Cape Cod's Nature Place

The Cape Cod Museum of Natural History


Pearlside Story: A Call for Citizen Science and the Value of Published Observations


with  Owen Nichols

Saturday, September 14th at 1:00 pm

Owen Nichols and his partner, researcher and environmental educator Tasia Blough, were walking on Coast Guard Beach in Eastham, MA when Tasia discovered a tiny, lifeless silver fish among the rocks and wrack line. She quickly recognized it as a deep ocean fish covered with light organs, and despite searching for another hour, they only found the single specimen.

When they returned home, they used an ultraviolet light to examine the fish, revealing the exquisite detail of its bioluminescent light organs. Owen identified the fish as a pearlside (Maurolicus sp.), a mesopelagic fish covered in photophores (light organs) that is fairly well known offshore in deeper water, but of which there are only a few published records from the coast. A social media post of the discovery circulated widely, leading to regional media coverage, which in turn led to several other reports of the species from local beachcombers and naturalists. While these beach-cast records are a small contribution to our knowledge of the distributional ecology of the species, they highlight the need for citizen science and published observations.

Owen Nichols is Director of Marine Fisheries Research at the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Massachusetts - Dartmouth School for Marine Science and Technology, a guest investigator at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and an adjunct professor at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy and the Shoals Marine Laboratory. 

Free with Museum Admission

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