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.
The sea has long shared its bounty with people. Over the centuries, its creatures have provided food, fuel, clothing, and many other basic needs. And in the decades ahead, they may provide an abundance of one more necessity: medicine.
Many of the drugs in use today were derived from plants and animals found on land. But in recent years, researchers have started looking for new sources of medicine in the oceans.
When another person sticks out their tongue at you, it can be flirty, sassy, or just plain rude. But when a cone snail does it, it’s just plain dangerous. The tongue has a small, venomous harpoon that can sting -- and in some cases, the sting can even be fatal.
Yet the venom from the cone snail may someday save lives, too. The toxins in cone snail venom are already treating chronic pain, and they may someday be used to treat everything from Alzheimer’s to strokes.
Nature has given an ugly critter known as the stonefish two great ways to protect itself. The first is its appearance. As its name implies, it looks like a rock; its coloring, rough texture, and odd appendages blend into the bottom of the shallow waters it inhabits. And if that doesn’t work, it’s deadly, too -- the most venomous fish yet discovered.
"The submarine Nautilus receives a gala harbor welcome as she sails into Portland, England, completing an 8100-mile, 21-day voyage from Honolulu across the top of the world under the north pole...."
At the height of the Cold War, the USS Nautilus made headlines around the world. On August 3rd, 1958, sailing hundreds of feet beneath the Arctic ice, the first nuclear-powered submarine crossed the North Pole.
The Gulf coast is known for warm waters and soft breezes from Campeche to the Florida Keys. But you don’t have to be anywhere near the Gulf of Mexico to feel its influence. It sends warm breezes to Europe, too -- from the fjords of Norway to the tower of Big Ben and beyond.
The Gulf spreads its warm embrace through the Gulf Stream -- a river of water that flows along the eastern seaboard of the United States and Canada and into the North Atlantic.
Look! Down in the water! It’s a cow! It’s an elephant! It’s a mermaid! Or maybe it’s something that’s been described as all three: a manatee.
Manatees aren’t the cutest of sea creatures; in fact, they’re also known as sea cows. A manatee’s body looks like a big cushion, with a stubby snout at one end and a wide flipper at the other. And it has a drooping upper lip that sort of resembles the trunk of one of its closest cousins, the elephant.
On most beaches, the grains of sand that stick to your feet are tiny bits of quartz. But there are some exceptions. The black sand that coats some of Hawaii’s beaches, for example, is made of bits of volcanic rock. And when you walk along some beaches in the Caribbean or other tropical settings, you’re squishing your toes into coral sand -- the remains of countless marine creatures.
Europa, one of the moons of the planet Jupiter, could be a marine scientist’s dream world. Its icy crust floats atop a global ocean that could be miles deep. And it’s even possible that life could float through the watery darkness -- perhaps around volcanic hotspots on the ocean floor, or even in the coldest depths. After all, life on Earth survives in these environments -- and some that are even tougher.
Mothers frequently pass their knowledge and wisdom along to their daughters. Now whether the daughters actually listen is another matter. But at least they have the chance to learn from the experience of earlier generations.
The daughters of some bottlenose dolphins apparently have been listening to their mothers. They’ve learned how to use sponges to help them fish.
The oceans have been working hard the last few decades to remove extra carbon dioxide from the air -- pollution from burning fossil fuels. Climate experts say that helps slow down the rate of global warming. But the creatures that live in the oceans may soon pay a price for it. The upper levels of the oceans are becoming more acidic, and that could hurt much of the marine ecosystem.