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 Flour Bluff News, and the Island Moon newspaper. Our article archive is available also on our website.

June 1, 2011

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.

May 1, 2011
When it comes to finding food and shelter on the vast open ocean, some petrels and related seabirds simply follow their noses.

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.

April 1, 2011

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.

March 1, 2011

In the ocean’s dim depths, it’s not easy being green; that’s why some plant-like organisms use different pigments to survive.

February 1, 2011
Think about locations of coral reefs around the world, and the last place you might list is Norway. But northern Norway is precisely where the largest known cold-water coral reef lies.

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.

January 1, 2011
Comb through a heap of sargassum − that familiar brown seaweed that piles up on Atlantic and Gulf Coast beaches − and you may find a fish that is a true master of disguise.
December 1, 2010

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.

November 1, 2010

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.

October 1, 2010

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.

September 1, 2010
Behold the lowly amphioxus, and you’ll see an animal whose genes are not very different from yours.

Also known as a lancelet, amphioxus is a small, fishlike invertebrate about 2-3 inches long. Common in shallow marine waters, it burrows in the sand and filters nutrients from the water. What makes this humble creature so intriguing to scientists is its unique status as the closest living invertebrate relative of backboned animals.