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Study seeks to understand the tropicalization of Florida’s waters

Tallahassee, FL (April 23, 2020) – The nonprofit Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida announced a $45,000 grant to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to better understand the marine environment off Florida’s west coast.

In a previous study, FWC scientists discovered the presence of Caribbean Pederson cleaner shrimp (Ancylomenes pedersoni) associated with corkscrew anemones (Bartholomea annulate) for the first time in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Several species of tropical fishes were also observed, including damselfish, parrotfish and butterflyfish, which are typically associated with tropical coral reefs. These findings led scientists to suspect these Gulf of Mexico ecosystems may be experiencing tropicalization.

The $45,000 grant will allow FWC to further investigate the ecology of the eastern Gulf and search for additional anemone shrimp-cleaning stations and tropical fish. Understanding these changes and the pace at which they’re occurring is essential to predicting future changes to Florida’s marine ecosystems.

“In the face of such significant change, knowing more about the adaptability of our marine ecosystems is crucial,” said Foundation Ppresident and CEO Andrew Walker. “FWC scientists are documenting important shifts in the Gulf of Mexico that will guide sustainable management of our fisheries and marine habitats.”

The grant was approved by the Foundation’s board of directors at its recent March meeting. Funds came from the Conserve Wildlife Florida license plate, which contains the image of a Florida black bear. Twenty-five dollars from each purchase of the “bear tag” supports the conservation of Florida’s rare species and other nongame wildlife. The Foundation is in the process of updating the license plate’s design.

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