The Ocean Blog

Salmon Recycling: Waste Not, Want Not

A pipe on the seaflood discharges fish waste, such as bones and scraps, from processing factories that turn whole caught fish into filets that you buy in the supermarket. Credit: Bruce Duncan, USEPA As a research diver for the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), one of my jobs is to make sure that people and companies working in the fish industry don’t dump too much waste in the ocean. On my first dive at an underwater waste site, my old salt of a dive partner hinted, “you might see a shark… or three” with a wink. “Okay,” I thought, “I can deal with a couple of sharks.” Descending to...Read more
Two nautiluses in the open ocean off the coast of Palau.

Virtual Book Reading with Daniel Botkin

Two nautiluses ( Nautilus belauensis ) off the coast of Palau. Credit: Flickr user wildestanimal Editor's note: This is an excerpt from Daniel Botkin's new book The Moon in the Nautilus Shell: Discordant Harmonies Reconsidered . He will be in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, May 8th for a lecture and book signing through the Smithsonian Associates. The Nautilus and the Moon: (From Chapter 14) My mind meandered from thoughts of the shallow European sea to those of the far-off Pacific Ocean and one of its humblest and most obscure creatures, the chambered nautilus (Nautilus pompilius Linnaeus),...Read more

Happy World Penguin Day!

An emperor penguin chick ( Aptenodytes forsteri ) huddles under its mother's legs to keep warm in the long Antarctic winter. Credit: Wikimedia User "Mtpaley" Even if you aren't a hardcore birder, chances are you have some hidden love for penguins. These flightless birds have captured our hearts through countless movies, beautiful images and their adorable fluffy young. Panoramic scenes of their large breeding colonies make penguin populations seem limitless, but the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species lists 11 of the 18 species as Vulnerable or Endangered. Penguins have certain...Read more

Field Notes from the East African Coast

Traditional fishing techniques now involve monofilament nets, with snorkelers diving down to ensure the bigger fish don't get away. Credit: Caine Delacy We began this journey three months ago, a team of scientists and filmmakers traveling the East African coastline by boat to document and research the status of coral reefs from South Africa to Kenya. We have observed a lot of changes in the coral reef communities as we travel north. Some of these changes are natural shifts in biodiversity, species composition and structure of the reef communities. There are also those changes that are caused...Read more

Release Your Inner Blue Poet

"I was photographing this beautiful school of jacks when a diver slowly approached from beneath. I shifted my position to capture the moment he entered the ball of fish. Seconds later, he was completely immersed in the school.” -- Nature's Best photographer, Steve De Neef Credit: Steve De Neef, Antwerp, Belgium www.stevedeneef.com April is National Poetry Month here in the United States. We'd like you to help us celebrate by penning a poem in the comment field below or on our Facebook page . The ocean has served as an inspiration for as long as poets have been writing poems. Some people are...Read more

A Bite of Bitter Crab

The blue crab ( Callinectes sapidus ) is one of the most important commercial species in the United States. Credit: Brian Henderson, Flickr user stinkenroboter Hopefully you've never bitten into a delicious hunk of snow crab meat and instantly spit it out because instead of crab you tasted... aspirin?! If you have, it might have been crab meat infected with a species of Hematodinium , a parasitic dinoflagellate that is the cause of Bitter Crab Disease in cold-water crab species. This parasite lowers the “tasty factor” of commercially important cold-water crabs around the world. At present,...Read more

Ocean Acidification Excites Boring Sponges

This orange boring sponge ( Cliona varians ) overgrows several coral species at Panama's Smithsonian Tropical Studies Institute. Credit: Amber Stubler Boring sponges get a bad rap. Their own name betrays them, announcing to the world that they are unexciting, ordinary and quite frankly, boring. However, if ever a misnomer existed, this is it. More flatteringly referred to as excavating or bioeroding sponges, these animals play the important yet thankless role of breaking down and recycling calcium carbonate (the main component of eggshells, corals and shelled marine organisms). Using a...Read more
A ribbon worm curled up in a mud flat.

The Search for an Elusive Ribbon Worm

A Hubrechtia ribbon worm, found after a long day of searching in mud flats in Fort Pierce, Florida. Credit: Eduardo Zattara, Smithsonian Institution With 1,400 named species of ribbon worms inhabiting every ecosystem on earth, seeking one out should be an easy proposition. But I quickly learned that it can be quite daunting when you’re looking for certain teeny-tiny mud-loving worms. I recently accompanied Dr. Jon Norenburg and postdoctoral fellow Dr. Eduardo Zattara, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History research scientists in the Department of Invertebrate Zoology , on a research...Read more

How Coastal Seagrass Feeds the Deep

Seagrasses are flowering plants that can form dense underwater meadows and are an important shallow water habitat. Credit: Heather Dine, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary It is a well-known fact that for animals living in the deep sea, food can be scarce. The food that is around usually rains down from above as dead animals and organic particles from plankton living near the ocean’s surface. Occasionally, a bonus in the form of a good-sized dead fish, a porpoise, or even a whale will come down, the whale providing food for millions of animals for scores of years. Marine plants, seaweeds...Read more

Humpback Whales in Antarctica: What Are the Whales Doing?

A humpback whale breaching in Antarctic waters. Credit: Ari Friedlaender Humpback whales ( Megaptera novaengliae ) are the most abundant baleen whale in the nearshore waters around the Antarctic Peninsula. They, along with millions of penguins, seals, seabirds, and other whales, feed primarily on Antarctic krill ( Euphausia superba ) during summer months. For a large 50-foot humpback whale, there needs to be a significant amount of these tiny, shrimp-like prey available to make the energetically costly act of lunge feeding worth the effort! But very little is known about how these ocean...Read more

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