The Great Hermit Crab Migration

A Caribbean hermit crab (Coenobita clypeatus) crawls on the forest floor. Credit: Flickr user Island Conservation Over the last few days, a video of hermit crabs stampeding across the rocky shores of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands has taken the internet by storm. Where are the hermit crabs going, and why? These hermit crabs are Coenobita clypeatus , the Caribbean hermit crab (also known as the soldier crab), which are native to islands throughout the Caribbean region. I typically think of hermit crabs as a marine phenomenon, but the adults of this species live in wet inland areas, hiding...Read more

Making Science Sing: The Longest Time (Coral Triangle Edition)

Corals, sponges and seaweeds cover most of the surface of many coral reefs . Credit: Wolcott Henry How do you make science sing? Just ask a couple of female scientists to sing about their research interests and their passion is quickly conveyed in a quirky little tune. Informative, inspiring, and a little bit silly are all adjectives that aptly describe this music video performed and produced by a group of female graduate students from UCLA’s Barber Lab . Set to Billy Joel’s “The Longest Time,” this little ditty does a fabulous job of describing biodiversity of the Coral Triangle and these...Read more

Happy 50th Birthday, FLIP – a Mobile Research Island

John Hildebrand discusses his research at the Scripps Whale Acoustic Lab on the FLIP platform. Ships are well-known for their tiny rooms and tight quarters. But have you heard of a sea vessel that has toilets and sinks sticking out of the walls, and staircases and doors on the ceiling? This unique research vessel is real -- and, in June 2012, the Office of Naval Research and Scripps Institution of Oceanography celebrated its 50th birthday. The reason FLIP -- or the FLoating Instrument Platform -- has such bizarre interior design is because all the rooms have to be livable when the vessel is...Read more
Sea Monster Attack

Ray Bradbury and the Sea

A sea monster attacks a ship in an illustration for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne. Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Pierre-Jules Hetzel Today Ray Bradbury died. It might seem strange that I'm writing about Bradbury here on the Ocean Portal, as he's best known for his short stories about space exploration and strange aliens. But he also considered the unexplored realms of our own planet: the ocean. One story in particular, "The Fog Horn," from his collection The Golden Apples of the Sun , has stayed with me through all these years. Without giving too much away, it's the story of a deep...Read more

Reef Sharks Repelled by People

Large numbers of grey reef sharks were observed at Jarvis Island, an uninhabited Pacific island, during the 2010 Pacific RAMP expedition of the NOAA Ship Hi'ialakai . Credit: NOAA Reef sharks rarely get any love. These sharks, comprising several species, loiter around coral reefs, snacking on small fish, squids and crustaceans. And while their size is nothing to smirk at—5-10 feet is pretty impressive in my book!—their relatively demure lifestyle just can’t compete with the seal-snatching airtime of the great white shark . However, another reason reef sharks receive less attention is that...Read more
Screenshots of 'Amazing Ocean' Mobile App

Amazing Ocean: Explore from Your Mobile Device

Editor's note: Thank you for your interest in this app. Unfortunately, it is no longer available. Amazing Ocean is a brand new, free mobile app developed by the U.S. Department of State that features Smithsonian Ocean Portal and Sant Ocean Hall content. The app allows users to explore photos, videos, and rich ocean-themed content on their mobile devices. Amazing Ocean is a pilot project of the State Department/Smithsonian partnership and combines some of the best assets of both organizations: the unique and robust research and collections of the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural...Read more
An illustration of multispecies communities of dugongs from India, Mexico and Florida

The Discovery of Multispecies Communities of Seacows

This reconstruction illustrates multispecies communities of seacows from three different time periods and ocean basins. Each seacow represents a different extinct species of dugong. Credit: Carl Buell/ Sirenians , or seacows, are a group of marine mammals that include manatees and dugongs. In the modern ocean, only one species of seacow is found in each world region, however, the fossil record tells a different story. According to the fossil record of these marine mammals, which dates back 50 million years ago, it was more common to find three, maybe more, different...Read more
A photo of an oyster cage, out of the water, covered in sea squirts.

Alaska Vulnerable to Invasive Species from Warmer Waters

Invasive species can have a range of environmental and economic impacts. In this photo, sea squirts foul an oyster cage. Scientists at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center's Marine Invasions Lab study the movement and effects of non-native species around the globe. Credit: Fisheries and Oceans Canada Alaska’s pristine coastline is ripe for an influx of invasive marine species such as the European green crab and the rough periwinkle (an Atlantic sea snail), warns a new study by a team of scientists from the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center . To date only 15 non-native species...Read more
A photo of a swimming Protanguilla palau, the newly discovered genus and species of eel

Scientists Call New Eel Species A Living Fossil

A video of the Palauan primitive cave eel ( Protanguilla palau ) swimming in the Pacific off the Republic of Palau. A Japanese research diver first discovered the new genus and species in a Palauan reef cave in 2009. The eel has an independent evolutionary history that dates back some 200 million years , helping it earn it the 'living fossil' label. Scientists published the first full description of the animal in the August 17, 2011 online issue of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B . Scientists at the Smithsonian and partnering organizations have discovered a remarkably primitive eel in...Read more
An underwater photo of Southern Bluefin Tuna swimming above a fish farm net.

Tunas and Marlins Officially Classified as Threatened

The Southern Bluefin Tuna ( Thunnus maccoyii ) is listed as "critically endangered" on the IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species . If its population continues to decline, the species faces the possibility of extinction. It's not alone. Scientists classified the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna ( T. thynnus ) as "endangered" and Bigeye Tuna ( T. obesus ) as "vulnerable." Credit: Ian Gordon / Auscape International Extinction is a real possibility for three species of tunas. That’s one of the messages from a new study released today online in the journal Science . Researchers assessed the range and...Read more