Over the last few days, a video of hermit crabs stampeding across the rocky shores of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands has taken the internet by storm. Where are the hermit crabs going, and why? These hermit crabs are Coenobita clypeatus , the Caribbean hermit crab (also known as the soldier crab), which are native to islands throughout the Caribbean region. I typically think of hermit crabs as a marine phenomenon, but the adults of this species live in wet inland areas, hiding between tree roots or in caves. They mostly eat iguana poop (from Cyclura stejnegeri ), although they can also...
Editor's Note: See more information and details about the organisms displayed in the slideshow here . Researchers who come to Curaçao to take part in DROP ( Deep Reef Observation Project ) aren’t running on sleep; they’re running on passion, curiosity and a drive to not waste a moment of opportunity to explore. (And, yes, a fair bit of caffeine.) We are in as much an age of discovery as were Lewis and Clark , Alfred Russel Wallace or Austin Hobart Clark (whose travels on-board the Albatross in 1906 contributed to building NMNH's collections). But our current age of exploration is technology-...
If there had been room to stand up, there would have been a standing ovation. As it was, the five of us on the submersible Curasub clapped and cheered when the first three deep-reef ARMS (Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structures) were successfully deployed at approximately 396 feet (120 meters). ARMS are like condos for a reef’s “hidden biodiversity” -- the small invertebrates and algae that grow, burrow and hide in the cracks and crevices of reefs. In the last few years, more than 500 identical ARMS have been deployed in shallow reefs around the world for a year at a time providing a standard...
The Mars rover Curiosity is sending images back home : glimpses of another world during a voyage of discovery. While Curiosity is clicking pictures millions of miles away, I am privileged to be taking part in my own voyage of discovery to the inner space of this planet. Without need of a spacesuit, I am clicking pictures off Curaçao, an island in the Dutch Caribbean. A submersible carries researchers to one of the least explored regions of the ocean: the deep reefs of the twilight zone, which in the clear waters off Curaçao extend to a depth close to 1000 feet. In this shadowy realm,...
Scientists don’t often get the opportunity to travel through time. But nestled among the beautiful coral reefs of Papua New Guinea (PNG) is a place that provides a glimpse today of what could be the biggest future threat to coral reef survival: ocean acidification . Ocean acidification is occurring because the ocean has absorbed about a third of the carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) released into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels . That carbon is changing the chemistry of the ocean, making seawater more acidic. Reef biologists expect this to be a bigger and bigger problem as more and more...
Imagine: You’re in a small submersible, and you gently settle on the soft muddy bottom at a depth of 12,000 feet. It’s absolutely dark. What will you see when the exterior lights are turned on? Will you discover underwater volcanoes and hydrothermal vents, as some astonished geologists did back in 1977? Not likely, but you will almost certainly see several kinds of animals that are new to science, and there’s a good chance you’ll also see some beer cans. The deep sea – that part of the ocean that is perpetually dark – is 103 million square miles in area. However, despite a dramatic increase...
How do you make science sing? Just ask a couple of female scientists to sing about their research interests and their passion is quickly conveyed in a quirky little tune. Informative, inspiring, and a little bit silly are all adjectives that aptly describe this music video performed and produced by a group of female graduate students from UCLA’s Barber Lab . Set to Billy Joel’s “The Longest Time,” this little ditty does a fabulous job of describing biodiversity of the Coral Triangle and these student’s research and passion for studying it. The video started getting more attention this week as...
Ships are well-known for their tiny rooms and tight quarters. But have you heard of a sea vessel that has toilets and sinks sticking out of the walls, and staircases and doors on the ceiling? This unique research vessel is real -- and, in June 2012, the Office of Naval Research and Scripps Institution of Oceanography celebrated its 50th birthday. The reason FLIP -- or the FLoating Instrument Platform -- has such bizarre interior design is because all the rooms have to be livable when the vessel is in either of two configurations. In the first configuration, the 355-foot long research platform...
Collect, sort, identify, photograph, sample, record. Repeat a couple thousand times. This is what the students and researchers have been doing as the Indonesian Biodiversity Research Center (IBRC) project has seriously ramped up. The foundation of the IBRC project is a relatively new method of sampling biodiversity , which uses Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structures (ARMS) to measure reef life. Resembling a reef condominium, each ARMS is a stack of 10 spaced plastic plates that are left on the ocean bottom for a specific period of time. Marine invertebrates -- like sea squirts, bryozoans,...
We have arrived as the advanced scouting party to the scene of this year's field work location: Pemuteran, a small fishing village in northwest Bali. More importantly, we are sitting squarely at the heart of marine biodiversity at the "Coral Triangle" -- that small part of the globe where, if space aliens came to take an ocean safari, they would likely go. The Indonesian Biodiversity Research Center class of 2011 came to Pemuteran last year with the same expectation of witnessing extremely biodiverse marine systems. People have counted fishes and corals - those more visible parts of coral...