amphibian conservation and taxonomy. After graduate school, Fenolio worked for the Atlanta Botanical Garden, helping to coordinate both local and international conservation efforts and developing captive breeding methods for critically endangered species. Perhaps the most significant project while with the Garden was the development of the Chilean Amphibian Conservation Center, in Santiago, Chile. The collaboration with the National Zoo of Chile works to develop captive assurance colonies of endangered Chilean amphibians and to monitor wild populations for emergent infectious disease – see . Danté now runs the Department of Conservation and Research for the San Antonio Zoo (San Antonio, Texas, USA) with active conservation work in the United States, Peru, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, China and Japan. Fenolio's research interests focus on the ecology of animals living in challenging environments such as subterranean ecosystems, deep water environments, and forest canopies.
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Guest Wednesday, 19 June 2024