Ever collected something a bit strange? Snow globes, pens, stamps and coins are fairly typical, but museum collections can have some odd groups. Like hundreds of whale earwax plugs. Yes, that’s right: whale earwax. All cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) produce earwax, just like humans. In some species of baleen whales and in sperm whales, whale earwax can build up in layers over time to form an “earplug” that sits in the ear canal. You might be thinking that all that wax might negatively impact their hearing, but it actually works as a built-in hearing aid. The density of the earwax...
Tags: Senses, Whales
Vibrantly colored corals, with small fish darting about and sharks looking for their next meal. This vision of a healthy coral reef can very quickly be replaced by a lonely white landscape of dead and dying corals. When water gets too hot (usually 2°F/1°C above the normal maximum temperature), the relationship between corals and the tiny algae that live within corals breaks down. Without their algae, the corals lose their color, hence the name coral bleaching . This is a problem because the algae provide food to their coral hosts. The corals will eventually die if temperatures stay too hot...
Invasive species are often in the news these days, with human-transported organisms popping up in unexpected places. But in this era of climate change, there is a whole new kind of invasive species, those that are taking advantage of changing conditions to expand into areas not previously occupied. Some species may even be returning to a part of the world that they used to occupy, and haven’t seen in hundreds or thousands of years. As a result, we are watching ecological transformations unfurl before our eyes. We know that the climate of the Earth is changing— the average temperature and...
People flock to the California Coast in the summer—some to cool down in hot weather, some in search of good waves, some to fish in the surf and some to photograph any of the 1,200 miles of inspiring coastline. In spring 2015, I happened to be doing the latter. The hour before sunset typically creates the most dramatic light along the Pacific Coast and draws photographers like myself to the shore in a mass migration. Another migration was also taking place just off shore. It was late spring and large numbers of striped bass were swimming out of the San Francisco Bay estuary into the Pacific...
The Ocean Portal was lucky enough to join the Deep Reef Observation Project team in Curaçao where they explore deef reefs in a manned submersible (the Curasub ). Recently, talk in a variety of places has questioned whether scientists should study the deep sea by traveling there themselves in manned submersibles, or if robots should lead the charge instead. We talked to Carole Baldwin, the principal investigator of the Deep Reef Observation Project, about why manned submersibles are so important for exploring the deep ocean. Here's her response: "Manned submersibles allow the scientists to get...
It was a hot and sunny day, with barely a whiff of breeze. I boarded a boat in Oban, on the coast of Scotland, and headed west past the Isle of Mull and into the North Atlantic. It was July 2014, and I was in search of some imagery for a book I was writing on freediving photography. I was seeking basking sharks. These are commonly seen off the British coast during the summer and are a great subject for the freediving or snorkeling photographer because they spend much of their time near the surface, filtering small plants and animals out of the water for meals. On that day, we were blessed...
Imagine sitting down at your favorite sushi restaurant. Your server arrives, laying before you a perfectly wrapped dragon roll, which comes adorned with a small square of rice paper resting on top of the spicy mayo. Taking out your phone, you scan the code written delicately in soy-based ink upon the rice paper and immediately your phone displays a description of the story behind the shrimp in your roll—where it was caught, how, and by whom. Assured that your dinner is from the well-managed and fair-labor US fishery of the Gulf of Mexico, you dive in, scarfing down the roll, rice paper label...
Until recently we were farmers on land and hunter-gatherers at sea, but how we get our seafood is changing rapidly. With demands for seafood growing and catch from wild fisheries stagnating , aquaculture is an increasingly important player in maintaining seafood as a viable food source around the world. The global aquaculture industry has grown by leaps and bounds since 1980— up 8 percent every year through 2012 . In the U.S., roughly half of the fish we eat is farmed , yet almost all of that farmed fish is imported (along with the majority of wild fish). Farming food from the sea: it sounds...
A manned submersible is the only way to immerse oneself in the deep sea firsthand. SCUBA equipment can’t safely take you beyond relatively shallow depths, and operating the cameras and high-tech arms of an unmanned submarine from the surface can't match the experience of dropping to the ocean's depths in the flesh. Not many people get the chance to travel this way. Even for scientists who have made multiple trips in a submersible, it is an exciting proposition every time . But if you can't climb inside a submersible in person, now you can climb inside one online with National Museum of...
While swimming off of the big island of Hawaii in Kealakekua Bay, I saw what first appeared to me as a coral head. As I approached I saw movement within the shape. To my surprise it was an enormous school of fish, tightly packed, and numbering in the tens of thousands. I dove down and took a few photos before continuing my swim. It turns out this giant group was made up of akule— Hawaiian for bigeye scad . Over the next year I would occasionally see a school of akule; I would take a few pictures, then be on my way looking for other subjects. But my fascination grew as I continued to observe...
Tags: Schooling