On the Great Barrier Reef lurks a creature straight out of science fiction, with many arms, stinging spines, and a monstrous appetite.
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 newsletter of the Texas Chapter of the American Shore & Beach Preservation Association , and the Heartland Of America online newspaper. Our article archive is available also on our website.
With shells covered in algae and barnacles, decorator crabs are experts at blending in with their environments. But for one species of crab, it’s not just camouflage that keeps the hungry fish away.
Found in shallow water and seagrass habitats, decorator crabs are part of the spider crab family. A decorator crab’s shell is covered with specialized hook-shaped bristles, called setae. Crabs use the setae to attach materials from the environment, such as algae or tiny non-moving animals, to their backs and legs. This “decoration” camouflages the crab from predators.
Petrels are pelagic birds, which means they spend most of their time flying over open water, only venturing
onto land to raise young. Along with albatrosses and shearwaters, petrels come from an order of birds known
as “tubenoses” because of their prominent, tube-shaped nostrils. Birds in this order have some of the largest
olfactory bulbs − the portion of the brain involved in smelling − in the avian world.
With its streamlined shape, the blue shark is built for efficient swimming. But more impressive than its streamlined efficiency are the distances this shark covers in ocean-crossing migrations.
The blue shark is found throughout the world’s temperate and tropical oceans. As a pelagic species, it spends most of its time roaming open water.
In the ocean’s dim depths, it’s not easy being green; that’s why some plant-like organisms use different pigments to survive.
Cold-water corals are just that − coral species found in cold, deep water throughout the globe, on continental
shelves, ocean banks and seamounts. Living at depths of more than 3,000 feet in temperatures of 39 to 55 degrees Farenheit, cold-water corals form small patches or thickets as well as larger reef structures.
Researchers in the Gulf of Maine have illuminated the role whales play in recycling nutrients in the ocean − and the secret is in the poop.
As demand for seafood grows, so does concern about the impact of fish farms on the marine environment. One
aquaculture practice tries to soften this impact by turning farm waste into more profit.
It’s called integrated multi-trophic aquaculture, or IMTA. The system starts with fish or shrimp and integrates
them, or farms them alongside, other marine species such as kelp or filter-feeding shellfish. The “multitrophic” part of IMTA means the organisms involved are from different trophic levels, or places on the food chain of the marine ecosystem.
Watch a jellyfish floating in the sea, and you might assume the animal is simply drifting along haphazardly. But some species of box jellyfish can guide themselves through complex habitats.
The box jellyfish is unique from other jellies in that it controls the direction in which it swims, like a fish. It can also make 180-degree turns and dodge underwater objects in its path.