Articles

The Marine Science Institute's monthly column, Science and the SeaTM, is an informative and entertaining article that explains many interesting features of the marine environment and the creatures that live there.  Science and the SeaTM articles appear monthly in one of Texas' most widely read fishing magazines, Texas Saltwater Fishing, the Port Aransas South Jetty newspaper, the newsletter of the Texas Chapter of the American Shore & Beach Preservation Association , and the Heartland Of America online newspaper. Our article archive is available also on our website.

October 1, 2007

A house made of glass may not seem like the ideal shelter, that is, unless you’re a certain kind of tiny marine creature. Fragile and beautiful cities composed of these glass homes are created by only a few unique species of sponges and can cover miles of ocean floor, forming what are known as glass sponge reefs.

September 1, 2007

Native Alaskan hunters made an incredible discovery during a bowhead whale hunt in May 2007. Embedded in the blubber of a 50-ton whale was a fragment of a harpoon dating from the 1800s.

Scientists typically find it difficult to determine the age of whales, but in this case, they could put a time-stamp on the whale in question. Since the harpoon found in its body was a unique design, used only in New England from about 1885-1895, the whale must have been carrying it around for over one hundred years.

August 1, 2007

When climate forecasters predict busy Atlantic hurricane seasons, residents on the east and Gulf coasts begin to prepare to face deadly weather. One potentially important factor in hurricane forecasts is the cycle of El Niño (the boy in Spanish), and its counterpart, La Niña (the girl).

These two innocently named phenomena have a mighty impact on global weather.

July 1, 2007

In the tropical reef habitats of the Caribbean and Atlantic lives the bluehead wrasse, a small, colorful fish with an amazing ability. The bluehead wrasse is a hermaphrodite - it can change its own sex.

 

Many of these small fish first mature as females, but when their population needs another male, some of these females can change into males.

June 1, 2007

Long wavelengths of light such as red and yellow and very short wavelengths such as ultraviolet light (UV) get absorbed very quickly in water. As a result, the only light remaining in the deep ocean is blue.

Organisms are therefore adapted to see only this dim blue light, and most are colored red because the lack of red light makes them virtually invisible.

May 1, 2007

Octopi, squids, and cuttlefishes, collectively known as cephalopods, are intelligent invertebrates that have the ability to change the color of their skin. One reason they change color is to camouflage themselves from predators and prey.

But, they also use changes in color to communicate. Communication is critical for animals because it can help them reproduce or survive. These particular cephalopods use color signals to exchange information about mating, aggression, or danger.

April 1, 2007

A cherry red sports car passes by and catches everyone’s eye. A brilliant red hibiscus is a centerpiece in a lush tropical garden. It seems impossible for anything having a crimson hue to be inconspicuous. But that’s precisely what some marine animals are.

Red snapper, several kinds of rockfishes, and even some shrimps that live in moderately deep water are covered with red pigment. Yet in their natural habitat, they are virtually invisible.

March 1, 2007

The next time you have a chance, take a close look — a really close look — at a shark’s head.  Under the snout and around the mouth you will notice hundreds of tiny pores.  These are the openings of jelly-filled sacs known as ampullae of Lorenzini, and they give the shark the ability to sense electricity.

February 1, 2007

Corals are the fundamental building blocks for spectacular reefs that decorate tropical seas throughout the world.A single coral head is actually a colony of individual organisms, called polyps, and each polyp has its own stony skeleton which is joined to its neighbor’s skeleton. Together, the colony forms a massive outcropping on the sea floor that functions as a single animal.

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January 1, 2007

Far above the Arctic Circle in northern Alaska, scientists are studying how global climate change is altering the ecosystem.Because they are frozen for most of the year, environments near the North Pole are especially susceptible to change, particularly to the worldwide increases in carbon dioxide and air temperature.

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