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Biology

This category contains 260 posts
Fig. 4: Ringed seal pup. Author: Shawn Dahle, NOAA, Polar Ecosystems Program research cruise. Source: Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pusa_hispida_pup.jpg

Throwing Babies out with the Sea Ice: Ringed Seals Response to Ice Decline

As the Earth warms, sea ice declines. What happens to those animals who rely on the ice? Today’s oceanbites looks at one animal, the ringed seal, and how it may be affected by climate change!

Cover Photo (source: freakingnews.com)

Hunter-Chiller: Multiple feeding strategies for some of the world’s smallest organisms

Because of their ability to conduct photosynthesis, most of our planet’s oxygen comes from microscopic organisms in the ocean called algae. In addition to photosynthesis, some of these algae can also hunt and consume prey to supplement their energy needs. In this study a group of scientists has set out to determine just how their hunting strategy works, and why each strategy has its own set benefits and drawbacks.

Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) [Wikimedia]

Now we got bad blood: Oxygen binding is not affected by haemoglobin subtype in Atlantic cod

Why do northern and southern populations of Atlantic cod have different haemoglobin subtypes? A recent study upsets over 50 years of theory.

trench map

Manmade Pollutants Plague Deep-sea Organsims

Scientists have found an alarming accumulation of certain persistent organic pollutants in an environment previously thought pristine and untouched by humans: the deep sea.

Figure 1: A venomous cone snail that lives in tropical reef systems. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Ocean acidification makes predators dumb

Chemistry is important for a lot of things, but can it change the behavior of animals? Read on to find out how changes in water chemistry alter the behavior of a venomous cone snail!

All the places you can mate! After an epic migration from Souther America to the Arctic Rim, male pectoral sandpiper's a rearing to visit all the breeding grounds. (Bird and Map adapted from Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

Like a champion Casanova in the sky

After migrating thousands of miles from their southern wintering grounds, males of a certain species of shorebird log thousands more miles scouring the summer territories for fertile females. It’s pretty nuts.

photo credit: Anne Hartwell

Glaciers have big league role in silica budget.

Glaciers get a lot of attention because they’re expansive sheets of ice. They’re important to understand because they can impact sea level, circulation, climate, albedo, and they are homes to microbial organisms and large animals. A new reason they are getting attention is their recently realized importance to the global silica budget. Researchers found that melting glaciers deliver enough silica to the surface ocean that their contribution should not be ignored.

(source: thekitchn.com)

Clamate Change: How clams may be able to cope with a warming world

Global temperatures are increasing at a rate never before seen in Earth’s history. Although efforts to mitigate this are still very important, it is also important to study and understand what is going to happen to the plants and animals that live here. Evidence of climate change already surrounds us, and the more we know, the better prepared we will be to cope with our new environment. In this study, a group of researchers have studied how two species of clams react to a warmer environment to understand the coping mechanisms they use for survival.

Menopause only occurs in humans and two species of toothed whale [Flickr].

What killer whales tell us about menopause

Killer whales, or orcas (Orcinus orca), are amazingly intelligent and social animals. What can they tell us about the evolution of menopause?

Figure 2: A humpback whale swims with her calf. Image from Pitman et al., 2017- taken by M. Lynn, NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center

Heroic Humpbacks: Orcastrate an Escape

While watching a pod of killer whales attacking their prey, scientists noticed a small group of humpback whales come to the rescue. Why did these humpbacks risk their own safety to save another animal? Read more about how scientists are investigating this question.

Soft coral dominated reef. Author: Matt Kieffer. Source: Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/mattkieffer/15439205306)

Hard Coral or Macroalgae? Coral Reefs May Have Another Option

Most of the time coral reef communities are discussed, it seems the focus is whether they’re dominated by hard coral or algae. It turns out there may be other possible outcomes for reefs in the future. Find out more in today’s oceanbites!

Fig. 1: Massive kelps are good at creating habitat for others but have proven sensitive to changes in climate. Could they be canaries in the coal mine for detecting climate change? (Photo: Riverview Science)

The Kelp in the Coal Mine: can kelps act as an indicator for climate change?

Many scientific studies have shown that kelp species are sensitive and vulnerable to climate change. Some scientists think of them as sentinel species, or early warning indicators of climate change. Recently, a large mass of warm water, affectionately known as “The Blob,” covered the northeast Pacific, resulting in a long-term elevation of ocean temperature. With existing ecological records of kelp forests in California, this provided an opportunity for researchers to test whether these giant kelps are indeed a sentinel species and can warn us about the looming effects of climate change.

Figure 4: Schematic of the seagrass bed food web. Detritus from the seagrass decays in the sediment, where chemosynthetic bacteria in the clam gills are able to use sulfur to turn it into carbohydrates.  The lobsters eat the clams (20% of their diet) and are then taken into a $17.4 million fishing industry. Source: Higgs et al. 2016.

All Food Does NOT Come from the Sun

Excerpt: We’re taught at a young age that all food comes from the sun via photosynthesis. But, does it really? Read on to find out about a major fishery that is underpinned by chemosynthetic primary production!

An eight-week old starfish larva forms vortices around its body while eating. This image was made by adding tiny white beads to the water that follow the diverging currents. Food is trapped in the vortices and brought to the larva’s mouth. (Figure 1a in the paper.)

The whirling world of starfish larvae whorls

A close look at starfish larvae reveals the beautiful patterns they create while moving through the water. These tiny vortex machines can create lots of swirls around themselves to trap food, or they can let the water flow by them smoothly when they want to swim fast.

Ladies and gentleman, the death defying killifish!

Ain’t no killing the killifish (for now): on the virtues of genetic diversity

Atlantic killifish are spared extinction in the face of pollution thanks to their remarkable genetic diversity.

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Warm water curtails sea snakes’ dives

Like frogs, sea snakes can uptake oxygen through both their lungs and their skin. How will these “bimodal breathers” cope with warm ocean temperatures?

whale-shark-feeding

Exciting strides for eDNA: Insights into whale shark population genetics

In the past few decades scientists have found new and exciting ways to use DNA to answer scientific questions. There is now a new technique that could further revolutionize DNA analysis by using tiny pieces of tissue floating around in the ocean. Read more about how scientists are using this technique to answer questions about whale sharks.

Figure 2: Kavachi Eruption: Image courtesy of Submarine Ring of Fire 2002: Explorer Ridge. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0a/May_14_Kavachi_eruption.jpg

Sharkcano, a melting pot for biology

No, a Sharkcano is not a volcano that erupts sharks. IT IS WAY COOLER THAN THAT! It is a submarine volcano that hosts a diverse macro community in water that is much warmer and more acidic that the surrounding seawater. Read more to find out about this alien-esc ecosystem in the South Pacific Ocean.

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So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish!

It’s been an incredible year and a half, but this will be my final regular post with Oceanbites. Thanks for reading! For my final post here, I wanted to tell you a little more about what I do as a graduate student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Fig. 4: Microscopic phytoplankton contribute to the ice algae community. Here they can bee seen growing in the spaces between the ice (Photo: Live Science).

Frozen Food: how ice algae support Arctic ecosystems

It may seem like a harsh place to grow, but algae inhabit the under side of Arctic ice. As it turns out, these frozen, sea “veggies” provide an important source of food for Artic ecosystems.

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