Coldest, oldest, quickest: 10 excessive sea creatures

Marine biologist Stephen Palumbi picks 10 of his favourite underwater creatures. From the oldest residing animal to the quickest meals within the sea, they’re all fairly excessive.

Marine biologist Stephen Palumbi (his new TEDxStanford Speak is The Extreme Life of the Sea) is aware of so much about what goes on beneath the world’s waves. Palumbi is the director of Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station, the place he’s mapping the genome of sea corals. As a scientist, professor and researcher, he has additionally proven the worth of DNA identification in whale conservation and in seafood markets (see his TED Speak: The Hidden Toxins in the Fish We Eat) and traced the variation in sea urchin sperm form. (How about that for dinner dialog?) His latest guide The Extreme Life of the Sea — written along with his son, novelist Anthony Palumbi — shines a light-weight on the wild world of sea life. Not too long ago we requested Palumbi to share a few of his favourite sea creatures — from the obscure to the fascinating to the simply plain unusual. He gracefully obliged. Under, his prime 10 picks:

1. The sailfish

Sailfish are the quickest eaters in the sea. They will transfer at 40 miles per hour — powering by colleges of fish, gorgeous them with blows from their payments, and gulping them down on the fly. Their eyes and brains must work so quick at these speeds that they should be heated up, utilizing specialised heat-generating muscle groups that line the eyes and mind. Photograph: iStock.

2. The bowhead whale

The bowhead whale is the oldest residing mammal. This was confirmed by the invention of century-old brass harpoon suggestions embedded in scars on the backs of whales hunted within the Nineteen Nineties. These harpoons haven’t been thrown at whales for over a century. Thus, the exact same animals hunted within the Nineteen Nineties additionally survived human assaults 100 years in the past. Photograph: Paul Nicklen/Getty Pictures.

3. The coral leiopathes (deep water black coral)

The oldest recognized animal is a coral residing on the slopes of Hawaii — deep within the sea, 1000’s of toes beneath the floor, the place situations are darkish and chilly and gradual. These black corals develop a hair’s width a 12 months. The oldest is now recognized to have lived longer than another animal on Earth — 4,270 years. Earlier than a number of the Egyptian pyramids had been constructed, this coral was alive. Photograph courtesy of NOAA Hawaiian Undersea Research Lab

4. The Pompeii worm

The animal with the biggest temperature tolerance is the Pompeii worm, which lives at the undersea hot-water vents, the place sizzling water at immense strain billows out from underneath the earth’s crust. The worm’s tail sits on the temperature of sizzling tea, however its tentacled head — an inch away — dips into the ice-cold water of the deep sea. To be taught how this wonderful creature constructs its cells and proteins throughout such a temperature vary, the genome of the Pompeii worm is being decoded. Photograph courtesy of University of Delaware College of Marine Studies.

5. The humpback whale

One of the crucial exuberant animal shows within the ocean is the breaching of humpback whales. The massive fins on humpback whales had been as soon as thought to generate enormous drag forces on the whales as a result of the fins are so lengthy and so bumpy. However detailed testing has proven the bumps really cut back the drag forces generated by the fins. Comparable designs on fan blades have resulted in a brand new era of low-drag, high-efficiency merchandise. Photograph: iStock.

6. The beluga whale

Beluga whales have a number of the greatest sonar within the sea. Their swollen head homes the ‘melon’, a fat-filled area that focuses incoming sound waves. Belugas want this further acuity. They dwell amongst drifting ice in slender channels, and they should use sonar to see ice holes that they’ll breathe by. Photograph: Jenny Spadafora (jspad)/Flickr.

5. The narwhal

Narwhals gave a legendary enhance to the Center Ages — as unicorn horns. The tusks of narwhals had been collected within the polar reaches of the North Atlantic and offered round Europe to nobles and collectors. Ingesting from a “unicorn horn” was stated to forestall poisoning. Every tusk is a tooth, overgrown from the facet of the mouth, however extending 10 to 14 toes in size. Tusks don’t have any recognized operate — however there are two clues for future marine biologists: Most males have tusks, however few females do. And a few narwhals have two. Photograph: Glenn Williams/National Institute of Standards and Technology.

8. The icefish

The Antarctic icefish dwell in water colder than freezing — 2 levels beneath zero Centigrade. Ocean water doesn’t freeze at this temperature as a result of it’s filled with salt. The blood of the icefish is much less salty than seawater; as an alternative, it retains itself from freezing through the use of ice proteins, typically referred to as antifreeze proteins, that connect to ice crystals forming within the blood stream. As soon as the ice crystals are coated with antifreeze protein, they’ll’t stick collectively, in order that they don’t develop. The icefish of the Antarctic have used this adaptation to change into very profitable — making up 95% of the fish biomass round Antarctica. Photograph: Uwe Kils/Wikimedia Commons.

9. Clownfish

Clownfish households had been made well-known in ‘Discovering Nemo,’ however actual ones have extra peculiar lives than the film lets on. In a sea anemone the place the clownfish dwell, the most important fish is at all times a feminine, laying all of the eggs. The following greatest fish is a purposeful male, fertilizing them. And plenty of smaller clownfish are immature males. When the feminine dies or is eaten by a predator, the most important male switches intercourse to change into feminine. On the identical time the most important immature male grows right into a purposeful male that may fertilize the eggs. This conveyor belt system of parenting assures a relentless provide of child Nemos. Photograph: Nick Hobgood/Wikipedia.

10. The anglerfish

Anglerfish inhabit the deep sea, and for a century they baffled marine biologists. At first solely feminine anglerfish had been recognized; the place the males had been and what they seemed like was an entire thriller. Then a parasitologist started finding out the worm-like parasites usually hooked up to anglerfish females. What he discovered, as an alternative of parasites, had been anglerfish males — every present process a radical transformation. When a male anglerfish is tiny, he finds and attaches to a feminine. First his jaws dissolve and his bloodstream fuses with the feminine’s. Then his mind disappears and his guts shrink. Finally he’s little greater than a testis, fertilizing the eggs of 1 feminine, for the remainder of his life. Photograph courtesy of Edith Widder.

TED audio system often cowl excessive sea creatures and what’s taking place underwater. Catch simply a few of their talks right here: 

Featured picture courtesy of Edith Widder.


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