Deep below the ocean’s surface, some corals emit an otherworldly glow called fluorescence, but for years, scientists have wondered about the purpose of these glowing colors. Among the hypotheses biologists have proposed is that fluorescence might optimize photosynthesis, shield against the sun’s radiation, protect plant-eating marine life that lives among the corals, or attract algae that live inside the coral and provide them with energy through photosynthesis. Now, researchers have come up with a different hypothesis: fluorescence attracts the plankton that corals capture and eat.
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 Flour Bluff News, and the Island Moon newspaper. Our article archive is available also on our website.
As ocean waters continue to warm along with the climate, scientists are trying to learn how thousands of different organisms will fare in the years to come. It turns out the Gulf of Mexico can offer clues, as researchers from the University of Texas at Austin are learning from a different global warming event that happened 56 million years ago. Back then, the earth experienced a spell of severe warming during an event called the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, or PETM.
Many people have heard the cry “Save the whales,” but these massive creatures aren’t the only marine mammals at risk of disappearing. In fact, the smallest of the whales, the vaquita porpoise, is on the verge of extinction: just 10 individuals are estimated to remain in the world. Fortunately, those 10 appear healthy—as long as they can continue avoiding a specific fishing practice that continues illegally.
It feels like ages ago that the entire country buckled down at home for months, keeping distance from others to avoid catching COVID-19. While those months of self-isolation may have felt unnatural, humans aren’t the only species that uses social distancing to stop a virus from spreading through a population. Take, for example, the Caribbean spiny lobster. These lobsters are normally social, sharing dens because there’s safety in numbers when predators come along.
Scientists discover dozens of new fish every year. Most often the biologists who identify these species are from a handful of wealthier countries that have the resources needed to conduct extensive marine research. Now a gorgeous fish found in the Maldives sets two new precedents: it’s the first to be described by a local Maldivian researcher, and it’s the first organism whose scientific name is derived from the local Dhivehi language.
As any parent or teacher knows, a roomful of kids suddenly going silent could mean trouble. As it turns out, coral reefs have their own soundscape, and a quieter reef may also suggest trouble.
Scientists can monitor a reef’s changes by eavesdropping on the sounds made by its inhabitants. This approach provides more information than visually observing the reef or calculating coral coverage, and it tells biologists more about the reef’s health.
More than four decades ago, a seal named Hoover began captivating visitors at Boston’s New England Aquarium. It wasn’t his slick swimming or friendly face drawing visitors to his tank. It was that Hoover, a harbor seal rescued by Maine fishermen as a pup, seemed to call out in a gruff voice, “Come over here!” The first time Hoover seemingly spoke in his deep, Maine-accented voice in 1978, museum workers wondered if it was a fluke.
The human body relies on sunlight to synchronize its internal clock. Light controls the release of hormones that tell our bodies whether it’s time to be alert or time to sleep—despite most of us needing an alarm clock to wake up. Most other animals, even those that are nocturnal, use sunlight to maintain their internal clocks as well.
When most people hear “shark,” they picture a large, sleek-bodied predator slicing through the open water, perhaps with the triangle of its dorsal fin poking through the surface as a warning. But there are more than 1,000 species of sharks of all shapes and sizes—including some small sharks that are adapted to living in very shallow water.