Citizens of the Sea

Ice-Loving Seals and the Loss of Sea Ice

In 2011, storms and lack of ice-cover due to a warmer winter climate resulted in hundreds of seal pups being washed up on the shore of Prince Edward Island. Like many, this young seal faced an uncertain future. <a href="/ocean-views-2012-contest-winners">See more Nature's Best Photos</a>. Credit: John Sylvester/Nature's Best Photography The threat that climate change poses to polar bears has received a lot of attention, but they are not the only Arctic species at risk. Ice-loving seals, such as harp, hooded and ringed seals, are among the many species threatened by climate change...Read more
Photo of the head of a leafy seadragon

Devoted Dads: From Seahorses to Sea Spiders

Male leafy seadragons ( Phycodurus eques ) are among the ocean's more " devoted dads ." They carry the developing eggs for about a month, until they hatch. Credit: David Gray, FishWise Professional If youngsters get cared for at all, the mother is usually involved. But in fish and a few other groups where eggs are not abandoned, fathers are the primary care providers. Males are sometimes such devoted dads that it takes longer for them to care for the young than it does for the females to produce the eggs. If potential fathers are in limited supply, stereotypical male and female roles get...Read more
An adult and juvenile killer whale frolic in the water.

Menopausal Moms: A Mammal Mystery

Killer whales ( Orcinus orca ) have something in common with humans: early menopause. Credit: Robert L. Pitman, NOAA Fisheries, USA In honor of Mother's Day, the Citizens of the Sea blog salutes ocean-going mothers everywhere. Especially a 60 year-old albatross named Wisdom. She holds the seabird records for both oldest bird and oldest new mother. No stranger to motherhood, it is estimated that she has already birthed 30-35 other chicks. This made us wonder, why can Wisdom give birth well into her twilight years while human females call it quits 20-40 years early? And Wisdom is hardly alone...Read more
An underwater photo of coral recovering from a bleaching event.

A Pleasant Surprise: The Recovery of Bleached Panamanian Corals

These corals are still in recovery after a mass bleaching in Panama, in the summer of 2010. You can see some bleaching on the tops, but the sides are looking good. Credit: Amanda Feuerstein Last September, the Citizens of the Sea blog series brought you a story of doom and gloom from the reefs of Bocas del Toro, Panama. That is the time of year we typically study -- and celebrate -- the annual birth of baby corals in the area. We arrived to find very hot water (2010 turned out to be the hottest year on record), and in the shallows the reefs had turned a ghostly white. This was the most...Read more
Boat Propeller Fouled With Barnacles

No Fouling Around

Home is where the hull is: Since the dawn of seafaring, humankind has had to deal with pesky creatures, such as barnacles, that “foul” ship hulls and boat propellers like this one. Credit: Flickr User Alison Domzalski (Creative Commons) Since the dawn of seafaring, humankind has had to deal with the pesky creatures that settle on ships—seaweeds, barnacles, and others that take advantage of the empty real estate provided by a clean hull. Fouled hulls make for slower speeds and for powerboats, higher fuel costs (drag is a drag). Boat owners have a handful of strategies to cope with this problem...Read more
Overfishing is leading to an abundance of less desirable species like jellyfish.

Peanut Butter and Jellyfish

With more desirable species being fished out and jellyfish blooming, will jellyfish sandwiches soon be on the menu? Credit: David Beck / Jennifer Jacquet All over the world, people have been witnessing gigantic blooms of tens of thousands of jellyfish where once there were only a few. Fishers find them clogging their nets and costing them dearly. In Japan, giant jellyfish capable of reaching six feet across even capsized a boat that tried to bring them aboard. Where are these stinging menaces coming from and why are they everywhere? Jellyfish explosions are often triggered by overfishing of...Read more
A scalloped hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini) at Isla del Coco, Costa Rica.

Do Sharks Smell in Stereo?

A scalloped hammerhead shark at Isla del Coco, Costa Rica. Credit: © Terry Goss 2008/Marine Photobank Animals, on land and in the ocean, live in a 3-D world, and they depend on their sense organs and brains to build the mental constructs that allow them to orient and navigate, which is crucial for hunting and fleeing. The process is far from simple. Humans, for example, use many visual clues to judge relative distance. Objects get smaller and blurrier with distance and parallel lines appear to converge, principles that painters mastered in the 13th and 14th centuries in their quest to turn a...Read more
Coral Spawning by Moonlight

A Tale of Sex and Stress in the Ocean

A coral has just spawned. Each of the hundreds of polyps releases a small pink bundle of sperm and eggs. Credit: Raphael Williams Welcome to Citizens of the Sea , a new blog series where ocean life comes to life. Our book by the same name came out in September, but no sooner had it gone off to the printer than new ocean stories started streaming in. So every other week, we’ll use this series to explore some interesting aspect of marine life forms and their weird and wonderful ways of getting by. We’d like to start with a personal story about the reefs of Panama near the Smithsonian Tropical...Read more