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Archive for April, 2015

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Time to rethink the role of ocean’s microbes?

Have you ever wondered what may live inside the tiniest drops of seawater? Global oceans are dominated by organisms we cannot even see. Marine microbes are resilient, incredibly diverse, and ecologically important. These microbes deserve a closer look.

Figure 1: Soft-shell clams (Mya arenaria). Image from Stokstad, Erik (2015).  Infectious cancer found in clams. Science. 348:6231. p.170.

Clams Catch Contagious Cancer

Clams along the northeastern coast of North America are suffering from a form of cancer that researchers have recently discovered is a new type of contagious cancer.

Fig. 1. Adult Schoolmaster Snappers (Lutjanus apodus); Source: Florent Charpin, http://reefguide.org/pixhtml/schoolmaster2.html

Leaving the nursery: fish migration between juvenile and adult habitats

Many fish utilize different habitats as adults than they do as juveniles, but little research has shown how they make the shift between the two habitats. This recent study did just that using acoustic tags! Read to learn more!

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Epic: sperm whales hunt squid

Bad environmental news can seem overwhelming at times. No matter how environmentally aware you are, you will still need to eat something and you will take up space that probably used to belong more to nature than it does now. So let’s take a moment to appreciate why it’s worth trying to conserve nature. Let’s talk about sperm whales pursuing squid in the deep oceans!

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The Advantages of Being a Deceptive Fish: Tales of a Predatory Mimic

Dusky dottybacks are small (8cm/3in) fish found on the Great Barrier reef, but despite their small size, they are fish eating predators feasting on up to 30 juvenile damselfish per day. Dottybacks are able to be so successful at capturing their prey by being masters of deception thanks to their “phenotypic plasticity.”

El Nino (left) and La Nina (right) phases of ENSO. (Source: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.)

Hail and Tornadoes? Blame ENSO

El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) can change winter weather on the western coasts of South and North America. Its arm of influence extends to the interior of the US as well, and can affect the frequency of severe weather events such as hailstorms and tornadoes throughout winter and spring.

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Sea urchins work harder, faster to cope with ocean acidification

The ability of sea urchins to withstand ocean acidification comes at a hidden cost.

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Cooling in North Atlantic Defies Global Warming

Sluggish ocean circulation can’t keep up with global climate change and this has caused the North Atlantic to cool.

The slimy hagfish: not your typical fish. (Source: phys.org/news/)

The Secret’s in the Slime

Scientists have recently discovered that the hagfish’s notorious slime has uses beyond defense: it also mediates uptake of toxins through the hagfish’s skin.

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Just sealing around; Ice seal misidentification in aerial surveys

Aerial photographs are a great way to collect images of marine species in order to analyze their distribution patterns. Distinguishing different species is difficult, and unfortunately this leads to the misidentifictation of several species. This is the case for ice-associated seals, species for which global climate change has motivated intensive monitoring efforts in recent years.

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Fizzing glaciers are louder than you’d expect

While anthropogenic noise pollution has been gaining a lot of attention, there is still much to be learned about ambient ocean noise. A team of researchers found that glaciers create some of the loudest noises in the ocean, with evolutionary implications for marine organisms living near glaciers. These findings elucidate the nature of ambient, natural ocean noise and helps further our understanding of how additional anthropogenic noise may impact these systems.

A diver injects a crown of thorns sea star in an effort to mitigate population outbreaks that decimate coral reefs.

Lethal Injection: Crown of Thorns Edition

Predation by crown of thorns sea stars (COTS) is one of the main causes of coral reef decline in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Death by injection of sodium bisulfate is the most commonly used method, but this requires COTS to be removed from the reef and injected many times. Is there a better way? Read more to find out!

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Oceanbites Wants to Hear From You!

We here at oceanbites want to know what you’re interested in reading about. Whether you’re new to the site or a regular reader, we’d love to hear from you — let us know what you think by filling out our survey!

Figure 1: The cosmopolitan coccolithophore, Emiliania huxleyi. Each plate, or coccolith, is composed of calcium carbonate, a heavy form of inorganic carbon. Credit: University of California San Diego.

Blooming around the world: A story of coccolithophore co-existence

Satellite remote sensing suggests that different phytoplankton species can live in harmony during phytoplankton blooms in the open ocean.

Fig. 1: Harbor porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) (Bill Curtsinger, National Geogrpahic).

Cetacean avoidance? They’re doing it on porpoise

Dolphins aren’t always fun loving and gregarious like Flipper. In fact, they often act like bullies. Dolphins show aggression towards other marine species, even their close relatives, porpoises. Off the coast of California, harbor porpoises have had enough, and have started actively avoiding dolphins. Read on to find out more!

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One fish, two fish, small fish- don’t fish!

Fishery management is complicated, but important. Read more about one way to protect young fish from the Icelandic longline fishery.

Image: © EPFL Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

Out of sight, out of mind: The effect of gas & oil spills on deep-sea communities

When undersea wells blowout, toxic concentrations of hydrocarbons can be rapidly released into the environment. The media presents these blowouts with dramatic images of flora and fauna covered in black tar along coastlines and on the sea surface. What are rarely shown in glossy photographs, however, are the consequences to the unseen deep-sea.

Figure 2. Snow melting may be the major input of volatile methyl siloxanes to the Antarctic ecosystem.

These Volatile Pollutants Can’t Fly, but Can They Hop?

Volatile methyl siloxanes can be easily found in personal care products (e.g. shampoo, lotion and cream) . Recently, scientists detected these compounds in soils, vegetation, phytoplankton, and krill samples from the Antarctic Peninsula region. This finding brings into question the belief that these compounds are not able to reach remote terrestrial and marine surfaces.

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Rise Up! Overestimated sea-level rise during the 20th century.

Calculating a global average change in sea-level over the twentieth-century is no walk in the park. This study uses a new technique to critically look at previous estimates of sea-level rise. The findings suggest that previous estimates may have been too high, but what does this mean for future sea-level rise projections?

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Highlights from the National Shellfisheries Meeting

Ever wanted to know what it’s like to go to a scientific conference? Here’s a summary of what conferences are all about, plus the four most interesting talks I saw at this year’s National Shellfisheries Association meeting.

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