Irvin Huang

Irvin Huang has written 14 posts for oceanbites
Figure 1. Cryoconite holes form on the surface of glaciers when winds deposit dark colored dust, dirt, aerosols, or other material on glaciers. The dark color of cryoconite dust absorbs more incoming solar radiation and melts faster, creating small pools of water on the surface of the glacier. Photo courtesy of climatica.org.uk

It’s a virus’ world: Glaciers host unique viral communities

Scientists have only recently started studying the wealth of biological diversity that is found on top of glaciers. Cryoconite holes hold microscopic communities of algae, bacteria, and viruses. These studies are revealing an increasingly complex web of interactions between community members, driving the evolution of many unique adaptations to survive in such stiff competition.


Overfishing and climate variability interactions spell trouble for fast growing species

Rather intuitively, terrestrial ecosystems show that large, slow growing species are less adaptable in the face of environmental perturbations than their smaller, faster growing counterparts. However, in marine systems, harvest of all types of species, both fast and slow growing, switches the risk of collapse. Recent modelling work shows that in the face of overfishing and climate variability, small, fast growing fishery species are actually at greater risk of collapse than slow growing species.

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The ‘Eyes’ Have It: Co-option of organelles led to the evolution of dinoflagellate eyes

The evolution of eyes has been the subject of debate for many years. Recent studies on a group of rare plankton from the northeastern Pacific Ocean propose an evolutionary origin for some of the smallest eyes in the world. In the case of these dinoflagellates, organelles were key in the development of their eyes.


Marine microbial activity poses restrictions on cloud formation

Researchers from Scripps Institute of Oceanography have found that humble heterotrophic bacteria in the surface waters of the ocean can have far reaching impacts – extending beyond the typical marine microbial system and into the atmosphere to affect how clouds are formed.

Figure 2. The smaller image is a segment of a nerve taken from a dissected fin whale tongue in its resting (un-stretched) state. The larger image shows the extent that the nerve can stretch while still quickly returning to its original length without any observable damage. Nerves in the tongue and mouth of rorqual whales can extend from 75 to 115% longer than their resting state. In contrast to this, a 10% extension in a human nerve reduces nerve performance and a 30% extension would cause nerve failure and permanent damage.

Elastic nerves make rorqual whales the Mister Fantastic of the ocean

A team of researchers have discovered extremely elastic nerves in the mouth and tongue of rorqual whales. This is highly unusual considering nerves in nearly all other animals are quite rigid and sensitive to damage by overextension.

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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.


Geared up jellyfish show scientists that they have more control over their movements than we thought

Jellyfish are commonly thought of as passive drifters in the ocean, but a team of researchers are working to change that. By strapping accelerometers to jellyfish in the field, they have found evidence to show that jellyfish can orient themselves relative to the current around them to help keep their position in the ocean.

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Baleen whales have a bone to pick with noise pollution

CT scans of the skull of a beached whale has helped a pair of researchers figure out how baleen whales hear. Through computer modeling, they found that baleen whales, in addition to using soft tissue in their head like antennas, also use the bones in their skull to pick up sounds from their environment.


Years later, Gulf of Mexico sediment chemistry still feeling the effects of Deepwater Horizon

The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was the largest accidental oil spill in US waters. Many scientists are working hard to monitor the Gulf for signs of lasting impact and a study recently accepted into Deep-Sea Research Part II has shown unexpected changes in sediment chemistry that has persisted for many years after the event.


Do you want more salt in that? Changes in salinity impact sea level rise more than previously thought

The main mechanisms driving sea level rise were thought to be through the melting of land-based ice (such as glaciers) and through the thermal expansion of sea water with increasing global temperature. However, a recent study published by a team of scientists from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory shows that there might be another driving force behind sea level rise: salinity.


Whale skin samples track changes in ocean biogeochemistry

Article: Ruiz-Cooley RI, Koch PL, Fiedler PC, McCarthy MD (2014) Carbon and Nitrogen Isotopes from Top Predator Amino Acids Reveal Rapidly Shifting OceanBiochemistry in the Outer California Current. PLoS ONE 9(10): e110355. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0110355   Introduction Scientists have devised alternative ways to study ocean food webs using stable isotope analysis – particularly for carbon and nitrogen. […]

Figure 4. Examples of PIV analyses which show the resultant flow caused by zooplankton swimming. Velocity fields (superimposed colored arrows) are determined by following silver-coated glass spheres (small dots in background) with high speed cameras, which show flow velocity and direction.

Herds of sea monkeys help scientists understand the role of diel vertical migration in ocean mixing

Article: Monica M. Wilhelmus and John O. Dabiri. Observations of large-scale fluid transport by laser-guided plankton aggregations. Physics of Fluids, September 30, 2014 DOI: 10.1063/1.4895655 Background Every day, as the sun sets, hundreds and thousands of individual zooplankton begin to swim up from deep waters to the surface. This daily migration is known as diel vertical migration and […]

Figure 3. A coccolithovirus (pink dot) infects an Emiliana huxleyi cell.

Determining viral controls of phytoplankton blooms

Article: Lehahn, Y. et al. Decoupling Physical from Biological Processes to Assess the Impact of Viruses on a Mesoscale Algal Bloom.Current Biology, 2014; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.07.046 Background Despite their small size, phytoplankton play an incredibly large role in maintaining ocean food webs and can even contribute to global climate. As plants, phytoplankton consume carbon dioxide and fix it […]

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Understanding nitrogen loss from the ocean: Is it anammox or denitrification? It’s both!

Recent findings from the north east Pacific may have solved a major controversy in scientists’ understanding of nitrogen loss from the ocean. Researchers developed a model to predict the contributions of denitrification and anammox to total nitrogen loss and confirmed the model predictions using laboratory studies.

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