Sometimes I think we feel we are the only species on earth…but there are many that may surprise you.
Early the other morning my wife called me to come down from my office work to see what was at the front door. It was a fish which I guess an Eagle dropped. Lots of Eagles and the Plainfin Midshipmen fish are back on our beach. A real surprise to see. Thinking I may be able to revive the poor little guy, I picked him up and headed to the beach to launch him to hopefully a safe journey to wherever he needed to go. He just floated on his back. At that point I realized he would be lunch for one of the eagles or herons patiently waiting to see what the outcome would be.
The Plainfin Midshipmen fish are a truly unique and wonderful species of fish. The first time I saw one was a couple of years ago when I saw a couple of young people down on our beach. Curious as to what they were up to, I went down to enquire. They told me they were from McMaster University in Ontario and they had come to study the Midshipmen fish to try and learn more about them and their migration and mating patterns. I wanted to know more so I put on a pair of rubber boots and got into the water with them at the shoreline. The students proceeded to lift large rocks so I could see where they were laying their eggs and they picked one up and showed me. I couldn’t believe what I saw. It looked like the Gremlin from the movie in 1984, or at least it seemed to have fins that looked the ears on the Gremlins. Then they flipped it over to show me the underbelly which had a comprehensive network of what looked like led lights. Swear to God!!! Craziest thing I have ever seen. I always wondered why the Herons and Eagles were all over the beach between in May and June and I was starting to realize why.
Midshipman fish belong to the genus Porichthys of toadfishes. They are distinguished by having photophores and four lateral lines. Typical midshipman fishes, such as the plainfin midshipman, are nocturnal and bury themselves in sand or mud in the intertidal zone during the day.
They swim up from the Gulf of Mexico annually at a depth of 300 to 400 meters, which is why they have a lighting system on their underbelly to light the way as well as attract prey so they can survive the long journey.
The males clear out a nest under the rocks then call to the females to come lay the eggs. Once the female lays the eggs, she heads back into the depths and the male stays to fertilize them and look after the eggs. Sounds like the males are subservient, but what ever works. Interestingly, the midshipman fish are exposed to the air when the tide is out and can breathe through their skin for the few hours during that time. It is at this time when the tide is out that they are the most vulnerable and the birds move in to take advantage of the opportunity.
All in all, it is just another reason that this island is such a magnificent place to live and explore. Weather is getting great again so maybe a good time to walk the beach and take a look for yourselves as to what great activity is going on there. Below is a link with an short interesting video on what they are all about.