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This slideshow features illustrations of some of the plants and animals that William Dampier, a naturalist and pirate, observed in Australia (then known as New Holland) and New Guinea. Learn more about Dampier in...
Seagrasses growing on the seafloor of the Chesapeake Bay rely on light to grow—...
Algae, like all organisms, normally grow in balance with their ecosystems,...
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Often it's the tiniest organisms that do the most harm. One example is...

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This beautiful bromeliad, also called an air plant because it gets its nutrients and water from the air, is a flowering plant in the pineapple family. All of them are epiphytes, meaning they get their support from and grow on...
Sargassum fluitans , a.k.a. “Gulfweed,” forms dense clumps up to the size of...
Many species of pink coralline algae cover a reef surface in the Southern...

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Around 100 million years ago, grass from land adapted to live and reproduce while submerged in seawater—the modern-day...
Macroscopic algae ( Ventricaria ventricosa ), also known as "bubble algae" or "sea pearl," is widespread algal species that can withstand low light. Each of the bubbles is a single cell, making it...
Over the past several decades, Florida’s coastal wetlands have been changing. Along the eastern shore, researchers have seen small mangrove trees appearing in areas further north than they usually...
The bright, brilliant swirls of blue and green seen from space are a phytoplankton bloom in the Barents Sea. Phytoplankton can bloom like this, rapidly growing and reproducing, because of a sudden...
How do you explain a scientific paper in three minutes or less? What if you were being judged by a bunch of middle-schoolers in classrooms around the world… and you only had a month to do it? The...
Both humans and sea lions get sick from eating fish and shellfish that have been feeding on harmful toxic algae. Studying the sick sea lions brings scientists closer to understanding and preventing...
As Dampier studied the plants he encountered in Australia, he wrote that they were “for the most part unlike any I had seen elsewhere.” In fact, nearly all the plants Dampier observed were entirely...
Around 100 million years ago, grass from land adapted to live and reproduce while submerged in seawater—the modern-day seagrasses. This sea invasion by land plants happened four separate times,...
The invasive reed Phragmites australis can create new plants through seeds (shown here) or underground rhizomes. Scientists at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center have discovered that seeds...
The open ocean is surprisingly barren to the naked eye. Every now and again you will encounter a school of fish and their attendant predators, but most of the life that you find is gathered around...
When snorkeling in the Kahekili Herbivore Fisheries Management Area (KHFMA) in West Maui, I keep an eye out for certain kinds of fish. Not the brightest or the biggest, but those herbivores such as...
Algae, like all organisms, normally grow in balance with their ecosystems, limited by the amount of nutrients in the water. But sometimes, certain species of algae reproduce so rapidly that they...
Sargassum fluitans , a.k.a. “Gulfweed,” forms dense clumps up to the size of a beach ball that slowly rotate as they drift. The fronds are quite dense, but if you look carefully, sometimes you can...
One of the most common inhabitants of the sargassum community, the shrimp Latreutes fucorum (Hippolytidae) is perfectly colored to hide on the leaf-like blades. Off the coast of Belize, Smithsonian...
Even though the Amazon River and the ocean seem very different—the river is freshwater while the ocean is salty, the ocean is vast and deep compared to the Amazon—they are closely connected. The...
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...
An invasive strain of the plant Phragmites australis dominates this Chesapeake Bay wetland. The plant can easily grow up to 3 meters (9.8 feet) tall and alter coastal ecosystems. Scientists at the...
One of the first signs of a sick coral reef is seaweed creeping across the corals, stealing their precious sunny real estate. Healthy corals, however, aren't completely hopeless: in some reefs, small...
Bull kelp ( Nereocystis ) becomes less valuable to grazers as it quickly rots.
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