The species on this page are typical of a north Florida salt marsh. Dr. Randall Hughes is conducting an NSF funded study on biodiversity in salt marshes, and included in the descriptions are links to blog posts related to that study.
Smooth Cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora)
Cordgrass is often the dominant species of the coastal salt marsh. Click to Expand
Spartina reproduces in two ways. Its rhizomes can split apart, with each segment becoming a different individual with identical genetic composition. This is clonal reproduction. They also produce flowers and seeds towards the end of summer.
Periwinkles climb cordgrass (Spartina) to evade their predators, which include crown conchs and blue crabs. While they do not feed on Spartina directly, they can cause the plant considerable damage. They puncture the blades of grass with their radula, consuming fungus that then grows on the scar. In the late ’90s and early 2000s, there was a large die off of marsh habitat in the southeast. Research by Dr. Brian Silliman concluded that cordgrass, weakened by drought, was being mowed down by periwinkles. Randall Hughes is following up this research, investigating the role biodiversity plays in strengthening a marsh against snails and other disturbances, natural or man made.
Does the threat of predation cause the periwinkles to become frozen with fear? Or, having been chased up the cordgrass, will they eat more of it? Click here for the video.
Grasshopper (suborder Caelifera of the order Orthoptera)
As anyone with a backyard garden is aware, grasshoppers are prodigious consumers of plants. Click to expand.
By feeding on and scaring these periwinkle snails, does the crown conch benefit or harm the marsh? Find the video here.
Blue Crab (Callinectes sapidus)
A popular delicacy (for humans) in this habitat is the blue crab, which is the crab used to make Maryland crab cakes. Click to Expand
A popular delicacy in this habitat is the blue crab, which is the crab used to make Maryland crab cakes. Increasingly, Maryland imports their crabs from Florida, which has more robust habitats for them. On oyster reefs and in salt marshes, blue crabs are important predators that help control populations of oyster drills, mud crabs, and periwinkle snails.
Other Animals of the Marsh
Fiddler Crab (Uca pugilator or Uca panacea, locally)
Fiddlers are so named for the male’s “fiddle claw”. Click to expand.
Pinfish (Lagodon rhomboides)
The pinfish gets its name from the sharp spines in its dorsal fin. Click to expand
Striped Mullet (Mugil cephalus)
Striped mullet is an international fish, found along coastlines of every continent except Antarctica. Click to expand
Other Plants of the Marsh
Sea Lavendar (Limonium carolinianum)
Sea lavender is an herb that grows among marsh grasses. It blooms in the Summer months (June through August). Click to expand
Find yearly landings for commercial fisheries in Florida here.