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.
Look! Down in the water! It’s a cow! It’s an elephant! It’s a mermaid! Or maybe it’s something that’s been described as all three: a manatee.
Manatees aren’t the cutest of sea creatures; in fact, they’re also known as sea cows. A manatee’s body looks like a big cushion, with a stubby snout at one end and a wide flipper at the other. And it has a drooping upper lip that sort of resembles the trunk of one of its closest cousins, the elephant.
On most beaches, the grains of sand that stick to your feet are tiny bits of quartz. But there are some exceptions. The black sand that coats some of Hawaii’s beaches, for example, is made of bits of volcanic rock. And when you walk along some beaches in the Caribbean or other tropical settings, you’re squishing your toes into coral sand -- the remains of countless marine creatures.
Europa, one of the moons of the planet Jupiter, could be a marine scientist’s dream world. Its icy crust floats atop a global ocean that could be miles deep. And it’s even possible that life could float through the watery darkness -- perhaps around volcanic hotspots on the ocean floor, or even in the coldest depths. After all, life on Earth survives in these environments -- and some that are even tougher.
Mothers frequently pass their knowledge and wisdom along to their daughters. Now whether the daughters actually listen is another matter. But at least they have the chance to learn from the experience of earlier generations.
The daughters of some bottlenose dolphins apparently have been listening to their mothers. They’ve learned how to use sponges to help them fish.
The oceans have been working hard the last few decades to remove extra carbon dioxide from the air -- pollution from burning fossil fuels. Climate experts say that helps slow down the rate of global warming. But the creatures that live in the oceans may soon pay a price for it. The upper levels of the oceans are becoming more acidic, and that could hurt much of the marine ecosystem.
Imagine that you’re diving in an alien environment -- a few feet down in the middle of the ocean -- when you come face to face with a creature with giant eyes, big claws, and a mouth that rips apart its prey. You’ve just met phronima, a marine creature that may have inspired the design for the monster in the Alien movies. Fortunately, though, you’re not in any danger, because Phronima is no more than an inch long.
Zebra mussels are natives of the Caspian Sea in Asia, but they’re making themselves comfortable in the Great Lakes. North American comb jellies are taking over the Black Sea. Overbite clams and Chinese mitten crabs are settling into San Francisco Bay. And all of them are causing a lot of damage to their adopted lands -- and to the pocketbooks of the people who live there.
Fish have lots of ways to elude predators. Some are really fast. Others camouflage themselves, while still others hide in tight spaces. And a few take to the air.
There are about 50 species of flying fish, which are found in warm waters around the world. They grow to about a foot long, and they feed on small animals near the surface of the water.
At the surface, silhouetted against the bright sky, a flying fish is a tempting target for a tuna, marlin, or other predator. So nature has given the flying fish some good defenses.
Emperor penguins gained a bit of stardom a few years ago when they were featured in "March of the Penguins," an Oscar-winning documentary. Today, they’re gaining another bit of fame, but one they could do without: Emperor penguins are especially sensitive to the effects of global climate change.
Emperors are the largest of all penguins, and they can live for up to 40 years. They also dive deeper than other penguins -- to depths of hundreds of feet.
For the people who dock their boats in the upper reaches of Canada’s Bay of Fundy, timing is everything. For part of the day, the boats float serenely alongside the piers. But a few hours later, they can be sitting 20 feet lower, on the bottom of the bay. The boats don’t sink -- the water level does. Tides in the Bay of Fundy are some of the most dramatic on the planet.
The bay is just off the northeastern corner of Maine, between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. It’s about 170 miles long, and it’s shaped like a funnel -- both from side to side and top to bottom.