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.
The great white may be the bad boy of the shark world, but when it comes to size, weight, and sheer toothiness, another species puts it to shame. The whale shark is by far the largest fish on Earth. It can grow to 40 feet or longer and weigh more than 20 tons. An adult whale shark’s mouth is wide enough to swallow a person, and it has thousands of teeth.
But the whale shark is the gentle giant of its kind. It glides serenely through warm waters, feeding on small organisms and occasionally playing with divers.
The Lost City of Atlantis sits in the middle of the North Atlantic, about half a mile below the surface. And it’s been there for a good 30,000 years or longer.
No, it’s not that Atlantis, but it is something just as amazing: a forest of rock pillars, spires, and beehive-shaped structures that are spouting hot water into the ocean. It sits atop an underwater mountain known as the Atlantis Massif, so when scientists discovered it in late 2000, they named it Lost City.
You might think that the best swimmers in the ocean would be the fish that live out in the deep. But that turns out not to be the case. Some of the strongest swimmers are the young of fish that live on coral reefs. They’re strong enough to swim against the currents, and they have plenty of stamina.
The adult fish that live on coral reefs release their eggs around the reefs, then abandon them to the currents. The eggs are carried out to sea, where they can hatch and develop in relative safety -- away from the predators that swarm around reefs.
A coral reef is not only busy and colorful, it’s noisy. Fish make popping and grunting sounds, and the clicks of hundreds of shrimp can sound like frying bacon. To newborn fish living far away from the reef, these are the sounds of home -- a beacon that just might draw them in from miles away.
Adult fish release their eggs on the reefs. Tides and currents wash the eggs out to sea, which is a safer environment for the young fish to hatch and develop.
Great white sharks are some of the most impressive animals on Earth. They’re big, strong, and fast, and have lots of big, sharp teeth. And scientists are discovering something else impressive about them: They can really get around.
Most great whites are found off California and Baja California, around Australia and New Zealand, or off South Africa.
The white cliffs of Dover are among the most famous landmarks in the world. They rise hundreds of feet above the English Channel. They look toward France, which is only about 20 miles away -- less than the length of a marathon.
Hundreds of thousands of years ago, you could have run between Britain and France. They were connected by a narrow strip of land from Dover to Calais. But a recent study suggests that the bridge was washed away by one of the most massive floods yet discovered.
Many fish use sound to communicate. Most of them vibrate a small internal "balloon," known as the swim bladder. This produces a variety of grunts, clicks, and buzzes. But some species may talk in a way that even Doctor Dolittle might not appreciate. To put it delicately, they pass gas.
Scientists discovered the sounds a few years ago when they were studying herring in the laboratory. They heard what might be described as rude noises.
When it comes to sea turtles, the leatherback swims alone. Almost everything about it is different from other species, from its size to its ability to keep warm.
The most obvious difference shows up in the name. While other turtles have hard shells, the leatherback’s is leathery and flexible. Ridges provide streamlining, so a leatherback can sustain speeds of a couple of miles an hour -- faster than any other sea turtles.
If you’ve ever thought that there just aren’t enough hours in the day, then you probably wouldn’t have been happy a few hundred million years ago, when the day was even shorter than it is now. The gravitational interaction between Earth and the Moon is slowing Earth’s rotation, making the days longer. Scientists can measure how much longer by studying the fossils of ancient coral.
It sounds like a plot device from a sci-fi movie. Organisms don’t have enough oxygen to operate normally, so they start to shut down some of their systems to save energy -- a sort of low-grade suspended animation. One response is basically to stop having babies.
But in the case of Atlantic croaker, it’s not fiction -- it happens when the oxygen level drops in their coastal habitats. It’s probably a normal adaptation to help them survive in times when the oxygen level drops naturally. But it could have a big impact on the health of the entire population.