This blog was written by Roger Di Silvestro, a field correspondent for Ocean Conservancy.
When you think of walruses, you may picture their tusks—the huge pinniped’s most familiar characteristic. But there is so much more to these “elephants of the sea”! Here are some less-obvious facts about these ice-dwelling creatures.
1. Biologists classify the walrus as a carnivore, or meat eater, which puts the animal in the same broad category as wolves, foxes and lions.
2. The polar bear, weighing as much as 1,200 pounds, is often touted as North America’s largest terrestrial carnivore. But it’s a mere wisp compared to the ocean-going male walrus, which can tip the scales in excess of 3,700 pounds.
Our blog series on the lesser known (but just as cool) species of the Arctic continues with Arctic copepods. Read our other blogs from the series: polar cod and brittle stars.
I’ve always loved ribbon seals, narwhals and ringed seals to name a few cute Arctic creatures. While these beautiful animals get all the glory, they wouldn’t be around for these important little guys at the base of the food chain: meet the copepod!
“Copepod” means oar-footed, and that is how these aquatic crustaceans, often called “insects of the sea” move around. They use their four to five pairs of legs as well as their mouth and tail to swim. In the Arctic, copepods live on the seafloor, in the water column and on the sea ice. In the water column, there are more copepods than any other multi-cellular organism.
Copepods come in many forms—some are filter feeders, some are predators. Copepods have two major life forms and grow by shedding their shell. They go through 12 stages after hatching—that’s a lot of wardrobe changes! By our standards, copepods are tiny, measuring in at 0.3 to 2cm long at full size.
Our blog series on the lesser known (but just as cool) species of the Arctic continues with brittle stars. Read our other blogs from the series: polar cod and Arctic copepods.
Brittle stars are seafloor dwelling organisms that appear to be a quirkier, more slender version of a starfish. Although they are closely related to starfish—brittle stars differ in many ways.
Brittle stars have a distinct central disc and (usually) five skinny, flexible arms. The central disk (approximately 2.5 cm in diameter in the species Ophiura sarsii) consists of a skeleton of calcium carbonate and contains all the brittle stars’ internal organs. The disk’s appending five arms (circa 9 cm long in Ophiura sarsii) twist and coil to enable movement across the seafloor. Not only do their arms enable locomotion: brittle stars can purposely release on or move arms to evade a predator! As long as its central disk remains, the brittle star will continue to function, and its limbs will regenerate.
Join us as we dive into the chilly waters of the Arctic. Our blog series explores the magnificent (and often overlooked) species living in the Arctic—which you need to know! Read our other blogs from the series: brittle stars and Arctic copepods.
When most of us think of important Arctic marine species, we generally think of walrus, narwhal, seal, beluga and others. Although those species capture our imagination and are special to the Arctic, there are a number of lesser known species that may not have the same charisma but are equally, if not more, important for helping maintain the Arctic marine ecosystem. As a person who has always loved marine fishes, I’ve long thought polar cod (Boreogadus saida) are an exceptionally fascinating Arctic fish that just does not receive the attention it should.
Last week during the ongoing BP trial in New Orleans, the testimony of Donald Boesch, a professor of marine science at the University of Maryland, was a real call-to-arms for ocean-lovers. Much of the impact to marine fish, habitats and wildlife has been “out of sight, out of mind” and in many cases off limits to the public.
Through Boesch’s testimony, the U.S. prosecutors hope to highlight the seriousness of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster—one of eight factors that will determine the level of environmental fines the judge will set—and make the case for fines as high as $13.7 billion. Boesch painted an alarming picture of potential marine impacts, with deep-water corals and other living creatures on the seabed of the Gulf covered in oil.
Photo Credit: NOAA National Marine Mammal Laboratory
Ocean Conservancy will be publishing a blog series exploring the wonder of the Bering Strait and highlighting threats and solutions to this region.
The Bering Strait—located between Alaska’s Seward Peninsula and Russia’s Chukotka Peninsula—is the only marine gateway connecting the Arctic Ocean and Pacific Ocean. At its narrowest point, the strait is just 55 miles wide. Big Diomede Island (Russia) and Little Diomede Island (U.S.) are located near the middle of the Bering Strait, and are separated by a strip of water less than three miles wide. Despite its cold, remote location, the Bering Strait is a key biological hotspot, a region that contains a significant number of species – some of which are found nowhere else on Earth. This strait is both a bottleneck and a pathway for marine life.
200 miles, 7 beaches, 4 islands and over 7,500 pieces of trash: These numbers can be used to describe my time with Rozalia Project in the Gulf of Maine. But they don’t tell the whole story. Instead “inspiring” seems to capture most of my emotions.
Incredible scenery and wildlife served as the backdrop for the long days we spent collecting and removing trash while living aboard American Promise. Not only were we surrounded by a large pod of Atlantic white-sided dolphins as we sailed south from Hurricane Island, but we also had a finback whale come within 5 meters of the boat at sunset. We saw the spouts of another whale in the moonlight reflecting off the ocean, and we observed harbor porpoises and seals, a pair of bald eagles and even an ocean sunfish, or Mola mola, in Gosport Harbor.
Our crew of 10—eight people and two dogs—were united with one goal: to remove as much trash from the shoreline and ocean surface as possible while recording data about each and every item we removed. Sailing from Bar Harbor to Kittery, Maine, we conducted seven shoreline cleanups on four different islands, and aboard American Promise, we performed three Neuston net tows and multiple dip-net sessions—all resulting in the collection of a lot of trash.