Superlatives of the sea

This past Friday I had a particularly curious and enthusiastic fifth block Oceanography class. All of their questions were marine science related so I broke out some notecards and asked them to write all of their burning inquiries down. I wanted to tackle them thoughtfully … here I am! My students are amazing inspiration and I’m quite grateful to them for some fun reason to get back to writing here.

My most entertaining question was “What’s the most extravagant animal in the ocean?” I mean, there are just so many ways to think on it. I asked on Twitter and got lots of good ideas … Since I spend my days in a high school, I went with some superlative options. These are a few I came up with but I am looking to see what you all might think: Octopus (Most likely to win a Noble Prize in Physics), Frogfish (Most confident), Erect-crested penguin (Coolest hair), Leafy sea dragon (Best dressed), or the Whale shark (Biggest life of the party).

What the most extravagant animal in the sea?

What is the most extravagant animal in the sea?

Please send some other suggestions!

 

 

Are stingrays related to sharks?

English: Various types shown. Taken at Mote Ma...

Image via Wikipedia

Stingrays and sharks are very closely related. They belong to a group of fishes called the elasmobranchs. All elasmobranchs have 1) skeletons made of cartilage (the flexible material that makes up the tip of our nose and ears) and 2) 5-7 gill slits. Elasmobrachs includes sharks, rays, and skates.

It’s not entirely incorrect to think of stingrays as flattened sharks. On the inside, they’re just about the same. There are some animals that blur the lines between the two. Angel sharks and wobbegongs are flat, but they’re not rays. Then there are sawfish (which are rays) and sawsharks (which are sharks). Sharkrays are just plain confused. As a general rule, if the gill slits are on the bottom, it’s a ray. If they’re on the side, it’s a shark.

Jim Wharton
Vice President, Education Division, Director, Center for School and Public Programs, Mote Marine Laboratory

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What is the biggest fish in the sea?

Picture taken at Georgia Aquarium, pictured is...

Image via Wikipedia

The whale shark is the biggest fish on the planet. The largest whale shark measures about 66 feet long and 74,957 pounds.

Not to be confused with the blue whale, a mammal, which is the largest animal on the planet. The largest blue whale measured about 110 feet and up to 400,000 pounds!

The whale shark got its name because the shark’s mouth is shaped just like baleen whales. Baleen whales and whale sharks both munch on krill. For being the largest fish in the sea the whale shark is surprisingly affable to divers and known as a relaxed fish.

How are ‘whale sharks’ and ‘whales’ different?

Whales are mammals, just like people, and must breathe air. Dolphins, seals, porpoises, otters (and some people say, polar bears) are mammals that live in the ocean (ie., marine mammals).

Another difference is that mammals raise their young. Whale sharks give live birth like mammals, but, move on right after and don’t raise them. Most other fish do lay eggs.

Fish also have gills to breathe underwater, unlike mammals that must come up to the surface of the ocean and breathe air.

Have another great question for me? Just shoot me an email at info@beachchairscientist.com. Thanks!