Explore the Sargasso Sea with the Nonsuch Expeditions

Latest update July 2, 2020 Started on October 28, 2018
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Scientists, photographers and filmmakers dive deeper into the Sargasso Sea exploring the biodiversity found within the floating communities of Sargassum circulating around Bermuda and the North Atlantic.


As ambassadors of the Sargasso Sea Commission the Nonsuch Expeditions Team aims to showcase and protect the Sargasso Sea.

October 28, 2018
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In The Field

I ❤︎Sargassum


In the recent waves of sargasso weed reaching Bermuda we collected crabs with a wide range of colors / markings including this one with a heart shaped pattern. It molted shortly after collection and this is its empty shell.

From Wikipedia: "Planes minutus is a species of pelagic crab that lives in the North Atlantic Ocean that is typically less than 10 mm long across the back, and is variable in colouration, to match its background. It may have been the crab seen by Christopher Columbus on Sargassum weed in the Sargasso Sea in 1492.

The colouration of Planes minutus is very variable, and camouflages the crab against the Sargassum weed it often lives on. The base colour is typically brown, sometimes tending towards yellow or red. This is often supplemented with large patches of white, apparently imitating the calcareous tubes attached by annelid worms to Sargassum. Although the color pattern tends to match that of the substrate on which the crab is found, the colouration is only able to change slowly after a change of substrate."

After molting this particular specimen became mostly white to match its container.

To learn more visit our website www.nonsuchisland.com or our facebook groups: www.facebook.com/thesargassosea | www.facebook.com/NonsuchIsland

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Welcome to the new National Geographic Field Notes edition of the Nonsuch Expeditions biodiversity surveys of the Sargasso Sea.


The matts of Sargassum that circulate around the North Atlantic Sargasso Sea gyre are constantly growing along with the fauna that they contain. Some of these like the Sargasso Fish spend their entire lives in the Sargassum, others such as mahi-mahi and flying fish use it as a nursery for their eggs and to protect their young.

Each incoming wave of Sargassum that reaches Bermuda shores contains a different selection of fauna that changes depending upon the time of year, weather and the timing of each species breeding cycle.

For example it almost always contains Sargasso Fish however they will mostly be at the same stage in their breeding and growth cycles.

The matts that reached us in this past week contained numerous tiny Sargasso Fish mostly ranging between 5 and 10 mm, but no adults.

It also contained balls of Flying Fish eggs which the tiny Sargasso Fish wait to devour as soon as they hatch. At this stage there is excess food so multiple juvenile Sargasso Fish can be found together, however within days or weeks when food becomes scarce they will quickly start eating each other until no more than one Sargasso Fish per clump of Sargassum remains.

This wave also contained Sargasso Pipefish, the usual variety of crabs and shrimp but amazingly also Lined Seahorses which we have in the past 10+ years of collecting never seen alive, though every so often find dried up on the beach.

The first of these was found on the beach dying in the sand however we were able rescue it and are in the process of rehabilitating it. The second was rescued just before its' small clump of Sargassum washed up on the beach and was in much better condition.

To learn more follow this National Geographic Field Notes page (https://fieldnotes.nationalgeographic.org/expedition/nonsuchexpeditionssargassosea)) along with our FaceBook Sargasso Sea Page: (https://www.facebook.com/thesargassosea)) and our official website: (www.nonsuchisland.com))

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Our mascot, the charismatic Sargasso fish (Histori-histori) is one of the many unique creatures that have fully adapted to the very important Sargasso ecosystem. They do not swim very well and spend their lives crawling around the Sargassum using their adapted fins similar to “arms, hands and legs”. Whilst they generally only take live food and are unlikely to ingest plastics directly, their prey has been documented feeding on micro plastics which makes its way into the food web, moving all the way up to the larger pelagic species like Mahi-mahi that feed on the Sargassum fauna. Learn more: www.nonsuchisland.com | www.facebook.com/thesargassosea
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Breakdancing Sargassum Fish

The charismatic Sargasso fish (Histori-histori) is one of the many unique creatures that have fully adapted to the very important Sargasso ecosystem. They do not swim very well and spend their lives crawling around the Sargassum using their adapted fins similar to “arms, hands and legs”. Whilst they generally only take live food and are unlikely to ingest plastics directly, their prey has been documented feeding on micro plastics which makes its way into the food web in that way, moving all the way up to the larger pelagic species like Mahi-mahi that feed on the Sargassum fauna. Learn more: www.nonsuchisland.com www.facebook.com/thesargassosea https://openexplorer.nationalgeographic.com/expedition/nonsuchexpeditionssargassosea #bermuda #bermudaoceanprosperity #blueprosperity #sargassoseacmsn #sargassofish #SargassoSea #sargassum #sargasso #biodiversity #openexplorer #northatlantic #lookbermuda #marineprotectedarea #natgeoyourshot #waittinstitute #waittfoundation #thesargassosea #nonsuchisland #nonsuchexpeditions #oceanplastics #nonsuchplasticsproject #protecttheoceans #greenpeaceusa #greenpeaceespaña #atlanticgarbagepatch

Posted by Nonsuch Expeditions - Bermuda on Friday, September 6, 2019

This relatively large (2.5 inch) Sargassum Swimming Crab was collected from the larger than usual Sargassum mats that passed by Bermuda a few weeks ago which contained many more of almost the exact same size, all carrying eggs.


That same batch had relatively large Sargasso Fish specimens, however the batches a few weeks later were full of minuscule juvenile Sargasso Fish and Swimming Crabs as the fauna in that batch of of Sargassum was at a different phase of its lifecycle.

Our Team is logging this over time to identify patterns and to watch for changes especially as the larger mats that are causing problems in the Caribbean seem to have less biodiversity.

These past few weeks we have been working with the Greenpeace who have been conducting Expeditions into the Sargasso Sea to document the level of plastics, stay tuned for further posts on this topic. #protecttheoceans

Learn More: www.facebook.com/thesargassosea and www.nonsuchisland.com

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The almighty Sargassum fish!
Though only 4 inches long, this stunning specimen is one of the largest that our Team has collected in the wild.

Generally the larger they get, the harder it is for them to hide in the Sargassum where they spend their lives and they eventually get predated upon.

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Recently the Sargassum approaching Bermuda has been aggregating in mat form versus the usual spindrifts.


Thankfully they are not made up of the variety of Sargassum that is causing problems in the Caribbean and the Gulf, which is thus far rarely seen in the Sargasso Sea, though our Team is monitoring this on an ongoing basis.

Learn more by following our new Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/thesargassosea/

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The mats of Sargassum washing up in Bermuda lately have been the largest and most sustained in recent memory. This has created problems in some cases and opportunities in others (especially for photography and filming). Please stay tuned for many more posts once we take a break from filming.


As a teaser here is the eye of a diminutive yet almighty Sargasso Fish as submitted to the Nat Geo One Shot, please follow and LIKE if you do :) https://on.natgeo.com/2WMrhaG

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For World Oceans Day another photo from the series showcasing the importance of Sargassum and the Sargasso Sea as a nursery.


This one has a thumbnail sized juvenile Sargasso fish that sat there, eating the Flying fish fry as they hatched, even as we were filming.

Explore | With Us

www.nonsuchisland.com www.facebook.com/NonsuchIsland/ www.instagram.com/nonsuchexpeditions/ twitter.com/Nonsuch_Bermuda

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A White-tailed Tropicbird known in Bermuda as a "Longtail" has just returned from foraging in the Sargasso Sea and feeds a squid to its 1 week old chick in its nest on the Nonsuch Island Nature Reserve in Bermuda.


This clip was extracted from the 24/7 LIVE Streaming "Tropicbird Cam" a collaboration between the Nonsuch Expeditions, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Bermuda Governments Department of the Environment and Natural Resources.

Watch it LIVE and Learn More: www.nonsuchisland.com

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1 week old "Longtail" Tropicbird fed Squid.

Watch as 1 week old "Longtail" White-tailed Tropicbird is fed Squid, as filmed LIVE via Nonsuch Islands new Tropicbrid Cam. Learn More: www.nonsuchisland.com

Posted by Nonsuch Expeditions - Bermuda on Friday, May 3, 2019

The latest waves of Sargassum that have reached Bermuda have been full of fauna early in their life-cycles as documented by Nonsuch Expeditions Team Leader and Sargasso Sea Commission Ambassador Jean-Pierre Rouja in a series of photos.


In this photo is a gravid Sargassum Swimming Crab (of which there were numerous in our latest collection efforts) holding her eggs, along with strands of Flying Fish eggs that had been wrapped around the Sargasso weed (Sargassum natans) and were just about to hatch.

Learn more via the Nonsuch Expeditions: http://www.nonsuchisland.com

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Whilst out on assignment, we collected fresh samples of Sargassum which contained a fair amount of fauna early on in their life cycles including some very small Sargassum Fish, clutches of Flying Fish roe and this gravid Sargassum Swimming Crab itself carrying eggs, which can be seen in this photo.
Learn more: www.nonsuchisland.com

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The recent batches of sargassum reaching Bermuda contained a variety of fauna. As usual the variety of species and stages of their life cycles is affected by the time of year and other lesser known factors.


For example this week when collecting just south of Nonsuch Island, despite several hours of searching through patches of sargassum which was in relatively good condition, we primarily observed an abundance of shrimp, but very few crabs, and we only found 3 very small sargasso fish ranging from 8mm to 20mm.

We also found 3 very small, thumbnail sized octopus, which we do not see very often.

This is perfect timing for the Sargasso Sea Commission meetings taking place in Bermuda this week who we plan to take out on an Expedition including Nonsuch Island to meet the newly hatched Cahow chicks.

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A nudibranch on sargassum collected by our favorite species collector Chris Flook and photographed by Jean-Pierre Rouja some time back.


Sargassum, after which the Sargasso Sea is named, is found in Bermuda's waters sporadically at different times of the year, so when it arrives we must make the most of the opportunity to study and document it.

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Preparation

Here is a recent photo taken of Juvenile Mahi-Mahi collected from Sargassum Matts.

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Expedition Background

We have been involved in multiple Expeditions documenting Sargassum Biodiversity including working with National Geographic, BBC Blue Planet / Natural History Unit and Silverback Films.


In Bermuda, shore based collection and sampling must be conducted opportunistically when the Sargassum arrives, which is sporadic and at times over a year passes between events. Then, time of day, tides, weather etc. all affect its condition and the amount of biodiversity that remains attached once it reaches the shore after passing over the reef.

When it can be found in the open ocean, the challenge is observing the habitat in its natural state prior to our boats or divers approaching and disturbing it, which invariably scares many of our larger Pelagic or relatively mobile subjects away.

One of our plans is to use remote drop cameras along with a Trident and aerial drones as remote observation platforms, allowing us to remotely observe and document this wider range of fauna.

Expedition Team Leader J-P Rouja is an Ambassador to the Sargasso Sea Commission and will use this Expedition for educational and public outreach.

Visit: www.nonsuchisland.com

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