The Ocean Blog

A nudibranch showing a closeup of their fleshy, tentacle-like growths, called cerata.

How Sea Slugs Steal the Defenses of Their Prey

Many tentacle-like outgrowths, called cerata (singular: ceras), project off the back of this aeolid nudibranch. After the nudibranch eats the tentacles of a jellyfish, anemone, coral, or other stinging animal, the stolen stinging cells pass through the digestive gland, which is the grey section in each ceras. They wind up in the orange cnidosacs, where they are stored until they are needed for defense. Credit: Jessica Goodheart Not all slugs (snails without shells) are slimy brown pests found in your backyard garden. In the ocean they come in a huge variety of colors — some match the...Read more

Coralline Algae: The Unsung Architects of Coral Reefs

Many species of pink coralline algae, which cements coral reefs together, cover a reef surface in the Southern Line Islands. Credit: Maggie D. Johnson, Scripps Institution of Oceanography Stare at a tide pool and you will often see a crust of pink coating the bottom. No, this is not bubblegum from some careless teenager’s shoe: it’s a stony kind of seaweed that, like other seaweeds, harnesses energy from the sun through photosynthesis. It may not look like the kelps and other leafy seaweeds that we usually think of—but seaweeds, which are a type of algae, come in a wide variety of colors,...Read more

Diving into the Sandstorm

A dredge from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers can be seen removing a sandbar off of Virginia Beach, VA. Credit: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Flickr Diving can be a wild ride that evokes more than a little trepidation, especially in the Pacific Ocean's famously big, cold waves. Waves that are otherwise fun for my weekend surfing can turn a scientific dive into a serious challenge. But then, diving to support the mission of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can be full of surprises. At a seafloor survey site at the mouth of the Chetco River off the Oregon coast, waves transmit so much...Read more

Watching for Fish in the Puffin's Beak

Atlantic puffins have spiny tongues that, pressed against the roof of their mouths, help to hold ten or more small forage fish at once without losing any along the way. Credit: Steve Garvie, <a href=" In recent years, I have taken to watching flying fish along the Maine coast. Not the usual flying fish that skim over tropical seas, but fish dangling from the beaks of flying puffins. Puffins are famous for loading their colorful beaks with a dozen or more fish and winging home to feed their solitary, ravenous chick...Read more

How Hurricanes Shape Wetlands in Southern Louisiana

The grasses and animals living in marshes help to filter water and stabilize shorelines, along with providing habitat for a variety of mammals, fish, shellfish and amphibians and a haven for migratory waterfowl. Credit: Eve Cundiff, Flickr We all know that hurricanes can have destructive effects on human communities and infrastructure—but what about their effects on coastal wetlands? Until Hurricane Katrina, no one had ever mapped hurricane-caused land loss in Louisiana, where a staggering 90 percent of coastal wetland loss in the United State's contiguous 48 states occurs. The first study to...Read more

Ice-Loving Seals and the Loss of Sea Ice

In 2011, storms and lack of ice-cover due to a warmer winter climate resulted in hundreds of seal pups being washed up on the shore of Prince Edward Island. Like many, this young seal faced an uncertain future. <a href="/ocean-views-2012-contest-winners">See more Nature's Best Photos</a>. Credit: John Sylvester/Nature's Best Photography The threat that climate change poses to polar bears has received a lot of attention, but they are not the only Arctic species at risk. Ice-loving seals, such as harp, hooded and ringed seals, are among the many species threatened by climate change...Read more

Celebrating the Ocean With New Museum Exhibits

The Sant Ocean Hall is the National Museum of Natural History's largest exhibit, providing visitors with a unique and breathtaking introduction to the majesty of the ocean Credit: Flickr User M.V. Jantzen A lot can happen in five years. Since 2007, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has continued to go up, reaching a concentration of 400 parts per million, and with it Arctic sea ice has continued to melt, reaching a record low in 2012. On a more positive note, more than five million square kilometers of ocean have been designated as shark sanctuaries over the same interval...Read more

Portraits of Planet Ocean – Behind The Photographs

Brian Skerry sits on a 20 foot high underwater tripod to photograph the Aquarius Habitat off Florida. Credit: Copyright © Mark Conlin Editor's Note: These images and more can be seen at Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., as a part of the larger exhibit " Portraits of Planet Ocean: The Photography of Brian Skerry " opening on September 17, 2013. Two additional ocean exhibits are also opening: "Fragile Beauty: The Art & Science of Sea Butterflies," which shares the story of how ocean acidification is affecting sea butterflies , and the "Living on an Ocean...Read more

The Design of a Beautiful Weapon

Video of Claws Out: Fiddler Crabs Do Battle This summer, many of you have likely enjoyed feasting on crabs, be they blue, stone, or Dungeness, and a special treat will have been the big, easy morsels of claw meat. The size of this muscle is testament to its role in applying a forceful pinch to prey, predator, or competitor. But many crabs also use their lovely long claws to attract females—a function that does not depend on the power of the pinch. So which of these two uses was more important in driving the claw's evolution: its beauty or its strength? Female fiddler crabs have two small...Read more