by Kristy Hill
Yesterday we ventured to the Caribbean coast of Panama, where we had beautiful weather for sampling. Our first stop was near Fort Sherman, a former United States Army base, where we found lots of Isognomon oysters on the subtidal rocks. These oysters are unusual because instead of cementing their shell to a hard surface, they attach themselves to rocks and mangroves with a threadlike structure. We also were able to collect a Crassostrea sp. and a few Ostrea sp. as well.
We then headed to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) Marine Laboratory in Galeta. We braved the somewhat turbulent waters and snorkeled to collect from the mangroves, despite reports of crocodiles that frequent the area. Oh, the lengths we’ll go to in the name of science.
We also scoped out another site on the French Canal on our way back to STRI. We stopped on an overpass and saw large oysters on the pilings. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get down to them without our spelunking equipment (kidding), so we had to leave them for now. This location is definitely on the list for our next visit, but we’ll have to approach it from a different angle–perhaps with kayaks.
It’s hard to believe we’ve been in Panama for almost two weeks now. We’ve collected over 500 oysters of at least six different species! I have a few battle scars–oysters can be vicious–but all in all we have fared well and are hoping that we avoided getting any of the human parasites that occur here. (I really don’t want a botfly larvae under my skin!!)
Perhaps the mud and dirt will be gone by then, but I’m fairly certain the oyster smell will remain!