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During the live expedition hundreds of our viewers emailed comments or questions to the field team. Below are answers to your questions about the life on and around beautiful Palmyra Atoll. Also, see the daily Dispatches for answers to other questions.

The following nine questions are from the sixth grade science students at Howell Township Middle School in New Jersey

How large is the population of coconut crabs on the atoll? There’s been no scientific study on Palmyra Atoll that’s determined the exact number of coconut crabs. However, since coconut crabs have been over-harvested on other South Pacific islands and atolls, the population of coconut crabs on Palmyra Atoll represents perhaps the highest concentration of coconut crabs anywhere.

This underscores the importance of preservation of Palmyra Atoll in its current wilderness state.
-– The Palmyra Team

Other than people, what’s the crab's enemy? Other than humans, there are no coconut crab predators on land. However, when the coconut crabs enter the ocean to lay eggs they may be preyed upon by sharks and other large reef predators.

Then, as zooplankton, they drift in the currents in the ocean where they disperse and colonize other reef areas. They go through metamorphous stages, like a caterpillar to a butterfly, until they become adults. At this point they move onto land to live as coconut crabs.

The rats that were introduced to the atoll during WWII compete with the coconut crabs for the food supply. If there weren’t rats on the atolls, there would be food, and the crabs would grow faster, and probably more would survive.
-- Jim Maragos, US Fish and Wildlife Service Biologist

How many species of coral are found at Palmyra? Right now we’ve found 150 species of coral, including 140 species of stony corals and 10 species of soft corals – this includes one new, unidentified species. There are more corals on Palmyra than on neighboring atolls on the Line Islands because of Palmyra’s position in the counter-currents that bring additional species of corals from the west.
-- Jim Maragos, US Fish and Wildlife Service Biologist
What is the most threatened species of coral there? The most vulnerable group of corals includes the Acropora, which includes the table corals and staghorn corals. They’re vulnerable because they are more susceptible to coral bleaching due to heated ocean waters and they are more fragile than other corals. For example, there are many fragile species of these corals in the Coral Gardens where its important that skin divers
don’t touch or break them.
-- Jim Maragos, US Fish and Wildlife Service Biologist
About how many green sea turtles depend on the beaches of the atoll? A magical and unique aspect of Palmyra Atoll is that much of the scientific studies that have been carried out elsewhere to study the condition of species and ecosystems have yet to take place on here. Therefore, the number of green sea turtles nesting on Palmyra Atoll is presently unknown.
The One World Journeys team, however, has spotted sea turtles on virtually every excursion into the ocean or into the lagoons.
-– The Palmyra Team
How do red-footed boobies protect themselves? The boobies have very sharp beaks, and when the flightless fledglings are approached on their nest they reach out to protect themselves with their beaks. Adults that can fly use escape as a means of protection. The boobies are excellent flyers – they’re very maneuverable. We saw Great Frigatebirds chasing the boobies. The Great Frigatebirds harass the boobies so that they become scared, and regurgitate (throw up) the fish and squid they’ve eaten. Then the Frigatebirds eat the regurgitated fish.
-– The Palmyra Team
What is the relationship between the boobies and the atoll? Palmyra is a protected nesting area for the boobies, free of pollution and surrounded by waters that provide a bounty of fish and squid that is the basis of their diet. Being an uninhabited atoll, they are not bothered by human habitation.

Finally, the atoll benefits from the presence of the boobies because there excrement, or guano, provides nutrients for the vegetation that grows on the atoll.
-- Jim Maragos, US Fish and Wildlife Service Biologist

How common is the giant clam to Palmyra? The giant clams are common on the ocean facing reefs, eastern reef pools and shallow, submerged reef flats, but they are absent from the lagoons. This may not have always been the case. For example, at nearby Kingman reef, where there is a more undisturbed lagoon, there is an average of 1 giant clam per square meter. World War II era dredging and filling blocked
circulation in the lagoon and killed all reef life, including the clams.
-- Jim Maragos, US Fish and Wildlife Service Biologist
About how many bonefish live around Palmyra? Starting with the One World Journeys expedition, an organized program managed by the Nature Conservancy to capture and tag bonefish has begun.

Yvon Chouinard, who spent most of the week fishing and tagging the bonefish said, “I hooked 3 times more than I tagged, because I’m using barb less hooks so that the hook comes out easily and doesn’t injure the fish. I also lost a lot of fish trying to tag them because I don’t want to squeeze them too hard. I’ve tagged about 60 fish on this trip.”
-– The Palmyra Team

As an amateur astronomer I'm constantly frustrated by light pollution of the nighttime sky. Is there any bright loom of light on the horizon as from a large city? Is there light pollution from your own presence? Does the moonlight have any affect on the nighttime activities of the native wildlife, birds? -- Steve, Seattle
We can see both the Southern Cross and the Big Dipper,
truly amazing. There is no light pollution, only deep, blessed darkness and the stars appear brilliantly, making me believe what the natural philosopher Arne Ness said, “City lights are a conspiracy against higher thoughts.” Your question about moonlight and the activities of crabs and birds is a good one. Yes. The birds, the Sooty terns in particular are still active at night. From what I have seen, the hermit crabs are extremely active at night, feeding on dead rats and any other detritus they can find.
-- Yours in the wild, Terry Tempest Williams
What are the earliest signs of human habitation on Palmyra. -- Eddie The earliest signs of human contact? Spanish sailors.
There has never been any native islanders here, no record of
Polynesians. The only organized residency was the Army stay
On Palmyra from 1942 through 44 – about 6000 men came through.
They had a swimming pool, various barracks, bunkers, and an
underground hospital.
-- Yours in the wild, Terry Tempest Williams
I'm interested in what types of sharks and rays you find at Palmyra. – Jennifer, Honolulu We have seen a lot of black-tips in the lagoon as well as a couple of white-tips. On the outer reefs we have encountered a lot of gray reef sharks and today we ran into a rather large silky. In '79 I spotted a Tiger in the ship channel but have not seen one here since. It appears that there had been an incident of shark finning shortly before my 1998 visit to the atoll which appeared to have depleted the stock, but they are back now in good numbers.

Manta Rays are very common in Palmyra in the inside lagoon as well as the outside approaches of the ship channel. Elsewhere in the lagoons, common in sandy shallows, are spotted eagle rays.
-- Jim Maragos, US Fish and Wildlife Service Biologist

What is the average size of resident bonefish YC has tagged in the Atoll area? Are milkfish (algae eaters) present as well? – Paul, Jackson, WY
The biggest fish was 8-10 lbs. Caught by one of the women working here. I hooked about a 4-foot milkfish that did Tarpon aerials but I didn't land it. I'm tagging about 15 fish a day and the average size is about 3 lbs.
-– Yvon Chouinard
What is the status of the aircraft runway? -- Al, La Mesa, Ca. The runway is in reasonable condition right now. Last year the runway was completely cleared of overgrowth and since then has been maintained by The Nature Conservancy. The runway is packed coral that provides a very hard surface for landing. A layer of soil cement (latex coating) is applied to the runway and this keeps the dust from flying around and causing visibility problems during our landing and rollout.
-- Pilot Larry Neu
How is the food? Where do you find a water supply? -- Ruthanne, Tennessee The main water source is a reverse osmosis machine that processes seawater, supplying the camp with all of it's drinking and cooking water. The food is wonderfully prepared by Elizabeth Lange. The assistant Chrysanthi seems to be mostly occupied with washing dishes, and wondering what Elizabeth did bringing her to an island that was never before fully inhabited.
Plenty of rain here, and hopefully more coming toward East Tennessee.
-- The Palmyra Team
I was once at Palmyra and saw some shallow round coral discs about four feet across on the north side, and was wondering if they were truncated corals cut low by tidal action and heat or perhaps stomatilities. -- Mark
These corals you are referring to are called Micro Atolls and they not "truncated" per se. These coral grow up from the bottom and reach up to the tidal level and stop. Temperature gradation does effect these corals and so once they reach the surface they can only grow outward instead of upward so they are not exposed to the sun's heat.
-- Jim Maragos, US Fish and Wildlife Service Biologist
I live in the Rocky Mountain West in Denver, Colorado. I was wondering if you could tell me what kinds of birds found in our region (including the different species Terry talks about in her book "Refuge") migrate to and from Palmyra? If there are any, can you then explain what the effects of the rapid growth occurring in our area have on the migratory species and, eventually, on the health of the ecosystem on Palmyra. -- Tamara
The bird that would most likely migrate to the states would be the Mallard Ducks that can be found here in Palmyra. Other than that, there is always the possibility of a mainland species such as the Peregrine Falcon being blown here from a strong stateside storm. This has been seen in Hawaii but not yet here on Palmyra. Also, read Dispatch 2 about birds of Palmyra.
-– The Palmyra Team
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