Thursday, September 20, 2012

September 18, 2012 Necropsy of an Ocean Sunfish

On September 17, 2012 the National Marine Life Center (NMLC) in Bourne called us about a live ocean sunfish in Little Buttermilk Bay which is part of  Buzzards Bay. NMLC staff member Kate headed over to that are to check on this fish and she contacted us about this presence of this fish in this area. 

Kate walking out to the dead ocean sunfish. 
Kate was able to locate this ocean sunfish and it appeared to be in good shape as it was swimming in Little Buttermilk Bay.  However, later that afternoon and as the tide was going out, the fish stranded and died. Kate returned and headed out on the mud flats to examine the ocean sunfish more closely. Kate then made another call to NECWA to update us on the status of this animal. 

Foster, Tiffany, Michael and Belinda. 

Michael setting up the portable weighing tripod.
NECWA staff members were able to respond to this stranding the next day. Krill, Belinda, Michael and Tiffany all met Kate back at Little Buttermilk Bay late on Tuesday afternoon. Belinda's children, Foster and Merrick, also assisted with this necropsy and boy were we glad to have the extra pair of hands.

Tiffany putting the straps under the sunfish. 
Belinda in her field biologist garb!
Tiffany wearing her whites!
The first thing we had to do was to move the carcass off the mud flats. That took 4 of us as we placed the carcass under a matt and dragged it to the marsh grass area where it would be easier to weigh and necropsy the carcass.  

Merrick and Foster helping with the tripod. 
Foster helping to weigh the carcass. 
Weighing the ocean sunfish. 
Michael set-up our portable weighing tripod while Tiffany placed the straps under the carcass.Foster took over from there and used the chain lift to lift the carcass off the grouns. This carcass weighed in at 276 pounds which is light for most of the ocean sunfish that we have examined over the years.

Reading the carcass weight on the electronic crane scale. 
Foster using the chain lift to lower the carcass. 
Our next job was to collect external photographs of the carcass and a series of body measurements. Tiffany and Michael worked together to measure the different body parts including the dorsal fin, anal fin, body length and girth and other features.

Tiffany taking measurements. Metric!

Michael and Tiffany collecting body measurements as Foster looks on.
Merrick did a great job at recording the information being collected and writing it all down on the data sheet.
But that mud was getting everywhere, even on the data recorder!

Merrick collecting data. 
Michael and Tiffany measuring. 
This team worked hard all the way up to sunset. Then it was time to put away the gear and collect all our samples and supplies. Much thanks to everyone who helped out