Monthly Archives: August 2012

The Oceans’ Unsung Heroes — Invertebrates

By Mera McGrew Invertebrates, animals without backbones, are some of the world’s most abundant creatures.  They can be found in nearly all ecosystems across the globe — swimming, flying, swarming, and floating. They thrive in NYC apartments, the depths of the ocean, and everywhere in between. Making up an estimated 97 percent of all living species, invertebrates are truly nature’s unsung heroes, playing a key role in maintaining a healthy environment.  “If human beings were to disappear tomorrow, the world would go on with little change,” famed biologist E. O. Wilson once wrote. However, if invertebrates were to vanish, he said, “I doubt that human species could last more than a few months.” Invertebrates form the basis of numerous food chains, play a key role in the reproductive cycle of many plants, are used to assess overall habitat quality, and outweigh all the fish in the sea by both species and mass.…
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Leading the Fleet: Explorer Sylvia Earle’s Pioneering Life in Marine Science and Conservation

By Mera McGrew A host of names gets thrown around when oceanographer, undersea explorer and advocate Dr. Sylvia Earle gets mentioned. Hero of the Planet. Living Legend. Ambassador of the World’s Oceans. Pioneer. Earle has led more than 400 expeditions, logged more than 7,000 hours underwater, holds multiple diving records and has been instrumental in developing and engineering deep-water submersibles. She has authored more than 125 publications focused on marine science and technology. She is the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s former chief scientist and is now a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, founder of the global ocean advocacy initiative Mission Blue and serves on multiple boards. Q: When did you first know you wanted to dedicate yourself to studying and advocating for the world’s oceans?…
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200-Year-Old Oceanic Mystery Solved

The origin of Cerataspis monstrosa has been a mystery as deep as the ocean waters it hails from for more than 180 years. For nearly two centuries, researchers have tried to track down the larva that has shown up in the guts of other fish over time but found no adult counterpart. Until now. George Washington University Biology Professor Keith Crandall cracked the code to the elusive crustacean’s DNA this summer. His findings were recently published in the journal “Ecology and Evolution,” and his research was funded by the National Science Foundation and the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative. In it, Dr. Crandall, the senior author of the paper, explains how “monster larva” and the deep-water aristeid shrimp known as Plesiopenaeus armatus are one in the same: larvae and adult forms of the samespecies.…
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In the Field: Before Pacific Islands Forum, a Memorable Dive in Cook Islands

By Greg Stone As I gaze at the night sky, the stars are the clearest I have ever seen them. The Milky Way glows from horizon to horizon, and while I see many familiar constellations visible from the Northern Hemisphere, I also see a number of new ones — strange assortments of stars that are only visible south of the equator. We are here diving in the Cook Islands on the breaking crest of a new wave of marine conservation. This week, 16 nations have gathered at the 43rd Pacific Islands Forum to coordinate their actions across an area so vast it encompasses 40 million square kilometers (15.4 million square miles) — 10% of our planet’s ocean. This area is called the Pacific Oceanscape.…
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The Science Behind the “Insane in the Chromatophores” Video: Mission Blue Talks to the Brains Behind the Viral Squid Video

By Mera McGrew With nearly a million views in less than a week, a video of a long fin inshore squid (Loligo pealei) changing color to the beat of the 1993 Cypress Hill hit “Insane in the Brain” has gone viral. The video titled “Insane in the Chromatophores,” highlights the ability of squid to neurally control the color of their skin.  “Insane in the Chromatophores” provides an up-close view of a long fin inshore squid’s dorsal side fin as researchers tested the effects of music on the squid’s pigmented cells, which are scientifically known as chromatophores. Using the cockroach leg protocol, researchers essentially hijacked the neural system that controls coloration in the squid’s skin by stimulating the chromatophore motoneurons with an electrical signal produced by a song.…
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Desktop Diaries: Learn What Sylvia Earle Has on Her Desk

For those of you who missed it, catch this great video of Dr. Sylvia Earle in Science Friday’s Desktop Diaries. In the video, Dr. Earle, Oceanographer and National Geographic Explorer in Residence, shows viewers around her Oakland, California desk. She introduces her “mentor,” describes the evolution of her own relationship with the ocean, and presents various items that have accompanied her on different deep-sea expeditions. This video promises to help inspire others to be curious and concerned about our world’s ocean — our planet’s blue heart.…
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Pew Environment Group’s Karen Sack Discusses U.S. Court’s $55M Decision

Last Thursday, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York concluded that three men owe $54,883,550 in restitution to the South African government after illegally harvesting rock lobsters off its coast for years. The director of International Ocean Conservation for the Pew Environment Group, Karen Sack, explained, “This is the largest ever restitution awarded by a US court under the historic Lacey Act, one of the oldest American conservation laws that protects plants and wildlife by establishing civil and criminal penalties for a wide array of violations, and most notably prohibits trade in wildlife, fish and plants that have been illegally taken, transported or sold.” A United States magistrate judge in Manhattan made the most recent finding, the case will next go to a Judge at the U.S.…
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Introducing the Blue Ocean Film Festival and Conservation Event

Amber Jackson The Blue Ocean Film Festival, fondly referred to as BLUE, is a biennial ocean conservation event. Next month, filmmakers, photographers, scientists, and ocean explorers from around the globe will come together for this high-energy, enlightening and entertaining 7-day festival. Set in the Monterey Bay Peninsula, BLUE showcases outstanding ocean films and award winning marine photography along with science and conservation seminars, international policy discussions and a robust ocean media industry conference. At the heart of BLUE is the Global Ocean Film Festival, which will showcase over 100 films and ocean photography. The compelling films, exciting program and great camaraderie at BLUE promise to engage and empower public audiences, in Monterey and around the globe. “More than films, more than a celebration of all things wet, the Blue Ocean Film Festival brings together a potent mix of artists, scientists, conservationists, decision makers, industry leaders, inquisitive teachers, lively kids and more.…
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Video: Aquarius—The Last Mission?

As the aquanauts wrapped up their time at Aquarius Reef Base, Sylvia Earle voiced her plea: “It is important for people to actually be in the ocean, in that blue part of the country… We need to understand it.”…
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The Biggest Eyes in the Animal Kingdom

By Mera McGrew Researchers say that colossal squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni) have the largest eyes ever studied in the animal kingdom. Measuring 27cm (11in) in diameter, each eye is roughly the size of a soccer ball. “They are probably the largest eyes that have ever existed,” says Eric Warrant, a professor at the University of Lund in Sweden and an expert on animal vision. Researchers say these huge eyes help the colossal squid survive and thrive in the depths of the Southern Ocean. Their eyes face forward, allowing them to properly judge distances. At great depths, where there is very little light, their large eyes also help them spot large animals, including predators like sperm whales. Recently, Mission Blue caught up with Warrant to ask him more about his research and the massive eyes of the colossal squid.…
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"With knowing comes caring." - Dr. Sylvia Earle