Dragons usually conjure images of massive, fire-breathing reptiles that fly through the air. But the dragons that have been showing up on Texas beaches recently are tinier than your thumb—and they’re in the water, not the air. Blue dragon sea slugs can’t turn you into a crispy critter with their breath, but these deceptively beautiful little creatures can deliver a sting that hurts more than second-degree burns.
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.
You might think spending ten months of the year in icy waters, diving for hours deep under the surface, would be enough to discourage lice from hitchhiking and feeding on you. But you would be wrong. Southern elephant seals must deal with the same bloodsucking insects that pester so many other mammals, including humans.
Imagine if gorging on Thanksgiving dinner and the week’s leftovers caused you to grow an extra arm instead of adding inches to your waistline. The idea sounds crazy—unless you’re a sea anemone. These reef-dwelling creatures look like colorful flowers, but they are actually animals related to coral and jellyfish. Like coral, sea anemones spend their entire lives attached to the sea floor and hardly move. That means they needed to evolve ways to survive when environmental conditions around them change, including shifts in the availability of food.
It’s not often that a fish’s genetic analysis tells us something about human history, but that’s exactly what a discovery at the bottom of the Baltic Sea has done. The well-preserved remains of a fish from a royal shipwreck provides insight into both Scandinavian politics and the Baltic Sea’s ecosystem five centuries ago.
Scientists have known for years that microorganisms exist throughout the ancient layers of sediment hundreds of feet below the ocean’s floor. But it wasn’t clear whether those microbes are dead, alive or dormant. Despite being millions of years old, it turns out they are not dead. They are just hungry.
You’ve probably heard, “a turtle carries its home on its back”, but the shells of loggerhead sea turtles are home to more than just the marine reptile inside. Researchers recently learned that turtles carry on their shells a thriving, diverse community of microscopic critters that is twice as big and diverse as scientists previously realized.
Many people are familiar with the annual growth rings in tree trunks. Most fishes have similar features in their bodies; their bones have alternating bands of dark and translucent tissue that indicate the passage of time. But the skeleton of a shark is made of cartilage, not bone. It turns out that vertebrae of whale sharks have rings like those in fish bones and tree trunks. How long does it take for a new “ring” to grow in whale shark vertebrae? Thanks to the atomic bomb, scientists determined that it takes about one year.