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.
Its name alone tells you that the blobfish isn’t going to win any beauty contests. In fact, a few years ago it won an ugly contest -- it was declared the ugliest animal on the planet. That’s a bit misleading, though: No one is going to look their best if they’ve just been hauled up from far below the ocean waves.
The blobfish is found off the coast of Australia and the island of Tasmania, at depths of about 2,000 to 4,000 feet. In this natural habitat, it looks a bit like a cartoon character. It has a wide, round head, and a tapered body that can reach about a foot in length.
The narwhal looks like something out of mythology. Males have a long, spiral tusk that’s earned them the nickname “the unicorn of the sea.” The narwhal sounds a bit fictional, too -- a bit like a droid from Star Wars.
Researchers recorded the sounds of the East Greenland narwhal. It’s found in a fjord on the central eastern coast of Greenland.
1969 was a big year for going places. Hundreds of thousands of music fans went to the Woodstock festival in New York. Three sets of astronauts went to the Moon. And on February 15th, four “aquanauts” went deep. They began a visit to a habitat 50 feet below the surface of Great Lameshur Bay in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The giant clam has had a bit of an image problem: It’s been considered a killer. The largest species can weigh more than 400 pounds, and it can span four feet. According to legends in the South Pacific and Indian oceans, the clam sometimes drowns divers by clamping down on them with its giant maw.
The egg of a red drum, a popular sport fish, is only about the size of a pinhead. Yet those tiny eggs can play a big role in the ecology of bays and estuaries.
Some eggs will hatch into new red drum. But most of the eggs -- about 90 percent -- will be eaten by other organisms. The eggs supply key nutrients, including essential fatty acids, which are needed for proper growth and development. In fact, the eggs appear to be an important source of these compounds for much of the marine food chain.
Chesapeake Bay appears to be coming back from the dead a little earlier these days. In particular, “dead zones” in the southern part of the bay are ending earlier than they have in the last few decades. That could mean that efforts to protect the bay are paying off.
At its height, California’s abalone industry brought in millions of pounds of the tasty sea snails. But the heyday didn’t last long. The fleets brought in so many abalone that there weren’t many left. By the late 1970s, the industry had crashed -- and so had the abalone populations.
The population that suffered the most was the white abalone. It’s one of a half-dozen species found along the coast of southern California and Baja California.
On the ice, the Atlantic walrus is slow and lumbering. In the water, though, it’s graceful, maneuvering with ease. Until recently, though, it wasn’t thought to be an especially deep swimmer. But a recent study found that the walrus can reach depths of a third of a mile.
The Atlantic walrus lives mainly in the cold waters around Greenland and Canada. There could be as many as 25,000 of them, living in several groups.
The walrus’s most prominent feature is its tusks. They’re used for defense, to cut through ice, and to help pull the walrus out of the water.
Blue mussels are riding the winds across the North Sea. They’re not taking up wind surfing, though. Instead, they’re colonizing the bases of offshore wind turbines. Over the next couple of decades, that could boost the mussel population, with ripple effects throughout the ecosystem.
The North Sea is between Great Britain and northern Europe. Winds there are strong and steady, making it an ideal location for wind farms. At the end of 2017, in fact, it was home to about 70 percent of Europe’s offshore wind capacity. And thousands more turbines are scheduled to be installed there.
When the glaciers retreated from around present-day Seattle at the end of the last ice age, they left some big holes in the ground. Today, those holes form Puget Sound -- a network of basins and channels in northwestern Washington. The sound is home to an amazing variety of marine life. But the numbers have been dwindling.