Field trips don’t normally include seeing an unidentified sea creature squirt purple ink on someone’s hand. Students participating in the Digital Wave Summer Academy who went on a field trip to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature on Key Biscayne got to see this, and tons more. First, everyone got a lesson in how to safely walk into the sea grass beds off of the coast of Key Biscayne – everyone needs to be safe for their own sakes, but also for the sake of the creatures that call the water and the sea grass home. For example – when you reach a sandbar, you should drag your feet along the bottom so that any stingrays there feel your presence in advance and swim away. It’s good sense – watch where you’re going, and don’t step on a stingray camouflaged on the seafloor. (They’re not used to being touched, like the stingrays in the Museum’s Sea Lab!)
Students were given nets, and told how to drag them along the sea grass beds, and then gently but quickly lift them from the water to see if anything was caught. Our guides had buckets of seawater so we could observe what we found and learn about them. We saw starfish, box fish, and even a slug-looking creature that was so scared (or angry) at being caught, that it squirt out purple ink as a defense mechanism into the hand of the nature guide holding it – it even temporarily made his hand feel numb! Anyone know what kind of creature this was?