Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Island Fox Summer Puzzle

The story of the island fox is all around you on the Channel Islands. Below is a collection of items found along the beach and trails of Santa Cruz Island during a Friends of the Island Fox's trip to see the island fox. Can you identify these items?

photo courtesy of Judy Millner

Island foxes do not swim in the ocean, but they will scavenge dead animals that wash ashore. Can you find the kelp crab carapace, mussel and two different clam shells, and remnants of a harbor seal (vertebra and half of a pelvis bone)?

DDT impacted bald eagles living on the Channel Islands. Their extinction led to a change in the natural balance which ultimately threatened island foxes. The brown pelican was also impacted by DDT in the marine environment. Fortunately, the brown pelican population has recovered because of conservation measures.  Find two hollow pelican bones. Native peoples used these bones to make flute-like instruments.

Native people have intermittently lived on the Channel Islands for over 12,000 years. The Chumash people have had a long and valued relationship with the island fox. Another island resource they valued was soapstone. Find this soft, colorful stone that was carved into a variety of items. 

Island foxes do not typically eat sea urchins, moon snails or wavy turban snails. However, these kelp forest creatures depend on a healthy island ecosystem to minimize erosion that would dump silt into the clear water surrounding the islands. This tidal area is a vital habitat for sunlight-dependent kelp forests. The island fox helps reduce island erosion by being the largest seed disperser for the island's fruiting plants. Find these sea creatures that need the island fox: three sea urchins, one moon snail and two wavy turban snails.

While the hard shell-like tunnels of the calcerous tube worm might smell interesting to an island fox, these worms live in the ocean filtering small particles of food from the water. They build their tunnels on tidal rocks and frequently on man-made docks. Find the two structures made by calcerous tube worms.

Since the mid-1800s, people have had a big impact on the Santa Cruz Island ecosystem. Find all of the items related to modern people: eucalyptus (introduced plant), concrete (from buildings), lower limb bone (canon bone) of an ungulate (sheep, goat or pig, all introduced animals), jaw bone of a pig, and a piece of molded fiberglass

Answers below:

  • kelp crab (1), mussel and two different clam shells (10), and remnants of a harbor seal (5)
  • two hollow pelican bones (8)
  • colorful soapstone (9) 
  • three sea urchins (2), one moon snail (13) and two wavy turban snails (12) 
  • calcerous tube worms (14) 
  •  eucalyptus (3), concrete tumbled in the ocean (11), lower limb bone of a sheep, goat or pig (6), jaw bone of a pig (7), a piece of molded fiberglass (4)