Laetitia in Panama: August 2017

(by Laetitita Wilkins)

Collecting sea urchins at Galeta

On the 25th of September 2017 we went out to Galeta, a STRI research facility on the Caribbean coast of Panama, about 90min away from Panama City, right across the country. On the way there we drove through a rainforest, the fast ‘autopista’, and then a beautiful mangrove forest, before we reached the ocean.

In the following video you see Galeta and its surroundings including sea urchins in their natural habitat at the Caribbean side of the isthmus.

 

At Galeta, you can find four species of sympatric echinoids from three genera (Diadema antillarum, Echinometra lucunter, E. viridis, and Eucidaris tribuloides). Before the isthmus of Panama rose above sea level, there was one big water body that connected the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Many shallow water creatures got split into two species by the isthmus. Hence, each of the sea urchins we collected has a sister species on the Pacific side of Panama that is its closest relative.

Back in the laboratory on the island of Naos, we dissected each single sea urchin to collect their associated microbes. The following two videos show the detailed process of dissecting a Diadema:

 

and an Echinometra: