Today's Catch

Oct 29, 2014

Mary Parrish/Smithsonian Institution

Vertebrates evolved in the sea and eventually moved onto land. The ancestors of whales later returned to the sea, taking advantage of its rich food supplies. As early whales adapted to their new marine surroundings, a diversity of species evolved. Explore the the interactive " Did Whale Evolution Go Backwards? ".Read more
Oct 28, 2014

John Johnson/Marine Photobank

A 2010 study of IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species found that one-fifth of the world's vertebrates (animals with backbones) are threatened with extinction, including this Hawaiian monk seal. The Hawaiian monk seal ( Monachus schauinslandi ) is the one of the rarest marine mammals in the world: there are around 1,200 individuals alive today, around 1/3 the population size compared to 1950. Its...Read more
Oct 27, 2014

Smithsonian Institution

What are corals? Corals themselves are animals. But tropical reef-building corals have tiny plant-like organisms living in their tissue. The corals couldn’t survive without these microscopic algae–called zooxanthellae (zo-zan-THELL-ee). This cutaway diagram of a coral polyp shows where the photosynthetic algae, or zooxanthellae, live—inside the polyp’s tissue. The coral gives the algae a home. In...Read more
Oct 23, 2014

Dr. Mike Goebel, NOAA NMFS SWFSC

Looking through this iceberg's reflection in the Antarctic water, you can see the iceberg below the surface—some 90% of its total volume. Icebergs are pieces of freshwater ice broken off of glaciers or ice shelves, left to float across the sea. Many icebergs and other pieces of floating ice cram together, freezing into pack ice, which is a form of sea ice.Read more
Oct 22, 2014

Terry Ross (Flickr)

Kemp's ridley sea turtles ( Lepidochelys kempii ) often emerge from their nests during the day, which is a rare (and dangerous) thing for sea turtle hatchlings! They are the most critically endangered sea turtle species in the world, and have inspired international cooperation between the U.S. and Mexico to protect nesting beaches, implement more stringent fishing regulations, and foster...Read more
Oct 21, 2014

Scott Kupiec

In recent years, blooms of jellyfish, such as these moon jellies ( Aurita aurita ) in the Chesapeake Bay, have become more common around the world for a number of different reasons . One result of these blooms is that there is less food for fish and more for bacteria . This is because the large numbers of jellyfish eat zooplankton—potential fish food —but most fish don't eat jellyfish. Instead,...Read more
Oct 20, 2014

Mandy Lindeberg, NOAA/NMFS/AKFSC.

The ocean sustains land animals besides humans. Here, a fox looks for a meal at low tide on the Arctic Peninsula. When the tide goes out, it leaves behind tidepools full of tasty snacks for foxes and other terrestrial predators such as bears, weasels, and raccoons—as long as they run out before the tide comes back in.Read more
Oct 17, 2014

Lophelia II 2010 Expedition, NOAA-OER/BOEMRE

An orange brisingid starfish sits on a large reef of Lophelia pertusa, cold-water corals in the Gulf of Mexico, at 450 m depth as a school of fish swims above. They have many arms—up to 20!—covered in spines, which themselves are covered with small snapping jaws called pedicellariae. By attaching their center to a surface and waving these long arms in the water, these starfish filter feed,...Read more
Oct 16, 2014
When a whale dies, the story has just begun. The massive carcass sinks to the seafloor, where it provides food for a deep sea ecosystem on the otherwise mostly barren seafloor. There are several stages to the whale fall ecosystem as different parts of the whale are used up. In the first phase, mobile scavengers such as ratfish, hagfish and sharks smell whale on the water and swim from afar,...Read more
Oct 16, 2014


Superheated magma, about 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit, glows orange as it slowly leaks from cracks along the six-mile long active rift zone of the West Mata Volcano in the Pacific Ocean near Fiji. The slow-leaking magma doesn't erupt, but bubbles out and solidifies to form pillow basalts, a type of rock commonly found at volcano sites and in the Earth's crust. The volcano's top is nearly a mile below...Read more