Corals

Nancy Knowlton speaking about the "Future of the Ocean"

The Future of the Ocean

Nancy Knowlton, the Sant Chair of Marine Science at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, asks "What is the likely future of our ancestral home?" The answer depend on what humans do now...

What Makes Sponges Grow?

Sponges are animals that eat tiny food particles as they pump water through their bodies. They are very common on Caribbean coral reefs, and come in all shapes, sizes and colors. There is great...
Turbinolia stephensoni

Ocean Objects of Wonder

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:...
A brittle star clings to the branches of a deep sea coral

A Brittle Star May Be a Coral’s Best Friend

A brittle star wraps its arms around the branches of a deep sea octocoral. The coral's polyps are all open and extended, a sign that the coral is unbothered by the sea star. Credit:...
Walter Adey and the NMNH coral reef tank

The Evolution of a Reef Aquarium

Adey in front of the original reef microcosm in the National Museum of Natural History. Credit: Smithsonian Institution Archives In the late 1970s, Walter Adey, a paleobiologist and coral reef researcher at the National...
Tiny organisms found on ARMS

Traveling Around the World to Study the Future of the Ocean

By Dulce It takes three days of traveling to reach the islands of Papua New Guinea (PNG) from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. Laetitia Plaisance , a researcher at...
Tiny organisms found on ARMS

From Field to Lab: How Carbon Seeps Provide a Chance to See Future Impacts of Ocean Acidification

By Sarah Leinbach Every year, humans spew billions of tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels, like coal, oil and natural gas. The world’s oceans absorb some of it,...

Connecting Coral Reefs

Coral reefs are some of the most endangered ecosystems on the planet that are home to beautiful wildlife and provide food to many people living on the coast. So how do you protect the...

Slow Life: Time-Lapse on the Coral Reef

How does a coral spend its day? Most of us would say: not doing much. To the human eye, a coral looks relatively still, waiting in the current and hoping some food will run...
Coral Spawning by Moonlight

A Tale of Sex and Stress in the Ocean

A coral has just spawned. Each of the hundreds of polyps releases a small pink bundle of sperm and eggs. Credit: Raphael Williams Welcome to Citizens of the Sea , a new blog series...
An underwater photo of coral recovering from a bleaching event.

A Pleasant Surprise: The Recovery of Bleached Panamanian Corals

These corals are still in recovery after a mass bleaching in Panama, in the summer of 2010. You can see some bleaching on the tops, but the sides are looking good. Credit: Amanda Feuerstein...
A screenshot of some of Smithsonian's marine story windows in Google Earth

What Lives in the Gulf of Mexico? Exploring Marine Collections on Google Earth

When he was 10 years old, Stephen Cairns lived in Cuba where he kept a collection of butterflies and sea shells. When his family moved to Louisiana, he could bring only one of the...
A zoomed-in image of the crown-of-thorns sea star.

A Plague of Sea Stars

Scientists have been studying why populations of crown-of-thorns sea stars ( Acanthaster planci ) have mushroomed in recent decades. Coral reefs can suffer when the sea star's numbers explode; the echinoderm has a healthy...

The Oil Spill, Two Years Later

Mark Dodd, a wildlife biologist from Georgia's Department of Natural Resources, surveying oiled sargassum seaweed in the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. Credit: Georgia Department of Natural Resources...

Coral Reefs Changing Over Time

How do we know what coral reefs looked like hundreds of years ago? Often times, we are simply left wondering. Scientists can get an idea from naturalist recordings, but there are many unknowns and...