The Ocean Blog

Greenland Shark in cold water

In the Eyes of One Shark, Age is Nothing to Fear

Credit: Julius Nielson In the freezing waters of the Arctic a toothed leviathan – the Greenland shark - claims an impressive feat. It now holds the record for longest documented lifespan of any vertebrate. The new discovery points to an age of roughly 400 years, meaning that some sharks swimming in today’s Arctic ocean may have shared the waters with explorers like Henry Hudson as he searched for the elusive Northwest Passage in the early 1600s. Little is known about Greenland sharks, and even shark specialists see them as creatures of mystery . Perhaps it is their seemingly sluggish nature...Read more
A hippopotamus-like creature swims underwater

Flippers or Feet? An Extinct Mammal May Have Been Replaced By Today's Sea Cows

An artist's rendition of the Paleoparadoxia tabatai, a desmostylian from the Miocene Credit: Nobu Tamura In the seagrass beds and kelp forests of the Oligocene-Miocene transition, nearly 32.5 to 10.5 million years ago, a four-legged, gnarly-toothed mammal roamed the Northern Pacific shores of what is now Japan, Canada and the United States. This mammal, part of the order Desmostylia, straddled the marine and terrestrial environments much like seals and sea lions of today, but with feet instead of flippers. The Desmostylia are the only order of marine mammals to entirely go extinct, and a new...Read more
A map of the Mid Ocean Ridge

Making a Mark on the Ocean Floor

A map of the mid Atlantic Ridge by Marie Tharp Credit: Marie Tharp Historical Map Google Earth Until very recently oceanography was a field dominated by men. A seafaring career, oceanography was still influenced by the superstitions of ship life; a woman on board was considered to bring bad luck. It may come as a surprise then, that one of the most influential oceanographic cartographers (mapmakers) of the 20th century was a woman, and she achieved such status without even stepping foot on a boat. Marie Tharp is credited with producing one of the world’s first comprehensive maps of the ocean...Read more
Illustration of a real oarfish vs the Pokémon counterpart.

Our Favorite Water Pokémon and Their Real-Life Doppelgängers

Pokémon Go came out in the United States last week and it’s safe to say that the gaming community is collectively losing its mind. Already boasting an estimated 7.5 million downloads as of Monday, 6 days after the release, the Nintendo-owned franchise is making a raging comeback. The game uses your smartphone’s GPS to locate virtual Pokémon in your vicinity allowing the player to both see and “capture” Pokémon à la augmented reality through your phone’s camera. Still confused? Check out this explainer. Pokémon mania has rekindled some serious nostalgia at the Ocean Portal so we decided to...Read more

Shipboard Life in the Antarctic

The R/V Laurence M. Gould amid icy waters in Antarctica Credit: Danielle Hall Strapped in to a harness on the back deck of a 230-foot research vessel off the coast of Antarctica , I take a moment to take in my surroundings. For as far as the eye can see bleached white ice floes jigsaw the open ocean, save for a distinct, unnatural channel our icebreaking hull has masterfully carved. The occasional lazy crabeater seal nods its head in acknowledgement as it drifts by atop one of the ice floes and a few Adélie penguins flit across the water between the large tiles of ice. For a second I am at...Read more
The colorful parrotfish sculpture is made entirely of ocean plastic trash.

Turning Ocean Trash to Treasure

Priscilla the Parrotfish is strikingly beautiful―showcasing a range of bright colors and large grasping teeth. There is absolutely no dye used by the Washed Ashore team, plastic is made in all the colors necessary. Credit: Washed Ashore Upon entering the Smithsonian’s National Zoo this summer, visitors can expect a bright greeting from a larger-than-life Priscilla the Parrotfish. Priscilla is a mosaic of every color in the rainbow, but upon further inspection her scales reveal a darker story. In “I-Spy” fashion you can find discarded sand shovels, cigarette lighters, combs, soda bottle caps,...Read more

Nature’s Secret Weapon Against Climate Change

These schools of colorful reef fish call Raja Ampat, the global centre of fish diversity, home. Credit: © Rick Stuart-Smith Whether it’s the stock market or a vibrant coral reef , it usually pays to hedge your bets. Similar to how diversifying your stock holdings minimizes the risk of a catastrophic financial loss, biodiversity minimizes the risk of damage to ecosystems in the wake of disturbances. With lots of species present, if one suffers or is lost altogether, another can more easily take its place. Scientists call this the portfolio effect. Recently, a new study from the Tennenbaum...Read more
A shrimp boat fishes in the Gulf of Mexico

Live Stream Event: Dispatches From the Gulf

A shrimp boat fishes in the Gulf of Mexico Credit: Courtesy of Dispatches From the Gulf April 20th marks the sixth anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon Gulf of Mexico oil spill , the largest oil spill in U.S. history. The infamous blowout lasted 87 days and leaked an estimated 160 million gallons of oil. Since then, scientists have been tirelessly analyzing its impact, gaining greater insight year by year into the lasting effects of toxic oil and the use of dispersants as a tool to help clean up. Dispatches From the Gulf , a new episode in the “Journey to Planet Earth Series”, takes a hard...Read more
Duria Antiquior – A More Ancient Dorset, 1830

Unearthing History: Mary Anning's Hunt for Prehistoric Ocean Giants

Although in reality an ichthyosaur and plesiosaur would have likely never battled, this widely shared lithograph by artist, geologist and paleontologist Henry De la Beche even inspired author Jules Verne to pen a similar scene in his book, Journey to the Center of the Earth . Credit: Henry De la Beche, Courtesy of the National Museum of Wales You may not have realized it, but you’ve been acquainted with Mary Anning since you were young. “She sells sea shells by the sea shore.” Remember this grade school tongue-twister? What you probably didn’t know is that this nursery rhyme is based on a...Read more

Do You Have The Answer? Sharing Big Data in the Gulf of Mexico

Sharing is something that is encouraged from the beginning of our lives, whether it be toys with our friends and siblings or “show and tell” at school. But as we grow up, sharing can suffer from the pressures of competition with our peers. Scientists, for example, sometimes worry that sharing information will result in their being scooped on an important discovery. Generally though, when it comes to scientific data, sharing is best for the greater good. In the past, data would often sit on a computer, maybe backed up in a larger storage center at a university or nonprofit. But wouldn’t it be...Read more

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