Visit Siesta Key on Florida’s Gulf Coast this time of year and the scene will be exactly as you’d expect: a mixture of teens spring breaking on the famous silky, white sand and snowbirds combing the shores for shells. It’s a calming respite for many. Soon enough, another annual visitor will show up, also seeking refuge. Once May rolls around, mama sea turtles will make their way to Sarasota County for nesting season. They arrive quietly in the wee hours, so chances are, you will never even notice them.
The one-two punch of warming waters and ocean acidification is predisposing some marine animals to dissolving quickly under conditions already occurring off the Northern California coast, according to a study from the University of California, Davis. In the study, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, researchers at the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory raised bryozoans, also known as “moss animals,” in seawater tanks and exposed them to various levels of water temperature, food and acidity.
What has at least 1,800 teeth, a snout like a duck, a suction cup on its belly, and has only ever been seen in a couple of old museum specimen jars? The clingfish family’s newest member. Nettorhamphos radula is a brand-new species found in a specimen jar from the 1970s in the collection of the Western Australian Museum in Welshpool, Australia. The teensy translucent fish is just a few inches long, but it sports between 1,800 and 2,300 teeth in its duckbill-like mouth.
A fossil found by an elk hunter in Montana nearly seven years ago has led to the discovery of a new species of prehistoric sea creature that lived about 70 million years ago in the inland sea that flowed east of the Rocky Mountains. The new species of elasmosaur is detailed in an article published Thursday in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. Most elasmosaurs, a type of marine reptile, had necks that could stretch 18 feet, but the fossil discovered in the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge is distinct for its much shorter neck — about 7½ feet.
For hundreds of years, biologists knew of the giant shipworm only from shell fragments and a handful of dead specimens. Those specimens, despite being preserved in museum jars, had gone to mush. Still, the shipworm’s scattered remains made an outsize impression on biologists. Its three-foot-long tubular shells — the shipworm isn’t technically a worm but a bivalve — were so striking that Swedish taxonomist Carl Linnaeus included the animal in his book that introduced the scientific naming system “Systema Naturae.”
Fish that live near coral reefs play an important role in the ecosystem by eating algae on the reefs, which could otherwise kill the corals and dominate the reef. And understanding the eating habits of reef fish, which it turns out are heavily influenced by social interaction, could be critical in saving the fast-vanishing coral reefs. Mike Gil from the University of California, Davis, and Andrew Hein from Princeton University published a study Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which said, “Coral reef fish base decisions to feed on algae or flee from predators on the density and actions of other fish in the landscape, inducing strong temporal correlations in foraging behavior. Using field experiments and a modeling framework, we show that these behavioral interactions can strongly affect the ecological function of reef fish, including the amount of algae fish consume, and the resulting rate at which fish move energy and materials through the reef ecosystem.”
It’s a small fish, only a couple of inches long, and its bright colors make it pop in the Pacific coral reefs it calls home. The first thing that makes this fish peculiar is the striking pair of large lower canines it sports. But when attacked by a predator, this fish, part of a group called fang blennies, does something even more strange. A predator that puts this fang blenny in its mouth would experience a “violent quivering of the head,” according to George Losey, a zoologist who observed this species up close in a series of feeding experiments in the 1970s. Then the predator would open its jaws and gills. The little blenny would swim away, unscathed.
This week journal Scientific Reports revealed that a seven-armed octopus was observed clutching an unusual type of prey: an egg-yolk jellyfish, Phacellophora camtschatica. Jellyfish is generally thought to be not particularly nutritious, but the octopus had eaten most of the tissue hanging down from the bell. MBARI scientists think she might have been using the remaining parts of the jellyfish, the bell and the stinging tentacles, for defense or for catching a tastier meal.
William Blake may have seen a world in a grain of sand, but for scientists at MIT the smallest of all photosynthetic bacteria holds clues to the evolution of entire ecosystems, and perhaps even the whole biosphere.
A new study from a Coastal Waters Consortium team of researchers led by Rutgers University postdoctoral researcher, Michael McCann, has found which birds, fish, insects and other animals affected by the Deepwater Horizon explosion should be given top priority for conservation, protection and research.
Researchers this week issued a sort of almanac of the ocean off Southern California in wide-ranging report on the the region’s marine protected areas established in 2012. San Diego’s coast includes 11 of those marine protected areas, from Batiquitos Lagoon in North County to the Tijuana River Mouth.
An evolutionary war that raged beneath the sea more than 100 million years ago created the octopus and squid, new research has shown. Cephalopods – the tentacled creatures that include octopuses, squid and cuttlefish – possess some extraordinary traits such as instantaneous colour changing, ink squirting, jet propulsion and polarised vision.