So, what is new on the beach... Well, Monday was a school holiday here thanks to our dead Presidents. Christiana, Micah, and I took an afternoon walk on the beach where the tide was receding, leaving an indigo blue line all along the white, sandy high tide mark like someone had walked the beach dragging a thin blue marker! Closer inspection revealed an amazing collection of tiny blue jellyfish! I looked them up and determined they were blue buttons, with some variations. Google them and see for yourself. They are actually polyps, not jellyfish, similar to the famed Portuguese man of war. A polyp is a colony of organisms living symbiotically. Some of these were perfect little round blue buttons, like the internet shows, but others were like tiny air-filled clear balloons with one long thread-like blue tentacle trailing that was up to 2 feet long. As we walked along our attention wavered and if we accidentally stepped on one they popped! There were also one-inch long indigo blue creatures with feathery appendages that looked like dragons, speaking of Puff! They all seemed to have come apart from each other, these three distinct critters, as they were all the same amazing blue color, wiggling around the tide line and in the tide pools. Micah and I dipped into the water for a minute and one touched his leg. He said it stung just a tiny bit. So, that was pretty amazing. And the next day they were gone!
Yesterday we took our Bugs and Slugs class to the Monkey Park, an animal rehab facility nearby. We saw lots of cool critters, including toucans, parrots, scarlet macaws, an amazing spectacled owl, and three of the four CR monkeys. It is always sad to see a caged animal, especially the birds and the monkeys (monos, in Spanish), which were our subject of study for this week. Most of these creatures started as a bad idea for a pet and ended up at the park when their short sighted "owners" realized wild animals do not make good pets. Can you imagine thinking that trapping a coyote in your garage for a free watchdog is a good idea? Keeping our cousins, the primates, is greater folly.
The white faced capuchins, so-named for their resemblance to a group of monks, are highly intelligent and keeping them confined makes them crazy, literally. The two we saw yesterday are only 3 or 4 years old and are irreversibly psychotic. They could live another 40 years and have to be move into seclusion as having people around makes them nuts. They start biting and digging at themselves, self-mutilating behavior reminiscent of the cutting some teenage girls might do. A sad fate for a monkey who would live communally in groups of up to 30 in the wild and are known to use leaves and insects medicinally as well as tools. They have been seen clubbing the deadly poisonous fer de lance snake to death in the wild as well as beating boas to get them to release their death grips on kin!
The spider monkeys were busy with their puzzle feeders which force them to use their evolved brains to get their food, kind of like a primate Brain Quest. They are so agile with their extra long limbs, thus their name, and are the only monkeys here that can brachiate, or swing from limb to limb. They have the strongest tail of any mammal in the world and lost their thumbs as they evolved into long-fingered swingers!
The three tiny baby howler monkeys we observed silently from a one-way mirror were found clinging to their dead mothers, orphaned by power lines, which is sadly not uncommon here. The electric company strings monkey bridges periodically across the roads but monkeys do not always follow the same paths and are killed by cars when crossing the road or electrocuted by the lines which sometimes blow their hands off. Not pleasant, I know. There were no tiny spider monkeys, thankfully, at the park. All four species are endangered here; all primarily due to loss of habitat and a growing population of homo sapiens.
Well that concludes your polyp and primate lesson for the day! One of the reasons we moved here was so the kids could experience some of the amazing wildlife here around us before it is all doomed to history books and animal parks. I sincerely hope they can bring their own children here some day to see these amazing creatures in the wild, but I am afraid they will not have that option. I pray that I am wrong.