Brittlestars: Well-Armed, Laid-Back and Full of Tricks  

If you think of brittlestars as just a variation on the familiar, pointy starfish, think again. They’re made quite differently, they act differently and they live quite a different lifestyle.  It’s all in the long, whip-like arms. BRITTLESTARS ARE MORE THAN JUST TRADITIONAL STARFISHES WITH LONG, SINUOUS ARMS AND LAID-BACK ATTITUDES. Actually, there are many differences between brittlestars and star-shaped starfishes, both in body design and behavior. In contrast to sea stars, brittlestars have flexible,

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Fevers, Shivers & Risks: Marine Animal Group Names

We’re all likely familiar with the terms “murder” of crows and “pride” of lions for assemblages of those animals. But marine animals groups have names, too, some familiar, some strange and some… really strange. As in, a “fluther” of jellyfish, a “risk” of lobsters and a “turmoil” of porpoises.  There’s not any point to any of this but still I felt impelled to produce a list, from fishes to sea birds, sharks to pelicans, after

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These Jellyfish Sting with “Mucus Grenades”

Researchers have discovered that seemingly benign upside-down jellyfish utilize a unique, previously unrecognized weapon to capture prey: “Stinging mucus grenades.” It explains the “stinging water” pain that divers, snorkelers and waders sometimes experience without coming into actual contact with the jellies. Upside-down jellyfish have been recognized for some 200 years, but nobody knew this until now. TO ALL APPEARANCES, UPSIDE-DOWN JELLYFISH LIKE CASSIOPEA XAMACHANA spend their days resting on the shallow bottoms of reefs and

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What Are Sponges? Maybe the Future of the Reef.

What are sponges? They’re animals, perhaps animals that stretch our conception of the term, but animals for sure. It’s easy to dismiss them as just backdrop scenery to more exotic stuff on the reef. But ocean sponges come in amazing shapes and colors, chug along with body features unique in the animal kingdom and perform important reef-related roles.  Sponges were among the earliest arrivals in the ocean. And, if corals disappear, sponges may be the

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Seeking Fish, Patrolling Albatrosses Join the Cops

In an innovative experiment to help find commercial fishing vessels poaching in restricted waters, scientists have attached tiny radar detectors to high-soaring albatrosses, renowned flyers known for their attraction to ships at sea. Patrolling albatrosses revealed that about a third of ships in the Southern Indian Ocean were seeking to avoid detection. TWO IMMUTABLE FACTS: 1) IF THERE’S FOOD AROUND, ANIMALS WILL SHOW UP FOR AN EASY MEAL. 2) There are always going to be

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Meet the “Walking Sharks:” They Amble on Land, Too.

 Walking sharks are only a small piece of our planet’s shark universe, but they’re remarkable for their ability to propel themselves along the seafloor using bodies and fins. And, actually, on land – literally fishes out of water. New walking shark research by an international team of scientists has found that, in terms of evolution, they are the most recent group of sharks to arrive on the scene. DESPITE A COMMON MISCONCEPTION, only a small number

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True Soft Corals: Beautiful, with an Identity Problem

True soft corals are among the most beautiful gems of the reef, yet they’re difficult to get a handle on etymologically. People insist on calling other stuff, like sea fans and mushroom corals, “soft corals.” Species in Family Nephtheidae deserve to be appreciated and understood by themselves.  TRUE SOFT CORALS ARE BEAUTEOUS TO BEHOLD AND DIFFICULT TO DEFINE. They’re beautiful in their delicate multi-branched structures, feathery clusters of polyps and striking pastel reds, yellows, blues,

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Seahorse Anatomy: Differences Way Beyond “Cute”

Seahorses are at once weird and wonderful, exotic and underwhelming and unique among bony fishes. Underneath their obvious horsey-head charm, seahorse anatomy is really, really different from other fishes. THE MOST OBVIOUS THING ABOUT SEAHORSES IS THEIR BODY DESIGN – an upright torso connecting a horse-shaped head and a monkey-like tail. They’re bony fishes, but pretty much the only bony fish that swims upright. When they swim. If searching for them carries an air of

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Whales & Carbon: To Save the World, Save the Whales

As the world ponders ways to capture carbon and combat climate change, think about the idea of whales and carbon storage. During their long lifetimes, great whales takes gargantually more carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere than whole forests of trees – and keep it there. A new study underscores our cetacean cousins’ importance to our planet beyond just oceanic diversity.  GREAT WHALES SWIMMING IN THE OCEANS DON’T SPRING TO MIND AS A SOLUTION TO

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How Fish Feed: For One Thing, They Suck It Up

If your idea of how fish feed on the reef is ferocious hunters swooping in to grab other fishy prey, you’re very unlikely to see that on most dives. But the 28,000 species of bony fishes in the world’s oceans make their livings in a myriad of ways – and they’re doing it all around you. IF YOU’RE SURPRISED AT HOW LITTLE FISH-ON-FISH FEEDING ACTION YOU ACTUALLY SEE WHILE YOU’RE UNDERWATER, a major reason is

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