Thursday, January 12, 2012

FTV 1/12/2012 Stranded along the Coast

As we leave our seacoast home we meet the border between two worlds-the land and the marine. From the coast we can observe marine animals that inhabit the shoreline and tidepools. We can observe how the ocean's currents, waves, and winds sculpt the shoreline, alternately carrying off and depositing sand. From the air, you can actually see the waves create a perfectly scalloped beach on Nantucket Island. Not only do these forces shape the land, they affect the living populations.

Sometimes animals that inhabit deeper water are thrown off course. They come close to the shoreline and may actually be found on the beach. They may be injured, sick, or disoriented and soon become cold, hungry, or dehydrated. Such is the case for various species of dolphin, porpoise, seal, whale, and turtle that become stranded along the Atlantic coastline. But there is help for some animals. In many locations, when beached animals are sighted, professionals and volunteers are on the scene. Sick, cold, or injured animals are immediately placed in a rehabilitation program with the intent of getting them well enough to be returned to their natural habitat.

Often the animals are tagged with a transmitter for future tracking. Some of the large marine animals that are regularly tracked along the Atlantic coast are cetaceans, pinnipeds, and sea turtles. Cetaceans are marine mammals such as whales, dolphins, and porpoises; pinniped refers to seals and walruses. Every acknowledged animal sighting is assigned a number and becomes part of the database for that species. Sea turtles can become stranded along the Atlantic coast. The causes are many, including water pollution, disease, an attack by a predator, or entanglement in fishing gear.

On our northeast Atlantic coast, animals are sometimes found close to the beaches, especially in the winter months. Scientists believe they may be driven toward the shore by the cold Labrador current in Cape Cod Bay, or the northwest winds along Long Island's north shore may pin the turtles against the shore or trap them in bays. These animals become "coldstunned"-chilled to the point where they are unresponsive and unable to eat to get their metabolic rate going.

Coldstunned turtles must be gradually warmed, given warm fluids intravenously, and then force-fed to give them the nutrition they need. When their body temperatures have increased, they are placed in tanks and fed and cared for until they are sufficiently recovered to be released.

Stranding Worksheet

Shoreline Puzzle

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