Chesapeake Bay Quiz

by George White

The magnificent Chesapeake Bay stretching for a length of 193 miles between Maryland and Virginia ranks as one of America’s most important natural treasures. The Bay, with an area of approximately 3230 square miles, contains some of the most fascinating wildlife in the world. Many of the sea creatures are so unique that they seem like something thought up by Hollywood science fiction writers.

Some fascinating facts about the aqualife of the Chesapeake Bay and other sea habitats are contained in a cute little book, 1001 Questions Answered About the Seashore, by N.J. and J. Berrill, Dover Publications, New York. This is a fun book to read when you have a few minutes to spare, but do not want to get engrossed in reading a book like one on fascinating Cichlids. This quiz on the Chesapeake Bay is based primarily on information derived from the Berrills’ book. (The answers are on the next page — unless our editor has decided to be devious and publish them in the next issue of PVAS.)

1) Name at least three rivers that flow into the Chesapeake Bay.

2) What gives seawater its distinctive taste?

3) Why is the sea blue?

4) Why do the northern stretches of the Atlantic sometimes look like diluted green pea soup in the summer?

5) Can you eat seaweed?

6) Does a starfish have a brain?

7) Can clams bore into rock?

8) Do oysters have separate sexes?

9) Can crabs swim?

10) Are Virginians and Marylanders lying when they claim that their crabs are blue–blooded nobility?

Answers to Chesapeake Bay Quiz

1) The following rivers flow into the Chesapeake Bay: Susquehanna River in the North, the Patuxent and Potomac on the West, the Chester, Choptank and Nanticoke on the East, and the Rappahannock, York and James Rivers on the Southwest.

2) The flavor of seawater comes primarily from its many salts. The predominant one is sodium chloride (common table salt), but magnesium sulphate (Epsom salts) is also a significant factor in the flavor.

3) The blue color in the deep sea is caused by the scattering of light among the water molecules in a similar fashion to that occurring in the sky. The emptier the water, the bluer it appears. The deep blue sea is actually a watery desert almost void of life.

4) The green color is primarly due to explosive growth of diatoms, which are microscopic, single–celled plants encased in a delicate shell of silica.

5) "The purple laver and dulse, which are very thin red seaweeds, like a purple sea–lettuce, make excellent soup and are often eaten raw, particularly in the Canadian Maritime Provinces. (Note: I would not try this unless I were a Canadian who can properly identify seaweed.)

6) The starfish has a brain, but not in the usual sense. It has a central nerve ring around the mouth, with a nerve leading from it along each ray. It literally is a smart mouth."

7) Some species, known as "rock–boring clams" can. They attach themselves to a rock with their suction disc foot and slowly cut into the rock by twisting the rough edges of their shells against it. Obviously, this is very slow work. But, hey, the clam isn’t going anywhere.

8) Virginia oysters mature at five months as males and begin to release spermatozoa. Once the sperm is discharged, they begin to change sexes and by six months are busy producing eggs. In contrast, California clams change sex every few months. (I assume Dr. Berrill knows what he is writing about and is not just spreading another nasty rumor about Californians).

9) Some can, others cannot. Both blue and lady crabs are swimmers and have paddle–like last pairs of legs that they use like oars.

10) Crabs have a very pate bluish blood in common with all the crustacians and most mollusks. The respiratory pigment has a copper basis in place of the iron of the red hemoglobin of other creatures.