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.

December 1, 2010

Researchers in the Gulf of Maine have illuminated the role whales play in recycling nutrients in the ocean − and the secret is in the poop.

November 1, 2010

As demand for seafood grows, so does concern about the impact of fish farms on the marine environment. One
aquaculture practice tries to soften this impact by turning farm waste into more profit.

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It’s called integrated multi-trophic aquaculture, or IMTA. The system starts with fish or shrimp and integrates
them, or farms them alongside, other marine species such as kelp or filter-feeding shellfish. The “multitrophic” part of IMTA means the organisms involved are from different trophic levels, or places on the food chain of the marine ecosystem.

October 1, 2010

Watch a jellyfish floating in the sea, and you might assume the animal is simply drifting along haphazardly. But some species of box jellyfish can guide themselves through complex habitats.

The box jellyfish is unique from other jellies in that it controls the direction in which it swims, like a fish. It can also make 180-degree turns and dodge underwater objects in its path.

September 1, 2010

Behold the lowly amphioxus, and you’ll see an animal whose genes are not very different from yours.

Also known as a lancelet, amphioxus is a small, fishlike invertebrate about 2-3 inches long. Common in shallow marine waters, it burrows in the sand and filters nutrients from the water. What makes this humble creature so intriguing to scientists is its unique status as the closest living invertebrate relative of backboned animals.

August 1, 2010

Mouth gaping wide, a massive grouper cruises a coral reef, and approaches a tiny shrimp. As the predator gets closer, the shrimp doesn’t flee… it swims right in!

July 1, 2010

Meet a diminutive shark that snacks on “cookies” made not of flour and sugar, but of tuna or whale.

At 16-22 inches in length, the cookie-cutter shark is one of the smaller denizens of the deep. From above, this little cigar-shaped shark may look harmless, but a peek at the underside of its coneshaped snout reveals a row of fearsome, saw-like lower teeth.

June 1, 2010

If you ever lose your wedding ring on a wet beach, you might want to call on a red knot to help find it.

Red knots are a species of sandpiper found in coastal areas throughout the world. Watch them pop their beaks in and out of the wet sand in search of clams, snails and crustaceans to feed on, and they might appear to be poking around randomly. But scientists believe the red knot uses a more precise method.

May 1, 2010

Here’s a warning to the millions of plankton in Texas Gulf Coast waters: You’re being watched!

A specialized instrument called the Imaging FlowCytobot is on duty, analyzing microscopic organisms in the sea at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute.

April 1, 2010

Pass by a sea cucumber in a tide pool, and you may hardly notice this lowly, pickle-shaped creature. But try to make a meal out of one, and you’ll probably never forget it.

March 1, 2010

When a whale dies and sinks to the ocean floor, it sets in motion a new beginning for deep-sea life. Scientists call this a “whale fall,” and it moves through three fascinating stages.

A whale carcass brings a whopping amount of organic matter to a place where food is scarce. Within days, hagfishes, sleeper sharks and scavenging crustaceans arrive to feast on the remaining flesh. This first stage is called the mobile scavenger phase. Depending on the size of the carcass, the bones can be picked clean in a matter of months.

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