Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, and all the ships at sea:
The Natural Patriot is honored to present the 7th monthly episode of the Carnival of the Blue, continuing a hallowed tradition initiated just six short moons ago on World Ocean Day by Mark Powell of Blogfish. Our salty selections this month span the gamut from, well perhaps not all the way from the sublime to the ridiculous, but they cover a lot of ground nevertheless.
Most of us, it’s probably safe to say, were motivated to become marine biologists (or ocean enthusiasts more generally) by a strong sense of biophilia, although we didn’t know it by that name at the time. The Sea is so full of beatiful and bizarre curiosities that reality rivals even the fertile imagination of Dr. Seuss in, say, McElligott’s Pool, a “watershed” book for me (I’m sorry — I really can’t help it) in 2nd grade that is probably ultimately to blame for why I am here now, hosting this carnival.
In addition to the ocean’s well-known and publicized importance to the economy, the global carbon cycle and climate change, sushi, and so forth, the diversity of life on earth is what connects us to the greater cosmos. And this month’s Carnival celebrates several examples:
First of all, how about those cheeky fake cleaner fish? Ed at Not Exactly Rocket Science relates the strange story, first reported by Cheney et al., of the blue-striped fangblenny. This sea-wolf in sheep’s clothing mimics the familiar cleaner gobies of coral reefs, but when a prospective customer swims up for service, the turncoat fangblenny attacks, grabbing a mouthful of skin and scales. But the really cool thing is that the fangblenny is also a chameleon, changing its color patterns depending on the presence of benevolent models in the vicinity. Yet another example that truth is stranger than fiction.
In another paen to biophilia, Mark H at the Daily Kos presents a story from his Biomes series, this time on the bizarre but somehow endearing monkfish.
And from Mike at 10,000 Birds, we have an appreciation of the Norther Gannet, the largest seabird in its range and advertised as “the most beautiful bird on the North Atlantic” and “the most impressive bird in any chum slick”.
What survey of oceanic biophilia could possibly be complete without a marine mammal? This month’s entry from
Cute Overload Zooillogix fills the bill, and with audience participation to boot! The post announces a write-in campaign to name the new baby beluga (apologies to parents scarred by Raffi songs) at the Shedd Aquarium. Several interesting suggestions, some of them pleasingly off-color. Vote early and often!
The Grandaddy of the Carnival of the Blue (an allusion to his authority, not his age), Mark at Blogfish, brings us an entry that skirts the fine line between biophilia and biophobia. Commenting on an amazing video of a great white shark feeding frenzy on a whale carcass off South Africa, he notes the similarity (evolutionary link?) between frenzied sharks and frat boys at a party. As the sharks gorge with whale blubber, they begin to appear intoxicated and then sexually interested and then . . . well, watch for yourselves.
And speaking of biophobia, newcomer to the COB Miriam at The Oyster’s Garter (say what?) reports on what happens when curious energetic kids are forced to play with boring plastic toys like laser beams and harpoons instead of going outdoors like red-blooded Americans and skinning their knees on tree swings and stuff. They are in danger of becoming ant-sharkites!
The secrets of the Seas
For many of us, fascination with the life of the Sea has led to questions: how do these strange creatures work? Why are there so many species here and not there? Why on earth does a sea urchin poop onto its own head? (Well, OK, they don’t really have heads). And thus, humbly, begins the life of science, which is illustrated by several of our posts this time around.
Peter at Deep-Sea News takes us on a scientific journey through the deep dark world of seamounts and, more specifically, their biogeography. Are they biodiversity islands or oases (figuratively speaking) and what would we need to know to answer this question? The discussion illustrates a central challenge to understanding the history of the oceans, especially the deeps but often enough the shallows as well — the rudimentary state of our taxonomic knowledge of many marine groups.
In a unique (perhaps pioneering) category this month is Kevin Z’s Introduction/prospectus to his nascent dissertation on “Biodiversity of Chemosynthetic Communities at the Eastern-Lau Spreading Centre“, posted bravely for all the world to see at The Other 95%. I have resisted editing this, a knee-jerk professorial urge which arises from my spending an inordinate fraction of my time editing nowadays. But several commentors on the post have offered suggestions — now Kevin has a graduate committee that potentially includes thousands of web-surfers! Good luck Kevin . . .
For my own part, I find myself always sliding back and forth between the biophilic wonder at the beauty and mystery of sea creatures and the rush of excitement at figuring them out scientifically. Since the latter is what I am paid to do (in between reviewing grant proposals and MSs and student prospecti and theses and . . .), I especially relish the opportunity to get back out onto the reef. I was able to do so recently on a field trip to Caribbean Panama, where I stalked the elusive wild snapping shrimp, as reported here.
Increasingly, alas, our attention and energies have been diverted from biophilia and questions of pure science toward the alarming state of the oceans and what might be done about it. Several of our intrepid ocean bloggers report from the front:
From Jennifer at Shifting Baselines, we have a profile of a modern day pirate of sorts, only one whose quarry is not buried treasure but the rear ends of whaling ships, which he and his motley crew are harassing throughout the Seven Seas. Jennifer quotes from the New Yorker profile of Watson, which in turn quotes Daniel Pauly: “Animals that were once used for bait or that were considered worthless (hagfish, sea cucumber) were later taken in large quantities for human consumption. ‘Bait thirty years ago was calamari,’ Pauly [said]. ‘Now it is served in a restaurant. It is very nice. But it was bait before.’ Future generations, Pauly predicts, only half in jest, will grow up on jellyfish sandwiches.
Which brings us seamlessly to our next story. Little did we know how soon jellyfish would actually end up on the plate. Or at least in the bowl. Kate at the NRDC’s Switchboard reports that this is exactly what is happening in Japan. And no, we are not making this up — from the Wall Street Journal: In Japan, “One coastal firm . . . has for the past three years produced 2,000 or 3,000 cartons of vanilla-and-jellyfish ice cream. The jellyfish is soaked overnight in milk to reduce its smell, and is then diced. Fumiko Hirabayashi, a director of the dairy, says the jelly cubes are slightly chewy . . . ‘We think it’s important to use local ingredients,’ says Mrs. Hirabayashi. ‘And this has now become a local ingredient.'”
Carl Safina, one of the pioneers of ocean conservation, weighs in this month with a withering critique of the seemingly unstoppable forces of greed and political impotence driving one of the ocean’s most majestic wildilfe species — the great bluefin tuna — down the spiral of extinction.
Moving from the water column down to the bottom, we have a detailed look from newcomer JimboDouglass at how the human footprint is squashing the seagrasses that provide critical habitat for biodiversity and nurseries for juvenile fish and shellfish throughout the world’s coastal regions an estuaries. Focusing on the Chesapeake Bay specifically, he discusses the complex interactions among nutrient pollution from land, overfishing of water-clearing oysters and predatory fishes, and coastal development in the long decline of this important ecoystem.
All the world’s a stage
Moving out from the oceans to the larger global ecosystem, Hugh at surf.bird.scribble ponder what many of us have been losing sleep over in recent years, the suffocating blanket of CO2 we are spewing into the atmosphere. What to do about it? Dump tankers of iron into the ocean to soak it up via phytoplankton. Not. Hugh asks, “Please, tax my carbon!”, an idea that is gaining strength from a surprisingly diverse coalition of interests.
Speaking of the warming atmosphere, as it interacts with the oceans, can’t help but remind us of the catastrophe in New Orleans that finally pushed global warming front and center on the world stage. According to atmospheric scientists, we can expect more such mayhem in coming years. Sheril at The Intersection reflects on the coming of the big storm Sidr to the coast of Bangladesh, perhaps the single region in the world most vulnerable to rising sea level and storms. This, alarmingly, would appear to be the shape of things to come.
The fossil-fuel based global economy takes its toll on the oceans and coasts in other ways as well. Rick at Malaria, Bedbugs, Sea Lice, and Sunsets (try saying that ten times fast!) reports on a first-hand look at one of them, as he plowed through the recent oil spill in San Francisco Bay on his daily ferry commute across the Bay (ah, sounds so idyllic on any other day).
Hard to get away from petroleum these days. Another new entry to the Carnival comes from Paul at the Waterlogged Dog, with a summary of the alarming state of plastic pollution in the oceans. Mr. McGuire was right when he confided to young Dustin Hoffmann the one word “Plastics” but, like so many of the great wonders of technology, this miracle substance has turned out to have a pernicious dark side.
And there you have it. All the news that’s soggy enough to print. Remember — you heard it here first (this month at least). Tune in next month for the 8th Carnival of the Blue at I’m a chordata, urochordata. Until then, Best fishes!
- Carnival of the Blue #6: Cephalopodcast
- Carnival of the Blue #5: Shifting Baselines
- Carnival of the Blue #4: The Saipan Blog
- Carnival of the Blue #3: Malaria, Bedbugs, Sea Lice, and Sunsets
- Carnival of the Blue #2: blogfish
- Carnival of the Blue #1: blogfish