Have you watched Ocean Frontiers yet?

Ocean Frontiers is a movie you cannot miss the opportunity to watch. If not because you are genuinely interested in a film that outlines the transition of thought from the “the outlook is grim for the future of the ocean” to “there is a light at the end of the tunnel for our ocean“, then watch it because it’s always a pleasure to view any work of art that is clearly a labor of love as this obviously was for producers Ralf and Karen Meyer.

The movie takes you across the country (Washington State, New England, the Gulf of Mexico) and shares stories of the movement of scientists, farmers, fishermen, government agencies, and businesses as they come together for long-term solutions with the understanding that there is prosperity through preservation. Now that “jellyfish are often the catch of the day”, “many of the largest fish have been caught”, and “most of the world’s coral reefs are bleached and dying” there is recognition that the “sea is not boundless”.

Below is a clip from the movie illustrating how the Florida Keys were transformed and revitalized through this attitude of cooperation and that the mentality that the long-term outlook is best for all. How I loved watched this part as it reminded me of my days in Florida for graduate school!

Sink your teeth into this: 20 facts about shark teeth

Are you ready to sink your teeth into Shark Week 2012? Here are 20 facts about shark teeth to get you started. Discovery Channel’s annual event looks like it will quite the extravaganza  for its 25th year. Andy Samberg from Saturday Night Live has been brought in as the official ‘chief shark officer‘. I have my reservations about the summer ritual now as a marine conservationist (Read this article I resonated with last year “Should Shark Week Focus On Conservation?” from Care2.org), but love that it’s an event that brings people together and creates an interest in the marine ecosystem. I have many fond memories of my brothers, parents, and I slowing down at the end of summer to watch sharks in a way we never could from the shoreline.

1. Shark teeth are not attached to gums on a root like our teeth.
2. Sharks typically lose at least one tooth per week.
3. Sharks lose their teeth because they may become stuck in prey or broken and forced out.
4. Shark teeth are arranged in neat conveyor belt rows and can be replaced within a day of losing one.
5. Sharks average out to 15 rows of teeth in each jaw. Although most have 5 and then there is the bull shark that has 50 rows of teeth.
6. Shark teeth are popularly found as beach treasures because sharks shed 1000s of teeth in a lifetime. Although, don’t get yourself in trouble if you decide to collect them. Recently, over 2,400 shark teeth were confiscated from a passenger in India (shark teeth are an illegal import prohibited under the Wild Life Protection Act of 1972).
7. Well after a shark dies and its body decomposes its teeth will fossilize.
8. Fossilized shark teeth are not white because they are usually covered with sediment (which prevents oxygen and bacteria from getting to them).
9. It takes about 10,000 years for a shark tooth to fossilize. The most commonly found shark teeth fossils are from 65,000 year ago (the Cenozoic era).
10. Venice, FL (on the Gulf of Mexico) calls itself the “shark tooth capital of the world”.
11. Sharks are born with complete sets of teeth and swim away from their mother to fend for themselves.
12. A shark’s tooth shape is dependent upon its diet. For instance, the shortfin mako razor like teeth tear flesh, the tiger shark has piercing teeth to cut flesh, and the zebra shark has dense flattened teeth because it feasts upon mollusks.
13. Whale sharks have 3,000 little teeth that are of little use. They’re filter feeders that find food by sifting through their gills.
14. The tooth of the megalodon range from 31/2 – 7 inches long and can weigh more than a pound!
15. Shark teeth were recently discovered to contain fluoride.
16.  Sharks do not suffer from cavities.
17. The inside of shark and human teeth contains a soft mineral known as dentin.
18. The coating of shark teeth is acid resistant and less water soluble than our teeth.
19. Shark teeth and human teeth are equally as hard.
20. Even though many sharks have sharp teeth that could inflict a wound to humans, sharks should always be treated with respect.

Image (c) http://www.fancynancypantsinct.blogspot.com

How much salt is in the ocean? Revisited

In late 2008, I wrote a very simple post explaining ‘salinity’ and the overall general amount of salt in the ocean. Now, with new data being collected by NASA (in a joint mission with Argentina) using the Aquarius instrument aboard a satellite, Satélite de Aplicaciones Científicas, we are able to more completely understand “How salty is the sea?” The satellite measures  the “brightness temperature” of the top centimeter layer of ocean waters.

June 10, 2012 marked was the one year anniversary this satellite has been in orbit. In the past year many finding have been confirmed using three sensors to collect approximately 3.6 million measurements (300,000 measurements per month)! For instance, 1) the Atlantic ocean is saltier than the Pacific ocean, 2) long rivers are responsible for massive plumes of freshwater that extend far into the sea (e.g., Mississippi River carry lots of freshwater into the Gulf of Mexico, the Kissimmee River, Lake Okeechobee, and the Everglades flowing into the Florida Keys region), and 3) rainfall along the equator’s rainforest create a significantly more diluted ocean than we once previously had envisioned.

Trivia question: Can anyone tell me the what you call the body of water where freshwater from rivers mix with the salty ocean water?

Check out the maps of the Saltiness of the Earth’s Ocean from Our Amazing Planet.

What is red tide?

a red tide

a red tide (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

About six years ago I went to a wedding on the Gulf of Mexico which was extraordinary except for the occurrence of red tide. Don’t get me wrong, the guests and bride and groom all had a fabulous time despite the red tide. How did it affect us? We were not permitted to swim in the ocean and made the best out of it by playing run the bases on the beach. We could only do this for a little while since it actually affected our breathing and so we took a lot of breaks for margaritas.

It got me wondering what is a red tide? From my research it seems that red tides are not always red and have nothing to do with tides. Scientists are trying to wash away the term red tide and use the term harmful algae bloom (HAB) which explains a bit better about what happens during these occurrences. During a HAB on the Gulf of Mexico there is a high concentration of microscopic marine algae known as Karenia brevis. This is not the only algal culprit to an HAB, but, it is the most frequent. In the Gulf of Mexico the algae Alexandrium fundyense has been known to cause serious damage to local fisheries. In low concentrations these algae is not harmful. But, with high concentrations fish suffocate after it paralyzes their central nervous system. Also, many shellfish that filter water can accumulate the toxins and become inedible to eat.

How harmful algal blooms occur is still under debate. It can be a natural or man-made occurrence.

Do you have another great question? Email info@beachchairscientist.com and let me know what you always ponder while digging your toes in the sand!