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Ecology

This category contains 195 posts
An Australian Giant Cuttlefish (Sepia apama) crosses a seagrass bed. Shelly Beach, Manly, NSW (Credit: Photo credit: Richard Ling, CC BY-NC-ND)

Seagrasses reduce the risk of disease outbreaks

Seagrasses are one of humans’ greatest sidekicks. They are nursery areas for many species including commercially important ones, they protect coastal communities from extreme weather, they absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen via photosynthesis and much more. Now, research shows that seagrasses can also reduce rates of disease in humans, fishes and invertebrates such as corals. Read more to find out how!

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!

Conservationists are scrambling to save the species of the world, but where should they start

‘The conservationist is ready to see you’: triaging marine ecosystems in times of climate change

Climate change affects ecosystems worldwide, but how do conservationists decide which of planet earth’s ecosystems are most in need?

Zostera marina, marine eelgrass (photo by Ronald C. Philips, Wikimedia) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Eelgrass.jpg

Life Finds a Way: Eelgrass Beds Respond in Surprising Ways to Extreme Warming Events

Article: Reynolds LK, DuBois K, Abbott JM, Williams SL, Stachowicz JJ (2016) Response of a Habitat-Forming Marine Plant to a Simulated Warming Event Is Delayed, Genotype Specific, and Varies with Phenology. PLoS ONE 11(6): e0154532. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0154532 Climate change is poised to dramatically alter the make-up and functioning of Earths’ ecosystems, including those in the oceans. […]

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!

Red Crown-of-Thorns Starfish eating coral. Author Matt Kieffer, Flickr. No modifications made. https://www.flickr.com/photos/mattkieffer/3016449061 Link to license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode

Small MPAs: the new all-you-can-eat buffets?

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are a popular conservation tool and are in many situations very effective. Unfortunately, as with many plans, there may be some unintended consequences, as seen in the case of small MPAs in Fiji, where they appear to have attracted corallivorous crown-of-thorns sea stars (Acanthaster spp.). Find out more in today’s oceanbites!

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.

(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.

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.

(source: culture.oasiscollections.com)

Paradise Loss: How humans are impacting coastal reef communities

Humans are drawn to beautiful beaches and warm water, and with us come the conveniences of modern day civilization. While life may be flourishing in the shops, restaurants and luxury hotels, this development is taking its toll on the fragile reef community just off shore. Although reefs may appear healthy to the naked eye, researchers have discovered coastal development impacts their biological diversity, and this may be an indication of more serious, long-term damage.

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!

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.

Fig. 1. Encroaching Mangrove in Homestead, FL
Source: G. Gardner, National Park Service, via Wikimedia Commons

Mangrove Takeover Impacting Salt Marshes

Mangroves are encroaching on salt marsh habitats worldwide, but what does this change in plant community mean for the plants, ecosystem processes, and other inhabitants of these areas? Find out a bit of the answer to that question in today’s oceanbites!

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.

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.

Figure 1: Santa's Workshop (Source: pinterest.com)

Polarized: What makes the North Pole the ideal location for Santa and his crew?

Location, location, location. He may not need to be in the best school district, or have an easy commute to work, but Santa still decided to live at the North Pole over the South. While it may seem that both locations are cold, barren, and isolated, there are some fundamental differences that may have affected his decision. Read on to learn some of those differences and wow your friends with science at your holiday party this year!

Fig. 7: Kelp forests usually do best when they can go uneaten (Photo: NOAA).

Kelp Deforestation: warming oceans are paving the way for seaweed eaters

As oceans heat up, tropical fish have started migrating to colder, temperate waters. The change in scenery from corals to kelp has plant-eating tropical fish drooling over the abundance of food in their new surroundings. After monitoring kelp habitat in Australia over a ten-year period, researchers found that this increase in tropical fish had some serious consequences for kelp forests.

Fig 5: Sunset over the Gulf of Mexico from Bunche Beach, Fort Myers, FL. Source: Rebecca Flynn. Please do not use this photo without permission of the author.

Giving Thanks for the Ocean: The gratitude of the writers

Today is the day after Thanksgiving, but I think the spirit of gratitude should live on. Many of the other writers wanted to share their gratitude for the ocean. Some waxed poetic, some pragmatic, but all spoke from a personal place. Yet the gratitude we feel for the ocean unifies all of us—not just the writers here at oceanbites but also the larger us, aka humans.

Figure 2: Close up of a sea pig, a holothurian animal closely related to a sea cucumber, with our curious hitchhiker just visible on the underside. Source: Wikimedia Commons

When Pigs Get Crabs: A Story of Symbiosis

Excerpt: The deep sea is not an easy place to live. Cold, dark, and featureless, it doesn’t provide a lot of food or hiding spots for the animals that live there. Read on to find out the odd way one species of crab has evolved to avoid both problems!

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