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,

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

Parrotfish Beaks Are Really, Really Strong

CORAL REEFS ARE DYNAMIC EQUATIONS, CONSTANTLY BEING BUILT UP AND TORN DOWN. The stony corals and the coralline algae mostly do the building. Major factors in the tearing-down side are parrotfish. And, especially, the teeth in parrotfish beaks. Parrotfish don’t set out to tear down coral. As herbivores, they focus on eating the algae that live on the surfaces of coral polyps’ calcium carbonate exoskeletons, or corallites. And they work at this pretty continuously, scraping

Read more

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

Read more

The Specifics of Species – By the Numbers

1)   THE GENERAL DEFINITION OF SPECIES IS THAT THEY ARE GROUPS OF ORGANISMS that are like each other and can produce offspring with the same traits. While member of a species can sometimes produce hybrid offspring with another species, those offspring should not be able to reproduce.  2)   Within each species of gene-directed traits, there are inevitably genetic variations that favor some as environments change and work against others. As succeeding generations adapt to these changing circumstances,

Read more

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

Read more

The Inside Factor

HERE’S A RULE I FOLLOW ON DIVES: ALWAYS LOOK INSIDE THINGS. You can’t tell what’s you’ll find: Octopuses in holes or old tires, eels in crevices, brittlestars in vase sponges, cleaning gobies in barrel sponges, banded coral shrimps under ledges. Here’s a sharpnose puffer inside a tube sponge in Bonaire. Just hanging out, apparently. There appears to be another little fish, which I didn’t notice at the time, inside the tube at the right.  

Read more

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

Read more

The Philippines: In the Triangle

MY POST IN THE ORIGINS SECTION, “The Far Side of the World: Geohistory & the Triangle of Diversity,”  helps explain why we in the U.S. pay much more money and travel much longer distances to dive in the Pacific rather than the Atlantic/ Caribbean. ICE AGE EXTINCTIONS    At one time ocean life was uniformly distributed worldwide along the Equator, but the movements of continents and the rise and fall of sea level ensured that many

Read more