Weekly Dive Vol. 80
Keeping Warm in the Cool Depths: Scientists have discovered the first fully warm-blooded fish: the opah, or moonfish. The opah, an increasingly common fish in restaurants and seafood markets, heats its blood by continually flapping its fins. This heated blood circulates throughout the fish’s body, allowing it to stay warmer in the cooler deep ocean. According to scientist Nicholas Wegner of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), “That warm-blooded advantage turns the opah into a high-performance predator that swims faster, reacts more quickly and sees more sharply.” The findings were first published by NOAA on Tuesday.
Photo by NOAA Fisheries West Coast, Creative Commons License
Smart and Sociable: A recent study by the Florida Atlantic University has confirmed the belief that dolphins are not only one of the cleverest animals on the planet, but also one of the most outgoing. According to researchers at the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute (HBOI), dolphins have elaborate networks of friends. The study focused on the interactions between bottlenose dolphins in the Indian River Lagoon in Florida over six and a half years, throughout which the dolphins exhibited both preference and avoidance behaviors, just like humans. The sea-faring mammals spend more time with the individuals they like and steer clear of those they don’t.
A Measure of Icy Good News: Researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography have determined that Arctic sea ice loss is likely to be reversible, despite the staggering amount of melted ice throughout the polar region. This study is not to say that sea ice will return, but rather that it can. With a concerted effort, change can happen to reverse the melting and allow the ice to return, providing a home for our furry bear friends up north.
Microscopic on the Macro Scale: There are nearly double the types of plankton in the ocean than previously thought, according to a research mission by Tara Oceans. A global expedition that collected samples from the ocean floor brought back data that will take over a decade to fully analyze, but initial reports put into perspective the sheer amount of microscopic organisms in the oceans: about 95% of marine biomass is made up of plankton, bacteria and viruses.
Virus Linked to “Melting” Starfish: Scientists recently announced that they have found the culprit behind the mass deaths of sea stars in the Northeast Pacific Ocean. Published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, the study discovered a densovirus to be the most likely cause of the unfortunate deaths. Samples of the virus were found on asteroids dating from 1942, which means that the virus has been present along the North Pacific Coast for 73 years at the least.
Photo: Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
Gabon Announces Underwater Reserve: The African Nation of Gabon has just announced the creation of a new underwater reserve area, off-limits to commercial fishing. The area covers 18,000 square miles, full of humpback whales, dolphins, and turtles. The president of Gabon, Ali Bongo Ondimba, made an announcement in Sydney that about 23% of its coastal waters will be part of the reserve: "Today I can announce our decision to create a network of marine parks covering about 23% of Gabon's territorial waters and EEZ [Exclusive Economic Zone], within which no commercial fishing will be allowed.”