Since satellite monitoring began in 1979, sea ice in the Arctic has been on the decline, shrinking by about 10 to 12 percent per decade. In the summer of 2007, Arctic sea ice cover shrank to an unprecedented low. At this rate, researchers project that the Arctic may experience a summer completely devoid of ice by the end of the century.
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.
Vast expanses of sea ice make the Arctic and Antarctic oceans perilous and inhospitable, but they’re also vital guardians of Earth’s climate.
Sea ice forms when ocean water is cooled to the freezing point by cold polar air. Freezing begins in fall, when the amount of light from the sun decreases, and ice continues to expand and thicken during the dark winter months. When summer returns, the sun’s energy warms the surface of the ice, causing portions of it to melt.
You might imagine marine snails crawling around on the sea floor. But thanks to a unique adaptation, one family of snails lives life at the top of the ocean.
Violet snails cannot swim but they can construct “rafts” from clusters of air bubbles, and these rafts allow the snails to float at the water’s surface. They float throughout tropical and subtropical oceans, preying on an abundant food source − jellyfish.
If you think a fish out of water would be easy to catch, you haven’t encountered the Pacific leaping blenny.
This acrobatic, slippery little fish can be found hopping and climbing around the rocky coasts of Guam. A diminutive 1½ to 3 inches in length, it spends almost all of its time on land — a curious and unique lifestyle among marine fish. To navigate its rocky habitat, the blenny has developed a tail-twisting move that allows it to leap from rock to rock with impressive distance and agility.
Wind and gravity aren’t the only forces that move the ocean’s water — there’s also a conveyor belt at work.
The Great Ocean Conveyor works by thermohaline circulation — water movement caused by density differences. The oceans are layered in water masses that differ in temperature and salt content. Lower temperatures and higher salinity translate to greater density.
Bluefin tuna migrate thousands of miles, but exactly how they find their way through the vast blue is a mystery. One answer may lie with the tuna’s “third eye.”
Imagine a Komodo dragon the size of a large whale and you've got a rough picture of the mosasaur, one of the most fearsome predators in the oceans' history.
Top ocean predators of their time, mosasaurs were a group of carnivorous marine reptiles that lived during the Cretaceous period, roughly 90 million to 65 million years ago. Mosasaurs are thought to be related to present-day monitor lizards, and their fossilized remains have been found in many parts of the world.
On the Great Barrier Reef lurks a creature straight out of science fiction, with many arms, stinging spines, and a monstrous appetite.
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.