How do female terrapins navigate to a nesting site?

The answer is “very carefully”.250px-Diamondback_Terrapin

Female terrapins need to look for a spot above the high tide line to lay a nest for their eggs (They lay on average 2 clutches of approximately a dozen eggs each summer).

The challenge is getting to a spot on the beach above the high tide line (dunes are usually the best spot) all the way from the estuaries (a.k.a. bays – spots where fresh and saltwater mix).

Terrapins lay their eggs at all times of day and night so you may see them venturing from the bay to the beach at anytime.

All too often you may see female terrapins crushed on the side of the road since a motorist was not paying attention as the female tried to make her way from the bay to the beach or back again. A good idea is to stop your car and let the terrapin continue across the road in the direction she was headed.

For more information check out the Northern Diamondback Terrapin Association.

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Image (c) Wikipedia Commons.

Happy Birthday, Beach Chair Scientist!

Today marks the one year anniversary of the first Beach Chair Scientist post!

Thank you all so much for all of your amazing contributions. Without your insightful inquiries the forum would not be nearly as entertaining.

To mark this occasion I thought we would simply count down the top ten most visited posts over the past year.

10. What are jellyfish? from July 21, 2008

9. What is the biggest fish in the sea? from November 18, 2008

8. What are those tiny colorful clams? from July 23, 2008

7. What are those tiny black pods with tendrils hanging on the ends? from October 24, 2008

6. How much salt is in the ocean? from November 22, 2008

5. What eats sea urchins? from September 10, 2008

4. How do sea spiders get their nutrients? from November 21, 2008

3. How many plants and animals are in the ocean? from November 21, 2008

2. Do lobsters mate for life? from November 24, 2008

1. Why are horseshoe crabs amazing? from July 13, 2008

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How do fish know where to find food?

This is amazing! It was just discovered that the nine-spined stickleback fish (found in the UK) uses a technique called “hill climbing” to select the place where to be most successful for finding food. Basically, the fish stands aside and watched other fish and their feeding habits to learn from their successes and challenges! Read more at: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090616205515.htm

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What is shark finning?

Basically, there is a very high demand for the fins of sharks in China for a soup. The current practice is to cut off the fins off sharks and toss the body back into the ocean.

The shark does not grow a fin back like a seastar would regenerate an arm.

The shark will not be able to swim and not be able to have oxygen over its gills.

The shark will die.

Some may say sharks have a reputation that might grant this type of control. However, they only produce a few young every one or two years and take up to ten years to even be mature enough to make babies.

Sharks populations are being fished at rates above a safe biological limit. Sharks are crucial top predators in the ocean ecosystem. Without sharks at a stable population the balance of the sea is at stake.

Please visit this page for information on how to stop the practice of shark finning:   www.change.org/oceanconservancy/actions/view/stop_shark_finning

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 or send an e-mail to beachchairscientist@gmail.com!

What is a barnacle?

This is the first post I’ve answered directly from my phone (Please excuse the brevity). Barnacles are crustaceans. Other crustaceans include crabs and lobsters. Barnacles are a type of crustacean that are permanently attached to a solid surface. Also, what is obviously missing is the sensory parts, such as eyes and feelers. Up close, you should be able to recognize that barnacles have the same bony plates that you find on crabs and lobster.

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What is seaweed used for?

Agar is a form of red algae. It can be used as the agar gel that lines the bottom of scientists petri dishes. Agar is also a stabilizer for some foods, including ice cream (not Breyers’). It is also a stabilizer in cosmetics and paint.

Carrageen, from a red algae called Irish moss, is also used in food. It helps in foods that needs ingredients to be suspended prior to refrigeation. For instance, it is in chocolate milk to make certain the chocolate does not sink to the bottom.

Kelp, a leafy green algae found in the Pacific, is used as a fertilizer in some parts of the world.

Betcha didn’t know many different types of seaweeds have been used in medicine that help treat tuberculosis, arthritis, influenza, the common cold and some worm infections.

Also, algae is a major source of oxygen and the very important beginning of the ocean food chain.

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Why are horseshoe crabs essential to biotechnology?

First of all, let’s chat biotechnology, or, ‘biotech’, as those in the industry call it.

The concept of biotech has been around for ages, just, not given the fancy term. For instance, planting seeds to produce food, fermenting juice for wine and churning milk into cheese are all processes that use some derivative of a plant or animal to benefit mankind. In the biotechnology and pharmaceutical fields of today, the Atlantic horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus) blood is a very important component in the process for testing drugs that can benefits humans.

Their blood is used for the  Limulus Amebocyte Lysate (LAL) test is used to test for gram negative bacteria contamination in certain products before being released to the public. Horseshoe crab blood cells (amoebocytes) attach to harmful toxins produced by some types of gram negative bacterias. What is unique with the LAL, is that LAL does not distinguish between living or dead gram negative bacteria and detects either.

You do not want anything with a gram negative bacteria contamination. Gram negative contamination include: Escherichia coli, Salmonella, Neisseria meningitidis, Hemophilus influenzae, Klebsiella pneumonia.

The blood of the horseshoe crab has this unbelievable property where it will congeal in the presence of either living or dead gram negative bacteria (both are undesirable). This adaptation has never been able to be duplicated and consequently horseshoe crabs are often captured to have their blood drained and then released, all in the name of science.

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5 fun facts about seahorses

English: Hippocampus zosterae at the Birch Aqu...

English: Hippocampus zosterae at the Birch Aquarium, San Diego, California, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  1. The female lays her eggs in the male’s tummy pouch, he then incubates them for about 30 days, then they hatch.
  2. Seahorses do not have a stomach; they eat constantly to help get enough food to digest.
  3. Seahorses do not have teeth; they have a fused jaws, so they kind of suck up their food like a straw.
  4. Seahorses can be an inch to a foot more in size.
  5. Seahorse species vary in monogamy.

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Is there seaweed in ice cream?

Some products need a little something extra to basically hold it together. Certain ice creams, lip sticks and even beer use a derivative of red seaweed, called carrageenan, to emulsify the products.

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Are horseshoe crabs dangerous?

No. I mentioned in the very first BCS blog entry that the horseshoe crab is a “sweetheart of an animal” and I will continue to defend that statement. Some people may think that the tail spine, or telson, is poisonous. What the telson is simply used for is to flip the animal over when a wave turns it onto its carapace. The tip of the telson is jabbed into the sand and the horseshoe crab rights itself over, somewhat like the act of throwing a javelin.

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!