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 giant squid is one of the biggest animals in the oceans. A typical adult is 35 or 40 feet long, and some are even bigger. Yet it’s almost never seen. Much of what we know about the creature comes from dead ones that washed up on shore. Only a few have been photographed alive and well in the oceans.
In 2018, though, a research team easily detected the giant squid’s presence in the Sea of Japan -- through molecules of its DNA in the water. The technique could help scientists keep tabs on the squid population throughout the world.
Melting glaciers are a big problem. As their water pours into the oceans, it raises the global sea level -- a problem that will get worse in the years ahead. But they could trigger more immediate problems for people who live near them: tsunamis.
Anyone whose quiet afternoon at the beach has been disturbed by loud boats will feel sympathy for the male oyster toadfish. Boats can overwhelm its call to females. And it can get the fish all mixed up as well, causing it to change its call or even clam up for hours.
Blue dragons are among nature’s most efficient recyclers. But what they’re recycling, you don’t want. They absorb the stinging cells of the Portuguese man o’ war and similar creatures, then use them to deliver a nasty sting of their own.
Blue dragons are a type of sea slug. They’re small and elegant -- about an inch long, with wing-like structures that make them look like angels. And they have a shimmering blue color scheme that gives them their formal name: Glaucus atlanticus -- the blue one of the Atlantic.
The 2020 hurricane season was a mean one. It produced 30 named storms, which was a new record. Thirteen of the storms became hurricanes, which was tied for the second most on record. A dozen storms hit the United States -- another record. And combined, the storms produced an estimated 37 billion dollars in damages.
Some small worms may be doing the world a big favor. They’re gobbling up bacteria that eat methane, a gas that contributes to global warming.
Biologists discovered the worms during research cruises in 2017 and ’18. The scientists were studying the ocean floor off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. In particular, they were using a small robotic submarine to scan the area around methane seeps -- spots where methane is bubbling up into the water from underground pockets.
Padre Island is perhaps best known for its visitors: spring breakers in March and April, endangered sea turtles during summer, and migrating birds in the winter. And there’s plenty of room for them, because Padre is the longest barrier island in the world.
Barrier islands form as waves and currents drive sand from the ocean floor toward land. Eventually, enough sand piles up to rise above the water. Such islands protect the coastline from tropical storms and other threats.
Blue crabs are among the most popular seafood items in the country. Tens of millions of them are harvested from bays and estuaries every year. They account for thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in sales -- all for a little critter that’s more legs and shell than meat.
Blue crabs are found along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. They’re most common in Chesapeake Bay, where a 2020 census found more than 400 million of them. That was down from the year before, but well within the range needed to keep the population healthy.
In the darkness of the deep ocean, the faintest glimmer of light can mean the difference between life and death. It can scare away prey or draw in predators. So remaining completely dark can help a deep-sea fish catch a meal -- or avoid getting caught.
A recent study found some fish that have a big advantage in that area. Their skin is almost completely black -- it reflects no more than one-half of one percent of the light that strikes it. That makes the fish much darker than charcoal, and among the darkest living organisms on the planet.
Setting up an offshore oil rig takes a lot of time and money, and a lot of thought about the environment. And so does taking one down. California, for example, is pondering what to do with a couple of dozen platforms that have shut down or that are about to. And researchers have looked at what might happen to fish around those rigs.
Offshore platforms make good reefs. Mussels, oysters, and other shellfish latch on to the structure. Dead shells fall around the rig, providing good hiding places for small fish and other critters. That attracts larger fish.