The Ocean Blog

A hippopotamus-like creature swims underwater

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 An Extinct Mammal May Have Been Replaced By Today's Sea Cows

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.Read more
A map of the Mid Ocean Ridge

Making a Mark on the Ocean Floor

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.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
A large red research vessel among icy waters and snowy mountains

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

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
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
An unidentified earplug from the National Museum of Natural History collection.

Whale Earwax: What You Can Learn From Strange Collections

An unidentified earplug from the National Museum of Natural History collection. The light and dark layers come from a build up of keratin and lipids and can be used to estimate whale age. Credit: Megan Chen, NMNH 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...Read more