What is sea glass?

Sea glass can be thought of as a well traveled piece of history. The hard substancesseaglass that you find have spent a considerable amount of time floating in the ocean. It has been tumbling along the sand and water for so long that that the glass, slate or what have you, has been polished by the sand grains.

Usually the brightly colored pieces are collected quickly by beachcombers. If you spend time investigating the wrack line you will surely discover some more subtle pieces – if you are lucky you will find some with faded descriptions of their original containers.

Photo (c) freefoto.com

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Why do we have life guards?

According to the Discovery Health Channel, it is estimated that 1 in 3 beach goers do not know how to swim. The rational is that if you were not taught as a child then there is a hesitation to learn to swim as an adult.

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Why does a sea urchin attach seashells to itself?

You may not notice it, but sea urchins have very thin tube-like suction cup feet, just like their close relative the sea stars. These feet are useful to grasp onto pieces of seashells, pebbles, or seaweed to disguise the sea urchin from other nearby predators.

Click on this post to see what eats a sea urchin.

But we’ve only scratched the surface here. Check back often at http://www.beachchairscientist.com for more insight about your favorite beach discoveries.

Is there any fish species closely related to mermaids?

As paleontologically-inclined artist and author Ray Troll likes to say, people—and by extension, all mammals—are just really complicated fish. Since mermaids are widely believed to be the optimistic misapprehension of common manatees by sadly sea-addled sailors, the fish species most closely related to mermaids would be…well…us, mammals.

Jim Wharton
Vice President, Education Division, Director, Center for School and Public Programs, Mote Marine Laboratory

Do all ocean animals swim together in schools?

Nope, here is a short list of terms used to describe certain groups of ocean animals when they congregate together.

Jellyfish swim in a smack.
Whales swim in a pod.
Herring swim in a seige.
Penguins walking together on land is called a waddle.

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What is the largest bony fish in the ocean?

Not to be confused with the question, “What is the biggest fish in the sea?” the largest bony fish in the ocean is the ocean sunfish. The biggest fish in the sea is the whale shark, but, sharks do not have bones, they have cartilage. Cartilage is the bendy material that makes up our noses and ears.

Ocean sunfish are made up of bones, just like us. They can be up to 2-3 tons (2000 pounds makes up a ton).

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What do you call a person that collects sea shells?

In the most amateur sense you would call yourself a shell collector…However, considering the fact that you are not just collecting for the sake of collecting (although you may be), but to study the specimens (even if it may be in the most primitive sense), therefore, you can call yourself a conchologist.

A person that studies sea shells is called a conchologist.

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How can you tell if that fin bobbing up and down in the distance belongs to a dolphin or a porpoise?

From far away you can probably only see the fin, right? The Atlantic bottlenose dolphin will have a dorsal fin that is hooked while the Atlantic Harbor Porpoise will have a triangular dorsal fin. If you are closer you will see other differences. For instance, the dolphin is about 7-12 feet as an adult while the porpoise gets to be about six feet. Also, the porpoise has a rather blunt nose while the dolphin has a much more pronounced, almost bottle-shaped, nose. Lastly, the porpoise is usually darker in color than the dolphin. Do you have another great question? Check out www.beachchairscientist.com and let us know what you always ponder while digging your toes in the sand!

What makes up the ‘salt’ in salt water?

I am writing this as a very long overdue expansion to a post that I wrote November 25, 2008,  “What happens if I swallow salt water?“. The pertinent information lacking was the composition of the salt in salt water (my sincerest apologies).

The salt in salt water is:

  • 77.6% table salt;
  • 10.88% magnesium chloride;
  • 4.74% epson salts;
  • 3.60% calcium sulfates;
  • 2.47% potassium sulfates;
  • 0.34% lime; and
  • 0.51% trace minerals.

(Did you know that a lot of cities are now using a form of magnesium chloride on roadways instead of rock salt during icy conditions? It is not as toxic to nearby plants and waters.)

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What do you do if you see a marine mammal stranded?

Keep calm. Also, remain at least 100 feet back so as not to scare the animal back into the ocean. If the animal is injured you want to be sure to get experts there immediately to investigate. If you are on the Atlantic coast call one of the following members of the Northeast Stranding Center.

Maine:
College of the Atlantic (207) 288-5015
University of New England-Hot Line (207) 580-0447

Massachusetts, New Hampshire & Maine:
New England Aquarium (617) 973-5247

Connecticut & Rhode Island:
Mystic Marinelife Aquarium (860) 572-5955

New York:
Riverhead Foundation (631) 369-9829

New Jersey:
Marine Mammal Stranding Center (609) 266-0538

Delaware:
Marine Education, Research and Rehabilitation Inst.(302) 228-5029

Maryland:
Cooperative Oxford Laboratory (800) 628-9944
National Aquarium in Baltimore (410) 408-6633

Washington, DC:
Smithsonian Institute (202) 357-1923

Virginia:
Virginia Institute of Marine Science (866) 493-1085
Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center (757) 437-6159

Typically you can volunteer at a stranding center. This would involve being available for crowd control and keeping the animal damp with towels during the interim time when an animal is spotted until experts can show up to diagnosis the animal. You must be properly trained before you become a proper marine mammal stranding volunteer.

For more information check out the place I volunteered during my old undergraduate days: http://www.marinemammalstrandingcenter.org/main.htm

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