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 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.
Sailors have been telling tales of sea serpents for as long as they’ve been going to sea -- stories of long monsters that could pluck men from the deck of a ship.
There really are sea serpents, and they can be deadly. But instead of monsters as big as ships, they’re only a few feet long. They’re snakes -- relatives of the reptiles that slither across land.
A hurricane’s delicate cloud bands and dark eye make it look like a beautiful but deadly pinwheel spinning across the ocean.
If Earth were flat and motionless, hurricanes wouldn’t form. Air would flow from high pressure to low pressure in straight lines, like boulders rolling from a ring of mountains into a central valley.
There was a time when nesting Kemp’s ridley sea turtles covered some of the beaches of north-central Mexico as far as the eye could see. And thanks to intense conservation efforts, there’s hope that these turtles could blanket the beaches once again.
The Kemp’s ridley is the smallest sea turtle -- a couple of feet long, and weighing around a hundred pounds. It feeds in shallow waters from New England to the Yucatan Peninsula. But most of the turtles nest around Rancho Nuevo, Mexico.
Seahorses are fish and in scientific parlance, most of them belong to the genus Hippocampus. The name is from the Greek words for horse and sea monster.
The horse part is easy to understand. The long snout, the upright posture, and the angle of the head all resemble a horse. But the sea monster part doesn’t quite seem to fit. Seahorses move slowly, they’re not aggressive -- unless you happen to be a tasty shrimp -- and they’re small -- the largest are only about a foot long, while the smallest are no bigger than the tip of your little finger.