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, and the Port Aransas South Jetty newspaper. Our article archive is available also on our website.
Imagine an ancient sea creature with large, bulky scales, a pair of huge, menacing eyes, reaching over seven feet long and weighing in at over 200 pounds. Now imagine this creature hooked to the end of your fishing rod. As you begin to fight this monster, it leaps, repeatedly, out of the water to alarming heights. Finally, after what seems like an eternity, the monster is subdued.
Have you ever wondered why the birds in Alfred Hitchcock’s famous movie The Birds seemed deranged? Hitchcock may have been inspired by a real event that took place in Capitola, California in 1961.
Shearwaters, a type of oceanic bird, ingested anchovies that were feeding on a bloom of toxic algae. The neurotoxin produced by the algae moved through the food web from algae to fish to bird and caused the birds to fly erratically.
People tremble at the sound of its name, “hurricane.” Last year, monstrous hurricanes, one after the other, battered the Gulf Coast with their menacing power.
Katrina had more power than thousands of Hiroshima atomic bombs combined. Where do these hurricanes get this enormous energy?
Offshore oil rigs and other man-made structures in the sea attract large numbers of fishes and other marine life. But have you ever wondered why? It’s the same reason coral reefs contain so many kinds of life - complexity.
Flat, sandy bottoms and open water offer very little structure for organisms to live in or on. In these featureless areas, fish densities tend to be low. However, like the corals on a reef, oil platforms add complexity to the open ocean, and become the foundation for what are essentially artificial reefs.
Look down into the sea. It’s not a bird…it’s not a plane…it’s plankton! Able to swim great distances and make giant leaps in a single bound, zooplankton are tiny animals with remarkable abilities.
Living in open waters can be dangerous for zooplankton. Being at the base of the food web means they are popular food items for many sea creatures. To protect themselves from predators, zooplankton have developed unique defense mechanisms.
It was 1935 when Dr. E.J. Lund, a zoologist from The University of Texas, came to Port Aransas to investigate a massive fish kill. He built a small one-room shack on the old Corps of Engineers dock as a base of operations. Dr. Lund recognized the uniqueness of the local environment and the need for public education about the natural resources of the Gulf of Mexico.
Sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch — the five senses that serve humans well. But still we dream of a sixth sense that might allow us to predict the future, read minds, or even see the dead.
Fishes are not limited to just these five senses. Among their “extra” senses is the ability to detect very small water movements.
Imagine trying to adapt to life on Mars. One might think this would be a difficult feat. Physiologically, a fish being able to live in both fresh and salt water may be just as difficult! This is because saltwater and freshwater environments present very different challenges to fishes due to two related processes: osmosis and diffusion.
The “golden shadow from the lagoon” has returned to the Texas coast. Though not as well publicized as the fabled Loch Ness monster, this mysterious life form has plagued our coastal bays for more than a decade.
The “golden shadow” actually refers to the microscopic plant Aureoumbra lagunensis. This single-celled, golden-brown plant can reproduce so rapidly that it changes the color of the water and such blooms are commonly referred to as brown tide.