Nancy Knowlton's blog

Devoted Dads: From Seahorses to Sea Spiders

Leafy Seadragon
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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 reversed, with males more interested in food and females more interested in sex.

Menopausal Moms: A Mammal Mystery

Killer Whales Swimming
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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. 

A Pleasant Surprise: The Recovery of Bleached Panamanian Corals

Resilient Coral
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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 extreme coral bleaching we had ever seen since we started our studies there in 1998.

A Tale of Sex and Stress in the Ocean

Coral Spawning by Moonlight

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.

The Great Barrier Reef – Going, Going, Gone???

Where did Half of the Great Barrier Reef's Coral Go?
Coral at the Great Barrier Reef
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Australia’s Great Barrier Reef (or the GBR as it is known to reef aficionados) stretches for more than 2,300 kilometers (over 1,429 miles) and can be seen from outer space. This largest barrier reef in the world is both a national icon and a global treasure that was recognized as a World Heritage site over thirty years ago.

No Fouling Around

Boat Propeller Fouled With Barnacles
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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).

Peanut Butter and Jellyfish

Jellyfish Sandwiches
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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?

Do Sharks Smell in Stereo?

Scalloped Hammerhead Shark
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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 2-D canvas into a 3-D experience.

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