Archive for May, 2014

Image courtesy of NOAA.

Time for an oil change: How filter feeders avoid feeding on oil

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill was the largest oil spill in U.S. history. Here, a pair of researchers investigates the incorporation of oil into mussels and barnacles in Louisiana estuaries, finding minimal amounts of oil signals detected in the species in the months following the spill.


Shark Date.

Carbon age dating of growth bands in white shark vertebrae reveal white sharks are older than originally thought and suggest a high threat of anthropogenic consequences to their death.

rainbow wrasse

It’s all about color for the rainbow wrasse

Male rainbow wrasses actively defend their territory and the amount of red light entering the water column has been found to have an effect on how aggressive these males will be towards intruding wrasses.

Volcano Pohl

Volcanic ash, fertilizer for the ocean?

Volcanic ash may be an important source of the valuable micronutrients iron and manganese to phytoplankton populations in areas with low chlorophyll, such as the Southern Ocean.

Figure 1. Diversity of colors and patterns in biofluorescent marine fishes (Sparks et al., 2014).

One fish, two fish, red fish… glow fish?

Biofluorescence of coral is well studied, but in this paper, Sparks et al. aimed to investigate the little known details regarding the impact of biofluorescence on the other creatures that thrive in coral reef habitats, specifically the 8,000+ species of fishes. What they found was shocking. Not only is biofluorescence widespread throughout the tree of life for all fishes, it is particularly common and both genetically and environmentally variable in marine lineages. This widespread and previously unrecognized phenomenon gives new insight into the evolution of marine fishes and changes how we think light/visual systems work in the marine environment.


Arctic Feels Hotter than Other Parts of the World

Speaking of climate change, you can easily picture a scene in which big ice sheets are melting and poor polar bears standing on the last piece of ice finding nowhere to live. To some extent this is true, since impact from global warming can be amplified in Arctic region.

Figure 1.  Mean annual modern-day sea surface temperature reconstruction.  Sediment core site locations labeled.  Centered on ODP 806, the western equatorial warm pool contains some of the warmest surface waters on Earth.  The eastern equatorial Pacific, often referred to as the cold tongue, is the narrow band of regionally cool surface waters centered on ODP 850.  The gradient between the warm pool and the cold tongue has major implications for global climate.

Just How Permanent was El Niño in the Past?

New data refutes the hypothesis that permanent El Niño conditions existed in the tropical Pacific more than 3 million years before present, favoring climate variability more similar to modern-day.

Fig 3: Snipe Eel (Nemichthys scolopaceus)

The Role of Eels in Deep Sea Food Webs

Humans have made amazing strides in exploring and understanding the world, and even the universe, around us; but right off the coast looms a large, mysterious entity: the deep sea. For as much as we know about coastal zones and the continental shelf, we know very little about the organisms, communities, and ecology of the deep. However, we are slowly piecing together information about deep sea species and expanding our knowledge of these systems. This includes recent research showing that eels found in oceanic rim ecosystems appear to be key links in the food chain, connecting surface waters to the deep sea.

Figure 1: March 11, 2011 magnitude 9.0 earthquake (red target) and location of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor (black and yellow radiation symbol) (Source:  http://www.whoi.edu/website/fukushima-symposium/overview)

Juvenile Pacific albacore party where the activity is hot: Studying the links between Fukushima-derived radionuclide distribution and fish migration

Radioactive particles from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor entered the Pacific food chain in less than a month after the March 2011 tsunami. Trans-Pacific migrating fish are transporting these radionuclides across the ocean faster than surface currents. Could these radionuclide tracers help researchers determine the migration patterns of certain fish?


How Much Garbage is in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?

There’s been a lot of news floating around about “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch”, the region of the Pacific Ocean where all of our long-lasting plastic products accumulate. This study by Lavender Law et al. used a multi-year, spatially extensive data set to estimate just how much plastic is currently floating in the Pacific.

Figure 5: TL;DR Bloopers are real and Super Mario was right.

3…2…1…Liftoff! Squid can launch out of water like rockets

Stories about squid “flying” over the ocean’s surface have existed for many years. In the summer of 2001 marine biologist Silvia Maciá delivered pictures as proof to the scientific community, and co-authored one of the first papers on “squid aeronautics” in 2004. This article explains how squid fly using Maciá’s pictures.

Figure 1: Acropora millepora colony, Cattle bay, Orpheus Island, Great Barrier Reef (Copyright Vize 2009)

Coral larvae will stay at their birth reef in warmer seas

New research suggests that global warming is leaving large coral reef systems less interconnected, which can affect their ability to recover after disturbance and potentially deplete local populations.

Wei-Haas feature image

On a mission to partition: the likelihood of flame retardants to bind to marine organic matter

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are flame retardants found in the environment all over the globe, including the Arctic. Here, scientists explored the chances of PBDEs to bind to dissolved organic matter (DOM) in Arctic waters, which may affect their environmental availability, transport, and fate.

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