Living in our luxury Houston apartments means you have near-instant access to one of the largest tourist destinations in the Southeast United States: the Gulf of Mexico!
With miles and miles of sandy beaches, islands, wetlands and more, the many ecosystems within the Gulf’s warm water are home to millions of birds, fish, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and more!
Here are some pretty amazing facts about the Gulf of Mexico!
Things you didn’t know about the Gulf of Mexico
The Gulf’s geography & characteristics
- The Gulf of Mexico ranks ninth in the world in terms of largest bodies of water. It covers around 617,800 square miles and measures around 994 miles across at its widest.
- There’s no shortage of beaches around the Gulf of Mexico, as it’s nearly enclosed by the United States, Mexico, Belize and Cuba. In total, there are around 3,540 miles of beaches from the Yucatan peninsula in South America to the tip of Florida in North America, as well as another 236 miles of gorgeous coastline around Cuba. With so many miles of pristine beaches, it’s no wonder so many tourists flock to this part of the world each year to enjoy all the sun, sand and surf that the Gulf has to offer!
- The Gulf serves as the emptying point for a host of rivers, streams and waterways originating further inland. In the United States portion alone, thirty-three major river systems empty into the Gulf, as well as an additional 207 estuaries!
- The Gulf has an underwater lake called the “Hot Tub of Despair” smack-dab its deepest, darkest depths. It’s characterized by a hot spot of warm water heated by thermal vents deep underground, plus a high concentration of salt from ancient salt flats that formed long before the Gulf was covered in such deep water. This hot water and high salt concentration creates dense saltwater pools that contain four times as much salt as the surrounding water — a level toxic for marine life. They are so dense, in fact, that the water sits in its own underwater pools at the bottom of the Gulf!
Fauna and flora in the Gulf
- The Gulf of Mexico is much less deep than the neighboring Atlantic Ocean, with a max depth of 17,070 feet below sea level compared to the Atlantic’s 27,841 feet below sea level. The average depth, though, is around 5,200 feet deep. This warm water makes an attractive and nurturing home for birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians, crustaceans and more!
- Bayous and swamps all along the Gulf coast contribute to the whopping 31 estuarine watersheds in the area, all of which provide thriving and diverse habitats for fauna and flora of all kinds.
- The warm waters and coastal habitats are home to a host of marine mammals — 29 of them in fact! These mammals range from massive humpback whales and sperm whales to bottlenose dolphins to West Indian manatees and more! Interestingly enough, though, there are no otters, sea lions, seals or fur seals in the Gulf, as the waters are generally too warm for these species to have found their ways into the Gulf.
- Migratory birds find solace and rest in the breezy coasts of the Gulf. On the Louisiana coast alone, over 2.5 million migratory birds rest on the coast each day during migration season!
- There are 49 species of sharks spread out around the Gulf of Mexico, so watch out for shark reports if you’re heading out into deeper waters to go fishing, scuba diving or snorkeling!
- Warm saltwater is a haven for mollusks like oysters, scallops, clams and mussels. If you buy some from a store anywhere in North or South America, there’s a good chance they came from the Gulf of Mexico!
- Floating patches of entwined seaweed provide shelter and protection for turtles, birds, fish and more. They can get so big that they can be spotted from space!
- The warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico are ideal for nurturing and growing coral reefs, which require very specific conditions to not only exist, but to thrive.
- Most coral reefs grow at a rate of .5 and .7 inches per year.
- The Gulf is home to black coral, a species of coral that grows super slowly and lives for hundreds upon hundreds of years. In fact, there’s a patch of them that live in the Gulf that dates back almost 2,000 years!
- If you’ve ever watched “Finding Nemo,” then you’ll remember that coral reefs provide protection and homes to an abundance of small sea creatures. It's what keeps those nasty barracudas away from sweet little fishies, of course. But in all seriousness, coral reef ecosystems in the Gulf of Mexico support over 6,000 species of marine life! This includes 63 species of stony corals; 55 soft corals; 128 varieties of sea cucumbers, sand dollars, sea urchins and starfish; and 520 types of fish!
Humans & the Gulf
- The Gulf of Mexico is a popular site for recreational fishing. In 2008 alone, around 190 million fish were caught on a whopping 24.1 million fishing trips to the Gulf!
- Four major industries have the Gulf of Mexico to thank for their success: the fishing industry, the shipping industry, the tourism industry and the oil industry. All of these account for around $234 billion in annual revenue, with tourism alone counting for around $100 billion of that number!
- Speaking of oil, there are around 27,000 abandoned oil and gas wells in the Gulf, plus a few thousand more above-water oil rigs.
- The 2010 BP Deepwater oil spill lasted for three months and released over 4.9 million barrels of oil into the water. A whole decade later, over 400 species of animals, fish and birds are still at risk from the pollution.
So, as you can see, the Gulf of Mexico is a haven for millions of animals, birds, plants and corals of all kinds! Our human activity can impact this delicate environment in both positive and negative ways, so let’s keep our warm, beautiful waters clean and healthy for the generations of people and marine life to come!
Featured photo courtesy Pixabay/raggio5