Today's Catch

Apr 6, 2015
Credit:

John Klausmeyer/University of Michigan Museum of Natural History

This early whale was well suited to life at sea. But it also may have spent time on land. An ancestor of the right whale , Maiacetus lived 49-40 million years ago. It had flipper-like limbs and webbed feet, like modern seals. But it also had ankle bones - clues that although Maiacetus swam, its ancestors walked. As later whales evolved to become more aquatic, the telltale anklebone disappeared...Read more
Apr 3, 2015
Credit:

Flickr user Rowland Cain

The sea hare gets its common name from its equivalent of nose and tongue—external sensory organs for smell and taste called rhinophores—which look like bunny ears. The sea hare, however, doesn't hop like a rabbit: it is a sea slug (an invertebrate in the gastropod (snail) taxonomic class) that glides around on its muscular foot. When threatened sea hares will release a cloud of ink, attempting to...Read more
Apr 2, 2015
Credit:

Graham Saunders, Flickr

A colony of 100 million flame shells ( Limaria hians ) was discovered in Scotland in 2012 , and is thought to be the biggest in the world. Flame shells are bivalve mollusks that are shaped a bit like scallops—but they have bright orange tentacles exuding from their shells. Despite their bright color, flame shells are very hard to spot because they hide in self-constructed felt-like nests. They...Read more
Apr 1, 2015
Credit:

Flickr User AJC1

In the ocean, microscopic forms of algae, known as dinoflagellates , can "bloom" into dense patches near the surface, often referred to as "red tides." Some of these harmful algal blooms (HABs) are dangerous, producing toxins that can kill marine organisms, taint shellfish, cause skin irritations, and even foul the air. They seem to be increasing in size, intensity, and persistence—possibly due...Read more
Mar 31, 2015
Credit:

© John Weller

Three distinct types of killer whale, or orcas, can be found in the Antarctic, each with a different habitat and diet preference. One type of orca preys almost exclusively on the Antarctic minke whale, another on seals, and the last eats fish. None have yet been described as separate species, but genetic testing will help scientists know if they should be. See more Antarctic scenes in our Ross...Read more
Mar 30, 2015
Credit:

(c) Alexander Semenov

Brachiopods are an ancient group of organisms, at least 600 millions years old. They might just look like clams, but they are not even closely related. Instead of being horizontally symmetrical along their hinge, like clams and other bivalves, they are vertically symmetrical, cut down the middle of their shell. While they may all look the same to us, during the Paleozoic era (roughly 250-500...Read more
Mar 27, 2015
In the aftermath of the Gulf oil spill, what is the effect of oil on invertebrates like jellyfish, clams, crabs, sea stars, and plankton? The scope of the damage is more easily observed among birds and large animals, but Dr. Chris Mah, an invertebrate zoologist at Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, suggests that what we don’t see may be more widespread and devastating. To learn...Read more
Mar 26, 2015
Credit:

©2011arthowardphototography.com

The first time biologist Mandy Joye dove to the deep sea in the Johnson-Sea-Link submersible (pictured here), she had never seen the bubbles of a methane seep. But after that fateful day in 1994, she was entranced. Instead of studying the mussels and other animals that survive in the cold, dark, deep ocean by feeding on methane, she focused on a different group of organisms: microbes that consume...Read more
Mar 25, 2015
Credit:

Encyclopedia of Life

Simon Coppard, a post-doctoral research fellow at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama and an Encyclopedia of Life Rubenstein Fellow specializing in echinoids often uncovers new species during his research. In 2006, he and a fellow scientist discovered and described Coelopleurus exquisitus , a previously unknown sea urchin species from New Caledonia in the South Pacific.Read more
Mar 24, 2015
Credit:

Seabird McKeon

The Sargassum frogfish Histrio histrio (Antennariidae) is a small but voracious predator - it can ingest animals up to it’s own size! The fins of the frogfish are perfect for creeping around in the algae and stalking unsuspecting prey. Off the coast of Belize, Smithsonian Marine Science Network postdoctoral fellow, Seabird McKeon, studies floating seaweeds and the minuscule animals that call them...Read more

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