' Marine Biology - Crystalinks

Marine Biology

Only 29 percent of the Earth's surface is land. The rest is ocean, home to marine life. The oceans average nearly four kilometres in depth and are fringed with coastlines that run for 360,000 kilometres.

Marine biology is the scientific study of organisms in the ocean or other marine bodies of water. Given that in biology many phyla, families and genera have some species that live in the sea and others that live on land, marine biology classifies species based on the environment rather than on taxonomy. Marine biology differs from marine ecology as marine ecology is focused on how organisms interact with each other and the environment, while biology is the study of the organisms themselves.

A large proportion of all life on Earth lives in the ocean. Exactly how large the proportion is unknown, since many ocean species are still to be discovered. The ocean is a complex three-dimensional world covering approximately 71% of the Earth's surface. The habitats studied in marine biology include everything from the tiny layers of surface water in which organisms and abiotic items may be trapped in surface tension between the ocean and atmosphere, to the depths of the oceanic trenches, sometimes 10,000 meters or more beneath the surface of the ocean. Specific habitats include coral reefs, kelp forests, seagrass meadows, the surrounds of seamounts and thermal vents, tidepools, muddy, sandy and rocky bottoms, and the open ocean (pelagic) zone, where solid objects are rare and the surface of the water is the only visible boundary. The organisms studied range from microscopic phytoplankton and zooplankton to huge cetaceans (whales) 30 meters (98 feet) in length.

Marine life is a vast resource, providing food, medicine, and raw materials, in addition to helping to support recreation and tourism all over the world. At a fundamental level, marine life helps determine the very nature of our planet. Marine organisms contribute significantly to the oxygen cycle, and are involved in the regulation of the Earth's climate. Shorelines are in part shaped and protected by marine life, and some marine organisms even help create new land.

Many species are economically important to humans, including both finfish and shellfish. It is also becoming understood that the well-being of marine organisms and other organisms are linked in fundamental ways. The human body of knowledge regarding the relationship between life in the sea and important cycles is rapidly growing, with new discoveries being made nearly every day. These cycles include those of matter (such as the carbon cycle) and of air (such as Earth's respiration, and movement of energy through ecosystems including the ocean). Large areas beneath the ocean surface still remain effectively unexplored. Read more ...

In The News ...

In a Fascinating Twist, Beluga Whale Societies Are Almost as Complex as Our Own   Science Alert - July 17, 2020
Similar to orcas and pilot whales, the enigmatic beluga whale has long been assumed to live out their lives in pods based around close maternal ties. But new research shows their social structures go far beyond sibling quid-pro-quo. Research led by Florida Atlantic University's Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute confirms suspicions that belugas regularly interact with their mother's side of the family, not unlike other closely related species of toothed cetacean. Matriarchal lineages are common among families of sperm whale, orca, and pilot whale, which routinely have a female whale leading the way. Analysis of the beluga groupings, both large and small, found they often had more than one matriline. What they didn't expect were the frequent associations with dad's side of the clan. Or the close relationships with cousins. Or, more surprisingly still, the hints of networks involving individuals without any close genetic relationship.

15-foot-long skeleton of extinct dolphin suggests parallel evolution among whales   PhysOrg - July 9, 2020
Report offers a detailed description of the first nearly complete skeleton of an extinct large dolphin, discovered in what is now South Carolina. The 15-foot-long dolphin (Ankylorhiza tiedemani comb. n.) lived during the Oligocene - about 25 million years ago - and was previously known only from a partial rostrum (snout) fossil. The researchers say that multiple lines of evidence - from the skull anatomy and teeth, to the flipper and vertebral column - show that this large dolphin (a toothed whale in the group Odontoceti) was a top predator in the community in which it lived. Many features of the dolphin's postcranial skeleton also imply that modern baleen whales and modern toothed whales must have evolved similar features independently, driven by parallel evolution in the very similar aquatic habitats in which they lived.

Unique non-oxygen breathing animal discovered. The tiny relative of the jellyfish is parasitic and dwells in salmon tissue   Science Daily - February 25, 2020
The tiny, less than 10-celled parasite Henneguya salminicola lives in salmon muscle. As it evolved, the animal, which is a myxozoan relative of jellyfish and corals, gave up breathing and consuming oxygen to produce energy.

Mother whales whisper to evade orcas while swimming with their calves   Daily Mail - July 12, 2019
They might be twice the size of the top ocean predators, but southern right whales don’t take any chances when it comes to protecting their babies. These marine mammals, which can grow to be upwards of 45 feet long and reach 20 feet even as calves, are known to prefer cloudy waters that will keep them hidden. Scientists now say they may even lower their voices to stay off orcas’ radar.

Moment a wounded manta ray begged divers for help: Sea creature approached film crew and flipped over to ask them to for help to remove hooks embedded under her eye   Daily Mail - July 12, 2019
A manta ray with fishing hooks stuck under her eye was rescued by passing divers after recognizing one of them as a regular in the water. Jake Wilton, an underwater photographer who guides tourists around Australia's Ningaloo Bay, spotted the popular animal, dubbed 'Freckles', in distress.

Little, Transparent Fish Show Sleep Is at Least 450 Million Years Old   Smithsonian - July 12, 2019
Imaging of sleeping zebrafish reveal their pattern of Zzz’s is similar to that of mammals and other animals, meaning snoozing has been around a long time

Attempted Whale Shark Mating Caught on Camera for the First Time in History   Live Science - June 24, 2019
Fact: Whale sharks - the largest known fish in the sea and some of the largest creatures on Earth - exist. That means they must be reproducing. Despite this, scientists have never actually seen two whale sharks mating. This is partly because the animals are endangered; whale sharks are so large - averaging about 32 feet (10 meters) long and weighing tens of thousands of pounds - that they are highly susceptible to human threats like drilling, fishing and shipping. Scientists also suspect that the fish migrate enormous distances through the world's tropical seas to reach special whale shark mating grounds, which researchers simply haven't located yet.

First-Ever Beluga-Narwhal Hybrid Found in the Arctic   Live Science - June 20, 2019
Thirty years ago, an Inuit man in west Greenland subsistence-hunting for whales shot a trio of strange cetaceans with front fins like belugas and tails like narwhals (the so-called "unicorns of the sea"). He was so flummoxed by the odd creatures that he saved one of the skulls, hanging it on the outside of his shed.

Fish Appear to Recognize Themselves in the Mirror   Science Daily - February 7, 2019
The cleaner wrasse fish (Labroides dimidiatus), responds to its reflection and attempts to remove marks on its body during the mirror test -- a method considered the gold standard for determining self-awareness in animals. The finding suggests that fish might possess far higher cognitive powers than previously thought, and ignites a high-stakes debate over how we assess the intelligence of animals that are so unlike ourselves.

Scientists rethink co-evolution of marine life, oxygenated oceans   PhysOrg - June 2, 2018
A research paper stems from a multi-year, multinational effort that rethinks the causes and impacts of increased oxygenation on the continental shelves during the current Phanerozoic Eon, which began more than 542 million years ago. Most studies of oxygen history focus on the atmosphere and deep oceans, with implications on the evolution of life. Researchers believe the oceanic oxygen level in the water column above the continental shelves [i.e., the upper ocean] may have been a different beast.

How do marine mammals avoid the bends? Study offers new hypothesis, highlights role that sonar plays in strands   PhysOrg - April 25, 2018
Deep-diving whales and other marine mammals can get the bends—the same painful and potentially life-threatening decompression sickness that strikes scuba divers who surface too quickly. A new study offers a hypothesis of how marine mammals generally avoid getting the bends and how they can succumb under stressful conditions.

Sea turtles use Earth's magnetic field to navigate back to the same beach where they hatched after traveling thousands of miles, confirm scientists   Daily Mail - April 12, 2018
Turtles return to the same place every year to lay their eggs by sensing the specific magnetic field of the beach where they were born, research has found. Each beach has a distinct magnetic pattern which becomes imprinted on a turtle's brain to help them find their way back. The findings explain how loggerhead turtles find their way back to their home nesting spot after travelling hundreds of miles out to sea.

Here’s Why Marine Mammals Are Big - But Not Too Big   Seeker - March 27, 2018
The blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) is the largest animal ever to have lived on Earth. Growing up to 108 feet long, it may exceed the length of an NBA basketball court (94 feet). Its weight has been estimated to be as high as 441,000 pounds, which is almost as much as the entire Statue of Liberty (450,000 lbs.). Many other marine mammals, such as orcas and walruses, are not lightweights either. Scientists over the years have speculated that pressure on body size is more relaxed in water, possibly because the ability to float removes the necessity of supporting body weight on limbs.

Bizarre, Nessie-Like Creature Washes Ashore in Georgia, and Marine Experts Are Mystified   Live Science - March 21, 2018
A bizarre, possibly decapitated sea creature with a long tail that washed ashore in southeastern Georgia has mystified marine experts. Is it a dead frilled shark? Or a decayed whale or an oarfish?

Mysterious new 'twilight zone' full of previously unknown colorful fish is found 1,000ft below the ocean surface   Science Daily - March 21, 2018
As a result, although the section of water around the coral has been the subject of much scientific debate, the zone below it has been largely ignored. During 80 dives, exploring an area of just 2,000 square feet (200 square metres), experts found 4,500 individual fish from 71 different species. Of these, they identified 30 new species.

Mysterious Greenland sharks that can live for more than 500 years and are the 'oldest living vertebrates' are captured in incredibly rare footage   Daily Mail - March 1, 2018
Greenland sharks, the oldest living vertebrates on Earth, are one of the most mysterious creatures on the planet. These majestic animals are native to the cold, deep waters of the North Atlantic, and can live to be more than 500 years old. But despite their long lives, Greenland sharks are notoriously elusive. Now, scientists from the Memorial University of Newfoundland have captured stunning footage of Greenland sharks in their natural habitat.

The killer whale that can say 'hello' and 'bye bye'   BBC - January 31, 2018
A killer whale that can mimic words such as "hello" and "bye bye" is thought to be the first of its kind to copy human speech. The female learned to "speak" a handful of human words by copying a trainer at a marine park in France. The animal's repertoire includes the name "Amy" and "one, two, three". Whales and dolphins are among the few animals other than humans that can learn to produce a novel sound just by hearing it.

Terrifying species of shark with 300 teeth that dates back 80 million years to the 'age of the dinosaurs' is caught off the coast of Portugal   Daily Mail - November 11, 2017
Scientists working on a project off the Algarve coast were in for a surprise when they caught a prehistoric shark this week. The bizarre creature, known as a frilled shark, dates back around 80 million years, making it one of the oldest species still around today. Little is known about the shark, which has a long, snake-like body, and circular arrangement of 300 teeth.

Forget sponges: The earliest animals were marine jellies   PhysOrg - April 10, 2017
For the last decade, zoologists have been battling over the question, "What was the oldest branch of the animal family tree?" Was it the sponges, as they had long thought, or was it a distinctly different set of creatures, the delicate marine predators called comb jellies? The answer to this question could have a major impact on scientists' thinking about how the nervous system, digestive tract and other basic organs in modern animals evolved.

New study shows that three quarters of deep-sea animals make their own light   PhysOrg - April 10, 2017
You would think it would be easy to count the number of glowing (bioluminescent) animals in the ocean, just by looking at videos or photographs taken at different depths. Unfortunately, very few cameras are sensitive enough to show the pale glow of many marine animals. Below 300 meters (1,000 feet) the ocean is essentially pitch black, so animals don't need to glow very brightly. Also most animals don't glow continuously because making light takes extra energy and can attract predators.

New Giant, Air-Breathing Fish Discovered   National Geographic - December 1, 2016
One of the world's largest, most endangered, and most mysterious freshwater fish has yielded a new surprise: a likely new species - and possibly several more - have been lurking in the backwaters of the Amazon. Long, narrow giants, arapaimas live in tropical South America. They can grow up to 10 feet long and weigh 440 pounds. They breathe air through a primitive lung, and tend to live in oxygen-poor backwaters.

  400-year-old Greenland shark longest-living vertebrate   BBC - August 12, 2016
Greenland sharks are now the longest-living vertebrates known on Earth, scientists say. Researchers used radiocarbon dating to determine the ages of 28 of the animals, and estimated that one female was about 400 years old. The team found that the sharks grow at just 1cm a year, and reach sexual maturity at about the age of 150.

Fish out of water are more common than thought   Science Daily - June 22, 2016
Fish have evolved the ability to live on land many times, challenging the perception that this extreme lifestyle shift was likely to have been a rare occurrence in ancient times. New research shows 33 different families of fish have at least one species that demonstrates some terrestrial activity and, in many cases, these behaviors are likely to have evolved independently in the different families.

Strange sea-dwelling reptile fossil hints at rapid evolution after mass extinction   PhysOrg - May 23, 2016
Two hundred and fifty million years ago, life on earth was in a tail-spin - climate change, volcanic eruptions, and rising sea levels contributed to a mass extinction that makes the death of the dinosaurs look like child's play. Marine life got hit hardest - 96% of all marine species went extinct. For a long time, scientists believed that the early marine reptiles that came about after the mass extinction evolved slowly, but the recent discovery of a strange new fossil brings that view into question.

New Jellyfish Looks Like an Alien Spacecraft   Discovery - May 3, 2016

With red and yellow lights seeming to glow inside its bulbous body, a newfound jellyfish looks more alien spaceship than deep-sea cnidarian. Using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV), marine scientists dove to the deepest part of the world's oceans, called the Mariana Trench, east of the Mariana Islands near Guam in the western Pacific Ocean; they were exploring the so-called Enigma Seamount (named for the lack of information scientists have on it) when they came upon this surreal-looking creature.

  Watch an Amazing 'Ghost Octopus' Discovered in the Deep Sea   National Geographic - March 4, 2016
The deep sea just got a little spookier with the discovery of a ghostly octopod off the Hawaiian archipelago.

  End of the dinosaurs gave rise to the modern 'Age of Fishes,' researchers find   PhysOrg - June 30, 2015
A pair of paleobiologists from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego have determined that the world's most numerous and diverse vertebrates – ray-finned fishes – began their ecological dominance of the oceans 66 million years ago, aided by the mass extinction event that killed off dinosaurs. Mammals evolved 250 million years ago but didn't become really important until after the mass extinction. Ray-finned fishes have the same kind of story. The lineage has been around for hundreds of millions of years, but without the mass extinction event 66 million years ago, it is very likely that the oceans wouldn't be dominated by the fish we see today.

Four hundred million year old fish fossil has earliest example of teeth   PhysOrg - June 24, 2015
A pair of researchers has found what appears to be the earliest known example of a creature sporting teeth. After much research, scientists have come to believe that modern teeth, regardless of species, originated from scales on fish - this new research appears to confirm that theory and also offers some new insights into how it was that teeth came to exist.

First Warm-Blooded Fish Identified   Discovery - May 14, 2015
The opah, or moonfish, is the first known fully warm-blooded fish, according to a study published in the journal Science. The determination helps to explain why opah are such high performance predators that have a keen sense of vision, swim speedily, react quickly, and have the stamina to chase down fast-moving prey.

Repeated marine predator evolution tracks changes in ancient and Anthropocene oceans   Science Daily - April 16, 2015
Scientists synthesized decades of scientific discoveries to illuminate the common and unique patterns driving the extraordinary transitions that whales, dolphins, seals and other species underwent as they moved from land to sea. Drawing on recent breakthroughs in diverse fields such as paleontology, molecular biology and conservation ecology, their findings offer a comprehensive look at how life in the ocean has responded to environmental change from the Triassic to the Anthropocene.

A new beginning for baby mosasaurs   PhysOrg - April 11, 2015
A new birth story for a gigantic marine lizard that once roamed the oceans. Thanks to recently identified specimens at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, paleontologists now believe that mighty mosasaurs - which could grow to 50 feet long - gave birth to their young in the open ocean, not on or near shore. The findings answer long-held questions about the initial environment of an iconic predator that lived during the time of the dinosaurs. Mosasaurs populated most waters of the Earth before their extinction 65 million years ago.

Super-Rare Megamouth Shark Washes Ashore In The Philippines   Huffington Post - February 4, 2015
A megamouth shark recently washed ashore in the Philippines, giving scientists a rare up-close glimpse of the bizarre sea creature. Fishermen discovered the lifeless body of the 15-foot male shark on a beach in between the Albay and Masbate provinces on Jan. 28. While the shark's cause of death has yet to be determined, the specimen may shed new light on the species scientists know as Megachasma pelagios. Megamouth sharks can reach up to 17 feet in length and have a life span of around 100 years. They spend most of their time in the deep sea feeding on small shrimp, plankton, and krill. And they're called megamouth for good reason: according to the Post, their gigantic jaws have up to 50 rows of teeth - some of which act as a filter to keep food in and push water out.

Ancient Knife-Toothed Reptile Is Crocodile Cousin   Live Science - January 22, 2015
The fossil of a prehistoric 9-foot-long (2.7 meters) carnivorous reptile that had sharp, serrated teeth is helping researchers fill out the early branches of the reptile family tree, according to a new study. It's unclear where the reptile, Nundasuchus songeaensis, falls on the evolutionary tree. But the new findings show that “it is either the closest relative of the common ancestor of birds and crocodylians, or it is more closely related to crocodylians than to birds, most appropriately called a crocodylian cousin.

  Something out of 'Alien': Rare frilled shark caught off Australian coast   CNN - January 22, 2015
It looks like something out of "Alien" but has more in common with "Jurassic Park." It's a rare frilled shark that has been caught by a fisherman in Australia, where no one remembers ever seeing one caught before. With a mouth packed full of needle-like teeth and a body like an eel's, the 6-foot-long frilled shark is sometimes described as a fish "fossil" that dates back 80 million years.

Rare Shark That Inspired Sea Monster Myths Is Caught   National Geographic - January 22, 2015
With its gaping, tooth-filled mouth and its slender, eel-like body, it's not hard to see why scientists think the frilled shark may have inspired ancient tales of sea monsters. Looking like something out of a nightmare, the deep-sea creature is rarely seen. But fishers in Australia pulled one up this week.

This Bizarre Organism Builds Itself a New Genome Every Time It Has Sex   Wired - September 17, 2014
Oxytricha trifallax lives in ponds all over the world. Under an electron microscope it looks like a football adorned with tassels. The tiny fringes are the cilia it uses to move around and gobble up algae. What makes Oxytricha unusual, however, is the crazy things it does with its DNA. Unlike humans and most other organisms on Earth, Oxytricha doesn't have sex to increase its numbers. It has sex to reinvent itself.

Ancient 'Fish Lizard' Graveyard Discovered Beneath Melting Glacier   Live Science - May 28, 2014
Dozens of nearly complete skeletons of prehistoric marine reptiles have been uncovered near a melting glacier in southern Chile. Scientists found 46 specimens from four different species of extinct ichthyosaurs. These creatures, whose Greek name means "fish lizards," were a group of large, fast-swimming marine reptiles that lived during the Mesozoic Era, about 245 million to 90 million years ago. The newly discovered skeletons are from both embryos and adults. The creatures, likely killed during a series of catastrophic mudslides, were preserved in deep-sea sediments that were later exposed by the melting glacier, the researchers said in the study.

Fossils Suggest Modern Sharks Are More Evolved Than Previously Thought   National Geographic - April 16, 2014
Paleontologists have long thought that sharks hit on the right combination of body shape and internal anatomy early on, and that evolutionary forces didn't tinker much with the design over the following hundreds of millions of years. But a handful of bones in a 325-million-year-old shark-like fossil could upend this idea.

Sea Anemones Are Half-Plant, Half-Animal, Gene Study Finds   Live Science - March 20, 2014
The sea anemone is an oddball: half-plant and half-animal, at least when it comes to its genetic code, new research suggests. The sea creature's genes look more like those of animals, but the regulatory code that determines whether those genes are expressed resembles that in plants

Fossil porpoise has a chin for the ages   PhysOrg - March 13, 2014
Scientists have identified a new species of ancient porpoise with a chin length unprecedented among known mammals and suggest the animal used the tip of its face to probe the seabed for food. Related to living crown porpoises, the extinct Californian porpoise, Semirostrum ceruttii, had an extension of its jaw called a symphysis the analogue of the human chin that measured 85 centimeters in the best-preserved specimen, researchers said. The typical symphysis of a crown porpoise measures one or two centimeters.

Watery Graveyard: Fossils Reveal 1st Evidence of Mass Marine Die-Offs   Live Science - February 25, 2014
Dozens of fossilized whales, seals and other marine animals have been discovered piled up in an ancient tidal flat in northern Chile, providing the first fossil evidence of repeated mass die-offs, according to a new report. Four distinct layers of bones appear at the site, suggesting the mass die-offs - also known as mass strandings - occurred repeatedly over the course of thousands of years, some time between about 6 million and 9 million years ago, an international team of scientists report. Whale bones dominate the site, but the researchers have also identified 10 other types of marine animals in each layer, including aquatic sloths and a brand-new seal species.

Was Your Ancestor a Ball of Jelly? Evolution Study Surprises Experts   National Geographic - December 12, 2013
In a prehistoric version of "the chicken or the egg" question, researchers have long debated which animal group came first. A traditional view pegs sponges - marine creatures that look more like rocks or corals - as our ancient ancestors. But a new genetic study is stirring the waters, suggesting comb jellies, gelatinous marine animals that look similar to jellyfish, are actually the first animals to have evolved over 600 million years ago. While an argument over ancient ancestry may seem academic, it's an important question to answer because it influences how researchers think about the nature of animal evolution

New Genomic Study Provides a Glimpse of How Whales Could Adapt to Ocean   Science Daily - November 25, 2013
Whales roam throughout all of the world's oceans, living in the water but breathing air like humans. At the top of the food chain, whales are vital to the health of the marine environment, whereas 7 out of the 13 great whale species are endangered or vulnerable. The minke whale is the most abundant baleen whale. Its wide distribution makes it an ideal candidate for whole reference genome sequencing. In this study, researchers conducted de novo sequencing on a minke whale with 128x average depth of coverage, and re-sequenced three minke whales, a fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus), a bottlenose dolphin, and a finless porpoise (Neophocaena phocaenoides). The yielded data may help to improve scientists' understanding of the evolutionary changes adapted to ocean environment from whole genome level.

18-Foot-Long Deep-Sea Creature Found off California   Live Science - October 15, 2013
This 18-foot-long (5.5 meters) oarfish was found off a beach in Southern California on Oct. 13, 2013, and is held here by staff from the Catalina Island Marine Institute.

5 Surprising Facts About the Oarfish That Has Been Washing Up on Beaches   National Geographic - October 23, 2013
This 14-foot (4.3-meter) oarfish washed up on a beach near Oceanside, California, on October 18, 2013. Rarely seen at the surface, the deep-sea fish is the second to hit California's coast in less than a week.

  Oceanographer debunks oarfish earthquake myth   BBC - October 23, 2013
The carcass of an elusive oarfish has been found washed up on a beach in California for the second time in a week. In a modern take on spoken tales, social media has lit up with talk of an ancient Japanese myth linking oarfish sightings to an impending earthquake. But how much truth is behind the myth?

  Can oarfish predict earthquakes? Maybe it's not as crazy as it sounds   NBC - October 23, 2013
Finding a giant oarfish washed up on the beach is a rare occurrence, since the fish is a deepwater species that's rarely seen at all. So when a second oarfish was found just five days later, the rumor mill kicked into high gear. An 18-foot-long (5.5-meter) oarfish carcass discovered on Oct. 13 was considered a once-in-a-lifetime event for beachgoers on Catalina Island off the coast of Southern California. But that event was followed five days later by a second oarfish, measuring 14 feet (4.3 meters), found on a beach in San Diego County. Now, some are claiming that oarfish washing ashore is a sign that an earthquake will soon follow. Shortly before the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami struck Japan, about 20 oarfish stranded themselves on beaches in the area, Mark Benfield, a researcher at Louisiana State University, told LiveScience in an earlier interview.

Blobfish wins ugliest animal vote   BBC - September 12, 2013
The grumpy-looking, gelatinous blobfish has won a public vote to become the official mascot of the Ugly Animal Preservation Society.

How Octopus Arms Regenerate With Ease   Scientific American - August 28, 2013
Like a starfish, an octopus can regrow lost arms. Unlike a starfish, a severed octopus arm does not regrow another octopus. But the biological secrets inside their arm regeneration feat do hold the promise of learning more about how we might better regenerate our own diseased or lost tissue. If not whole limbs, at least perhaps fresh nerves or organ segments.

Take a Look Through Nature's Most Transparent Animals   National Geographic - May 6, 2013
A team of researchers recently announced the discovery of Cyanogaster noctivaga, a brand new species of transparent fish that lives deep in the Amazon. Indeed, with its transparent skin and dazzling blue belly, the discovery constitutes an entirely new genus and, despite being very hard to see, has been given an eye-catching name that means blue-bellied night wanderer.

Fish Uses Sign Language With Other Species   National Geographic - April 19, 2013
The coral grouper is an agile hunter, quick to chase and attack prey in the open water. And when its prey dives into cracks and crevasses within a coral reef, the grouper uses its own version of sign language to get help, a new study says. The fish enlists the assistance of two other predators, the giant moray eel and the Napoleon wrasse, waiting up to 25 minutes for one to come into sight.

How Whales' Ancestors Left Land Behind   Live Science - March 21, 2013
By moving into the water full-time, the ancestors of whales paved the way for their descendants to become behemoths, largely free from gravity's constraints. Today, the blue whale is the largest animal ever to live. But even before the move, this lineage was setting size records. One ancient cousin to modern whales and hippos, called Andrewsarchus mongoliensis, ranks as the largest mammal known to have stalked the land as a predator. A skull from this creature - the only fossil found so far from this beast - greets visitors on their way into a new exhibit on whales here at the American Museum of Natural History.

Antarctic's First-Ever Whale Skeleton Found   Live Science - March 19, 2013
For the first time ever, scientists say they have discovered a whale skeleton on the ocean floor near Antarctica. Resting nearly a mile below the surface, the boneyard is teeming with strange life, including at least nine new species of tiny of deep-sea creatures, according to a new study. Though whales naturally sink to the ocean floor when they die, it's extremely rare for scientists to come across these final resting places, known as "whale falls." Discovering one typically requires a remote-controlled undersea vehicle and some luck.

Rarest Whale Seen for the First Tim   Discovery - November 5, 2012
The world's rarest whale, previously only known from a few bones, was seen for the first time on a New Zealand beach, according to a new Current Biology paper. The elusive marine mammal is the spade-toothed beaked whale (Mesoplodon traversii). The good news is that it was seen at all, revealing that it still exists. The bad news is that the sighting was of a mother and her male calf, both of which became stranded and died on the beach.

Deep-Sea, Shrimp-like Creatures Survive By Eating Wood   National Geographic - August 28, 2012
Deep-sea, shrimp-like crustaceans get big by munching on sunken wood, even from shipwrecks, according to a new study of amphipods.

New Genitalia-Headed Fish Is Evolutionary Mystery   National Geographic - August 28, 2012
A tiny new species of fish from Vietnam sports its genitalia on its noggin.

Two new species of fish found able to regenerate a lost fin   PhysOrg - February 23, 2012
History has shown that many invertebrates are able to regenerate lost limbs. Rare however, are animals with backbones that are able to do so, and when they do exist, they are usually amphibians or a few species of fish that regenerate parts that are mostly made of skin-like material. Thus the discovery of two species of Polypterus bichir, fish found in Africa, that can regenerate a lost side (pectoral) fin in as little as a month has created some excitement in the scientific community.

"Virgin Birth" Record Broken by Hotel Shark   National Geographic - January 10, 2012
She may be confined to a desert hotel, and far from any males, but a zebra shark named Zebedee is record-breakingly fertile. The female shark, which lives in a restaurant aquarium in Dubai's Burj Al Arab, has experienced four straight years of "virgin births" - a feat never before documented among sharks, according to marine biologist David Robinson. Experts at the resort - billed as the world's most luxurious - had seen Zebedee lay eggs before, but had assumed they held no offspring, because she is never in the presence of any male zebra sharks. Hotel staff first discovered she was reproducing asexually in 2007.

A new theory emerges for where some fish became four-limbed creatures   PhysOrg - December 28, 2011
A small fish crawling on stumpy limbs from a shrinking desert pond is an icon of can-do spirit, emblematic of a leading theory for the evolutionary transition between fish and amphibians. This theorized image of such a drastic adaptation to changing environmental conditions, however, may, itself, be evolving into a new picture.

Rare "Cyclops" Shark Found   BBC - October 21, 2011
Talk about a one-of-a-kind discovery - an extremely rare cyclops shark (pictured) has been confirmed in Mexico, new research shows. The 22-inch-long (56-centimeter-long) fetus has a single, functioning eye at the front of its head - the hallmark of a congenital condition called cyclopia, which occurs in several animal species, including humans. Earlier this year fisher

  New Pacific eel is a 'living fossil', scientists say   BBC - August 17, 2011
A newly discovered eel that inhabits an undersea cave in the Pacific Ocean has been dubbed a "living fossil" because of its primitive features. It is so distinct, scientists created a new taxonomic family to describe its relationship to other eels. The US-Palauan-Japanese team say the eel's features suggest it has a long and independent evolutionary history stretching back 200m years.

How plants drove animals to the land   PhysOrg - September 30, 2010
A new study of ancient oxygen levels presents the first concrete evidence that after aquatic plants evolved and boosted the levels of oxygen aquatic life exploded, leading to fierce competition that eventually led some fish to try to survive on land.

Marine viruses changing Earth's system: study   PhysOrg - September 28, 2010
All but overlooked until the past decade, marine viruses far outnumber any other biological entity on the planet. Scientists are only beginning to discover the invisible particles that are the cogs of Earth's system, changing dynamics in food webs, fisheries, even climate.

Marine scientists unveil the mystery of life on undersea mountains   PhysOrg - September 20, 2010
They challenge the mountain ranges of the Alps, the Andes and the Himalayas in size yet surprisingly little is known about seamounts, the vast mountains hidden under the world's oceans. Now in a special issue of Marine Ecology scientists uncover the mystery of life on these submerged mountain ranges and reveal why these under studied ecosystems are under threat.

Genome of Ancient Sea Sponge Reveals Origins of First Animals, Cancer   Science Daily - August 5, 2010
The sponge, which was not recognized as an animal until the 19th century, is now the simplest and most ancient group of animals to have their genome sequenced. All living animals are descended from the common ancestor of sponges and humans, which lived more than 600 million years ago. A sponge-like creature may have been the first organism with more than one cell type and the ability to develop from a fertilized egg produced by the merger of sperm and egg cells.- that is, an animal.

Warming of Oceans Will Reduce and Rearrange Marine Life   Wired - July 28, 2010
The warmth of the ocean is the critical factor that determines how much productivity and biodiversity there is in the ocean, and where. In two separate studies, researchers found that warming oceans have led to a massive decline in the amount of plant life in the sea over the last century, and that temperature is tightly linked to global patterns of marine biodiversity.

Plankton decline across oceans as waters warm   BBC - July 28, 2010
The amount of phytoplankton - tiny marine plants - in the top layers of the oceans has declined markedly over the last century, research suggests. They made their finding by looking at records of the transparency of sea water, which is affected by the plants.

Marine Biodiversity Strongly Linked to Ocean Temperature   Science Daily - July 28, 2010
In an unprecedented effort that will be published online on the 28th of July by the international journal Nature, a team of scientists mapped and analyzed global biodiversity patterns for over 11,000 marine species ranging from tiny zooplankton to sharks and whales. The researchers found striking similarities among the distribution patterns, with temperature strongly linked to biodiversity for all thirteen groups studied. These results imply that future changes in ocean temperature, such as those due to climate change, may greatly affect the distribution of life in the sea.

Creepy Human Fish Can Live 100 Years   Wired - July 21, 2010
A small blind cave salamander, "the human fish," has broken the world's record for longest-lived amphibian. The salamander, which can live to over 100, is endangered, but reaches such advanced ages in zoos and protected environments.

Scientists discover prehistoric fish under Great Barrier Reef   Telegraph.co.uk - July 16, 2010
Ancient sharks, giant oil fish, swarms of crustaceans and a primitive shell-dwelling squid species called the Nautilus were among the astonishing life captured by remote controlled cameras at Osprey Reef. Justin Marshall, the lead researcher, said his team had also found several unidentified fish species, including "prehistoric six-gilled sharks" using special lowlight sensitive cameras which were custom designed to trawl the ocean floor, 4,593ft (1,400m) below sea level.

Warm-Blooded Marine Reptiles at the Time of the Dinosaurs   Science Daily - June 16, 2010
Between 200 and 65 million years ago, fearsome marine reptiles reigned over the oceans. Were they warm-blooded like today's mammals and birds or cold-blooded like nowadays fish and reptiles? For the first time, a study has settled the debate: some large marine reptiles were warm-blooded (in other words, they were endothermic), giving them a considerable advantage to swim fast over long distances and to conquer cold regions.

Deep sea fish 'mystery migration' across Pacific Ocean   BBC - June 3, 2010
Deep sea fish species found in the north Pacific Ocean have mysteriously been caught in the southwest Atlantic, on the other side of the world. It is unclear how the animals, a giant rattail grenadier, pelagic eelpout and deep sea squid, travelled so far. Their discovery 15,000km from their usual home raises the possibility that deep sea currents can transport animals from one polar region to another.

Whales Evolved in the Blink of an Eye   Live Science - June 3, 2010
Whales evolved explosively fast into a spectacular array of shapes and sizes, a new study suggests. Whales' sizes stretch the imagination from the 100-foot (30-meter) long blue whale - the largest animal to have ever existed - to a small species about the size of a dog. Many ideas exist for how whales evolved into different body types, but the new study, published online in the May 19 edition of the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, is the first attempt to unravel the mystery.

Nine Fish With "Hands" Found to Be New Species   National Geographic - May 25, 2010
Using its fins to walk, rather than swim, along the ocean floor in an undated picture, the pink handfish is one of nine newly named species described in a recent scientific review of the handfish family. Only four specimens of the elusive four-inch (ten-centimeter) pink handfish have ever been found, and all of those were collected from areas around the city of Hobart (map), on the Australian island of Tasmania.

Census offers glimpse of oceans' smallest lifeforms   BBC - April 19, 2010
An unprecedented number of tiny, ocean dwelling organisms have been catalogued by researchers involved in a global survey of the world's oceans. One of the highlights was the discovery of a vast "microbial mat", covering an area equivalent to the size of Greece. Microbes are estimated to constitute up to 90% of all marine biomass.

Photos: Beautiful Hard-to-See Sea Creatures Revealed   National Geographic - April 19, 2010

First oxygen-free animals found   BBC - April 8, 2010
Scientists have found the first animals that can survive and reproduce entirely without oxygen, deep on the floor of the Mediterranean Sea. The team, led by Roberto Danovaro from Marche Polytechnic University in Ancona, Italy, found three new species from the Loricifera group.