Marine Life

Neighborhood Seafood Market in Rome, Italy

Seafood for Thought

A neighborhood seafood market in the Testaccio area of Rome, Italy. Credit: /Marine Photobank Sunday, November 21 marks World Fisheries Day , an annual occasion observed in many fishing communities around the world. It’s a great opportunity—even for those of us who do not fish for a living—to pause and reflect on the importance of maintaining healthy fisheries. As a scientist, my research on tropical marine fishes has taken me around the world, including locations where I have seen firsthand the impacts that humans are having on marine resources. In 2001, for example, I was part...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
A variety of organisms make their home on this tropical coral reef in Indonesia.

Coral Reefs Need You

A variety of organisms make their home on this tropical coral reef in Indonesia. Credit: © Chris Newbert/Minden Pictures For those of you who have had the opportunity to visit a coral reef , you know that it’s an experience you are unlikely to forget. Coral reefs are among the world’s most magnificent ecosystems. Their beauty alone makes them incalculably valuable, but beyond aesthetics, their importance to both marine life and humans is immense. Though they cover less than one percent of the ocean floor, coral reefs support an estimated 25 percent of all marine life. They generate billions...Read more
Pile of Plastic Trash

Plastic Trash Plagues the Ocean

Plastic pollution in the ocean is a serious problem. Our flotsam can choke, entangle, or kill marine life and is dangerous to humans as well. Credit: Onno Groß, DEEPWAVE Once upon a time, the ocean was considered the last place where we could still find an undisturbed environment. This was before the plague of man-made plastic trash flooded the seas. During my travels, I have realized that everything has changed. There is scarcely a place on Earth where plastic litter is not present. Standing on the decks of our research ship, miles away from any large urban areas, we have retrieved plastic...Read more
Venomous Box Jelly from South Carolina

Pinning Down the Jellyfish

Credit: Bastian Bentlage Depending on whom you talk to, jellyfish are either fascinating, a nuisance, a toxic menace, or some combination of the above. Jellyfish plop into the media spotlight when their presence causes beach closures, or when an unlucky swimmer meets a jelly's toxic tentacle. They stimulate debate among scientists: some say that rising numbers of jellyfish are a sign of climate change and pollution, since the animals thrive in warmer, more acidic waters. Others say we don't know enough about their natural cycles to blame population booms on human activities. Still others say...Read more
Coral Head Near Pearl and Hermes Atoll, Hawaii

World Heritage Goes Marine

A rainbow of tropical fish hovers over a coral head near the Pearl and Hermes Atoll, part of the Papahānaumokuākea World Heritage Site. Credit: Louiz Rocha Last week, the United Nations’ World Heritage Convention went blue. Two of the largest and healthiest marine protected areas on our planet—the Phoenix Islands Protected Area in Kiribati and Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in Hawaii—have now gained World Heritage status. Together, they more than doubled the marine area protected under the World Heritage Convention—now 1.6 million square kilometers (more than 617,000 square miles...Read more
A scalloped hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini) at Isla del Coco, Costa Rica.

The Spin on Sharks

A scalloped hammerhead shark at Isla del Coco, Costa Rica. Credit: © Terry Goss 2008/Marine Photobank Starting this Sunday, August 1st, the fins will be circling on a television near you. Sunday kicks off The Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week,” an annual TV ritual that offers hours of programming about sharks—some bloody, some beautiful, some scientific, some sensational. It’s great to see these sleek beauties of the sea getting some serious airtime, and we hope this week-long focus on sharks can help call attention to the issues sharks face and to our own species’ rocky relationship with them...Read more
Mangroves are being decimated by human development, like this shrimp farm in Belize.

Five Minutes for Mangroves

This shrimp farm in southern Belize is just one example of how mangroves worldwide are giving way to human development. In just the last decade, at least 35 percent of the world's mangroves have been destroyed. Credit: Ilka C. Feller/Smithsonian Institution, made possible by LightHawk Happy International Mangrove Action Day! This occasion is a small but vibrant tradition that has been observed annually on July 26th for nearly a decade in countries around the globe, including the U.S., India, Ecuador, Micronesia, and many others. To celebrate, some communities organize protests or restoration...Read more
Photograph of an oiled brown pelican squatting on the beach.

Animals and the Oil Spill: What Can You Do?

A brown pelican, the Louisiana state bird, stands mired in oil in East Grand Terre on June 3, 2010. Credit: Office of the Governor of the State of Louisiana Lately we’ve been fielding questions from Smithsonian visitors wondering how they can help with the oil spill cleanup in the Gulf of Mexico. If there is any good news coming out of this situation, it’s that thousands of people across the U.S. care deeply and are finding ways to respond to the oil spill. Some people are donating or volunteering. Some are making changes in their homes and workplaces—reducing their energy consumption and...Read more