Aquatic Residents of the Florida Keys
Known as a fish watcher’s paradise, the coasts of the 1700 islands that make up the Florida Keys are full of mangroves, corals, reefs and wrecked ships. These provide the perfect homes for many fish, and other animals, that are attracted to the appeal of the area. The animals that reside in these waters are friendlier than in most other places, because of the conservation of the corals. Some of the creatures that can be spotted on a dive here are:
Grunt – The blue-striped grunt is the icon of the Florida Keys and large schools live in and around the coral reefs. Also visible are schools of French and small mouth grunt.
Barracuda – These fish are very popular in the area, and even though they normally travel alone, because of the safety of the waters, schools of them likely to swim by.
Parrotfish – These fish sleep in mucus cocoons among the reefs, and are known to appraoch divers during the day.
Shark – Regardless of the fact that they are bigger than the other fish, the sharks in the Florida Keys are very reluctant to go close to humans. This doesn’t mean that they don’t reside in the waters, however. Tiger, bull and hammerhead sharks can be glimpsed hunting among the large schools of fish which pass by. In addition, there is the occasional spotting of a great white shark in the deep water pinnacles between a few of the islands.
Eels – Even though eels are normally unpredictable, many of those located in the Florida Keys are more sociable as a result of being fed by divers. Approaching one with a treat in hand is an activity that is unique to the area, and gives observers the chance to see them as closely as they dare.
Octopus – Among the other creatures that swim in the Keys, blanket octopus have been noticed swimming near the reefs. These are very rare and have never been officially photographed in the wild.
Jellyfish – Always one of the most interesting creatures to observe, jellyfish can be found in large amounts. Even though they rarely attack humans, their tentacles cause a painful rash when they brush against our skin. This is because their stinging cells release venom which is normally meant to either kill or paralyse prey, or protect the jellyfish from predators. Cassiopeia, moon jellies and cannonball jellies are all very common and have relatively mild stings which won’t affect most humans. Jellyfish larvae, also known as sea lice, cause a rash when they come into contact with the skin.
West Indian Manatees – These large animals are mammals but live in the shallow, calm waters near the seagrass beds and other vegetation, especially during the winter when they migrate to warmer climates. They are very large and sometimes lethargic, because of this excess weight, so boats in the area need to be careful not to hit any of them when passing by.