1. Bottlenose Dolphins
Bottlenose dolphins are very common especially during the day and right around sunset. The Atlantic bottlenose dolphin and the subspecies called the Indian River Lagoon bottlenose dolphin are the two types of dolphins that occupy these waters. You can differentiate between them because of the size and color of the dolphin. The Indian River Lagoon bottlenose dolphin is a lot darker and smaller than the Atlantic bottlenose. Throughout the years, the Indian River Lagoon dolphin has adapted to the shallow and brackish waters of the lagoon system which is why they are smaller and darker than the Atlantic bottlenose dolphin.
2. Florida Manatee
The West Indian Manatee is the one found in our lagoon system and is the largest of all 3 manatee species. While being able to grow up to 13 feet long and over 3,500lbs, the West Indian Manatee dominates the competing species which typically only get around 9-10 feet long. Manatees can eat around 10% of their body weight each day which means an individual 1,000lb manatee can eat around 100 lbs of seagrass a day. With the amount of seagrass needed in order to survive, the manatee has become endangered due to the lack of sea grass within the lagoon.
3. Comb Jellies
Comb jellies can be as small as a grain of salt but can be as large as a grapefruit although the largest one to be found was the size of a basketball. Comb jellies are actually ctenophores which means they can’t form the stinging cells that the more typical jellyfish would. These creatures rely on sticky cells, or lasso cells, which are two tentacles that they shoot out to capture their prey. When looking at a comb jelly, you will notice little lines glowing on them almost like little glow sticks. That is caused by “vein-like” structures that are full of oxygen and when you agitate them they pump luciferin into those veins where it reacts with the oxygen allowing them to glow multiple times per night.
4. Great Blue Heron
The Great Blue Heron is the 3rd largest bird in Florida right behind the Woodstork and the Sandhill crane. Great Blue Herons can be 3.5-4.5 feet tall with over a 5.5-6.5 foot wingspan. Despite their large size, the great blue heron only weighs around 5-7 pounds. These big birds spend most of their time wading in the water for fish in shallow water or near shorelines. Herons will eat anything they can fit in their mouths from small mammals, amphibians, fish and even small reptiles like baby alligators although that is very rare.
The mullet is a type of fish that is white and striped ranging from 8-19.5 inches long. There are two types of mullet to which both species school together and can be identified by the black stripes or just white. The Indian River Lagoon is part of their migration from inshore foraging here in the lagoons, to their offshore spawning sites. Finger mullet or juvenile tend to hang out near shorelines to avoid bigger fish but this often leaves them vulnerable to birds and cast netters.