This story was initially printed in July 2018.
It was early within the season to see moss animals, Gudrun Keszocze defined as she steered the canoe to the shallows of Pushaw Stream in late June. When the water warms to a sure temperature, these unfamiliar beings begin to develop and multiply, constructing colonies simply beneath the floor.
Because the naturalist for Hirundo Wildlife Refuge in Previous City, Keszocze guides paddling journeys on the stream on a weekly foundation. She additionally leads instructional packages in regards to the waterway’s many inhabitants, together with the mysterious moss animal.
“Oh, oh, oh! I believe we acquired it,” Keszocze mentioned in a hushed however excited voice as she stirred her paddle within the water, slowing the canoe.
Cautious to not upend the boat, she reached into the water and pulled up a waterlogged department. With it got here a gelatinous orb that resembled an egg mass. Concerning the measurement of a soccer, the colony of moss animals glistened within the solar and jiggled as Keszocze held it above the water.
“Their protection mechanism is alongside their scillia. They offer off some form of irritant,” Keszocze mentioned. “They usually really give off a scent, a smelly scent. So they struggle to not be very interesting.”
Moss animals are simply one of many many unusual freshwater creatures in Maine that always go ignored. Whether or not hiding within the shadows or darting throughout the water’s floor, these actual life monsters are extra fascinating than harmful. Their survival ways and diversifications make them uniquely fitted to a watery world, from rivers to swimming holes. Listed here are only a few of those wonderful creatures, beginning with one in every of Keszocze’s favorites.
Moss animals, additionally referred to as bryozoan, are filter feeders. Utilizing tiny tentacles and cilia, they propel particles of meals into their mouths. In Maine, these tiny invertebrate animals connect to underwater objects, corresponding to sunken bushes, and create colonies that may develop to turn out to be as massive as a basketball and weigh a number of kilos. These tentacles give the colony a fuzzy or “mossy” look.
A predatory insect, water scorpions use their lengthy tail, to not sting, however to breathe. Whereas searching underwater for bugs, spider and worms, they maintain their tail above the floor to breathe by way of it, just like an individual utilizing a snorkel. These creatures have slender, brown our bodies that may develop to be greater than 2 inches lengthy, however they’re typically ignored as a result of they’re incessantly immobile, ready slightly below the water to ambush prey. Search for them close to the floor of nonetheless water, not solely in ponds but additionally in slow-moving sections of streams and rivers.
Most likely the commonest nuisance to swimmers in Maine is the leech. A worm-like animal that lives in freshwater habitats, the leech attaches to different animals — together with people — to feed on blood, which explains their nickname: bloodsuckers. Leeches are usually present in shallow water, hidden in crops and underneath rocks, they usually’re most lively on sizzling summer season days, in accordance with the Maine Division of Environmental Safety.
Strolling on the floor of the water on lengthy, spindly legs, water striders tread the place others sink. These bugs are lined with tiny hairs that repel water and entice air, plus they unfold out their weight by stretching their legs out to all sides. Their mobility on the floor of the water permits them to simply prey on drowning bugs. Additionally they talk to 1 one other and detect prey drumming on the floor of the water, sending out tiny waves that relay again details about what’s close by. These unfamiliar beings, typically in pairs or teams, will be present in ponds, vernal swimming pools, marshes or every other space of quiet water.
Whereas a lot of the world’s 1000’s of species of sponges dwell in saltwater, a handful of them thrive in clear, freshwater environments. Usually mistaken for a plant, freshwater sponges are literally motionless invertebrate animals that filter water to search out meals. They develop on submerged objects, corresponding to fallen bushes and rocks; they’ve a rough texture; and they’re usually inexperienced because of the algae that lives inside their constructions.
Measuring a median size of three.5 ft, the northern water snake is present in all kinds of aquatic habitats, in accordance with the Nationwide Wildlife Federation, although they like slow-moving water or standing water. In Maine, this pretty massive snake is barely discovered within the southern half of the state. Preying on fish and amphibians, the species is usually present in bogs, swamps, cattail marshes and moist meadows, in accordance with the Maine Division of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. And although they aren’t toxic, they’ll ship a painful chunk.
Carnivorous water crops
Whereas this isn’t a “creature,” it does eat creatures, so it makes the record. Frequent in Maine waterways, bladderwort is a carnivorous plant that consumes small aquatic organisms. With lengthy, trailing stems, these crops are lined with little bladders. Hairs on the opening of every bladder triggers it to open when contacted, sucking water and any close by organisms in to be digested by enzymes and micro organism.
Zipping round on the floor of the water, typically in circles, whirligig beetles are a standard sight in Maine, and whereas they could be a bit annoying to swimmers, they’re actually fairly innocent. These small, black beetles have break up eyes to allow them to see beneath water and above water on the identical time. This helps them evade predators (corresponding to fish) whereas they hunt for bugs. Present in all kinds of freshwater habitats, these beetles spend most of their lives on the floor of the water, the place they soak up air from the ambiance. However additionally they generally dive underwater, and after they do this, they tuck an air bubble underneath their wings for an oxygen provide.
With a strong chunk and lengthy claws, snapping turtles are Maine’s largest freshwater turtle, and whereas they aren’t on the lookout for a battle, they’ll defend themselves if provoked. Sometimes called “snappers,” these turtles can develop to be fairly outdated and huge, with a troublesome shell measuring a few foot lengthy on a median grownup, which usually weighs between 10 and 35 kilos. Nevertheless, snapping turtles exceeding 40 kilos have been present in Maine, basking on lakeside rocks and swimming searching for meals, which might differ from aquatic crops to birds and small mammals.
Maine’s largest native spider, the fishing spider can stroll on water to grab up bugs and even small fish. However don’t fear — they’re shy. “They’d slightly flee than battle,” in accordance with on-line materials in regards to the spider offered by the College of Maine Cooperative Extension. And whereas they’ll chunk people, the chunk is very like a wasp or bee sting until the one who is bitten is delicate to spider venom. And whereas the fishing spider can hunt on water, it’s extra incessantly discovered within the woods, and it’s a typical family invader, so there’s actually no escaping this creepy crawly.