The other stuff, from the plankton to mangroves to the Triangle of Diversity.

Woodsy Perhaps, But Mangrove Forests are Essential Parts of the Reef

THREE THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT MANGROVE FORESTS: 1) They aren’t swamps. They grow in shallow ocean waters along tropical coasts, surviving tidal fluctuations and thriving on the edge between land and sea.  2) Mangrove trees generate the freshwater they need for survival by using a variety of mechanisms to filter the salt out of the ocean water.  3) They’re essential parts of reef systems, key to the reef life. ABOVE AND BELOW    Above water,

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“Whale Falls” Have Large Impacts in the Deep Sea

WHEN A WHALE FALLS TO THE DEEP SEAFLOOR, A COMMUNITY FORMS AROUND ITS NUTRITIOUS CARCASS. Scavengers like sleeper sharks and hagfish arrive first to consume skin and muscle. Microbes convene to work on the scraps those fish scatter. Worms, snails and crabs show up to graze through its array of bones. Newly described worms called Osedax, which live only within the bones of fallen whales, appear. By one estimate, there may be hundreds of thousands

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To Define Plankton, Think: “Ocean Food Bank”

THE PLANKTON IS ONE OF THE KEYSTONES OF THE OCEAN FOOD CHAIN. In fact, it’s one of the most important elements of life in the sea. And, yet, every time I mention the word, seek to talk about plankton, discuss plankton, define plankton, I can hear eyes roll all across Planet Earth. True, plankton doesn’t have the same excitement attached to it as, say, a celebrity punching a shark on You-Know-What Week. On the other hand,

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Species Names: Why the Scientific Naming System Matters

THE COMMON DOLPHIN COULD BE THE POSTER FISH FOR THE SCIENTIFIC SYSTEM OF SPECIES NAMES. Yep, poster fish, not one of the 40 or so species of the charismatic marine mammals. This one’s definitely a fish, despite its common name. The fishy dolphin is shaped vaguely like a baseball bat with a long dorsal fin and a dour expression. Found in open waters around the world, it’s regarded as a good sport fish, as a

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Geohistory and the Triangle of Diversity

Gone diving. Out of touch. Not posting too much new stuff. In the meantime, here’s a re-post that’s terrific:  CONSIDER THE TRIANGLE OF DIVERSITY. It wasn’t that long ago (in geohistory terms) that tropical marine life was distributed much more uniformly worldwide than is the case today. The Earth’s landmasses were configured differently and a strong current circled the planet along the Equator, widely dispersing tropical life. So why, today, do many of us have to

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The Roadway of Life – an Essay on Connection

HERE’S AN IDEA: LET’S PAY ATTENTION TO THE HISTORY OF SPONGES. And sea urchins, and how much like us they are. And, for that matter, sea jellies. They’re all part of the roadway of life. This is a personal view, perhaps a sentimental one. But, it’s about a way of looking at life under the sea, as signposts on the roadway of evolution that led to us. Understanding it helps us appreciate the watery world we are

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The Plankton: The Soup of Life

NOBODY GOES UNDERWATER TO LOOK AT THE PLANKTON.  Well, actually, corals, gorgonians, sea anemones, baleen whales, whale sharks, sponges, brittlestars, a lot of kinds of fish and many other denizens of the deep do. But divers fixated on large, celebrity species like sharks and mantas may find omni-present microscopic organisms they can’t particularly see less than engrossing. They’re missing an enormous point. To the aforementioned denizens, the plankton are the staff of life, the dinner

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OCEAN FOOD CHAIN: What Eats What, Way Down Below

ONCE THOUGHT TO BE A SPARSELY INHABITED ENVIRONMENT, the ocean’s deep waters – at least within the California Current off central California – are actually a highly active habitat of predators like squids, sea jellies and other creatures, according to a study by researchers at the Monteray Bay Aquarium Research Institute, based in Moss Landing, CA. They published their study in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, described the work in a more reader-friendly

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Under the Sea, Most Animals Shine On

BIOLUMINESCENCE AMONG ANIMALS IN THE SEA is generally seen as an exotic phenomenon found only in selected creatures like squids and deep sea anglerfishes. But a study by scientists at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute has found that three-quarters of marine animals generate their own light. ACROSS THE BOARD  And bioluminescence wasn’t limited to just fishes and squids. It was found in animals as diverse as sea jellies, worms, snails and krill and shrimps.

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Six Ways in Which Algae is Our Friend

ALGAE COMES IN EIGHT GAZILLION DIFFERENT FORMS, from tiny little slimy green stuff to giant kelp, and to most of us it seems obnoxious and a thing to be ignored, if not despised. Except that algae is the foundation of the food chain, a pioneer in the evolution of life, and essential to our existence.  Algae uses sunlight to photosynthesize the carbon dioxide and hydrogen in water into the simple sugars that are nutrients for

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