Pick up any news article about invasive species and you may confuse it with a police blotter. Generally, invasive species are "almost bulletproof" "marauders," "terrorizing" ecosystems and wildlife. The one-inch amphipod Dikerogammarus villosus —better known as "killer shrimp"—is "vicious" and "violent," "murderous" and "aggressive." The emerald ash borer is " Public Enemy No. 1 " in the Midwest. These antagonistic feelings may be justified, as invasive species can endanger populations of native species, reduce diversity, and disrupt the health of entire ecosystems. On a larger scale,...
I am once again leaving my familiar world behind and descending into the abyss below. The first dive of an entirely new expedition is the most magical. I am a member of a scientific research dive team studying biological invasions in coastal marine ecosystems off the coast of Bermuda for the Smithsonian Marine Invasions Research Lab . As I sink beneath the belly of a massive cargo ship, I glide my hand down the side of the vessel. The painted metal feels like smooth skin, but it is covered in a thin layer of brown biofilm, microbial life that clings to painted surfaces and is generally found...
Charles Darwin is so well known he almost needs no introduction. The 19th-century naturalist and geologist spent his life documenting and collecting information on the natural world . From birds to flowers to invertebrates, living and extinct, all species and their distributions held his interest, and he yearned to explain the great diversity of life—the "endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful"—that he observed. After more than 20 years of reading, writing, asking questions, accumulating data , and comparing notes with other scientists, he presented his revolutionary theory of...
Love is in the air at the National Museum of Natural History! Our scientists are helping species look for love in this series of “dating profiles” to celebrate Valentine’s Day. For more dating options head over to the Unearthed Blog from Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History! We're partial to the sea otter and the triplewart seadevil ! Screen name: HamletNotRomeo Species: Shy hamlet ( Hypoplectrus guttavarius ) Sex: Male and female (keeps my options open) Location: Caribbean, usually hanging out near coral reefs Details: I'm a scaly and colorful Caribbean fish. I'm blue and yellow...
Tags: Reproduction
Credit: Illustration from "Chicken Little" in the New Barnes Reader vol.1, New York, 1916 The sky is falling! The sky is falling! So cries Chicken Little (or Chicken Licken, or Henny Penny, depending on the telling) in the well-known folk tale . In the story, an acorn falls on Chicken Little’s head, and she takes it as a sign that the sky is falling and the world is coming to an end. She spreads the news—“The sky is falling! The sky is falling!”—and causes mass hysteria. In some versions of the story, her prophecy leads to her own demise: in a panicked state, she and her friends are easily...
Good real estate is hard to find. This is as true underwater as it is on land. So when Smithsonian scientist Dr. Matthieu Leray built 18 potential homes for undersea creatures living on oyster reefs, they moved in fast. After just six months in the water, Dr. Leray counted more than 2,000 different types of organisms—most of them very small—living in his small underwater “condos,” which were placed in a variety of locations including the Chesapeake Bay and the Indian River Lagoon in southeast Florida. CREDIT: Matthieu Leray These condos were designed with tiny critters in mind. Each...
As I readied myself and my camera for a dive in Yellowstone Lake, the largest body of water in Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park, I thought I was on top of my game. I had recently specialized in underwater photography at the Rochester Institute of Technology, and had most photographic techniques figured out. I knew enough to wear several layers of thermals under my drysuit to withstand frigid water temperatures of 38° F. Yet I was in for a surprise. When my boss told me that we would be using a photographic technique called photogrammetry, I was taken aback, as it was entirely new to me...
There can be catastrophic results when a large amount of oil is spilled into the ocean—as when the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and spewed oil into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. But did you know that a little bit of oil in the ocean is actually necessary for many organisms to survive? In the deep sea, there is no light, so oil and gas act as a source of energy for bacteria. These bacteria are in turn eaten by larger organisms, which are then eaten by even larger organisms, and so on, as you move up the food chain. Generally the oil that feeds organisms in the deep sea isn’t spilled there by...
Cashes Ledge is a wild, special place in the heart of the Gulf of Maine. This underwater mountain range is home to a great diversity of life, with colors typically associated with a coral reef rather than a cold, northern environment. Its steep peaks reach almost to the ocean’s surface—a fact that historically made Cashes Ledge a dangerous place for fishermen, who could easily snag and rip or lose their nets on the jagged underwater mountaintops. As a result, the thriving ecosystems on the Ledge have been relatively undisturbed by people for centuries. To promote the rebuilding of New England...
Most people try to avoid rotting kelp at the beach. The feeling of a floating piece of seaweed wrapping around an ankle is enough to shake even the most steeled swimmer, and then there's the strong smell! But in our research group, we go out of our way to find rotting seaweed at the shore so that we can study how kelp tissues change as they die and decompose. While this may seem like an odd thing to care about, detached and decomposing kelp blades are actually a very important part of coastal food webs in many cold-water ecosystems. Kelps grow large and fast, but then some perennial species...