It’s often said that we know more about space than we do about Earth’s own oceans. In the case of the midocean ridges, the maxim is pretty much true.
Marine biology is the study of life in the ocean, from the smallest microbes to the largest animals to ever live on Earth. It is the collective effort of scientists from many fields to explore, understand, and conserve the diversity of life in in the world's largest ecosystem. Oceans cover 71% of our planet's surface, and provide 99% of its livable habitat by volume. They are the largest space in our universe known to be inhabited by living organisms, yet we know less about the deepest reaches of our oceans than we do about the surface of Mars. This vast marine space is home to an enormous diversity of strange and wonderful organisms, so much so that hundreds of new species are discovered every year. We depend on this biodiversity: 3 billion people rely on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods, and 2.6 billion people rely on the ocean for their primary source of protein. Human impacts on ocean ecosystems are increasing, and marine biologists are working to understand how sea creatures adapt to changing environments, and develop sustainable solutions. In this blog, we will discuss the latest scientific discoveries, cool critters, and current issues from Earth's living oceans.
We may never truly know what animals are thinking and saying, but scientists are working to crack the animal communication code. This gets tricky for animals that don’t emit any sound and don’t live in a place that’s easy to see. The Humboldt squid, which lives in the open ocean, falls into both categories, but that didn’t deter researchers at Stanford and National Geographic. In a 2015 study, the team revealed some of the latest gossip among Humboldt squids in their natural oceanic habitat.
Sea urchins are weird, spiky, and at first glance, don’t seem all that interesting. But beneath that uncharismatic appearance is a creature that has been central to scientific discoveries? that changed the way we understand the natural world. In part 1 of the urchin’s tale, I highlighted what these unassuming critters have taught us about the processes that shape ecosystems. In part 2, I will explore their role in developing our understanding of the fundamental processes that shape us, as well as the other animals that share our world.
In the wee hours of the morning on August 18, 1961, the residents of Capitola, California were awakened by a surreal phenomenon: Thousands of crazed sooty shearwaters were flying erratically through the streets, disgorging bits of fish, and crash landing, kamikaze-like into street lamps and roof tops. A few brave souls ventured outside to investigate, but immediately retreated. The birds, upon seeing the light from their flashlights, flew directly toward them.