Science & Technology

  • Narwhal tusks from the far North Atlantic were collected throughout Renaissance Europe as unicorn horns. Only males have these horns, which are, properly speaking, tusks because they are modified teeth. A few rare males have two.
  • The Antarctic Ice fish fills its blood stream with an anti-freeze protein to keep its blood from freezing at sub-zero winter temperatures. (Bill Detrich, US Antarctic Program)
  • The famous clown fish from the movie "Finding Nemo" all start life as males. Only the biggest clownfish in an anemone is a female, and if she disappears, the biggest male turns into a female and takes up her role of egg-layer. (Nick Hobgood, Wikimedia Commons)
  • All deep sea anglerfish are female. This puzzled marine biologists for a century until they found the answer. What was originally thought to be a worm-like parasite dangling from each female was in fact the tiny male, eyeless, jawless, brainless and gutless. His only role is to fertilize her eggs. (Edith Widder)
  • The oldest known creature is a deep sea coral like this one living off the coast of Hawaii. It is 4,270 years old. (NOAA Hawaiian Undersea Research Lab)
  • The Pompei worm lives with its top end at the temperature of ice water in the deep sea, but its tail, a quarter-centimeter away, sits next to a vent of boiling hot water. (NOAA)
  • Humpback whale fins are the biggest and longest of all the whales, but they don’t cause as much drag as once thought because the bumps on the fins actually reduce drag in the water. A new generation of fan blades is using this to increase efficiency as much as 35%. (Steve Zalan)
  • The flying fish does not fly – it glides above the water, trying to stay ahead and above its main predators, such as the mahi mahi. When the flying fish drifts down towards the sea surface, it beats its tail, giving itself the propulsion to stay ahead of its predators…for a while. But sooner or later it must return to the sea.
  • Bowhead whales were only thought to live 50-60 years until harpoon heads like this brass one were found inside scars of living animals. These harpoons have not been thrown at whales for a century, and so these whales must have been far older than previously guessed. Later, researchers invented a new method for telling the age of a whale that confirmed the longevity of bowheads, making them the oldest mammals known.
  • Corals grows large by adding to their height and width slowly day by day. This coral is one of the largest known and lives off the coast of Ta’u in the Samoan Archipelago. It is estimated to be over 1,000 years old. (R. Dunbar)
  • Similar crystals in fish blood can quickly kill them, so they evolved an anti-freeze protein. (John Weller)

Extreme Life of the Ocean

Published August 12, 2014


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