New ‘marine life encyclopedia’ launched

I think there might be another great bookmark to add to your ocean facts files! Please spend some time reviewing this great new resource, a marine life encyclopedia, compiled by Oceana. Over 500 creatures, places, and concepts can be explored. The pictures are bright and colorful and the information is up-to-date and easy to digest. It seems fantastic if you want a quick answer to a question.

Even if you think you know all the answers, test yourself with this Ocean IQ quiz!

The content on the marine life encyclopedia site has been licensed to Dorling Kindersley, one of the world’s leading educational publishers.

5 facts about fish farming

Fish farming on Lake Titicaca.

Image via Wikipedia

Here are five facts about the glory and challenges of fish farming. Fish farming and aquaculture has really stepped up due to the demand for the world’s fish consumption, but maybe not in the most sustainable manner like Linda Thornton.

1.) It’s polluting our water

It seems as though large fish farm like to cram fish to live in very tight spaces. A large amount of fish would lead to a large amount of waste produced by the fish. Also, the unfavorable conditions often lead to disease. Fish farmers tend to treat the disease and infection with harmful antibiotics which further harm the surrounding waterways.

2.) It brings untested chemicals to your dinner plate

It seems as though many of the antibiotics used to treat diseases on foreign fish farms are commonly made of chemical banned in the US. Since there is no regulation often these harmful chemicals make their way to your dinner table.

3.) It’s tearing apart mangroves

Shrimp farmers are tearing apart the mangroves to make way for their new crop of this popular crustacean. However, this destroys a delicate nursery ground for many local fish species. In turn this depletion in resources severely affects local economies. What makes matters worse is that often these shrimp farms are abandoned in order to find better producing areas.

4.) It’s often counter-productive

Fish farms can be tough to maintain, especially for salmon and other carnivorous species. They tend to eat more food than they actually produce! This is turn leads to a lot of waste that can disturb the balance of the surrounding waterways.

5.) It does good things!

Some fish farms raise species that are actually clear out pollutants from the water. Bivalves (oysters, mussels, etc.) are filter feeders and cleanse their aquatic habitat! Also, tilapia are herbivores and do not require as much input as the carnivorous farmed fish need.

D.C. embraces giant quahogs!

A few days ago the Washington Post announced that the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. is now home to 10 giant clams of the species Tridacna crocea. You may think the National Zoo is a peculiar place for clams especially since the National Aquarium now has a branch in D.C., however the clams are suitably placed in the invertebrate exhibit and I highly recommend you spend time there if you ever make it to the National Zoo. It is one of the quieter exhibits, housed in air conditioning (what’s not to love about that?), and has an exhibit for chambered nautilus, a BCS species favorite.

With all that being said, it seems as though if you want to learn about T. crocea, smallest of all the giant clams species, you’ll have to come to D.C. (or simply read the article in the Post linked above)!

So, I am going to take this opportunity to brief you on a real giant clam. This posts features the largest and most elaborately colored of all the giant clam species, Tridacna gigas (pictured right). This being the largest of all living bivalves, T. gigas holds it own at a whooping 500 lbs, 3 ft 10 in length and 30 in wide. The average male American black bear is about that size. At 500 lbs, it’s no wonder they cannot shut their two shells together (It’s like when I to pack for a weekend vacation).

These hermaphrodites, found in the Indo-Pacific, are planktonic when young and sessile as adults. The diet of these placid creatures is algae as they are filter feeders.

There is concern among conservationists that T. gigas is being exploited as they are harvested for food (a delicacy in Japan) and is a popular acquisition in the aquarium trade.

I wonder what creature would win if pitted against each other: the giant clam, T. gigas, or the largest sea urchin, Sperosoma giganteum? Maybe that deserves further thought in a future post.
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Image (c) manandmollusc.net.

It’s as easy as A, B, Sea: V for Veliger

Veliger is the stage of a mollusk’s life prior to it becoming an adult. This is after it goes through the trochophore larva stage. During the veliger stage a mollusk develops its swimming membrane.

Image (c) pbs.org

It’s as easy as A, B, Sea: Q for Queen Conch

Strombus gigas = Eustrombus gigas

Image via Wikipedia

Queen conch (Strombus gigas) is a marine snail or gastropod. If you’ve ever eaten conch fritters you understand why conch is a staple food source in the Caribbean and Florida.

The shell of a queen conch thickens and grows as it ages. They get to be about 3-5 years of age and grow up to 12 inches long.

Learn more about the queen conch here.

It’s as easy as A, B, Sea: L for Limpet

Limpets are small, flattened snails with a conical shell that live on rocks in the intertidal zone. They trap water beneath their shell and use it to survive from high tide to low tide.

Image (c) wordsmith.org

It’s as easy as A, B, Sea: C for Chitin

Chitin (kai-tin) is the main material for 1) the exoskeleton of shrimp, crabs and lobsters, 2) the beak of squid and octopi and 3) the radula of mollusks. It is very similar in make up to glucose and similar in function to keratin (which is what makes up our hair, skin and nails).

Happy as a clam

Lately everyone has been asking me how the junior Beach Chair Scientist is doing and I often find myself saying, “Oh! She’s as happy as a clam!” It occurred to me that I didn’t fully understand the expression since clams are not known to smile. I did some research and found out that the phrase originates from parts of New England where clams are a plenty. Also, the phrase is better understood in its entirety, “Happy as a clam at high water.” You see, at high tide clams can avoid there predators in the water so they are quite happy indeed! So next time someone says they are “happy as a clam” you can say … “did you know?” cause everyone loves that kind of person, right?

Image (c) civin.org

Test your knowledge: What am I?

I am a bivalve that grows in the Atlantic Ocean. I do have several species closely related to me that live in freshwater. I am very closely related to clams and oysters. I tend to grow to about 4 inches long. I live in colonies and attach to bulkheads, rope and rocks very easily. To do this I use a sticky protein, called byssus, that forms tough yellow fibers that harden in salt water. My inside is often pearly iridescent and my outside is a blueish black color. I use my gills to filter water to get food and oxygen which  I need to survive. I am very tasty steamed with garlic and butter.

Here are some pictures of me:

Images (c) top: maggiesfarm.anotherdotcom.com, middle and bottom: Beach Chair Scientist.

Are the fried scallops at the take-out place really scallops?

These days – Absolutely! In past decades it was not uncommon to substitute succulent scallops with shark or the wings of a sting ray. The scallop industry has been thriving since 1970’s and this has not been the norm. How can you tell? Real scallops will break apart very easily when separated, also, the meat will be lengthwise.

Do you have another great question? Check out www.beachchairscientist.com and let us know!