Here's a list of content I've published this month, in case you've missed it. Let me know what you think, and if there are other marine life topics you'd like me to cover in future posts!
This will be one of my final blog posts. I'm not going anywhere, but the blog is. About.com is launching an exciting new site design, but the design will no longer feature an embedded blog. So, I thought it fitting to write one of my last blog posts on one of my favorite marine animals - the fin (or finback) whale, which was Monday's Mystery Creature.
I love all marine life, and can never learn enough about the huge variety of marine life that exists, from tiny plankton up to huge whales. However, my day job at a marine conservation non-profit organization definitely places me as a "charismatic megafauna" enthusiast - our primary activities are studying and educating the public about whales. It was through working on whale watch boats that I fell in love with fin whales. They are the second-largest species in the world - but despite their size (over 80 feet in some animals!), they are sleek and graceful.
Fin whales are found throughout the world. Despite their size and relative prevalence (over 100,000 worldwide), their movements are not well-known. They are thought be like other baleen whales - temperate or polar feeding grounds during the spring, summer and fall, and migrating to subtropical breeding grounds during the winter.
Since this was the last Mystery Creature (formerly known as Guess the Creature), I wanted to take the opportunity to thank those who have viewed and commented on the images over the last few years! I'll miss having this weekly feature, but look forward to having more time to develop quality content that can help you learn more about marine life!
Image: Fin whale and calf, courtesy Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation
Phytoplankton represent some of the tiniest, yet most abundant organisms in the ocean. The term phytoplankton refers most basically to floating plants - the word comes from the Greek words phytos ("plant") and planktos ("wander" or "drift").
Like our plants on land, phytoplankton contain chlorophyll, which they use in photosynthesis. This absorbs carbon dioxide and produces oxygen, which is important in climate change, and creating the air we breathe. Not bad for tiny, single-celled organisms! They are also the base of the oceanic food web - providing nutrition for zooplankton, and in turn, for fish, some sharks and even whales!
Image: Diatoms in Antarctica, courtesy NOAA, NSF Polar Programs
Can you name this species?
Photo by Jennifer Kennedy, Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation
A recent Mystery Creature image featured a manta ray. Giant manta rays can grow to a size of about 30 feet across, making them the largest ray species. These animals live in tropical, subtropical and temperate oceans around the world. One of their most noticeable features, other than size, is their cephalic lobes (or cephalic fins) - extensions of the ray's pectoral fins that project from the animal's head. These help funnel water into the ray's mouth, where it filters out its prey - zooplankton and small fish.
Fairly recently, it was thought that there was one manta ray species. Now, scientists have determined that there are two species - the giant manta ray (Manta birostris) and the reef manta ray (Manta alfredi), which has a functioning tail spine, a y-shaped white shoulder patch, and a lighter mouth than the giant manta.
Image courtesy NOAA's National Ocean Service
Last week's Mystery Creature was a hairy squat lobster (Lauriea siagiani). Despite their name, squat lobsters aren't really lobsters - they are crabs. In fact, they're more closely related to hermit crabs than to either "true" crabs or lobsters.
These animals may not be very well known to the public, but scientists have discovered over 900 species of squat lobsters, and believe there are many more out there that haven't been discovered. These animals are small, often colorful, and can blend in with their surroundings (like the one shown here, which is on a whip coral, and may hide in caves and crevices. They may also be found in the deep sea, in areas such as around hydrothermal vents and seamounts, so it's no wonder that it has taken awhile to discover some squat lobster species.
Want to learn more about squat lobsters? Click here.
Image courtesy NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program, INDEX-SATAL 2010
Greetings! I hope you've had a great month. April flew by for me! Here's some new content I've published recently, in case you missed it:
- Beaked Whales Profile
- Cuvier's Beaked Whale Profile
- Baird's Beaked Whale Profile
- Spanish Dancer Nudibranch Profile
Enjoy! I'd love to hear your questions or comments.
Today the world celebrates Earth Day - a day to celebrate the place we all call home.
What will you be doing to help the Earth today? Whether it's packing your lunch in reusable containers, using less plastic, cleaning up a local roadway - all those actions can add up for the benefit of the oceans and marine life.
Leave a comment below and let me know how you are celebrating Earth Day!
Barrier Reef Image courtesy NASA