Marine Science

Ocean “Conveyor Belt” Sustains Sea Life, Study Says

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: June 15, 2004   View Article

An estimated three-quarters of all marine life is maintained by a single ocean-circulation pattern in the Southern Hemisphere that pulls nutrient-rich waters from the deep ocean, brings them to the surface, and distributes them around the world.

“This is really something,” said Jorge Sarmiento, a professor of atmospheric and ocean sciences at Princeton University in New Jersey. Sarmiento made the discovery using sophisticated computer models.

Can Iron-Enriched Ocean Thwart Global Warming?

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: June 9, 2004   View Article

Virtually all life in the world’s oceans is directly or indirectly dependent on one-celled plants called phytoplankton. These plants, which live at the ocean surface, feed on ocean nutrients to survive.

But about 20 to 30 percent of these crucial nutrients sink out of reach of the phytoplankton each year, according to Jorge Sarmiento, a professor of atmospheric and ocean sciences at Princeton University in New Jersey.

Blue Whales Sing at Same Pitch, Study Says

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: May 17, 2004   View Article

Luciano Pavarotti they’re not, but if blue whales ever build up a repertoire they could give the Italian opera singer a run for his money. The cetaceans have perfect pitch. So perfect, in fact, that it’s impossible to tell individuals apart from their calls.

“You might think that a big whale makes a lower sound than a small whale—they come in all different sizes—but they all make the same pitch,” said Roger Bland, a physicist at San Francisco State University in California.

New Coral Family Identified in Atlantic

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: February 25, 2004   View Article

Until now, all Atlantic coral families were believed to be close relatives to distinct coral families in the Pacific Ocean. But a new study for the first time identifies a family of corals found only in the Atlantic.

According to the study, at least one third of the corals that thrive in the Atlantic Ocean are free of any family ties to corals in the Pacific Ocean. The study could transform how the marine organisms are viewed, classified, and conserved.

Tagged Animal “Army” to Help Map Ocean, Experts Say

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: February 23, 2004   View Article

Equipped with high-tech data-collection tags, a veritable army of marine animals is being prepped to swarm the North Pacific Ocean on a reconnaissance mission of epic proportions. Their mandate is simple: Live a normal life.

The tags collect data on the behavior and environmental preferences of these animals, helping researchers create interactive, three-dimensional portraits of the inner workings of what may be Earth’s last great unknown, the ocean.

Crittercam Sea Turtle Study May Aid Conservation

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: February 12, 2004   View Article

Sea turtles around the world are on a slippery slope toward extinction, but in Shark Bay, on the remote coast of Western Australia, two species of the ocean-dwelling reptiles thrive among a flourishing diversity of life.

“Shark Bay gives us a glimpse of what other marine habitats might have been like before they were changed by people,” said Mike Heithaus, a marine biologist at Florida International University in Miami.

Whale-Worn Camera Sees Precision in Feeding Frenzy

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: January 16, 2004   View Article

When the normally placid waters of Alaska’s Chatham Straight begin to bubble in a violent boil, marine biologist Fred Sharpe slips up to the cauldron’s edge for a front row seat. He knows a coordinated feeding frenzy of epic proportions has just begun.

The bubbles are blown by a humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) circling about 45 feet (14 meters) below the ocean surface as several of the whale’s mates scream and wave their pectoral flippers in an effort to ensnare herring (Clupea pallasi) in the net of bubbles.

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