When ocean scientist Andrew Thaler found an old, outdated water level gauge, he found a way to give it new life — turning it into a tool to measure public interest in sea level rise. Instead of tracking water, the Sea Leveler tracks how much people are talking about water on Twitter.
From the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Facebook page, here are two lobsters doing it — apparently in the missionary position.
But looks can be misleading. What's actually going on here is external fertilization — that is to say, procreation without any of the potentially awkward penetration. Male lobsters produce spermatophores, packets of sperm, which they attach to the female's sternum. That's what you see happening here, according to the Sanctuary. Later, the female will use that sperm to fertilize her eggs.
Thanks to David Shiffman and Carin Bondar!
Say you're a marine biologist and you want to study the little bitty creatures of the sea — shrimps and worms and things like that. How do you go about capturing them?
Why, with an underwater vacuum, of course.
At the PNAS First Look blog, David Harris writes that this "SCUBA-tank powered vacuum, called an “airlift,” inhales shrimp, sand fleas, marine worms, and 'things that would swim away if they had the chance.'"
"The earliest sawfishes likely arose in the shallow Tethys Sea, that ocean surrounded by the ancient continents of Godwanda and Laurasia, during the Cretaceous period at least 60 million years ago," writes Dr. M. at Deep Sea News.
These "sole survivors of an ancient bloodline" now number only seven species which roam the muddy bottoms of coastal areas, bays and estuaries.
All sawfishes can move easily between fresh and saltwater and often venture deep upstream into rivers. The sawfish lifestyle puts this both their size and saw near humans. All seven species are considered critically endangered by the IUCN. As much as we have impacted them, sawfish have also greatly influenced our culture.
And now, they're one of the most threatened species on our planet. Thanks, humans!
More: Exaltation to Extinction for Sawfishes [Deep Sea News]
Jason Isley is an underwater photographer, which means that the strange and wonderful creatures you and I go ga-ga over are really just part of a workaday routine for him. This is a fact which has gotten him into fights on the Internet ...
I made a comment online recently that I was growing tired of nudibranches and was immediately bombarded with abuse and comments from ‘nudi-lovers’. Allow me to clarify: It’s not that I actually dislike the little flamboyant slugs, but once you have shot a few thousand images of nudies and other common macro life, I was running out of ways to maintain my passion for photographing them. I’ve shot them from countless angles and under a variety of lighting configurations. I know there are now lots of different techniques and gadgets to spice things up, like snoots, external macro diopters, and bugeye lenses, but for me, I really wanted to do something entirely different.
This is how the vast majority of sea cucumbers reproduce — by rearing up and releasing a stream of gametes (that is, sperm or eggs, depending) into the water.
WARNING: This video may be considered not safe for work. Especially if you work for or with sea cucumbers.
The absolute best part about this video: As far as I can tell, all of the facts in it are, in fact, true.
The seahorse: Naturally hilarious.
Discovery Channel and Japan's NHK teamed up to capture video of one of the most elusive and fascinating deep ocean creatures: the giant squid. The joint press release announcing the air date of this long-coveted footage contains the sort of prose I wish we were also seeing in this week's round of CES announcements:
With razor-toothed suckers and eyes the size of dinner plates, tales of the creature have been around since ancient times. The Norse legend of the sea monster the Kraken and the Scylla from Greek mythology might have derived from the giant squid. This massive predator has always been shrouded in secrecy, and every attempt to capture a live giant squid on camera in its natural habitat, considered by many to be the Holy Grail of natural history filmmaking, has failed. Until now.
Read the rest
Pseudopterosins are a family of naturally occurring chemicals with the power to reduce inflammation, skin irritation, and pain. In other words, they make a great additive in skin cream. If you want skin that less red, pseudopterosins can help. Want a lotion that soothes your face after a particularly vigorous round of exfoliation? Call on pseudopterosins.
Pseudopterosins come from a coral called Pseudopterogorgia elisabethae. That's it in the photo above. For years, researchers and pharmaceutical companies thought they were sustainably harvesting P. elisabethae because, instead of simply gathering any of the coral they could find, they merely pruned it — leaving plenty of the creature to grow back.
But, it turns out that this is a really good example of a frustrating problem — what seems sustainable is not always actually sustainable. Doing the right thing, environmentally speaking, isn't as intuitive as we'd like it to be. (Also, pruning an animal isn't like pruning a plant.) At Deep Sea News, Dr. M explains:
After prunings in 2002 and 2005 and before the annual spawning, Christopher Page and Howard Lasker examined 24 pruned corals and 20 unpruned corals. What the researchers found is that although colonies appeared healthy pruned corals produced less eggs. ... Why would pruned corals produce less eggs and sperm? When organisms are injured more energy is diverted away from reproduction and toward repair. Interestingly, this pruning may actually also creating artificial selection. If workers are targeting larger and fuller corals to prune, then smaller less thick corals will be reproducing more and eventually become more dominant.
This is why science is important. Because, frequently, "common sense" isn't really all that sensical.
While you were eating Thanksgiving turkey, surrounded by loving family and friends, one whale was all alone, swimming through the Pacific Ocean with no one to talk to and no one to care.
Since 1989, researchers have been tracking this specific whale based on its distinct vocalizations. Baleen whales — a category of cetaceans without teeth, separate from their toothy dolphin/beluga/orca relations — are famous for producing eerie, underwater songs and scientists think those sounds are probably an extremely important aspect of participation in whale society. Baleen whales lack keen eyesight and sense of smell underwater, so sounds are probably how they recognize one another, help each other navigate, and even find mates. But these vocalizations happen in very specific frequency range — between 10 and 31 hertz, depending on the species. The Christmas Whale, on the other hand, speaks at 52 hertz. Imagine brining a piccolo to a tuba party. That is analogous to the awkward position that the 52-hertz whale is in.
Scientists usually pick up the call of the 52-hertz whale sometime between August and December, as it makes its way through a Cold War-era network of underwater microphones in the North Pacific. Although this whale has apparently survived for many years and seems to have grown and matured during that time (based on its voice deepening slightly), it also appears to exist outside of whale social systems. It travels alone. Nobody answers its high-pitched pleas for love. Every so often, non-scientist humans remember that it exists and write sad stories about it. But nobody is sure why it sings out of range of its fellow whales.
It strikes me as the kind of horribly sad thing that should get made into a maudlin children's picture book. The central message: Appreciate the love you have and give love in return. This holiday season, remember the plight of the loneliest whale. Give thanks for the presence of the people who love you. Show affection to others.
Listen to NOAA recordings of the 52-hertz whale (these have been sped up 10x)
The Loneliest Mix is a fan-site where you can download 52-hertz whale audio and video clips.
The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute's page on the 52-hertz whale
Research paper explaining how scientists capture whale sounds in the north Pacific.
Picture taken the day after Thanksgiving at the Milwaukee Public Museum. I don't think they meant to tie into the legend of The Christmas Whale. But hey, it works.
I am grateful for friends like Grady, who alert me to stories like this.
For the record, squid come in shoals. Not quite as good as a squad. But still nicely alliterative.
Via Craig McClain
Salt water is still winning. Unfortunately.
Remember back during the Fukushima crisis, when you heard a lot of talk about why the people trying to save the plant didn't want to use sea water to cool the reactors? There were a number of reasons for that (check out this interview Scientific American's Larry Greeenemeier did with a nuclear engineer), but one factor was the fact that salt water corrodes the heck out of metal. Pump it into a metal reactor unit and that unit won't be usable again.
Now, the corrosive power of salt water is in the news again — and this time it's ripping through New York City's underground network of subways and utility infrastructure. I like the short piece that Gizmodo's Patrick DiJusto put together, explaining why salt water in your subway is even worse than plain, old regular water:
When two different types of metal (or metal with two different components) are placed in water, they become a battery: the metal that is more reactive corrodes first, losing electrons and forming positive ions, which then go into water, while the less reactive metal becomes a cathode, absorbing those ions. This process happens much more vigorously when the water is electrically conductive, and salt water contains enough sodium and chloride ions to be 40 times more conductive than fresh water. (The chloride ion also easily penetrates the surface films of most metals, speeding corrosion even further.) Other dissolved metals in sea water, like magnesium or potassium, can cause spots of concentrated local corrosion.
Via Tom Levenson