Gray Whales Adapted to
Survive Past Climate Changes.....(07/07/2011)
Gray whale breaching.
CREDIT: National Oceanographic and Atmospheric
Gray whales managed to survive many cycles of global
cooling and warming over the past few million years by
changing their migratory habits and broadening their
feeding styles, according to a new study.
The oldest gray whale fossils date back 2.5 million
years, and since then, the Earth has gone through more
than 40 major cycles of warming and cooling. The
California, or eastern, gray whale is one of two
surviving populations of gray whale and can be traced
back about 150,000 to 200,000 years.
Gray whales appear to have "a lot more evolutionary
plasticity than anyone imagined," said study author and
evolutionary biologist David Lindberg of the University
of California, Berkeley. After studying California gray
whales' responses to climate change over the past
120,000 years, the researchers suggest that gray whales
survived previous climate changes by broadening their
Gray whales were once thought to feed only by
suctioning seafloor sediment and filtering out worms and
amphipods, but some gray whales now eat herring and
krill as well, just like their baleen whale relatives
such as the humpback. The migration habits of gray
whales proved to be flexible as well, with one group
preferring to stop migrating altogether and remain off
Vancouver Island in Canada year-round.
Furthermore, the researchers found evidence to
support the idea that the population of gray whales
along the Pacific Coast was about 76,000 to 120,000
before humans began hunting them. Previous estimates by
ecologists placed the number at 15,000 to 20,000, but
the new study's researchers say that the gray whales'
feeding on a greater variety of food made it possible
for higher populations to have flourished.
The whales' history of adapting to shifting
conditions could help them survive future climate change
over the next few centuries as sea levels continue to
rise, the researchers said.
Article courtesy of Remy Melina,
LiveScience Staff Writer
Details emerge regarding
capture of one-eyed 'Cyclops' shark.....(07/04/2011)
An albino, one-eyed shark fetus removed from a
bull shark captured recently in the
Sea of Cortez was one of 10 babies inside the large
predator. All others were normal in color and
A story with very few details went viral during the
past week, mainly because one photo (at right) revealed
a white, three-foot-long shark with what appeared to be
a single eye perfectly centered in its head, just above
Skeptics abounded. One Southern California-based
scientist jokingly identified the three-foot fetus as "Cycloptomus,"
believing the photo to be doctored and part of a hoax.
The story became more believable after Felipe Galvan, a
prominent Mexican scientist, acknowledged that he had
inspected the shark and had even written a paper on the
discovery. The paper is under scientific review.
But on Saturday more details emerged. Tracy Ehrenberg,
general manager of
Pisces Sportfishing in Cabo San Lucas, interviewed
the fisherman who made the catch southeast of
La Paz, Mexico, the capital of
Baja California Sur.
Ehrenberg said on the
Pisces blog that the mother bull shark was caught on
a large hook baited with ballyhoo, tethered to a line
beneath a buoy fixed in place by another line anchored
by a sand bag. The shark was dead when it was hauled up,
long after the set was made near
It was taken ashore and filleted, a process that
revealed nine normal pups and the albino, one-eyed
"The fisherman told me that this one would have been
born first, due to the position it was in -- first in
line at the exit, but that he doubted that it would have
survived," said Ehrenberg, who did not reveal the
Shark fishing is controversial because so many species
are in decline, but fishermen in coastal Baja
communities know of no other livelihoods and rely on
whatever bounty they can catch to provide for their
Said Ehrenberg, a strong proponent of marine
conservation: "It's kind of sad to see a female with
pups inside killed but this was taken by a commercial
fishing skiff and this is how this fisherman makes his
living. All parts of the shark are used, including the
skin. The meat is salted and sent to mainland Mexico,
where it is usually sold as bacalo or "cod."
Image courtesy of Pisces Sportfishing
Article courtesy of UnderwaterTimes.com
Cookie-Cutter Shark Takes First
Bite of Human Flesh.....(07/02/2011)
A drawing of Isistius brasiliensis,
the Cookiecutter shark. CREDIT: Dr Tony Ayling, Guide to
the Sea Fishes of New Zealand
For one swimmer, a late night dip ended in a painful
altercation with a cookie-cutter shark, the first
documented case of the small shark nipping at a living
human. But why did it happen?
The attack occurred in the waters between Hawaii and
Maui on March 16, 2009, as the victim was attempting to
cross the Alenuihaha Channel. The long-distance swimmer
was making the 30-mile (48 kilometers) trek across the
channel at sunset when he felt the shark take a
bite out of his chest, then his left calf as he left
The sharks usually attack other sea animals, such as
fish and whales, and feed mainly at night. Because of
this, they don't often encounter day swimmers. They live
in open ocean tropical waters, like those off of Hawaii.
As beach weather begins, nighttime tropical ocean
swimmers should be aware of their possible presence and
"Not only is it painful, but it presents a difficult
circumstance for recovery in the sense that there has to
be plastic surgery to close the wound and you have
permanent tissue loss," study researcher George Burgess,
of the University of Florida's Florida Museum of Natural
History, said in a statement.
Scoop of flesh
Pomfret with damage from a
cookiecutter shark (Isistius brasiliensis).
CREDIT: PIRO-NOAA Observer Program
The cookie-cutter shark grows to about 2 feet long as
an adult, but have specially crafted jaws that can scoop
out a nugget of flesh, leaving a gaping hole, hence the
"cookie-cutter" name. Their bites aren't lethal, but the
bites leave obvious markings, even after they've healed.
the Brink: A Gallery of Wild Sharks]
"It's not as scary as 'Jaws,' but it's very different
from any other kind of attack we have in the
International Shark Attack File because of the size of
the shark and the modus operandi," Burgess said.
While many people fear great white sharks thanks to
"Jaws" tiger sharks are among the
deadliest sea creatures, and they kill more people
than any other shark. However, shark attacks are rare.
The number of people attacked by sharks globally each
year is about equal to the number of people killed by
lightning in the United States.
Laying in wait
The sharks attack larger animals because they have an
interesting camouflage mechanism: Glowing markings on
their skin let them hide in groups of squid, which also
glow. When larger animals feed on the squid,
the shark can launch a surprise attack on their
victim and quickly leave the scene after nabbing a chunk
Head of a cookiecutter
shark (Isistius brasiliensis).
CREDIT: Karsten Hartel, Marine Fisheries Review
"They have the biggest teeth of any shark in relation
to the size of their jaws," Burgess said. "They look
like the cartoon sharks you see with oversized teeth."
Because the sharks are small, cookie-cutter shark
bites aren't that powerful; because of this,
skin-scooping shark bites can probably be avoided by
wearing a thick wetsuit when swimming in the open ocean
at night, John O'Sullivan of the Monterey Bay Aquarium,
said in a statement.
"These animals are very small and very aggressive in
behavior. People say, 'Thank God these things don't get
big,'" O'Sullivan said.
Article courtesy of Jennifer Welsh,
Deep Breath: ABC News' Matt
Gutman Gets an Exclusive
Preview of a New and Dangerous Free
Dive Racing Sport....
Water surged against my mask, jamming back my cheeks,
when I clicked the steel controller on the torpedo I was
riding, then I was propelled through the warm Caribbean
water in one of the most bizarre -- and dangerous --
relay races on the planet.
This was Formula3Freediving. Never heard of it?
That's because "Nightline" was invited to have an
exclusive first look into this fresh new sport at its
first race in the Cayman Islands last month.
F3F takes the existing sport of free diving -- diving
as deep as you can on a single breath, already one of
the world's most dangerous sports -- and turbo-charges
Watch ABC's Matt Gutman's behind-the-scenes
video as his crew gets suited up for the shoot HERE.
Six teams of four racers, plus alternates, each with
a different team color, competed in three races. Each
team has a "scooter," which looks somewhat like a boat
propeller that racers put between their legs. After
taking his one breath, the racer jumps onto the scooter,
zooms through a marked race course located about 50 feet
underwater, and then passes the scooter off to the next
teammate who does the same thing. The team with the
fastest combined times wins.
F3F was invented by Kirk Krack, the steely-haired
guru of free diving. Krack (pronounced Krock) trained
David Blaine for his 2006 "drowned alive" stunt and six
world record-holding free divers.
He said he believes almost anyone who can swim and
hold their breath can do the F3F race.
To prove his point he used me as a guinea pig. I
started with static apnea, or a breath hold. My first
try was pitiful, about 1:45. But after a few moments of
instruction from Krack, I made it over three minutes.
Then we moved to a pool and tried the breathing
exercise there. Krack guided me through a relaxation
routine, and told me to begin ignoring the contractions
of my diaphragm -- essentially my body's demand for air.
With his coaching I managed a five-minute breath hold --
not bad, even for free divers.
So many divers push themselves to hold their breath
underwater until they black out, causing drowning in
great enough numbers that free diving and spear fishing
are among the most dangerous sports in the world.
But it is the possibility of challenging evolution
and taking the human body's natural capacity to adapt to
unimagined realms (like the world record of a nearly
600-foot free dive) which most compels Krack to do this
On the afternoon of the race the two dozen or so
racers headed out to the Kittiwake, a shipwreck off
coast of Grand Cayman. In their slick suits, they
inspected the wreck like a school of fish with their
undulating dolphin-like leg kicks.
A marked race course had been set up in advance for
the divers, who swam to the starting gate. Suddenly they
were off, banging against each other ahead of the first
gate as if in an underwater chariot race.
But no sooner did the scooters hit the water than one
of "Nightline's" go-pro cameras attached to them broke
off and cracked into a propeller. We waited for an hour
until a part was retrieved from shore.
As divers swam the course, some couldn't make it
through the whole thing. Their lungs bursting, they came
up for air.
The stakes for this race are small: a $1,000 pot. But
the victor gets a lifetime's worth of bragging rights --
being the first winner of a brand new sport's first
While this was F3F's maiden voyage in the Caymans,
other races could soon sprout up in Ft. Lauderdale,
Fla., Hawaii and California, Krack hopes.
"I think it has a good growth trajectory. And with
some big sponsors. And I think we'll see it, we'll
definitely see it as winter programming at some point,"
Article courtesy of ABC News by Matt
What The Heck Is This?!..... (06/11/2011)
See if you can guess what colorful creature this is
before scrolling down!
I'd be surprised
if anyone can guess this without scrolling down to see
the full version, and even then it'd be tough.
Hints? If you are
a biologist, you'll have a good shot at it. If you're a
marine biologist, you have no excuse for not knowing, I
The image shows
light refracting off a comb jelly (don't call it a
jellyfish). See the whole thing below.
Comb jellies have
connective tissues and a nervous system, and though they
have tentacles and are all squishy, they are not really
true jellyfish. In 2008, scientists discovered
comb jellies were the first animals (sponges had
previously laid claim to that title).
Comb jellies are
one of many fascinating species lurking in the enigmatic
deep sea, as discussed in
this new feature article about the vast and deep
mysteries of the ocean over on our sister site,
CREDIT: Kevin Raskoff, MBARI, NOAA/OER
Light refracts off a comb
jelly, a species found in the Arctic, producing stripes
of rainbow color. Polar waters are home to many species
seen nowhere else on Earth. One of the two tentacles
with which it feeds is deployed while the other is
Article courtesy of LiveScience
Thanks in great part to Jacques Cousteau, I am now a
National Geographic explorer. When I was a child growing up
in Spain, Cousteau was everything: my hero, role model, and
inspiration. I couldn’t wait for Sunday evening to arrive so
that I could watch a new episode of “The underwater world of
Jacques Cousteau.” I dreamed about being one of the Calypso
divers, exploring exotic locations and making new
discoveries every day. While my friends had posters of
soccer players on their bedroom walls, I had photos of the
red-capped divers diving in remote coral reefs, or climbing
an iceberg in Antarctica. My friends dreamed about driving
powerful cars and motorbikes; I dreamed of having a bunk bed
on the Calypso.
That childhood dream fueled my passion for the sea for
years to come. I studied biology, got a PhD in marine
ecology, and then became a Professor of Oceanography and
spend 10 years in academia, before joining the ranks of the
National Geographic Society. I never met the Commandant,
but now I am living my childhood dream, exploring and
studying remote corners of the ocean, and inspiring leaders
to save the last wild places of the ocean before they
succumb under the global human footprint. Many people helped
me along the way, but that Cousteau figure was always there,
keeping me in that perpetual state of curiosity that
children have and adults tend to lose.
Article courtesy of National Geographic.
A New Brunswick fisherman is selling a behemoth
10-kilogram (22.3 pound) lobster that he and his son hauled
up Monday from the Bay of Fundy.
Troy Mitchell, 47, said the lobster, which he named
"Tiny," is the largest he's ever caught in his 30-plus year
"Every time you haul up a trap it's a mystery what may be
in it," he said Tuesday in a telephone interview with
Mitchell has put the lobster up for sale online in hopes
someone might want to save Tiny, either to donate to the
Huntsman Marine Science Centre in St. Andrews, N.B. to
display or to set him free.
He says his preference is to donate the proceeds to the
local Cancer Society charity, instead of selling the lobster
to the market within the next few days.
Mitchell says it's most likely a lobster of this size
would end up being canned.
"I'd just hate to see it go to a cannery," he said.
Experts from the Huntsman's centre told Mitchell the male
lobster is likely about 40-years-old.
Mitchell said Tiny, not including his claws or tail,
measured about 22 centimeters (8.75 inches).
Mitchell and his son, Ian, hauled the giant crustacean on
board their vessel, named Bumpie's Boat after Troy
Mitchell's father. They fish out of Back Bay, N.B.
Mitchell, who said his family has been fishing for
generations, won't say exactly where he laid his traps, but
he's certainly on a good run. He said he caught an 8.6
kilogram (19 pounds) lobster only a few weeks back.
"They are not really common, they are really rare," he
Mitchell's daughter, Kerri Hatt, brought Tiny to CTV's
attention after sending a picture to MyNews.
According to the Guinness Book of Records, the largest
lobster ever found was a 20-kilogram (44 pounds) beast,
caught off the coast of Nova Scotia in 1977.
An average caught lobster is in the 1.5 pounds to two
Three years ago in New Brunswick, a 10-kilogram lobster
named Dee-Dee was saved from a boiling pot by a $1,000
donation, even though a fish shop owner was offered $5,000
by a group that wanted to eat it.