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July 22, 2007

On our way to Cartagena

BY: Ricardo Aguilar


© OCEANA / Juan Cuetos


On our way to Cartagena to get supplies, do some general cleaning and take care of other things, we stop for a few hours in the island of Las Palomas to take another look at the area.

The divers will explore the area near the seamount located south of the small island while the ROV will work in the east.

This area is invaded by exotic species, such as the red algae Lophocladia lallemandi and Asparagopsis spp., and the colonial coral Oculina patagonica.

During the last dives when we’ve found Oculina patagonica, there was always some blennies (usually Parablennius pilicornis or Parablennius rouxi) swimming about and nibbling on the reef. In some areas, we can see that part of the coral is bleached, probably caused by the bacteria Vibrio shiloi that attacks this species.

Between the cracks we spot brown eels (Gymnothorax unicolor) and moray eels (Muraena helena) along with some cleaner shrimp (Lysmata seticaudata) and shore clingfish (Lepadogaster sp.).

The sea floor is mostly muddy in deeper areas. All of a sudden, we spot a rocky area with heavy sedimentation and quite a few sponges (all from the Axinella genus) and gorgonians. These include the two species of Mediterranean gorgonians (Leptogorgia sarmentosa and Leptogorgia lusitanica), pink gorgonians (Eunicella verrucosa), yellow gorgonians from the Paramuricea genus and whip gorgonians (Spinimuricea sp.).

As far as the ichthyic community is concerned, the flat fish and the searobins are the most common, although we also spot some banks of mullets (Mullus sp.). Other frequently occurring fauna include the comb stars (mainly Astropecten aranciacus), hermit crabs (Dardanus sp., Pagurus sp.), auger shells (Turritella sp.). We also spotted a solitary mantis shrimp (Squila mantis).

We set sail for Cartagena in the afternoon.