Ask a Marine Scientist:

answers to General Biology questions!

Index To Questions


History of Marine Biology
Jeanne Villepreux-Power
Eugenie Clark
Pioneer killer whale research


Experimental and control groups
Names of Marine Biologists
Marine Biology Tools
Diving and Flying
Ocean Food Chain
Tools and Experiments
Diving off Belize
Cold Water Aquaria
Living underwater
Chemistry in biology
Importance of math in marine biology
Safety Issues


"N" organism
Q, U, X & Z sea words
Bioluminescence vs. Phosphorescence
Bioluminesence in detail
Food Web
Fastest water-dwelling animal
Fastest land animals
Unknown marine species
Evolutionary Adaptations of Marine Animals
Fastest Marine Animal
Marine Fouling Organisms
Chalk Forming Protists
Flying Ocean Animals
Planktonic and Nektonic organisms
Freshwater vs. Salt water
Electric Blue Waves

OnLine Marine Biology Textbook
Biology Career Questions
Tidepool Exploration Regulations
Tidepool Resource Material
Abstracts on the Internet
Reference Material Search
Most Important Ocean Aspects
Marine Item Donation Required
Best Marine Encyclopedia


Brief History of Marine Biology - received from Victoria in Massachusetts

Q: When was marine biology first established? Why? Who started marine biology? Where? What type of training is needed to enter the field of marine biology?

A. There is no real date or location that we can point to and say "marine biology started here." Like many other fields of study, it exists as a continuum, spanning thousands of years. The sea was an important resource for early coastal peoples, so they surely gathered large amounts of knowledge of local marine animals and plants, and passed it on verbally. The harpoon was developed over 10,000 years ago and by 5000 B.C., copper fish hooks were in use.

Science, as a way of examining, thinking about, and describing the natural world, developed throughout the 1600 -1700's during the Scientific Revolution. It could be argued that marine biology, along with other scientific pursuits, started during this time, though generally, scientists did not specifially classify themselves as "physicists" or "biologists" or "chemists". Indeed, even today many scientists who study the biology of marine organisms do not pigeonhole themselves as "marine biologists".

Early explorers often examined marine life during their voyages. John Ross (1777-1856) took bottom samples containing worms and other organisms during his search for the Northwest Passage. Sir James Clark Ross (1800-1862) took samples of the marine life
around the Antarctic. Countless other explorers contributed to the scientific knowledge of marine life in this early period, though of course the local peoples of these areas also possessed knowledge of the marine flora and fauna.

Charles Darwin, during his voyage of the "Beagle" from 1831-1836, collected, described and classified many organisms from both land and sea. About the same time, Edward Forbes began a survey of marine life around Britain and the Meditteranean. Johannes Muller
collected and examined the tiny plants and animals of the plankton, beginning in 1846. Biologists at that time (as well as today!) were interested in a wide variety of plants and animals, both on land and in the sea.

Today, marine biology is a very wide field, and includes people with diverse backgrounds. One does not go to "marine biology school" in order to study marine plants and animals. Most people that you might call a marine biologist have general biology degrees, and have often specialized in a particular organism or system in graduate school. See our information on Marine Science Careers in the OceanLink pages for more information about what training is needed to enter the general field of marine science.



Jeanne Villepreux-Power - Received from Natalie in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Q: I am interested in finding out information on Jeanne
Villepreux-Power,a French female marine biologist.(1794-1871)
As I understand, she was the first, in marine biology to create and use aquariums for experimentation. I was wondering in someone could expand and possibly suggset some alternate sources of information. Thank You, Natalie Hayslip

A: I'm not sure where you've already looked for information, but there is a short biography of Jeanne Villepreux-Power on the website entitled "4000 Years of Women in Science". The biography lists some references that you might be interested in.



Eugenie Clark - Received from Nova Scotia

Q: We are doing a novel written by Eugenie Clark an Icthologist in the U.S.A. The class is looking for information about her Thanks?

A: Eugenie Clark is an ichthyologist who began her studies on the behavior and reproductive isolating mechanisms of fresh-water aquarium fishes. She latercombined her love for diving with study of marine fishes: first hard-hat diving and snorkeling, now using scuba and submersibles, including ROVs.

Currently she has two research programs. One concerns the reproductive behavior, territoriality, and ecology of tropical
sand-dwelling fishes of Papua New Guinea, the Caribbean, and Red Sea. This evolved from her earlier research on the behavior of
garden eels and a shark-repellent "moses sole." Her other project with sharks goes back 3 decades when she first conditioned sharks, training them to press a target to obtain food, then studied their ability to visually discriminate between targets of different shapes and color. She is now studying shark behavior in the deep sea from submersibles at depths of 1,000 to 12,000 feet. In the last 7 years she conducted 71 dives off Grand Cayman, Bermuda, the Bahamas, California, and Japan to study the behavior, movements, and population density of large deep sea fishes.

Dr. Clark has been consultant and/or narrator, co-director, principal in 24 television specials about marine life in the U.S.A., Bermuda, England, Egypt, Israel, Japan, and Mexico. "The Sharks," a National Geographic special (1982) still holds the highest Nielson rating on PBS. "Reef Watch" is the first live underwater TV documentary and the just completed "Search for the Great Sharks" is an IMAX film. She has been the recipient of 3 fellowships, 5 scholarships, 6 medals, and 32 other awards and citations for work in marine biology, conservation, and writing.


Pioneer killer whale research- received from Luke in the Philippines

Q: Please tell me about the pioneered names of researchers studying the killer whales. please email back as soon as possible, thank you for your kind consideration.

A: Here are a couple of influencial researchers of killer whales:

John Ford: PhD thesis in 1978 on orca sounds in Johnstone Straight. He had a revolutionary hypothesis that different pods of whales had individual dialects, and he basically figured out how they communicate, and haw they can learn sounds from each other. Dr. Ford is now the curator of marine mammals at the Vancouver Aquarium.

Micheal Bigg, Paul Spong, and others: 1970s - studied orca behaviour and how they are linked to the movements of salmon in the Pacific Northwest. They found that there were two distinct, independent groups (with different appearance, behaviour, vocal patterns, and feeding strategies) . The two groups are the residents and the transients. More recently, researchers have discovered a third group, the offshores.

Here's a site with more info about the development of whale research in the past 25 years:
Vancouver Aquarium Cetacean Research pages



Experimental and control groups - received from Jennifer in Florida

Q: Please explain experimental and control groups.

A: When you want to answer a question scientifically, (for example, how do snails react when they are in the presence of a crab-predator?), you can observe snails that you find close to and far away from predators, but you won't know that a difference in behaviour among the snails is only due to the presence or absence of a predator - there may be many other factors like food availability, snail size, crab size, water flow, etc. that could explain why the snails behaved differently.

In an experiment, you can control for all of these factors, so you can tell that the only reason that the snails act differently is because of something you changed. What you do is set up a whole bunch of tanks, exactly the same in all respects. In half of these tanks, you add a snail and a predator and observe snail behaviour. These are the experimental groups. In the other half of the tanks, you add snails but no predators and observe how snails react in the same conditions without a predator - these are the control groups. The only difference between the control groups and the experimental groups is the presence of a predator. If there is a major difference in behaviour among snails in experimental or control tanks, then it is likely to be because of the one varying factor (called a variable): presence of a predator.

You can find out more about experimental design in a biology text book.



Names of Marine Biologists - Received from Kristy M. in KC, Kansas

Q: I am doing a project at school and we have to have a spacifice scientist to report on,I am very interested in marine biology and hope to work in ne of the fields, but i dont know of eny names.Could you list some for me(Preferably scientists that are still living please)Thanke you for reading my question.

A: There are numerous marine biologists who would be great to write your report on. We have some interviews and links to different marine biologists. Check out the Career Section on the OceanLink website and you will find interviews with living marine biologists that might inspire you. Another place to look on the OceanLink website is information on Eugenie Clark a shark biologist. Another suggestion I have is to check out the Project Seahorse website. This project was started and coordinated by marine biologist Dr. Amanda Vincent from McGill Univeristy in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.



Marine Biology Tools - received from Victoria in Massachusetts

Q: What tools are used in Marine biology?

A. If you've read our career information pages on the OceanLink site, you'll know that marine biology is an incredibly varied field, and people who work in this area do many different things. Because of this, many, many different "tools" are used. Here's one possible list
that does not pretend to be comprehensive!

Pencils, paper,buckets, stopwatch, rubber boots, rain gear, calipers, measuring tape, binoculars, camera, plankton net, all sorts of fishing and collecting gear and apparatus, radio-tracking equipment, hydrophone and tape recorder, SCUBA gear, general laboratory equipment, DNA laboratory equipment, electronic equipment, microscopes, small boats, large ships, submersibles, computers, specialized computer software and hardware, books and journals, BRAINS!



Diving and Flying - received from Ashley

Q: Is it true if you go deepsea scuba diving and before 24 hours is up you got on an airplane, would you die?

A. You're correct in the fact that you should not fly in an airplane if your have been SCUBA diving within a 24 hour period. It is not guaranteed to be fatal, however! To understand why this is so, you have to know that when a SCUBA diver is underwater, she is
breathing air that is under pressure. If she is at a depth of 30 feet, that is the same as being at a pressure that is two times that of air at sea level. When diving for a time at depth, Nitrogen gas in the breathing air begins to enter the blood at a greater rate that normal. If a diver
were to stay under for a long time, and come up very fast, this nitrogen would be "supersaturated" in the blood, and would form bubbles in the blood. (Sort of like what happens when you open a pop bottle, and all of a sudden, bubbles form) It is these bubbles that cause "the bends" you may have heard of. In a case of the bends, the bubbles get into the small blood vessels of the joints, and cause severe pain. The bends can be very serious, and may require hospitalization or a recompression chamber.

So what about flying? When you fly high up in the sky, the air pressure drops. Airplanes pressurize the cabins, but they are not kept at as high a pressure as sea level. If you have any potential for bubbles to form in your blood (perhaps if you stayed down on your last dive a bit too long), then going up in an airplane would make things worse.

You would get exactly the same result if you were to suddenly drive from sea level up into the mountains after diving.


Diving off Belize (received from Morgan in Wisconsin)

Q: Within the next year I plan to do some diving in the
waters of the Caribbean Sea, off the coast of Belize. I would like
to know what types of shellfish ( lobster,crab,shrimp,etc) can I
expect to encounter at depths between 10 and 40 feet.

A. We would suggest getting your hands on a good field guide to the Caribbean. A guide will tell you not only about the types of crustaceans (the lobster, crab and shrimp that you mention), but also about all of the other animals that you are likely to encounter, such as snails, corals, fish, and hundreds more.

A couple of guides that are excellent for anywhere in the Caribbean, and should be quite easy to find are:

Kaplan, E.H. 1988. A field guide to Southeastern and Caribbean shores. Peterson Field Guide Series # 36

Kaplan, E.H. 1982. A field guide to coral reefs. Peterson Field Guide Series # 27



Cold Water Aquaria - received from Edie in San Francisco

Q: Any suggestions of can I talk to for specific questions on setting up a 180 gal. cold water tank with marine life indigenous to the Northern California coastal waters? Local retail stores usually specialize in tropical aquariums. Can you help?

A. You should probably consult a good aquarium magazine, such as Freshwater and Marine Aquariums. Small retail stores may not specialize in cold water tanks, but there are several hobbyists around North America that are into these type of aquariums. There are articles on how to set up and keep cold water tanks and even advertisements for special chiller devices that can keep the water in your tank cool. Obtaining local marine life for your tank may be a bit more of a challenge, unless you are able to SCUBA dive



Living underwater - Received from Kylah in New Haven.

Q: Have you ever studied if it would be possible for humans to live under the sea? If so, what kind of technology would need to be used? Have you already discovered some ways to deal with this? Do you think that in the future, if the population on earth gets to an overwhelming amount, we could start an ecosystem undersea?

A: Humans have been developing and building underwater habitats since the late 1960's. An example of one of the more recent attempts is the Aquarius habitat, located on Conch Reef off Key Largo, Florida. This underwater research laboratory was developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Undersea Research Center.

The Aquarius habitat consists of an 80 ton pressurized cylindrical chamber located in approximately 60 ft (18m) of water. This chamber measures 43 ft (13 m) long by 9 ft (3 m) in diameter, and contains six bunks, a galley, scientific work space, shower, toilet, microwave, fridge, air conditioning and computers. Marine scientists live and work in this environment for up to 10 days at a time, and must undergo 17 hours of decompression before resurfacing. The Aquarius habitat is not self-sustaining, and requires significantsupport from the surface. Meals are sent down daily in pressure-resistant containers, air is pumped down from the surface, and the safety of the aquanauts (the people who live and work underwater) is monitored continuously by the surface-support crew. The Aquarius habitat costs $1.2 million (American) per year to operate.

The question of whether the human population could develop a sustainable underwater ecosystem is an interesting one. As you would imagine, a lot of expensive technology is required to operate an underwater habitat. And much of the technology required for complete sustainability without surface support is yet to be developed. Another point to consider is the impacts that an undersea human population would have on the oceanic environment. What
would we do with our waste? Would these underwater developments irreparably alter and damage the ecosystem? Do we have a right to take over undersea coastal areas, effectively displacing the marine organisms already living there? This is an interesting topic to think
about, although whether it will ever happen in the future is very difficult to predict. There are already people living for months on end in a space station high above the earth, so its difficult to say what the future will bring!


Chemistry in biology - received from Veronica in England

Q: I am thinking of having a career in the area of Marine Biology, but I would like to know how much chemistry is involved and whether it is vital to have a qualification in it?

A: Chemistry is essential in all biology, marine biology included, and you should definitely take it in high school. Math and physics are also very important to have an understanding in as a scientist. Also, many University programs for biology require you to take courses in chemistry, so it would be good to get the background while you can in high school. If you're interested in Marine Biology though, don't let this scare you off! It's a very rewarding career.


Importance of math in marine biology - received from Kelly in Louisiana

Q: I am doing a report on what I want to be when I grow up for my math class. I am wondering how math is used in marine biology?

A: Math is used in all sciences and so is therefore used everyday by marine biologists. The most important kind of math used by biologists is called "Statistics". Statistics is used to organize and analyse data to prove or disprove a statement. If a researcher's data can is deemed "statistically significant" than their results are good. They have a definite answer to their question. If you are interested in becoming a biologists (marine or otherwise) than be sure to take statistics in college. Look for courses that are aimed at biology like "statistics for life sciences" or "biometrics".
Other than statistics, biologists still use math everyday. When do lab work in physiology they often use formulas to calculate rates of growth, nutrient use, photosynthesis etc. Math is everywhere! Hope this helps!


Ocean Food Chain - received from Emily in Alberta

Q: I need an ocean food chain with 8 animals.

A: The feeding interactions between animals and plants in the ocean are so complex that representing them as a chain is too simplistic. Unlike in terrestrial food chains, each level of a food web shows more and more arrows that go in all directions to show how connected everything is. take a look at the food web page at Oceanlink: ../oinfo/foodweb/foodweb.html
You can if you need to, simplify the web by choosing to ignore some interactions and come up with food chain. For example:

phyplankton->zooplankton->herring->salmon->seal->killer whale decomposers(bacteria) and scavengers (crabs or sea birds) can fit in at all levels.
Try the exercise on the website to draw your own food web. Good luck!


Safety Issues- received on from Stephanie in North Carolina

Q: What are the safety issues you would have to deal with in the feild of marine biology?

A: This is an interesting question. There are many aspects of marine biology, where safety is an issue. Biologists do alot of field work. Working out in the field can always be hazardous and calls for preparedness, common sense and safety awareness. We are often in boats, which means that we all must be trained in safe boat driving and dealing with emergencies (protocol for calling the coast guard etc.). Boating accidents most often involved motor problems or stormy weather. Therefore, we must be good at small engine repair, navigation and wilderness survival. When out in the field, biologists must be constantly prepared for encounters with wild animals. Running into bears, cougars, sharks etc. can be dangerous if you do not know how to react. Biologists also analyze materials in the lab and face all the same hazards that chemists would face. We often deal with noxious chemicals and must observe lab safety guidelines. Eye protection, lab coats, and even breathing masks are often used. With commom sense both in the field and in the lab, accidents are rare for biologists.


Tools and Experiments - received from Court in California

Q: What are some of the tools Marine biologist use? Can you give me a little experiment to try out?

A: There are so many things you can do, but it's important to remember that whatever you decide to do, you don't want to damage any of the organisms or habitats that you are looking at. This is just as important as obtaining the results of an experiment.
A couple of ideas:

Turn over rocks exposed by low tide and look at the animals living under them. Do this in different areas of wave action (compare an area that is relatively wavy during high tide vs an area that is calm and sheltered during high tide). What differences do you see? Are there differences in the number of organisms or the species? (when you are finished observing, turn the rocks over again gently).

Look at several tide pools of various sizes and depths. See if there is a relationship between the kinds of plants and animals living in the tide pools and the size or depth of the pool. You might also want to take a thermometer and measure the temperature of the tide pools as you do this. What do you think this says about organisms and their habitats?

Spend the day at the beach (I know, this sounds horrible!) and see if there are differences in the birds that visit the area in the morning, afternoon and night. If the bird species differ, why do you think they are not the same throughout the day?

As for your question about the tools that marine biologists use, it really depends on what they are studying. It may be important to measure environmental conditions such as light, temperature, salinity, turbidity (cloudiness in the water created by suspended particles) and ion concentration in the water. To do these measurements, we might use tools such as a thermometer, a salinimeter, a secci disc (a black and white checkered disc that is lowered to a depth until it can't be seen) to measure turbidity, and various lab equipment such as filters, beakers, chemicals and pipettes to measure ion concentrations.
In ecological studies, marine biologists may use quadrats (squares of measured area) to look at species composition or biomass within a given area. Boats and SCUBA equipment can be useful tools as well. This is just a short list of things that are used to study the marine environment.



"N" organism - received from Melissa in Kentucky

Q: Colleagues and I are compiling an ABC book for grades 5-12. Our topic is "Ocean Life and we need facts about living organisms, plant or animal, for each letter of the alphabet. Can you help me with an "N" organism? Thanks.

A. Here are a few suggestions for you:

Nautilus (see our recent answer on this animal in the Invertebrates answers section)

Narwhal (an arctic whale with a single "horn" which is actually a tooth)

Nemertean (a type of marine worm)

Nudibranch (beautiful shell-less molluscs)


"Q", "U", "X" "Y" and "Z" sea words - received Feb 8 from Andrew in Calgary

Question: I am in grade 3 and I am writing a sea dictionary for my class. I haven't been able to find any "sea" words (e.g. fish, plants, ships, etc.) that begin with the letters Q, U, X, Y, Z. Could you please find them for me? For each letter I write a short description and draw a picture. My assignment is due Feb. 28, 1997.

A. Hmmmmm. You've given us the difficult letters! Here are some suggestions for you - some are not very well known, but hey, these were tough letters!:

Q: Q.E. II - a very popular ocean liner
Quillfish - a very long, narrow fish in the family Ptilichthyidae
Quahog -a large clam, found on the Atlantic coast

U: Uca - a fiddler crab, found all over the world. In the male, one claw is much larger than the other, and they move this claw up and down to attract mates
Ulva - also called "sea lettuce", it is a green algae that is common in the intertidal zone
Ulla - an Inuit word for the hole in the ice that a seal breaths through

X: Xanthidae - a family of crabs, that includes the Black-clawed crab which is common intertidally in B.C.
Xenobalanus - a barnacle that lives on the skin of whales

Y: Yoldia - a clam that lives in relatively deep water
Yellow shiner - a fish that is typically found around docks and pilings. Also called shiner perch
Yellow-eyed Penguin - a penguin native to New Zealand

Z: Zooplankton (animals that float in the ocean at the mercy of thecurrents. The krill that some whales eat is an example of zooplankton)
Zalophus californianus (the scientific name for the California Sea Lion)



Bioluminescence vs. Phosporescence- Received from Ann in Seattle

Q. What can you tell me about the phosphorescence that you see while paddling or disturbing salt water at night. I was always told that it was caused by a certain type of plankton.

A. "Phosphorescence" is more correctly known as bioluminescence. This means living (bio) light (luminescence). This is light that is biologically produced and is caused when a light-emitting molecule, called luciferin, is mixed with an enzyme, luciferase, in the presence of oxygen. (The light produced in bioluminescence looks very similar to the light produced when phosphorous is exposed to oxygen. Thus the common, but incorrect, term phosphorescence). Bioluminescence is actually quite common and almost all taxonomic groups of animals, and many plants, have some members that luminesce. Planktonic dinoflagellates and bacteria are some of the most abundant creators of this biological light and are what is usually responsible for the green glow in a boat's wake or when waves break on a beach. Other animals, including fish and squid, create light by keeping small cultures of luminescent bacteria in specialized organs distributed over their body. Since the bacteria luminesce continuously, their hosts have developed mechanical means, such as flaps of skin that resemble window shades, to control luminescence.

So why do these individuals create light? Reasons for bioluminescence vary depending on the organism, but they generally fall into one of four categories: escaping predators, obtaining prey, attraction, and advertising. Some organisms use the "quick flash" technique to temporarily blind a predator"a familiar sensation as when faced with an inexperienced photographer let loose with a flash. Many bacteria actually luminesce because they want to be eaten. They advertise to potential prey hoping to find a comfy home inside a fish's gut.

Answered by Adrienne Mason


Bioluminesence in detail - Received from Mary in Olympia, WA

Q: How does the bioluminesence in dinoflagellates work

A. Excellent question! Bioluminescence is the heatless light which is produced by many different living organisms, including dinoflagellates in the phytoplankton. This heatless light is created by an enzyme-controlled chemical reaction. Luciferin is the name given to the material which is oxidized to produce light; the exact chemical composition of luciferens varies between organisms. (Lucifer in latin means "bearer of light"). Luciferase is the enzyme which catalyzes the reaction. The reaction may occur within the body of the organism, as is the case with dinoflagellates, or it may be secreted into the water. Though some bacteria and fungi produce light continuously if oxygen is available, most organisms produce flashes of light only when their luminescent organs are stimulated. Dinoflagellates may emit a steady, low level of light as well as light flashes when disturbed - a magical sight when boating, swimming or walking along the water's edge on a beach at night!

Answered by Kelly Nordin



Food Web - Recceived from tencentscockroach

Q: starting from algae, can you give me a complete food web of
one part of the ocean?

A: You know not what you ask! A food web is an incredibly complex thing diagram showing the feeding relationships between all organisms in a system. Luckily, we have a food web page in the Ocean Info section of the site. It will show you a simplified food web for the Pacific Northwest, and give you an idea of just what is involved in designing such a thing.


Evolutionary adaptations of marine animals - Received from Nguyen in VA

Q: Please tell me the reasons why marine species such as sharks, sea turtles, and horseshoe crabs had survived for so many millions of years? Is there something about their body structures that help them to survive through many different evolution periods? Thank you!

A. Obviously, the fact that many species in these groups are still extant suggests that these animals were endowed with evolutionary adaptations that allowed them to persist through time. For sharks, the evolution from a suspension feeding lifestyle to a predacious lifestyle was a very important event. The evolution of jaws, teeth, good vision and electrorecpetion were all important adaptations that allowed this group to radiate and invade new niches.

The horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus) is one of only four species in the Subclass Xiphosura, Class Merostomata. This animal lives in shallow water on soft bottoms, plowing through the upper surface of the sand. The carapace is smoooth, horseshoe-shaped and convex, a shape that facilitates pushing through sand and mud and provides a protective covering for the ventral appendages. These animals are omnivores that feed on a variety of molluscs, worms, and other benthic organisms, including algae. There are several possible explanations for the peristence of this species through evolutionary time. The animal is obviously well designed for its particular habits, with the carapace providing good protection from any potential predators. The fact that this animal is an omnivore, and not a specialist on any one particular prey item, is also a good evolutionary feature. Generalist predators are less likely to go extinct because their varied prey base provides more of a buffer during periods of climatic, geological or biogeographical change. For example, if one prey item goes extinct, the crab has other food items to rely on, and therefore, is less affected by changes in abundance of any one particular prey species. Perhaps this is why this species persisted while many other members of the Merostomata have gone extinct.

I'll leave the question of the sea turtles up to you. You should check the AquaFacts page on the OceanLink website as well as the answer file for answers to past questions about sea turtles.



Fastest Marine Animal - received from Sharon in Michigan

Q: What is the fastest underwater animal?

A.Thanks for your question. Check out our site on Fastest, Biggest and Smallest for more marine animal records

The fastest animal in the ocean is the Sailfish, Istiophorus platypterus, which has been clocked at speeds of 114 kilometers/hour (68 miles per hour if you are metrically challenged!)

The fastest marine mammal is probably the Sei Whale, Balaenoptera borealis, which can attain speeds of 60 kilometers/hour (35 miles/hour) over short distances, although Killer Whales (Orcinus orca) may reach speeds of 70 kilomters/hour (42 miles per hour)
when chasing prey.



Marine Fouling Organisms - Received from Skip in California.

Q: For marine fouling organisms, how important is the color of the substrate in selecting sites for settlement?

This is an interesting question, particularly if you're just about to paint your boat, and wonder what color might be best. Many marine invertebrates have larval stages that are planktonic. This means that the larvae are suspended in the water column for a period of time, until they are ready to "settle down" and metamorphose into adults. Many of these are larvae of common intertidal animals we find on rocky shores such as barnacles and mussels, whereas others are larvae of organisms that generally live below the lowest tide level (subtidal) such as tubeworms. If the larvae settle where we don't want them (for example, on the hull of a boat), then they become known as "fouling" organisms.

Many years ago, it was thought that larval settlement was essentially a random process, but it is now known that several factors influence where these larvae eventually attach. After all, the larval animals must find a spot where they will be able to grow into successfully reproductive adults.

One particularly important settlement factor for a number of invertebrates is the presence or absence of adults of the same species. Barnacles, oysters, mussels and tubeworms are just some of the animals that have been shown to prefer to settle in an area where there are adults living. If you think about it, this makes a great deal of sense - if the adults are present, chances are high that the conditions will be favourable for the larvae to grow to adulthood!

According to the book, Pacific Seashores, physical factors that influence where a larval invertebrate might settle include:
1. Surface textures
2. Contour and angle of surface
3. Light-reflecting properties of surface and amount of light
4. Size of particles and the spaces between them
5. Current strength and direction
6. Depth

Carefoot, Thomas, 1977. Pacific Seashores. J.J. Douglas Ltd. Vancouver.
ISBN 0-88894-121-8

The colour of an object may have an impact on #3 above - for example the tubeworm, Spirorbis will preferentially settle in dark areas. It is possible that they may then prefer to settle on surfaces that do not reflect as much light (eg. dark colours). On the other hand, some larvae prefer areas of high light intensity, and would therefore possibly settle on lighter colours. The "lightness" or "darkness" of a particular colour may then influence larval settlement. There is no evidence that we could find, however, that suggests that a particular colour (for example, red versus green) is preferred or shunned by settling invertebrate larvae.

The life histories of many marine animals are very poorly known, however, so it is certainly possible that there exists an animal that prefers a distinct colour over others. Overall though, colour of the substrate is likely to be of relatively little importance compared to the other factors listed above in determining the settlement of the majority of "fouling" organisms.



Chalk forming protists - Received from ?? at Oberlin College.

Question: Do you know anything about chalk forming protists? We are doing a project, and have only the terms Protista Haptophyta =chrysophyta haptomonad-coccolithophorid Chalk Formers

A. These microscopic organisms are flagellates, and are generally classified in the Kingdom Protista, Phylum Mastigophora, Order Coccolithophorida (also called Haptophyta, by people who consider them algae).They are marine organisms, and are covered by calcareous platelets called coccoliths. They have two flagella that are used for locomotion, and yellow-brown chromoplasts. They are photosynthetic. Two examples of these organisms are: genus Coccolithus and genus Rhabdosphaera.

When the organisms die, the calcareous plates drift to the bottom of the ocean. If enough of them build up over hundreds of thousands of years, a chalk bed is formed. If the ocean floor is uplifted, this chalk bed is exposed.



Flying Ocean Animals - Recieved from Rob McDannold from Vancouver Island, BC

Q: What animal in the ocean kingdom can fly?

A: What a great question! As you know there are numerous seabirds that of course fly as well as feed and swim in the ocean. As for any marine organisms that live their entire lives underwater and depend on water to breathe, it is rare that they will fly in air. There are some fish species that "fly" in air. One type of fish called a Flyingfish that will jump with into the air and actualy glide in the air. Flyingfish have elongated pectoral fins that act like wings out of the water. A flyingfish does not truly fly, but glides through the air by catching air currents with their fins. They typically take off into the wind and travel for 30 seconds and as far as 400m in a series of up to 12 flights. Flyingfish can reach speeds as fast as 72km/hr when they are airborne and use air gliding as a way to escape predators. I am not familiar with any invertebrates that are able to "fly" in the air, but if you have heard of any I would love to hear from you!


Planktonic and Nektonic organisms - received from Mike in Massachusetts

Q: What are the different defensive strategies used by planktonic and nektonic organisms?

A: That's a great question. Planktonic (or drifting) organisms have defense strategies that make them hard to see. Many are transparent or cryptically coloured making it hard for predators to see them. Many have spines or armour that make them less fragile like diatoms with a silicon skeleton and dinoflagellates with calcium carbonate armoured plates. Dinoflagellates also can produce toxins that make them noxious to predators. Another idea is that bioluminesence is a defense strategy. The bright flash of light can surprise and confuse predators. Nektonic (or swimming) organisms usually put all their energy into be able to move fast and avoid danger. Fish for example have developed a fusiform body shape, finlets that reduce turbulence, eyes flush to the body and grooves in their skin to promote fast swimming. Flying fish have even evolved large fins that allow them to jump out of the water to avoid predation. Another major defense strategy is camouflage. Most nekton are counter-shaded. That means they are dark on top and light on the bottom making them hard to see from above and below! Many species are cryptically coloured and mix in with their habitat too. More info about plankton and nekton can be found in any marine biology textbook.


Freshwater vs. Salt water - received from Alexandra in Westport

Q: Why can sea creatures live just as easily in fresh water as they can in salt water?

A; This is an interesting question, but the truth is, sea creatures can't live as easily in fresh water as they can in salt water. There are a lot of problems associated with living in fresh water, and many sea creatures do not have the right adaptations to live there. Fresh water generally does not provide a constant environment to live in, because water levels change seasonally, as do salt and temperature levels. Far fewer organisms live in fresh water than in the sea, which means that there is less food available in fresh water.
Another problem with switching from a salt water to fresh water environment is that many organisms simply diffuse water and nutrients through their bodies, and do not have specialized compartments for digestive and circulatory systems (for example, jelly fish and sea anemones). The concentration of salt and other biological chemicals are perfectly balanced in the cells of the sea organisms and in the water, which allows them to maintain a salt and fluid balance. Sea creatures like these ones could not tolerate fresh water because water would rush into their bodies causing them to bloat out of control! The difference between salt and fresh water is pretty big, and animals that do move back and forth have to have specialized adaptations that allow them to pump out water and maintain the same salt and fluid balance some other way.


Fastest water-dwelling animal - received from Ben in New York

Q: Most everyone knows that the cheetah is the fastest land animal. My question is "what is the fastest water-dwelling (fresh or saltwater) animal in the world?"

A: The world's fastest fish is the sailfish clocked at 68.18mph. Here are some of the other fastest sea animals, so you can compare:
Mako shark: 60mph
Marlin: 50mph
Tuna: 43.4 mph
Killer whale: 40mph
Common dolphin: 37mph while bow-riding, 28mph in open water
California Sea Lion: 25mph

The fastest freshwater fish is the brook trout clocked at measly 5mph.


Fastest land animals - received on from Jess in Rhode Island

Q: What are the five fastest land animals

A: Here are the some of the fastest land animals:

Cheetah: 65mph
Pronghorn Antelope: 55mph
Mongolian gazelle: 50 mph
Springbok: 50mph
Grant's gazelle: 47 mph
brown hare: 45mph
horse: 43 mph
greyhound: 42 mph

And here are few non-land animals just for fun:

Falcon: 130 mph (WOW!!)
Swift: 106 mph
Sailfish: 68.18 mph
Mako Shark: 60 mph
Killer whale: 40 mph
Common Dolphin: 30 mph


Unknown marine species

Q: How many unknown marine species are there?

A: There are very likely many unknown species that have yet to be discovered by science. When scientists first discovered marine deep sea hot vents they discovered many new species that were unknown to them before! It is likely that new species will continue to be discovered in the near future.


Electric Blue Waves

Q: What causes electric blue waves? I saw some really beautiful blue lights from these waves as they crashed into the California coast.

A: These electric blue waves are actually caused by bioluminesence. The species that are responsible for this are Lucifera and luciferase. Many types of plankton cause the light you saw as well as a dinoflaggellete named Noctiluca. When these species are around it can cause a great deal of light when they are disturbed. It sure would have been exciting to see waves that crashed with an electric blue light!



OnLine marine biology textbook? - received from Frank in California

Q: Do you know of an online marine biology textbook geared for upper high school to college level ages?

A. Although the internet contains a great deal of wonderful information, there are not very many on-line textbooks around. Publishers of textbooks are in the business for the money. There is not a lot of money to be made by putting your entire product on-line for free. The most you'll ever see on the internet from publishers of textbooks is advertisements for their products.We can't put pictures from textbooks on the web, or copy information directly from them; this would violate the copyright, and they could justifiably sue us. As you've probably seen web sites can be very variable - some may contain very good, accurate information, while others can be full of incomplete or wrong answers.

At OceanLink, we're trying to fill the gap by providing accurate answers and information about marine science topics. Obviously we don't have an on-line textbook (yet!) but we're working on it!


Biology Career Questions - Received from Allison in Ontario

Q: First of all, I'd like to thank you for this site. I am doing a research project about marine biologists, and your page has been extremely helpful. I have a few questions that I would appreciate if you could help me with:

1) What is the difference between a oceanographer and a marine biologist? I have to also include 3 closely related careers in my assignment. Is a biochemist similar to this?

2) In your question and answer page about marine biologists, who answered those questions? Some said who the scientist was that answered than, and some did not. Was it someone on the "our contributors" list? I need to know for my bibliography and for
who to credit.

3)Are most marine biologists who conduct research doing so with the help of government grants? Or are there research companies that they are working for? Do most marine biologists end up teaching?

4) What is aquaculture? Is it another name for marine biology?

A. 1) Oceanographers and marine biologists are similar but different. An oceanographer studies the chemical and physical aspects of the ocean, and can include how those factors effect marine life. They look at currents, salinities, global oceanic trends, etc. Marine
biologists exclusively study life in the ocean, although they often work oceanographic information into their studies. Biochemistry studies the actions and interaction of the chemical world on biological systems. This is a very important tool in marine biology and is used regularly in all sorts of studies. However, biochemistry is not limited to marine biology.

2) All the questions on our site are answered by our OceanLink Interns, unless otherwise stated. You can credit the OceanLink team, and specifically list the web address.

3) Marine biologists can be funded by the government, private companies, non-profit organizations, public interest groups, concerned citizens, or whoever wants a study done. Most marine focus on research, although many do teach at some point in their lives.

4) Aquaculture is the farming of any aquatic resource. Mariculture is when that farming is specific to the ocean. Things that are farmed in the sea include salmon, shellfish, and algae. Although most people who are aquaculturists have some marine biology knowledge, it's not
necessary to be a full-fledged biologist to farm. A land based example might be: Dairy farmers know a lot about cows but don't need a degree to farm them.



Tidepool Exploration Regulations - received from Amy in California

Q. Do you know any rules and regulations regarding tidepool exploration or can refer me to a web page that may have information regarding this?

A. There are no official "rules" of tidepool exploration to our knowledge. (bear in mind though, that we are located in British Columbia, Canada, and may not have detailed knowledge of local laws or ordinances in your particular area!!) There are, however, some good "common sense" rules that you should enforce upon yourself, such as:
- Always obtain permission before crossing private land to access a beach.
- Be safe! If you are in a wave exposed area, never turn your back on the ocean. Large waves may come up and sweep you off of the rocks. Wear a life jacket in exposed areas.
- Be careful about where you walk - you may be treading on delicate animals or plants.
- Some intertidal areas are located in marine parks, which may have their own particular rules about access. This is done because of the large numbers of people who visit these special areas.
-Don't litter. If there is a lot of people-made litter in the area, you might want to consider organizing a beach cleanup.
-Leave the beach and tidepool area as you found it. This includes leaving animals and beach debris in place. The pretty shell that you take home and put on a shelf may have been a potential home for an animal (or an animal may be living in it now!).
- If you turn over rocks to find animals, always carefully return the rocks to their original positions. Likewise, if you dig in sandy or muddy areas to find animals, fill in the holes when you are done.



Tidepool Resource Material - received from Letitia in Vancouver

Q: I am doing a science fair project on tides and tidal pools and need some help finding good sources from my grade level. The only books that I can find to tell either are for
college-level students or first graders. I do intend on going to the Vancouver Aquarium (I know that they have a model tidal pool set up there) but I also need to find some books to help me get started. Can you recommend any for my grade level (9) ?? Thank

Tidepool info - received from Jackie in Arizona

Q: I'am working on a project on tide pools and needmore information. Anything would be very helpful. (grade 5-7)

A. It's interesting to see that two people on different ends of the continent are thinking about the same topic within a couple of days of each other!

One tip that we have is to look for general books on the ocean, seashores, or general marine biology. Often, general books will have a chapter or two on tidepools that is relatively easy to read. Field guides to marine life in a local area will also often have sections on
tidepools and tidepool life. Searching for books specifically on tidepools will likely prove to be a bit frustrating!

Here are a few ideas to start with:

Snively, Gloria 1978. Exploring the Seashore. Gordon Soules Ltd. West Vancouver. ISBN 0-919574-25-4. An excellent book for the British Columbia coast for the general public. Has good information about different beach zones, as well as information about specific
animals (some of them tidepool inhabitants!)

Mason, Adrienne 1995. Oceans: looking at beaches and coral reefs, tides and currents, sea mammals and fish, seaweeds and other ocean wonders. Kids Can Press Ltd. Toronto. ISBN 1-55074-147-0 Written for ages 8-12, this book has a good section on tidepools.

Hall, Howard. Tidepools. Blake Publishing, 2222 Beebee street, San Luis Obispo, California 93401 ph. 1-800-727-8558. A paperback with many very colourful pictures, all about tidepools. Suitable for a wide variety of ages.

There are lots of other books out there, but few of them will have "tidepool" in the title. Hope this helps!



Abstracts on the Internet - Received from Mao in Quingdao, China.

Q: I am studying on the micro-structure and physiology of Prawn (Penaeus), especially of its larva. So I want to get some thesis (from 1990 to now) on this subject. Would you please give me some advice or tell me how I can get these information (abstracts or the full-text of thesis) on the internet?

A: Generally you can only get copies of abstracts and not the full text of articles on the internet. You can try the following sites:

1) Aquatic Sciences and Fisheries Abstracts - There are fees associated with using this site, although you can try the demonstration module to decide if it will be useful to you before subscribing.

2) Carl UnCover - This site provides citations only (no abstracts), and will fax or e-mail you full copies of articles for a fee.

3) Iowa State University Library - Try this site, it seems to have links to some free search resources with abstracts.



Reference Material Search .

Q: How can I find more reference materials about the biodiversity of shrimp and prawn.

A: I'm not sure where you have looked so far for your information, but I'll give the following suggestions:

1) Public or college/university library - Search both the general holdings (books) and journal databases for information on your topic. In terms of journal articles, you will likely be more successful if you use the scientific name or category for the organisms you're interested in.

2) Special databases - A college/university library would likely have access to databases such as Biological Abstracts or Aquatic Fisheries and Science Abstracts, which contain abstracts from papers in the aquatic sciences. Ask at the Reference Desk for assistance in using these databases.

3) Internet resources - A good listing of journal articles can be found on Carl UnCover. For a fee they will send you the actual article, but its free to search for a citation and then head to a college/university library and find the journal. You can also try a standard internet
search, but you must use the scientific names for organisms to narrow the field. I suggest using the search engine Excite, it seems to bring up more relevant scientific material than some other search engines.



Most Important Aspects of the Ocean - Received from Laura from Indiana

Q. I am an Elementary Education major at Purdue University who will be doing a teaching session at a local school in a few weeks. The topic I have choosen to work on with my students is the ocean. My question to you is, "As marine biologists, what do
you feel are the most important aspects of the ocean that I should touch upon?" I will be including weather, plants, animals, submarines, sunken ships, temperatures, and islands in my presentation, but any added imput is welcome.

A. Thank you for asking! We have been putting your question to our colleagues as to what they think are the most important aspects of the ocean in terms of marine biology, and have had many interesting, and diverse replies. Also, Kelly Nordin asked the students in her
Environmental Education class at the University of Victoria their thoughts and ideas. Many of the students have a strong marine biology background as well as others with an education background; again there were many suggestions. Generally though, the topics you have
mentioned are an excellent place to start when dealing with such a huge topic such as the ocean! An overwhelming response was the suggestion to work with "concepts" as opposed to discrete topics; some of the critical concepts are expressed below.

Approximately three-quarters of the surface area of the earth is composed of the world's ocean with an average depth of approximately 4000 meters, thus the ocean is physically a large component of the earth. Just as the terrestrial part of the earth has many diverse habitats and ecosystems, so does the ocean. For example, there are coastal and intertidal areas, open water areas with different levels of light and temperature, and polar to tropical areas.

Consequently, the oceans are home to a great diversity of organisms (species biodiversity) which are all interconnected in food webs. Colder parts of the worlds oceans which are closer to the north or south pole have larger numbers of organisms, or in other words, are
greater in their "productivity" than the warmer areas of the ocean at the equator. The reason for this trend is quite complex, but in general, as the oceans move in great circles (gyres) in each part of the world, the cold, nutrient rich water from the depths of the oceans are pushed
up toward the surface near the edges of the land masses. The combination of increased hours of sunlight during summer months inthe polar regions and the nutrient rich water allow vast numbers of phytoplankton to grow and reproduce, thus providing a huge food base for other organisms living in and near the ocean.

The oceans of the world play a very important role in global weather patterns, and also have local impact. Linked to weather is the concept of the water cycle. Water molecules are constantly being cycled from the ocean to clouds to rain to lakes and streams, back to the
ocean; sometimes the water molecules are temporarily "stored" in areas such as glaciers.


Marine Item Donation Required - Received from Peggy in Kentucky

Q: I am in search of people that will donate items to my classroom that they have found on the bottom of the ocean. Could you please connect me with a name or an organization. Fans, corals, shells, urchines, any thing found not taken alive. Thanks

A. One place that you might start is at a local museum, college, or university. Each of these places might have shells, urchins or other marine items that they no longer need, and would be willing to donate them to you. They may also have a program to lend materials such as
this to your classroom for educational purposes. In the meantime, we will post a notice on our front page for anyone who has a collection that they are willing to give to a good home!



Best Marine Encyclopedia - received from Toni in Florida

Q: What is the best single resource/"encycopedia" for marine life? .... hopefully on CDROM? I have a business which requires on going research into various forms of underwater life.

A. We have not been able to find an CD ROM encyclopedia that covers all marine life. There are some very good CD's out there, but they are often tailored to a specific audience, (eg. young children), or ecological area (eg. coral reef biology), or group of species (eg.

To do ongoing research of the type that you describe requires a wide variety of resources - I don't think that one (or even a few) CD ROM's will be enough. For example, to answer the questions on these pages, we routinely use 50 specific, comprehensive textbooks,
and often need to check out recent articles in a university library. Often, this is not enough, and we have to speak directly to marine scientists to get the most up to date information. Marine Biology is such a vast field, that it is hard to sum it up in one reference work.


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