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The Artful Amoeba

Deepsea Challenge Hits Theaters; Here’s the Biology Behind the Film

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Note: James Cameron’s National Geographic film “Deepsea Challenge 3D” documenting his trip to Challenger Deep at the bottom of the Mariana Trench has been released at last — to about 300 “select theaters” on August 8. So far, critics’ reviews have been mixed, with some saying that the movie is long on Cameron and short [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

A Closer Look at a Tiny, Floating Horde

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It’s a strange but true fact that the young of many familiar sea creatures look nothing like them. Drifting on currents to distribute their kind, they are an unsung part of the plankton, itself an unsung part of the sea. A few years back, I wrote about the work of Richard Kirby, a research fellow [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

What Do Vampire Squid Really Eat? Hint: It’s Not Blood

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Waters nearly devoid of oxygen are not just found off the coast of South America, as we saw last time. “Oxygen minimum zones” may occur throughout the world’s ocean’s at mid-water depths where food consumption is high but supplies of oxygen are low. Although, as I mentioned last time, such waters are dead zones for [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

Missing Nitrogen May Be Vanishing in the Tubes of Giant Bacteria

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Off the coast of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula lies a dark, still, deep place. It is called the Soledad Basin, and in it lies a garden of bacteria so large you can see them with your own eyes. A 250-m high ridge on the edge of the Soledad basin traps water inside. No strong currents disturb [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

The Private Life of Plankton — in HD

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Artistic black-and-white photos of plankton — as we saw last time — are fabulous. But what if one hungers for HD? The Plankton Chronicles have got you covered. On Friday I wrote about the Plankton Portal, a project to enlist the public’s help in identifying and cataloguing weird, deep-sea life. Via their blog, I learned [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

Ever Wanted to Observe and ID Weird Deep Sea Creatures? Here’s Your Chance

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If you’re like me, you’ve pondered from time to time the goings-on of life in the deep. What’s happening down there this very moment? What do the creatures look like when they’re just hanging out? But most of us will never be able to take a trip in a submersible. Now, though fuzzy and in [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

Wonderful Things: The Universe Between the Sand Grains

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This is the fourth post in the Wonderful Things series. As we saw last time, the thin strip of sand found on beaches is home to many organisms that can dwell no where else. But the strip swept by waves — the intertidal — may be the richest part of all. Living between the wet [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

Glass Sponges Poriferify — and Beautify — Impoverished Antarctic Neighborhood

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Glass sponges are taking over a newly sunlit strip of Antarctic marine real estate at a blistering clip, surprising biologists who had no idea they had it in them. And what’s in them, it turns out, is also fairly astounding. The story, as was widely reported last month, is this: Although more than 30% of [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

The Swimming Sea Cucumber and the Exploding Paint Pack

Sea cucumbers aren’t all boring, trundling bags. Some of them swim — and glow. Though I opted to focus on creatures found at greater depths in my last post, one of the creatures observed by the Deepsea Challenger expedition in the New Britain Trench at a relatively shallow 1000 meters was just such a swimming [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

What Lives at the Bottom of the Mariana Trench? More Than You Might Think

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The deepest, darkest, scariest place on the maps I loved pondering as a child was a crescent-shaped canyon in the western Pacific Ocean. It was called the Mariana Trench, and at the very, very bottom was the lowest point on Earth’s surface, the Challenger Deep. Its floor was seven terrifying miles down. What was down [...]

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Expeditions

To Hades and Back: Nereus Lost

The hybrid remotely operated vehicle (HROV) Nereus during a dip test in Auckland Harbor in April prior to departure. (Photo by Ken Kostel, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

ABOARD THE R/V THOMAS G. THOMPSON—In the early morning hours of Saturday, May 10, we were on the seafloor in the deepest part of the Kermadec Trench when all of the video screens in the Nereus control room went dark. That wasn’t unusual, but it did signal a premature end to our 7-hour dive to [...]

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Expeditions

To Hades and Back: Snailfish Surprise in the Kermadec Trench

ABOARD THE R/V THOMAS G. THOMPSON—On the scale of the Pacific Ocean, the Kermadec Trench looks like a thin line snaking down from southwest to northeast just off the northeastern tip of New Zealand’s North Island. But when you zoom in and look even at the coarse detail that the ship’s multi-beam sonar can reveal, [...]

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Expeditions

To Hades and Back: One Trench Among Many

Nereus returns to the deck of the Thomas G. Thompson from a dive. (Photo by Ken Kostel, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

ABOARD THE R/V THOMAS G. THOMPSON—Challenger Deep is the deepest spot in the ocean—that we know of, at least. The seafloor is so poorly mapped that there could easily be something deeper out there, but that’s not all that important to us. It’s been visited many times by both human-occupied and remotely operated vehicles, including [...]

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Expeditions

To Hades and Back: Feeding Frenzies of the Deep

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ABOARD THE R/V THOMAS G. THOMPSON—While waiting for the weather to die down and for solutions to problems with our winch and the vehicle, the rest of our non-Nereus science program has continued. We have put both of the landers and the fish trap in the water almost every day so far at varying depths [...]

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Expeditions

To Hades and Back: Under the Weather

The R/V Thomas G. Thompson holding station over Maug caldera in 2004. / Credit: NOAA.

ABOARD THE R/V THOMAS G. THOMPSON—Our operations have been halted for a second day now while we wait for a storm on the other side of New Zealand to spin itself out. With no samples to process, many of us took a day off to catch up on reading or, for some of the undergraduates [...]

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Expeditions

To Hades and Back: Exploring the Deepest Part of the Ocean

The hybrid remotely operated vehicle (HROV) Nereus during a dip test in Auckland Harbor in April prior to departure. (Photo by Ken Kostel, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

Humans have been to every corner of the planet and built either an Internet café or a Starbucks in almost every city. You can find plastic in the middle of the ocean and Mt. Everest base camp is a vast rubbish heap. Satellites monitor virtually every square meter of Earth every day and Google has [...]

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Expeditions

You wanted to know: who are these scientists?

For the past few days we’ve covered some of the scientists on board through their PI’s: Kay Bidle, Jack DiTullio and Rachel, Petey and Jacob, Marco Coolen and Cherel, Anna Martins, Assaf and his gang. But there are still some scientists you haven’t met yet. Let’s go alphabetically. Benjamin Bailleul is a physicist turned physical [...]

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Expeditions

You wanted to know: What’s the virus infecting the phytoplankton? (Part Two)

Yesterday we learned about how normal viruses work. Today, we’re finally getting to how this particular Ehux virus does it’s thing. What method of predation does the virus use on Emiliania huxleyi? Jim Wallstrum Spokane from Washington So we’re back to Ehux. Just like other viruses and hosts, Ehux and Ehux-86 are locked in an [...]

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Observations

Submersible Dives Deep and Dies, Disheartening Scientists

Wood Hole’s Nereus sub succumbed to extreme pressure and imploded six kilometers down while exploring the vast Kermadec Trench. Image courtesy of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI).

Efforts to explore the deepest recesses of Earth’s oceans were dealt a heavy blow last weekend when one of history’s most accomplished deep-sea explorers imploded several kilometers beneath the Pacific and resurfaced in pieces. Fortunately, the ill-fated Nereus submersible was a robot and no one was injured when it succumbed to overwhelming subsurface pressure during [...]

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Observations

Ocean garbage patches are not growing, so where is all that plastic going?

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Researchers have been visiting locations in the western North Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea for more than two decades to better understand the large patches of plastic that have formed there. Although the mysteries surrounding exactly how the plastic gets to these locations, where it comes from and what impact it’s having on marine life [...]

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Symbiartic

SciArt of the Day: Forget Jackalopes, I Want That.

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James Prosek is best known for his meticulously painted fish images. But his recent foray into sculpture is equally as interesting and thought-provoking. Through the end of September, a variety of his fanciful bone sculptures as well as his fish portraits will be on display at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C. EXHIBIT: [...]

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