Why does it feel like the ocean is pulling on you when your just standing in the water?

The “pull” of the water that you feel as you stand in the shallows near the shoreline is just moving water rubbing against your skin. So, why is the water moving out to sea near the beach? Several different forces push – or pull – an excess of water up onto the beach, and then it must run back downhill to where it comes to rest at sea level. The flood tides lift water up over the elevated beach and then it ebbs back down and out to sea (the force is lunar gravitation, lifting the water up). Storms beyond the horizon set the water oscillating up and down, sending long waves called “swells” up onto the beach (the force is high barometric pressure pushing the water down, or low barometric pressure pulling the water up). Shorter, choppy waves are pushed toward the beach by the wind (the force is moving air , with friction on the ocean surface moving the water). These swells and waves turn into “breakers” as they reach
the shallows. The breaking waves push water up onto the sand, and as it runs back downhill to rejoin the great ocean basin, you feels it pulling you out to sea.

This post was answered Dr. J.G. McCully, author of Beyond the Moon: A Conversational, Common Sense Guide to Understanding the Tides.

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Do lobsters mate for life?

The male lobster is apparently quite the Casanova. Studies have shown that female lobsters tend to patiently wait in line outside of a male lobster’s den waiting for their turn to mate. One could say lobsters are apparently the ocean’s version of a rock star.

The males really do have all the right moves – for the brief time they do spend together, it is actually rather romantic…

Here is the scenario:

You see all lobsters have to molt (release their shells and grow a new one to be comfortable). Females can only mate right after molting. So, when she is ready to get comfortable in her new shell, the female releases a pheromone (a scent saying she is ready to get comfortable) into the male’s den.

The male then comes outside and the two of them have a boxing match with their claws. The female lets him win and places her claws on his head. Then they move into the den and – in a few hours or a few days – she molts. Then it is time to mate. After that she hangs out until her new shell is strong enough to protect herself – at which point she is ready to go and never looks back.

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Will I really swallow anything living if I gulp saltwater?

You just ingested a plethora of bacteria, exponentially less than that in terms of phytoplankton and then even fewer of zooplankton. Totaling several hundreds of millions of organisms – yup, that were living. Gulp. You will survive though. Just don’t make a habit out of it.

Also, it should be mentioned that there are a substantial amount of ions and elements in saltwater which make it unsuitable to drink on a daily basis. But, accidentally, once in a while after you have been knocked over by a wave – you’ll survive.

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What makes the swirly tracks at the ocean edge?

What I think you are referring to is the trail of a moon snail, or sometimes called a sand snail. This univalve animal has a cinnamon bun swirled shell. The shell is extremely thick to protect itself from the ocean and other animals that may try to eat it.

If you try to pick it up – the animal will resist because of its suction like muscled foot planted in the sand. The snail has that muscled foot which makes it glide quickly through the sand. If you do pick it up and feel resistance – it is ok, the animal will “close its door” – or operculum – and hold in water and nutrients. And, of course, you will put it back right where you found it? Now, it you see some colored legs poking out – that’s a hermit crab. They may pinch – so put it back – quickly. Hermit crabs make their homes out of shells that are no longer homes to other animals…

Lastly, this is type of snail is the one that has the radula which drills into clam shells.

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How much salt is in the ocean?

salt-773845The amount of salt in the ocean, known as ‘salinity’, is a measure of the of the amount of salt dissolved in 1000 grams of water. The amount is expressed as parts per thousands (ppt).

Refractometers are a tool used to measure the amount of salinity in the ocean. The salinity in the ocean is approximately 32 to 35 ppt. Freshwater has a salinity of zero. The estuaries fluctuate their salinity level depending upon the tides. But, it’s always below the open ocean. The poles have a lower salinity because the cold water does not evaporate as fast.

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What does it mean to be a barrier island?

Theoretically, a barrier island is there to protect the mainland from harsh weather.

Barrier islands are a permanently exposed “mountains” from the bottom of the ocean made up of sand and rock and pebble. A lot of barrier islands are developed – as you drive to a barrier island you inevitably cross a bridge that is over an estuary (bay).

Two of my favorite barrier islands are Stone Harbor/Avalon in N.J. and Hutchinson Island in FL.

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How many animals and plants live in the ocean?

(Please note: This post does not give an exact answer to the question.)

It is comparable to the amount of stars in the sky. Especially if you think that 95% of the world’s oceans are unexplored.

That is why in 2000 a huge census of what lives in the ocean started. The Census of Marine Life brings together more than 2,000 scientists from 82 countries try to answer the question. Every so often a report card of their progress is unveiled to the public – and the latest one was this month. It is great – they are always finding new wacky stuff.

Currently, there are about 230,000 known marine creatures that have gone through the process of becoming legitimately described as “unique”. Since 2003 the Census of Marine Life has discovered more than 5,000 new living creatures – But, 111 have been processed as new and unique creatures! The scientists are making remarkable progress.

Here is a brief list of some of the new wacky stuff they have found:

  • An octopi that lives in the deep-sea – unusual since lacks an ink sack like other octopi – you don’t need to ink in the dark, right?
  • Sea stars and sea spiders larger than a bread box.
  • A completely blind lobster species with very unique antennae used for feeling.
  • A brand new orange and black stripped shrimp that lives off the coast of Africa.

This is a link to the most recent progress report – 24 pages – great pictures!

http://www.coml.org/pressreleases/highlights08/coml_highlightsReport08-sm.pdf

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How do fish float?

wikifishblutangThere are a few different answers – depending on what type of fish we are asking about.

The most sophisticated types of fishes – bony fishes – have a swim bladder. These fish can inflate their swim bladder with gas from a special gas gland. The gas is basically oxygen from the fish’s blood. Bony fishes that spend most of their lives on the bottom of the ocean floor (e.g., flounder) don’t have a strong swim bladder – therefore, don’t float.

Sharks, skates, and rays are all types of fish. However, these fishes are more primitive – lacking bones. They stay afloat with a liver filled with oil. They use long pectoral fins for balance in mid-waters while maintaining a light framework. The ‘light framework’ is made up of cartilage (the same material found in our nose and ears).

Image (c) wiki-fish.com. (Yellow Tang – a true bony fish)

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Where do seagulls nest?

It is interesting to think that seagulls may want to rest at some point, but they tend to want to re-energize somewhere safe inland (i.e., old boat yards, rock jetties, water towers, etc.) – not necessarily near the dunes or on the beach. Seagulls are full-grown when they leave the nest. They have to be able to survive outside of the nest and as we know, it’s a cruel, cruel world.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/sparkyleigh/2845858/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/sparkyleigh/2845858/

How do sea spiders distribute nutrients throughout their bodies?

If anyone has ever come upon a sea spider you immediately think – where are its guts and stuff? huge-sea-spiderThe answer is that their stomach, intestines and reproductive parts are housed within the sea spider’s legs. The animal breathes and manages waste by direct diffusion along the surface of it’s bodies. They can be a foot across – but, most types are barely more than 0.05 of an inch across! They do have a global distribution.

Sea spiders are not in the same exact family as other spiders. However, the sea spiders and terrestrial spiders are in a class together…along with one other creature, Horseshoe Crabs! Yup, horseshoe crabs are more directly related to spiders than other types of crabs.

Image (c) sethwhite.org

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