Ho, ho, ho! Look who’s coming to town … it’s the bearded seal!

The rather short snout with thick, long, white whiskers gives this true seal it’s appropriate common name. The bearded seal (Erignathus barbatus) can be as long 8 feet and weigh up to 800 pounds. I guess now we know what idiom they use under the sea instead of “the 800 pound gorilla in the room …”. These seals tend not to be seen in packs like their more social counterparts we view along harbors.

Bearded seals spend most of their lives in the Arctic waters, although one was recently found in southeast Florida. They enjoy feasting on arctic cod, shrimp, clams, crabs, and octopus and have been known to live up to 25 years. For more information on the conservation efforts and status of the bearded seal population please check out this page created by the NOAA Fisheries Service Office of Protected Resources.

Adult bearded seal by by wildlife photographer Paul Souders

Adult bearded seal by by wildlife photographer Paul Souders

Image (c)  www.telegraph.co.uk

Why don’t fish freeze in the Arctic Ocean?

Fish species that frequent the cold temperatures of the Arctic Ocean (e.g., toothfish, cod, ice fish, etc.) have special ‘antifreeze’ proteins within their blood stream that enables them not to freeze in the cold waters of the northern hemisphere. This discovery was made about 50 years ago.

Recently, scientists from the Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany discovered how these proteins work. In the presence of the proteins, water molecules in the blood stream act in a more uniform fashion and are more particular about the bonds that they create. Whereas without the antifreeze proteins, water molecules just create haphazard bonds. Now we understand why fish can survive in the temperatures of the polar oceans which are below what should freeze fish blood.

The scientists made this discovery by using a technique called terahertz radiation on an Antarctic toothfish, Dissostichus mawsoni.

Journal reference:
Simon Ebbinghaus, Konrad Meister, Benjamin Born, Arthur L. DeVries, Martin Gruebele, Martina Havenith. Antifreeze Glycoprotein Activity Correlates with Long-Range Protein−Water Dynamics. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2010; : 100816142208022 DOI: 10.1021/ja1051632

Image (c) wikimedia.com