Urchin/Crab Panama Expedition 2018: Day 13

Another long day. Maybe the longest so far. We had to leave the hostel at 6:30. Our host’s mother extra got up and brewed us some strong Italian coffee. Such a lovely lady!

We hired a local fisherman to bring us out to the Archipelago de Islas Secas. The boat ride took almost 1.5h: first down a river along the mangroves and then out into the open ocean. We tried hard to spot a crocodile but they hid too well. Here at the Pacific side of the isthmus we depend on the tides. We can only find porcelain crabs during deep low tides. This gives us around 2h to find the crabs! The marine life around Islas Secas is amazing! I needed a lot of self discipline not to get distracted by the schools of fish passing by and the moray eels looking out of their holes. What a pity that David was not with us. I was accompanied by some large beauties. I worked with my full commitment, regardless of scratches and waves. For the first hour I did not find anything. However, then I figured it out and started finding them.

On the way back to the fisherman’s village we noticed some huge houses and development in the area. This place is unique with regard to its pristine nature and wilderness. People live in small villages in colorful houses. Life is simple and sufficient. Many families have chickens, a few cows and pigs. However, now it looks like they are selling their land to turn it into cash. Many buyers are rich international investors who want to develop the area, build large hotels and make money with all-inclusive resorts. Moreover, there is a law in Panama that makes it easier to get a residence permit if you buy real estate. This is not a good development for the local flora and fauna, including humans.

Like yesterday, I immediately started processing samples and culturing bacteria when we came back to the hostel. I only took a quick break for the sunset at the longest beach in Panama, 5min by (bare-) foot from the hostel.

Sunset at Las Lajas

The bugs are growing well. I hope I can isolate them successfully.

I was particularly pleased to find P. haigae today, named after Janet Haig a pioneer in porcelain crab research! As a tribute I will browse in the Reports of the Lund University Chile Expedition 1948-49 (link). In this report, Haig describes crustaceans that they found during their expedition (titles in Swedish, text in English and Spanish). I wonder how collection permits were regulated in South America during that time.

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