November is the month for cozy sweaters and cold weather. Sadly, manatees don’t have the luxury of going out and buying warmer clothes to prepare for winter weather. Beginning in November, many manatees make their way from the cooling Mid-Atlantic coast to the warm waters around Florida. That is why November has the honor of being Manatee Awareness Month!
This month got off to a great start with Polar Bear Week, we just didn’t think November could get any better — but it did — with Manatee Awareness Month! To celebrate our favorite sea cow, here are a few reasons why we love these gentle, easy going marine mammals.
When studying major global changes like warming, ocean acidification, or ocean oxygen loss, scientists often look back in the geological record to see what happened when Earth experienced similar conditions before. That helps scientists put global change in the proper perspective.
In past geological ages when volcanic activity has been high, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have risen and dramatically changed the Earth’s climate and ocean chemistry. Last week’s Science study focuses on one of these periods—the Permo-Triassic (P-T) boundary. It’s one of the most “rapid” releases of volcanic carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, taking 60,000 years. As slow as that seems, it’s fast for the Earth—60,000 years out of a 4.5 billion year old planet’s life is like half a day of a 100-year-old person’s life. All this volcanic carbon dioxide drove rapid ocean acidification towards the end of the P-T boundary, and a major extinction of ocean life followed. Marine life with calcified shells and skeletons, like corals, shellfish and calcifying algae, were pretty much wiped out.
8 million metric tons. That’s 17 billion pounds. That’s a big number. It’s also the amount of plastics that scientists have now estimated flow into the ocean every year from 192 countries with coastal access.
A groundbreaking study was published yesterday in the international journal Science and released at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement for Science in San Jose, California. This work is part of an ongoing international collaboration among scientists at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) at the University of California, Santa Barbara to determine the scale, scope and impacts of marine debris – including plastics – on the health of the global ocean. Spearheaded by Dr. Jenna Jambeck, an environmental engineer from the University of Georgia, and other experts in oceanography, waste management and materials science, this is the first study to rigorously estimate the flow of plastic materials into the global ocean.
Trick or treating in the ocean can be a matter of life or death. Meet four ocean creatures who might just surprise you!
You’ve no doubt heard of the famous vampire bat, but did you know that there’s a vampire squid? Don’t worry. It won’t fly out of the ocean to suck your blood. These cephalopods don’t even spray ink like other squids. They produce a bioluminescent mucus cloud that can glow for up to 10 minutes. They were given their names due to their blood red eyes, which can also look blue depending the lighting. Their bodies definitely reflect the gothic nature of vampires by being black or red. A web like material connects their tentacles. They can even envelop their bodies in their tentacles and webbing to shield themselves from predators.
Vampire squids live in really cold depths of the ocean with very little oxygen. This makes them far less threatening to humans than their name suggests. In order to conserve energy, they simply drift along the ocean currents and only eat dead plankton and fecal matter. Instead of fangs, vampire squids eat with their beaks.
It’s impossible not to love octopuses. These cephalopods seem to have every evolutionary advantage you could imagine. Here are six of our favorites:
The first and most obvious (it’s even in their name) is that octopuses have eight arms. Their arms are for much more than just reaching a difficult itch. If threatened, an octopus can sever one of its own arms to get away. The lost limb will grow back completely with all of its function. Because of its nine brains and more than half of its neurons being in its arms, individual arms can solve problems—like opening a jar—independently from the rest of the body. Octopuses also taste things by feeling them with their arms and skin.
The beak is the only hard part of an octopus’ body, making it an extremely flexible animal. They can fit through anything as long as their beak can. Octopuses use their beaks to crack into their favorite shellfish meals. They can also produce a neurotoxin that paralyzes their prey and enzymes that help break down their food. The only octopus in the world with venom dangerous to humans is the blue-ringed octopus found in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Continue reading »