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Native Species of Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserves Quick Links

The rich fauna found in Biscayne Bay results from the diverse habitats found in the bay. Not only does the bay provide habitat, but it also provides links in food webs, which benefit the entire Biscayne Bay ecosystem. Seagrass habitat covering the bottom of the Biscayne Bay aquatic preserves (BBAP) serves as a food source for the Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris),and green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) and as nursery grounds for several important species of fish and invertebrates. Scientists have documented more than 500 fish species in the bay. At least some of this diversity is due to the overlap of the Atlantic and the Caribbean marine provinces. Benthic surveys tallied over 800 species of invertebrates in BBAP, including over 150 species of shrimp, crabs and lobsters. Many of these species are commercially harvested including blue crab, stone crab, spiny lobster, penaeid shrimp, and sponges. BBAP's hardbottom community allows numerous invertebrates substrate to colonize on. Within the hardbottom communities in Biscayne Bay, the most common sponges are the loggerhead sponge (Spheciospongia vesparia) and the basket sponge (Ircinia campana). The importance of Biscayne Bay to juvenile spiny lobster (Panulirus argus) has resulted in a large portion of the bay (roughly from Cape Florida south through Card Sound) to be designated as the Biscayne Bay-Card Sound Spiny Lobster Sanctuary, as described in Chapter 68B-11, F. A. C.

In the shallow waters of Card Sound, herons, egrets, and spoonbills have been documented to forage in the seagrass beds for fish, crustaceans, and other marine species exposed during low tides. Other native species of interest include BBAP's resident Atlantic bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) population. Biscayne Bay is home to many shark species such as bull sharks (Carcharhinus leucas), black-tip sharks (Carcharhinus limbatus), and nurse sharks (Ginglymostoma cirratum). While some species only spend their juvenile years in the bay, others spend their whole life here such as one of the most commonly seen species the bonnethead shark (Sphyrna tiburo). Bonnethead sharks can be found throughout the estuary but especially near dense mangrove regions of the central and southern bay. Spotted eagle rays (Aetobatus narinari), are known to live close to the shoreline and are frequently seen, leaping from the water at the western edge of Bear Cut, in the central section of the bay.

Mangrove crab

Mangrove crab

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Last updated: June 27, 2014

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