For two months, Cassandra Brooks, a marine scientist with Stanford University, travelled on an ice-breaking ship through the Ross Sea in the Antarctica—and she filmed the whole thing. A camera hooked to the front of the ship recorded the ship’s travels, and the ever-changing sea ice.
Sea ice isn’t just a solid layer covering the water’s surface. Sometimes the ice looks like shining glass. Sometimes it forms a thin, greasy-looking layer, or small “pancakes” covered in algae. These pancakes can freeze together to form pack ice, which the ship can break through with its reinforced hull—though sometimes it had to push a lot harder to break through thick ice!
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Sea butterflies, a group of swimming sea snails, are canaries in the coal mine for the ocean. Delicately beautiful and highly sensitive to the changing oceans, these tiny creatures—most smaller than a pinky nail!—present a unique way to gauge climate. One-quarter of the carbon dioxide we release into the atmosphere dissolves into the ocean, which makes the water more acidic and makes it more difficult for these animals to build their own shells.
Discovering new species is an exciting quest, right? Well, some parts are—but after you find a cool-looking organism that you think is a new species, there’s a lot more to be done.
Recently, a group of crab and crustacean experts locked themselves in a room together for 2 weeks to speed up the process of looking for new species among thousands of specimens collected in the Caribbean.
This incredible image of a larval octopus—which can fit on the tip of your finger—was taken soon after it was collected on a research cruise, preserving its beautiful coloring.
After larval (baby) octopuses hatch from eggs, they float in the currents as zooplankton until they grow large enough to defend themselves. Few will survive to this stage, instead becoming food for larger organisms.
CREDIT: Cedric Guigand, Univ. of Miami, RSMAS/Marine Photobank
An Atlantic puffin (Fratercula arctica) shows off its tongue, which is specially adapted to allow it to carry many fish in its bill at one time. Atlantic puffins typically carry about 10 fish in their bills at one time, using their tongues to hold their catch against spines on their palate.
Brigitte Ebbe is an expert on polychaetes — bristly worms that swim throughout the ocean, like the one shown above (Tomopteris carpenteri). The largest species in its genus, it it found throughout the water column, including the deep sea, where Ebbe took this photo during the Census of Marine Life. Many members of Tomopteris are bioluminescent and can shoot sparks off their parapodia when threatened.
With the Census of Marine Life, Ebbe explored the abyssal plain, an area of the seafloor thought to be devoid of life. What did she find there? “There is an astounding diversity and richness of life wherever one looks.” Read our interview with Brigitte Ebbe.
Check out the eyes on these Hawaiian squirrelfish (Sargocentron xantherythrum)! Because squirrelfish are almost entirely nocturnal, they need big eyes to absorb as much moonlight and starlight as they can in the dark. During the day, they hide out in the nooks and crannies of tropical coral reefs. To defend its small hiding place, the squirrelfish grunts by grinding its teeth and stretching the muscles along its gas bladders—grunts that sound a bit like the chatter of squirrels!