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.
People have been using sound to probe the ocean depths for decades. Navies track ships and submarines. Archaeologists hunt for sunken cities. Oceanographers measure ocean currents, and geologists map the ocean floor.
And in the decades to come, marine biologists may use sound to probe ocean life like never before. For example, scientists studying microscopic creatures in the upper layers of the oceans may be able to identify the different kinds without disturbing their subjects.
If the oarfish were human, it would probably get nicknames like “Beanpole,” “Stilt,” or “Slim.” That’s because it’s the longest bony fish in the ocean -- a skinny ribbon that can stretch 35 feet or longer.
For 5,000 years, the Nile River provided for the people of Egypt. Its annual flooding brought fertile soil to the fields and the Mediterranean Sea, bringing nutrients to both farms and fish.
After the river was dammed in 1965, though, fishing in the Nile Delta collapsed. Without the soil-rich floodwaters, there weren’t enough nutrients. But today, the fishery has rebounded in a dramatic way. It’s still fed by the Nile, but its nutrients are generated by people.
If the movie “Jaws” still makes you think twice before you get in the water, this will really give you the shivers: A shark that died out a couple of million years ago had jaws big enough to swallow an adult Great White in a single gulp.
It’s known as Megalodon -- a name that means “mega-tooth.” Scientists bestowed the name because about all that remains of the monster is its teeth. Instead of bone, a shark’s skeleton is made of cartilage, which doesn’t fossilize. But the teeth do, and Megalodon’s have been found around the world.
In the summer of 2007, bright searchlights were helping engineers get space shuttle Endeavour ready for its next trip to space. But just a few hundred yards away, the lights were bad news.
When a black coral known as Leiopathes took root near the island of Oahu, the great pyramids of Giza glistened fresh and new in the Egyptian sun, their flanks encased in smooth limestone.
Over the millennia, the pyramids have crumbled a bit. Their casing stones were stripped away, and the desert encroached on their flanks. But the coral colonies have continued to grow, covering thousands of square feet of sea floor. Today, at an age of more than 4,250 years, they’re among the oldest living organisms on the planet.
A fortune is sitting at the bottom of the world’s oceans. And for the foreseeable future, at least, it’s likely to stay there.
The fortune is locked up in small chunks known as manganese nodules. Most are about the size of potatoes, but some are bigger than a dining room table. Manganese makes up about a quarter of the typical nodule, with iron accounting for another five percent or so. But the nodules also contain fair amounts of nickel, copper, cobalt, and several other elements, along with smaller amounts of platinum and other precious metals.
The Greenland shark already has several aliases -- sleeper shark, ground shark, and others. But another good one might be the “wrong-way” shark. While other sharks head for warmer waters during winter, the Greenland shark heads for colder waters. It rises toward the surface, where water temperatures drop to near freezing -- several degrees colder than the deeper layers it inhabits during summer.
The Greenland shark is found mainly in the North Atlantic, from New England and Canada across to Scandinavia -- farther north than any other shark.
If you don’t like creepy-crawlies, then you might want to avoid the undersea mountain chain known as Macquarie Ridge. One of its peaks is covered with tens of millions of brittlestars -- relatives of starfish and sea urchins that look like fat, five-legged spiders.
Macquarie Ridge stretches from New Zealand southward to the Antarctic Circle. Some of its peaks -- known as seamounts -- reach to within about 300 feet of the surface.
Much of the floor of the Gulf of Mexico is flat and drab. But about a hundred miles off the Texas coast, it explodes with life and color. Yellow-and-blue angelfish, burnt orange creolefish, and kaleidoscopic grouper live among coral reefs that can reach to within 50 feet of the surface. Purple and orange sponges are anchored to the bottom, along with red seaweed. And fuzzy orange worms and flaming ruby brittle stars scuttle along the seabed.