Tag Archives: Animals

Happy Halloween From Our Fish Family to Yours

Black Eyed GobyThe black eyed goby, often called a ghost goby, is a small Osteichthyes, named for their black eyes which contrast their light beige skin. Reaching only about six or seven inches long as an adult, they eat smaller organisms such as amphipods, mollusks, and crustaceans. They are active during the day, living in sandy areas near rocky intertidal zones, not often below 400 ft. A cool fact about these fish is they are protogynous hermaphrodites! This means that they all start their lives as female, and will eventually change to male. Their reproductive organs are changing!! This happens for many species in the animal kingdom. 

Halloween Dragon Fish

The dragon fish (Grammatostomias flagellibarba) is a deep sea Osteichthyes (bony fish), also called the loose jaw or viper fish. Growing up to two feet in length, with a muscular jaw and extremely large sharp teeth, they can hardly close their mouths. Their jaws are “loose,” meaning it is hydrostatically connected to their skeleton, there is no skin behind the jaw which reduces friction and drag. They feed on small fish, crustaceans, and anything they can find in the dark depths of the ocean. One of the coolest adaptations of these dragon fish is their bioluminescence! They have photophores on their underbody as a form of camouflage. Some of the 287 known species have a lure at the end of their mouths, called a barbel, with photophores covering it to attract prey. They also have specialized red photophores underneath their eyes that act as headlights. The long wavelengths of red light do not have enough energy  to reach far depth in the ocean, so most deep sea creatures do not have the ability to see red light. Therefore these fish have headlights that other creatures cannot see!! They are bandits of the deep sea, with night vision while still invisible to those around them.

Happy Halloween FishLike the Dragon fish, angler fish are a deep sea Osteichthyes, living at least 6600ft below the surface, where light does not reach. They average two to eight inches long, but some species can grow up to forty inches long! Only females have the lure with bioluminescence photophores at the end of it. They use this to attract prey and males. Males are much smaller than females and do not have a lure so they spend their lives wandering the dark abyss until they find a female, and in a survival effort they will bite and latch onto the body of the female. Over time they will fuse to the female, body and blood line, and obtain all their nutrients from the female. The females will have multiple parasitic males on them, therefore having their genetic material at the ready when it is time to reproduce. Females are often red or translucent to blend in with their dark surroundings, their lure is actually a modified dorsal spine with bacteria at the end of it. The symbiotic relationship with this bacteria produces the light. Once a prey gets close enough to it, the female will catch and swallow it whole! They have a large, fast jaw with sharp teeth, allowing them to eat prey twice their size! Scary and awesome!

StonefishThe stonefish is arguable one of the most terrifying Osteichthyes in our world’s oceans because it is the most venomous fish in the world! Quite the creepy halloween creature. Their venom is a defense mechanism. They have dorsal spines with hypodermic needles. If something tries to attack from above, or if something steps on them, it will encounter these spines. Sharp enough to puncture human skin, and deadly enough to kill an adult human these spines are terrifying! The venom is cytolytic, meaning when it is injected into the blood stream it explodes cells and basically dissolves from the inside out. As a master of camouflage, they will hide perfectly still in coral or a rocky reef, sitting and waiting for a meal to swim by. Once a small fish swims too close they ambush! Sucking the prey in and swallowing it whole. Quite terrifying…but tis the season!

Goblin SharkLastly, we have the absolutely adorable goblin shark! This Chondrichthyes (cartilagenous fish) lives in deep water, usually 130 to 4000 ft deep. They are purplish grey in color with bright blue around the edges of their fin. Unlike other sharks, goblin sharks do not have a protective eyelid. They average about five ft long, but the larges recorded was over twelve feet long! Their distinguishing extended snout is covered in pores called Ampullae of Lorenzini. These are filled with electroreceptive jelly, which allows sharks to decide pulses in the water, or under the sand, up to about one meter away from them. Goblin sharks are capable of extending their unhinged jaw out as far as their snout to eat organisms such as small bony fish, squid, and crustaceans.















Toyon Bay Safari Animals

If you are slightly familiar with Catalina Sea Camp, you have most likely heard of our friendly neighborhood bison. But there are so many other species of animals that call Toyon Bay home. Every week, we welcome circa 200 campers to invade the bay and to have one of the best weeks of their summer. I wanted to take a look at the more permanent residents of the bay.



Bison Bison

The bison is not native to Catalina Island. In 1924, a filming company decided to take advantage of the beauty of Catalina Island to film the movie “The Vanishing American” there. Then someone on the crew decided that they simply must have bison there in order to enhance the movie. They paid to have these bison shipped over to the island, they filmed the movie, and then they shipped off—without the bison. Now, this massive animal has made the island its home, and sometimes makes trips down to camp to say hello.


Photograph by: Ashley Hann



My only encounter with sea stars had been watching the talkative one in Finding Nemo. Then one day, I joined a group of campers on a snorkel, and our instructor dove down and found one. I watched, just as fascinated and intrigued as the 10 and 11 year olds, as our instructor showed us the creature. She later told me that she was worried about the stress level of the sea star, which when risen, can cause their limbs to fall off. A common party trick for sea stars and other aquatic creatures, this defense mechanism can occur without killing the sea star due to its regenerative nature.

animals sea star


Zalophus californianus

We’ve seen them on scuba diving trips, kayaking trips, blue water boat trips, around our float during the evening hours, and even on our beach a time or two. These babies can grow up to 800 pounds, but can cruise through the water at up to 25 miles per hour. If you have never seen one of these creatures move through the water, go to YouTube and spend some time researching. It’s nothing short of magic.

animals sea lion

Photograph by: Ashley Hann


Triakis semifasciata

So my boss told me that we would probably see sharks my first time snorkeling here in the bay (also my first time snorkeling ever). As prepared as she made me to face these lurking masses, I still had to force myself to breathe normally when I first saw its shadow about six feet away from me. Since then, I have probably seen a hundred of these guys, and I am now proud to say that I have touched one (in a closely monitored touch tank here in camp, but still). In reality, these sharks are fairly harmless. They are bottom feeders, so their mouths are towards the bottom of the sea floor; meaning bites to humans are difficult and thus uncommon.

animals shark

Photograph by: Gretchen Beehler


Hypsypops rubicundus

These bright orange little fish are all over our bay. They’re territorial little buggers, but they also make for a beautiful pop of color. Garibaldis are protected in California because they are the state marine fish. Some people say these fish can be trained to do a back flip, but I have only ever heard of one specific garibaldi that can do it.


animals garibaldi

Photograph by: Ashley Hann


Urocyon littoralis catalinae

One of the first nights here I saw a stray cat near me. Nostalgic for my cat at home, I beckoned for it to come close to me and love me. After attempting and failing for longer than I care to admit, the creature ran away, and I realized that the animal I was trying to snuggle was a wild fox. The Catalina Island Fox is threatened specie of fox. It is registered with the Conservancy program on the island, which has been working since 2004 to bring population levels back up to normalcy. In 2004, there were just over 300 foxes on the island. As of 2017, over 2,000 foxes have been reported. Despite the work done and the accomplishments of the initiative, this fox remains threatened, and efforts will not cease.

Joel Sartore, a National Geographic award winning photographer featured the Catalina Island Fox in his photo project on endangered species, entitled the Photo Ark. Check it out here!


Canis lupus familiaris

The most dangerous animals on the island—rock-fetching retrievers. These four pooches belong to our longstanding admin in the bay. You can follow Casi’s life here on her very own Instagram page (https://www.instagram.com/casi_at_cimi/). All four of them have a very stressful life of unlimited affection and belly rubs, wide-open spaces to frolic and play, and all the rocks to fetch in the ocean that they could ever want. There are no signs that these animals will become endangered anytime soon, but I’ll keep you updated.

These are only a few of the most common fauna here in Toyon Bay, and I, for one, look forward to many more run-ins with these incredible animals.




Happy Anniversary National Wildlife Refuge

Here at CIMI, we are a proud proponent of keeping wild places wild. That’s why we’re celebrating the anniversary of the first National Wildlife Refuge. Using an executive order, the conservation-minded President Theodore Roosevelt established the Pelican Island Refuge on March 14, 1903. Since that day, over 560 national wildlife refuges have been created across the United States. The Wildlife Refuge System is an extensive network of protected areas created with the intention of conserving, managing, and even restoring animal and plants populations. Over 150,000,000 acres of our country are dedicated to nation wildlife refuges, protecting over 220 species of mammals, 250 reptiles and amphibians, 700 species of birds, and 1,000 species of fish! These refuges are incredibly important to plants and animals, seeing as over 380 threatened and endangered species call them home.

The California Condor Recovery Program (Recovery Program) is a multi-entity effort, lead by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to recover the endangered California condor.


Photo Credit: www.fws.gov “California Condor Recovery Program”

There are 39 National Wildlife Refuges in California starting as far south as Tijuana and reaching as far north as Castle Rock on the border between California and Oregon. The Hopper Mountain National Refuge Complex is a system of 4 national wildlife refuges that were established in California to protect the endangered California condor. Due to lead poisoning, poaching, and habitat destruction, California condors were nearly driven extinct in the 29th century. With only 22 individuals left in the wild, drastic measures needed to be taken! Combined efforts to both protect the condors’ habitats with National Wildlife Refuges as well as capture the condors breeding programs has led to a recent boom in their population. Today, California condors are released into the Hopper Mountain National Refuge to roost and live out their lives with minimal human interference; this has led to an increase in numbers to more than 425 in captivity or in the wild, protected by wildlife refuges.

Written by: Max Veenema


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