Display Category

Corals Eating Jellyfish: Who’d Have Thunk It.”

AT FIRST PASS, “CORALS EATING JELLYFISH” SOUNDS LIKE AN OXYMORON. But newly published research confirms that for at least one variety of stony corals, the concept of corals eating jellyfish is indeed a reality. Moreover, these tiny colonial animals appear to work together to capture and devour the much larger jellies. It’s the first described case of “protocooperation” among corals, say the authors of the article published in the journal Ecology. NORMALLY CARNIVORES, ANYWAY Coral polyps

Read more

Baleen Whales Are Just the Size they Ought to Be

 IN THE HUNTER/GATHERER EQUATION, FILTER-FEEDING BALEEN WHALES came down on the gathering side millions of years ago.  Gathering – in baleens’ case taking the form of filtering shrimp-like krill and other crustaceans, small fishes and phytoplankton out of the ocean waters with great baleen plates in place of teeth – has made them much more efficient feeders than their toothed cousins. A study by researchers at Stanford University suggests that the largest whales grew to

Read more

Sea Cucumbers – Superheroes  of the Seas

TO MOST DIVERS, SEA CUCUMBERS WOULD SEEM LIKE THE INACTION FIGURES of the oceans. Mainly, they come off as inert, sausage-shaped lumps lying randomly on the sandy bottom and perhaps the least interesting obects on the reef. In fact, some of them have real Captain Echinoderm moves in them. For one thing, they’re nocturnal so what you see in the daytime isn’t what you’d get at night, when they creep around on their little tube

Read more

The Moon Snail Sand Collar Mystery

FOR A LONG TIME, DURING MY NEW ENGLAND DIVING DAYS, the northern moon snail (Euspira heros) represented a mystery to me. I kept seeing these structures I knew were moon snail “sand collars,” mucus-bound masses of sand that were said be be egg-laden. Except that there didn’t appear to be any eggs. SANDY SAND COLLARS  MOON SNAIL SAND COLLAR MYSTERY SOLVED Then, one day, I found this: BIGFOOT SIGHTED! Thinking about moon snails brings to

Read more

Stromatolites – The First Reefs, Living Fossils

SOME TWO BILLION YEARS AGO THE CLOSEST THING TO LIVING REEFS ON OUR PLANET were widespread masses of stromatolites, mounds of cyanobacteria and sediment held together by calcium carbonate they secreted. Before they arose to dominate the seas, the earth was a hellish place. Afterwards, it was a world on the road to the evolution of life as we know it. FOREBODING PLANET    Before stromatolites, the planet was largely a worldwide ocean, with landmasses no

Read more

Sea Snakes: Pacific 70, Atlantic 0

WHILE THERE ARE NEARLY 70 SPECIES OF SEA SNAKES in the Pacific and Indian Ocean basins, there are exactly none in the Caribbean and tropical Atlantic. Even though sea snakes almost certainly could prosper in the warm Caribbean tropics, their absence is a factor of timing, geography and ocean currents. “WHY ARE THERE NO SEA SNAKES IN THE ATLANTIC?  That was the question explored in an article in the journal Bioscience. Also, the article’s title. Unfortunately,

Read more

In Deep Waters, Corals Glow to Grow

CORALS’ ABILITY TO GLOW WITH FLUORESCENT LIGHT has been known for some time. The understanding with shallow water corals has been that fluorescent proteins absorb harmful ultraviolet rays, protecting the zooxanthellae algae that provide them with significant nutrition through photosynthesis (See “Corals’ Colors Are More Than Just Eye Candy”). IN DEEP WATERS, A DIFFERENT STRATEGY Now scientists have found that corals in deep waters, which receive very little solar energy, use different colors for a

Read more

The Hamlet Grand Slam

WHO KNEW THAT SPOTTING LITTLE GUYS LIKE BUTTER AND BARRED HAMLETS could be challenging? I’ve thought of them as fairly bland little fishes of modest interest. I’m aware of occasionally seeing vivid blue indigo hamlets (Hypoplectus indigo) in Bonaire and Belize but not the other 10 or so species to be found around the tropical Atlantic/Caribbean. Which sounds fishy considering that Humann and DeLoache’s Reef Fish Identification says barred hamlets (Hypoplectus puella) constitute the most

Read more