Mud-Flat Life…

|Mud-Flat Life…

The first module of the Turkana Basin Institute of Ecology is just coming to and end. We spent a couple of days this week learning about and exploring the aquatic habitat of the Turkwel River next to TBI.

 

Exploring life in the river

One of the amazing things was both how tough life can be in the river. Organisms have to cope with fluctuating water levels, changes in temperature, fast and slow moving water as well as finding sufficient oxygen.

We focused on different parts of the river, but as the Turkwel is currently quite low as it is the middle of the dry season, most of our sampling was done on the mud-flats.While this habitat may not seem that exciting, it actually is a very important component of aquatic life. Films of algae feed and harbor innumerable insect larvae and specialised creatures that make a living the the rich, wet mud.

Here are some photos of the students at work:

James, Sarah, Benson and Eli search for special insects

 

One of the interesting species we were looking for was a species of semi-aquatic grasshopper that lives on algae on the mud-flats. They proved extremely agile at leaping away and were fairly small so the students had to get down in the mud to locate them…

Jeannie and Michelle hunt down some of the elusive grasshoppers

 

Sarah and Robert stalking aquatic insects as Tom and Poppy frolic in the water

 

The most interesting find of the day was a wonderful Fishing Spider (yes, that’s right!) This is a kind of spider that specialises in living around water and it does hunt down small fish and aquatic invertebrates.

Chelsea shows off the Fishing Spider she found

 

One incredible adaptation of the Fishing Spider is it’s ability to walk on the surface of the water. Water-repellant hairs on it’s legs allow it to do this. We released the Fishing Spider and watched it smoothly skate across the surface using it’s middle legs for rowing and front and hind legs as outriggers for stability.

 

Fishing Spider walks on water!

 

The cutest creature we encountered was a Fat-Tailed Gecko that was discovered living in an eroded sand-bank on the far side of the river. It was very friendly and seemed to enjoy all the special attention that it received.

 

Marcela meets the Fat-Tailed Gecko

 

The gecko enjoying the view and sunshine

 

On our return to the classroom the students prepared a food-web outlining some of the interactions between different organisms in the aqautic habitats of Lake Turkana.

 

The food-web of Lake Turkana

By | 2017-01-04T18:05:22+00:00 February 4th, 2012|Field Schools|Comments Off on Mud-Flat Life…

About the Author:

Hello! I'm Dino Martins, an entomologist interested in how insects keep the planet running, the biology of vectors and more broadly in the evolution of life and our role in a sustainable world. I teach for the Turkana Basin Field School and serve as the Academic Field Director and am a Research Assistant Professor at Stony Brook University.