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.

July 1, 2014
Salt marsh in Redfish Bay, Texas. Credit: Charles Foster, University of Texas Marine Science Institute.

When we think of a pristine shoreline, we don’t usually picture man-made structures in the scene, but jetties and retaining walls are common sights along many waterways. Waves that continually crash against the shore release energy that can erode waterfront property. Bulkheads, retaining walls, and revetments are designed to protect shorelines by minimizing erosion. Over time, however, these structures may actually increase erosion by altering nature’s ability to replenish sensitive coastal areas.

June 1, 2014
Anemones protrude from the bottom surface of the Ross Ice Shelf

Sometimes scientists searching for one thing stumble unexpectedly onto another. A few years ago, a research team did just that, they drilled into an Antarctic ice sheet and opened up a can of anemones — almost literally. When the Antarctic Geological Drilling (ANDRILL) Program lowered a 4.5- foot cylindrical robot through the ice off the coast of west Antarctica, they were hoping to use the robot’s two cameras to learn about ocean currents while gathering data for modeling the drill’s use. In the process, their cameras captured an icy garden of sea anemones that no one knew existed.

May 1, 2014
If Finding Nemo had been more scientifically accurate, it may have caught Disney fans off guard: Nemo’s dad, Marlin, would have become more than a single dad when Nemo’s mother died. Among clownfish, the most dominant male will actually transform into a female if the matriarch of the community dies. Clownfish generally spend their entire lives in one small area, making it difficult to find a new mate, especially one of the opposite sex.
April 1, 2014

Most people know that electricity and water don’t mix, but it’s not a problem for fish that produce their own electricity. The best-known electric fish is probably the electric eel, but it is far from the only “shocking” creature underwater. In fact, the electric eel, a single species that dwells only in the rivers of South America, is outnumbered by more than 60 species of electric rays that live in the oceans.

March 1, 2014

Seahorses and pipefish may be beautiful and graceful creatures, but they’re not the speediest of fish. In fact, they swim more slowly than most marine animals, yet they manage to catch some of the fastest prey in the sea nearly every time. Their secret weapon? Seahorses use their unusually shaped heads.

February 1, 2014
Getting a good whiff of your partner to decide if he’s the right man for you may sound familiar — a good cologne can certainly attract women as much as a nice perfume can pique a man’s interest. Similarly, female lobsters seek out their mates using males’ smell, but the details may not seem as familiar — or pleasant.
January 1, 2014
When most people think about math, they’re probably not thinking of marine creatures. Yet one of the most famous sequences of numbers in the world actually shows up throughout nature, including under the waves. Fibonacci numbers, named for the Italian mathematician who first identified them in the 1200s, show up in everything from starfish and sand dollars to dolphins and hurricanes.
December 1, 2013

The thought of “synchronized swimming” may call to mind the Olympic event or perhaps white-capped women in old Hollywood musicals. But there’s another mammal that uses synchronized swimming — and it’s not just to show off.

Long-finned pilot whales synchronize their swimming when they sense danger. Researchers made this discovery when comparing two populations of pilot whales, one in the Strait of Gibraltar off the Spanish coast and one near Cape Breton on Canada’s east coast.

November 1, 2013
Deep below the Arctic Ocean lies a mid-ocean ridge system that meanders for 1,100 miles along the sea floor. Mid-ocean ridges, essentially underwater mountain ranges, form when magma rises up from deep within the Earth to fill the gap between two tectonic plates that are moving away from each other. At the northernmost section of this ridge system is the Gakkel Ridge, rising up between the North American Plate and the Eurasian Plate.
October 1, 2013
Perhaps it’s not surprising that a creature as fierce looking as the angler fish has pretty extreme mating habits — starting with a never-ending love bite and ending in death. Angler fish have long, sharp, ferocious looking teeth, but only the females use these for eating. The males use theirs on the females.