Publish by: Nicholas D. Pyenson - May 21, 2012
After a few long days of hard work on the island, we were finally able to excavate and remove , not just one, but two skeletons of an early "toothed" baleen whale from the rocks near the Carmanah Lighthouse. All told, it took our team 3 days, along with assistance from Parks Canada, a chartered boat, a chartered helicopter, car ferries, and one really nice diamond-bladed rock saw. In one day we made the whole trip back from the island to our staging area in greater Vancouver, or, as it's called, the Lower Mainland. The end of any complex and gear-heavy field trip inevitably ends with as much...
Deborah Smrekar/Nature’s Best Photography
Publish by: Emily Frost - May 16, 2012
How do we know where ocean animals swim day and night? Scientists are getting snapshots into the daily lives of whales , sharks , and even fish by tagging the animals to track their movements. You’ve probably seen photos of the mysterious and almost eerie silhouette of a manta ray. But what do we really know about these giant creatures, which can grow up to 25 ft in width? Not much, but that is changing. Scientists recently attached satellite trackers to six giant manta rays ( Manta birostris ). They found that the giant fish spent most of their time within 200 miles of shore, but not...
J. A. Goldbogen
Publish by: Nicholas D. Pyenson - May 11, 2012
Editor's note: Read Nick's first blog post about "toothed" baleen whales to see what their team is excavating on Vancouver Island. We departed from Port Renfrew on Tuesday morning on the Michelle Diana, a boat chartered specifically for our expedition. An hour later we approached Carmanah Point, a tall cliff upon which the Carmanah lighthouse sits (built in 1891). We made the treacherous boat-shore transition in the rain with assistance from Parks Canada's wardens, and then organized our dozen bags of gear to begin work. It was exhilarating to finally set foot on land; this is a remote place...
NDP and J. A. Goldbogen/SI
Publish by: Nicholas D. Pyenson - May 7, 2012
The whales that we see in today's world can broadly be split into two groups: those with teeth (odontocetes), and those that have baleen (mysticetes) instead of teeth. These two groups share a common ancestor in the Eocene, which had teeth (They looked a lot like the ancient whale skeletons in the Sant Ocean Hall). This insight leads to a question: When, in their evolutionary history , did mysticetes lose their teeth? Actually, mysticetes still retain the genetic programming for teeth because they have tooth buds while embryos. More precisely, we would say that mysticetes lack the adult,...
Publish by: Hannah Waters - Apr 27, 2012
Reef sharks rarely get any love. These sharks, comprising several species, loiter around coral reefs, snacking on small fish, squids and crustaceans. And while their size is nothing to smirk at -- 5-10 feet is pretty impressive in my book! -- their relatively demure lifestyle just can’t compete with the seal-snatching airtime of the great white shark . However, another reason reef sharks receive less attention is that they are a rare sight. Coral reef biologist Alan Friedlander from the University of Hawaii told me that he can’t remember the last time he saw a shark in the Caribbean – and he’...
Georgia Department of Natural Resources
Publish by: Hannah Waters - Apr 20, 2012
Two years ago last week, on April 20, 2010, an explosion on the oil-drilling rig Deepwater Horizon caused the largest marine oil spill in history , gushing nearly 5 million barrels of crude oil over the course of three months. And, since then, researchers have been hard at work to understand how the oil spill impacted life in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s too soon to say whether the ecosystem is out of the red – it’s only been two years, after all! – but many researchers have been shocked at the ecosystem’s recovery. “Like everybody else, I had visions of just gobs and gobs of oil smothering...
Publish by: Emily Frost - Apr 20, 2012
The surface of the Earth is 71% water, so we should celebrate the ocean this Earth Day. This Earth Day on Sunday, April 22nd, think of what you can do on an everyday basis to help our Planet Ocean. The ocean provides us with so much - from beach weekends with family and friends to the regulation of our climate. Many organizations are hosting events this weekend for you to participate in and learn about ways to conserve our land and ocean. NOAA is celebrating Earth Day by launching buoys with the Adopt a Drifter Program . Students at six U.S. locations are teaming up with international student...
Publish by: Maggy Hunter Benson - Apr 13, 2012
Editor's note: Thank you for your interest in this app. Unfortunately, it is no longer available. Amazing Ocean is a brand new, free mobile app developed by the U.S. Department of State that features Smithsonian Ocean Portal and Sant Ocean Hall content. The app allows users to explore photos, videos, and rich ocean-themed content on their mobile devices. Amazing Ocean is a pilot project of the State Department/Smithsonian partnership and combines some of the best assets of both organizations: the unique and robust research and collections of the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural...
Tags: Ocean Portal
Publish by: Jorge Velez-Juarbe - Mar 8, 2012
Monodontids, the group of whales that includes the belugas and narwhals swimming our ocean today, are emblematic symbols of the Arctic. However, their fossil record, although scarce, suggests that these animals' ranges could have been much broader. Fossil monodontids have been previously found in late Miocene deposits in Baja California, Mexico, the early Pliocene of Belgium and the eastern coast of North America. Now, in this month’s issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology , Nick Pyenson and I describe a new species of fossil monodontid from early Pliocene deposits (around 3-4...
Publish by: Jorge Velez-Juarbe - Jan 26, 2012
Sirenians , or seacows, are a group of marine mammals that include manatees and dugongs. In the modern ocean, only one species of seacow is found in each world region, however, the fossil record tells a different story. According to the fossil record of these marine mammals, which dates back 50 million years ago, it was more common to find three, maybe more, different species living together at one time. This oddity hinted that seacows’ environment and food sources were different than what we see today. Inspired by this finding, a group of paleontologists including Drs. Daryl Domning , Nick...