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.

April 1, 2014

Most people know that electricity and water don’t mix, but it’s not a problem for fish that produce their own electricity. The best-known electric fish is probably the electric eel, but it is far from the only “shocking” creature underwater. In fact, the electric eel, a single species that dwells only in the rivers of South America, is outnumbered by more than 60 species of electric rays that live in the oceans.

March 1, 2014

Seahorses and pipefish may be beautiful and graceful creatures, but they’re not the speediest of fish. In fact, they swim more slowly than most marine animals, yet they manage to catch some of the fastest prey in the sea nearly every time. Their secret weapon? Seahorses use their unusually shaped heads.

February 1, 2014

Getting a good whiff of your partner to decide if he’s the right man for you may sound familiar — a good cologne can certainly attract women as much as a nice perfume can pique a man’s interest. Similarly, female lobsters seek out their mates using males’ smell, but the details may not seem as familiar — or pleasant.

January 1, 2014

When most people think about math, they’re probably not thinking of marine creatures. Yet one of the most famous sequences of numbers in the world actually shows up throughout nature, including under the waves. Fibonacci numbers, named for the Italian mathematician who first identified them in the 1200s, show up in everything from starfish and sand dollars to dolphins and hurricanes.

December 1, 2013

The thought of “synchronized swimming” may call to mind the Olympic event or perhaps white-capped women in old Hollywood musicals. But there’s another mammal that uses synchronized swimming — and it’s not just to show off.

Long-finned pilot whales synchronize their swimming when they sense danger. Researchers made this discovery when comparing two populations of pilot whales, one in the Strait of Gibraltar off the Spanish coast and one near Cape Breton on Canada’s east coast.

November 1, 2013

Deep below the Arctic Ocean lies a mid-ocean ridge system that meanders for 1,100 miles along the sea floor. Mid-ocean ridges, essentially underwater mountain ranges, form when magma rises up from deep within the Earth to fill the gap between two tectonic plates that are moving away from each other. At the northernmost section of this ridge system is the Gakkel Ridge, rising up between the North American Plate and the Eurasian Plate.

October 1, 2013

Perhaps it’s not surprising that a creature as fierce looking as the angler fish has pretty extreme mating habits — starting with a never-ending love bite and ending in death. Angler fish have long, sharp, ferocious looking teeth, but only the females use these for eating. The males use theirs on the females.

September 1, 2013

The vampire squid sounds like a hostile creature from the Twilight Zone, but it’s really the environment these harmless cephalopods live in that’s hostile — the dark, cold “midnight zone.” The vampire squid lives in the middle of the ocean’s five vertical ecological zones, an area about a half mile to two and a half miles deep called the bathypelagic zone.

August 1, 2013

You might think a creature called the vampire squid would suck the blood of an unfortunate passing fish. After all, other octopus and squid species hunt live prey. Instead of preying on the undead, however, the vampire squid simply feasts on the dead.

July 1, 2013

It’s no secret that most animals release waste through their backsides, but some use that exit for more than releasing leftover food. Sea cucumbers use their rear end for at least five different functions — including breathing.

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