Day 6: Featuring the Underwater Sculpture Park, it’s people – GUSMI & the Lettuce Sea Slug

 Eco Dive celebrates Grenada Underwater Sculpture Lettuce Sea Slug

 Our People – Howard Clarke, Chairman of the Grenada Underwater Sculpture Management Inc. (GUSMI)

Howard arrived in Grenada in 2007 while sailing with his wife Suzanne and our 6 month old son Sam, they loved the island and after some more sailing decided to return to Grenada and settle down here.

Howard and his family own a powerboat tour company called Grenada Seafaris which started operating in 2008 just after Jason De Caires Taylor had finished putting the original sculptures in Molinere Bay.  Howard then got involved in the maintenance of the sculptures after Jason had left Grenada and now, after years of volunteer work and contributions to our underwater sculptures, Howard chairs GUSMI, a very appropriate role for such a long term volunteer.   GUSMI is a non profit company which helps fundraise and maintain the existing sculptures and organize the commissioning of new pieces for the area.

Howard loves being out on the water and finds it amazing to watch the sculptures transform as new corals and sponges grow. In his words “I’ve always been interested in photography and find taking pictures of the sculptures and the coral growth very rewarding”, I have to say we agree. This long term friend of Eco Dive is a pleasure to highlight for his contributions through GUSMI and the promotion of sustainable eco-tourism in our beautiful Grenada.

Another video from the original artist and initiator of the Underwater Sculpture park Jason DeCairnes Taylor – the mastermind!

Dive Site – National Geographic 25 Wonders of the World included our Underwater Sculpture Park in Molinere Bay

The sculptures profile:  shallowest 3m/10ft – 8m/25ft
Dive site profile:  option 1) 3m/10ft – 12m/40ft, option 2) include the Buccaneer shipwreck and increase the depth to 22m/70ft

Moilinere Bay is located within one of Grenada’s marine protected areas and is home to a number of sculptures (65 by Jason de Caires Taylor and 14 by local artist Troy Lewis), covering an area of 800 sq meters. It is located two miles north of the capital St Georges on the west coast of the island. The bay is enclosed by rock headlands and has a small beach accessible only from the water. Within the Bay the sea ranges in depth from 0m- 25m. It is roughly a 10 minute boat ride from St Georges and 15 minutes from Grand Anse.

The placement of the sculptures has provided new areas for marine life to proliferate. The growth and variety has been amazing on the sculptures and this has attracted a diverse array of marine life, it is a must see attraction when visiting Grenada.  For more information on the sculptures, the artists or the scuba diving or snorkeling trips please contact us dive@ecodiveandtrek.com or check our Jason’s website here: http://www.underwatersculpture.com/projects/grenada/
Grenada Underwater Sculpture Management Inc
Grenada Underwater Sculpture Management Inc

Feature Creature – The Lettuce Sea Slug (Elysia crispata), a favorite in the Underwater Sculpture Park

Nickname: ‘Sap-Sucking-Solar-Powered-Sea-Slug’

The lettuce sea slug, is a large and colorful species of sea slug, a marine gastropod mollusk. The lettuce slug resembles a nudibranch, but it is not closely related to that genetic line of gastropods; it is a sacoglossan. Sacoglossans are a genetic grouping of small sea slugs and sea snails that earned their name from their often green color with very frilly parapodia edge (ruffles on its back).  The maximum length of this species is about 5 cm and 3 cm in width and the color can vary a lot between blue, pale whitish with red or yellow lines.  Many of these are seen in the Sculpture Park and a favorite of our regular photographers.

scuba dive with Eco Dive Grenada

This species lives in the tropical parts of the western Atlantic and in the Caribbean. They are found mostly in coastal and tropical reef areas where the water is shallow and clear. Lettuce slugs can be either heterotrophic (eat stuff, mostly algae) or autotrophic (make their own energy through photosynthesis) and it changes over their lifespan. As juveniles, food is consumed and digested quickly, with little own food making. However, when they are fully developed a process called kleptoplasty becomes an important energy source.  Kleptoplasty is an energy providing mechanism that gives the Lettuce Sea Slug the nickname ‘solar-powered sea slugs’.  The basics of this mechanism are that the slugs eat algae which contain choloplasts (cells that capture sun energy) and the sea slug cleverly adopts these chloroplasts and moves them into their parapodia (back ruffles) to capture light energy for the slug. Lettuce Sea Slugs are one of the best slugs in their family at retaining these choloplasts for ‘long’ periods of time, thereby providing themselves with an energy source while they forage. This very clever long-term retention is an evolutionary adaption which allows a greater chance of survival during drastic environmental changes as it means the slugs can remain active and healthy in the absence of food.

eco dive grenada lettuce sea slug GT

A great video of the lettuce sea slug in ‘action’, not ours!  Credits included in the video, have a look.

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