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.

Do you have another great question? Email me at info@beachchairscientist.com.

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

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.

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!

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.

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!

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.

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!

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.

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!

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!

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

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!

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.

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!

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