Our regular Science and the SeaTM radio program presents marine science topics in an engaging two-minute story format. Our script writers gather ideas for the radio program from the University of Texas Marine Science Institute's researchers and from our very popular college class, Introduction to Oceanography, which we teach to hundreds of non-science majors at The University of Texas at Austin every year. Our radio programs are distributed at to commercial and public radio stations across the country.
Tuna, sailfish, marlin, and many other large marine fish feature long, tapered bodies that glide through the ocean with ease. And then there’s Mola mola, the ocean sunfish — the heaviest of all bony fish. It looks like a giant head with fins at the top and bottom.
Marine biologists have identified four species of ocean sunfish, which inhabit warm and temperate waters around the world. Mola mola is the largest. A typical adult is about six feet long and weighs a ton. And the largest single Mola mola tipped the scales at more than 5,000 pounds.
For some tiny organisms that live near the surface of the oceans, a big oil spill is a disaster. But a slow seepage of oil from below can be like a free lunch.
Seeps occur along the transition zone between land and the deep ocean. There’s a thinner layer of rock above reservoirs of oil and natural gas, so the hydrocarbons bubble up through the cracks in the ocean floor and float to the surface.
If you really want to get away from it all, you might try the Challenger Deep — the deepest point in all the world’s oceans. This trench in the western Pacific Ocean bottoms out at about seven miles — deep enough to drop in Mount Everest with more than a mile to spare.
Even this dark, remote world isn’t completely quiet, though. In fact, some recent research found that it’s quite noisy. From the call of a whale...to the whine of the propellers of a passing ship...to the rumble of a nearby earthquake...it’s never really silent.
The Humboldt squid is big, fast, and scary. It can grow up to six feet long and weigh a hundred pounds, and it swims fast enough to jet out of the water and fly for short distances. As for the “scary” part, its two tentacles are lined with suckers, each of which is ringed by sharp “teeth.” The Humboldt uses those teeth to grab prey, which it then pulls toward a sharp beak that rips the prey to shreds.
The people who named the world’s smallest penguin suffered a serious lack of imagination. They called it the little penguin, or, because it has blue feathers instead of black, the little blue penguin. Yet this little creature has some of the most interesting habits of all penguins.
The Aleutian Islands form one of the most geologically active regions in North America. The island chain, which stretches westward from Alaska, is home to two dozen active volcanoes. And since the start of the 20th century, it’s been the epicenter for more than 30 earthquakes of magnitude 7.5 or stronger.
Palm oil is one of those products that shows up just about everywhere. Not only is it used for cooking, but it’s also found in toothpaste, lipstick, ice cream, and many other household products. It’s also a growing source of biodiesel, especially in developing countries.
Hiding in plain sight isn’t easy. That’s especially true if you’re a fish swimming through the open ocean. There are no coral reefs to hide behind, no kelp beds to provide concealment. So to stay alive, a fish has to find a way to camouflage itself from both predators and prey.
Some do it with different colors. They might be dark on top and light on the bottom, to blend in with the background as seen from above and below. Others can change colors or reflect sunlight.
Like relatives who linger a little too long after the holidays, some species of whales are taking their time about leaving Arctic waters in the fall. And that could set up some unpleasant competition with other species for the goodies in the fridge.
For a young redfish, survival may depend on what its mother ate before spawning. If mama didn’t get enough essential fatty acids, then her offspring might not be able to catch food or get away from predators — even if the young consume a lot of fatty acids after they hatch.
This concept is known as metabolic programming. It says that pre-natal nutrition can have an effect on metabolism after birth. In humans, for example, there appears to be a link between a pregnant mother’s diet and a variety of health problems in children, such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.