Did you know?

Toadfish

Sea animals of every size, shape, and color fill our oceans. They may be tiny, only seen under a microscope, or as big as whales. They have one thing in common: tools for survival. The sea animal's mission is to find food and beware of other animals that want to eat them. They must have their own armors of protection to survive. But they do need each other to create a healthy environment. They've figured out how to live together and it works. Below are facts that may surprise you:

In 1998 Oyster Toadfish, in separate aquariums, boarded the Columbia Mission (STS-95) and blasted off into space. Scientists wanted to test their vestibular (inner-ear) while in space. It is similar to human's inner-ear system. Toadfish wore electronic monitoring systems to measure changes before, during and after the flight. By sliding the aquariums back and forth, scientists were able to discover signals sent from the inner-ear to the brain. They looked for clues to help astronauts with motion sickness from lack of gravity.

Fun Facts:

  • Toadfish look like giant pollywogs. They have huge down-turned mouths.
  • They appear lazy, but can move with lightening quick speed.
  • It's swim muscle can vibrate at twice the speed of a rattlesnake's tail.
  • Male toadfish make really good dads. The mom swims into the nursery, an old tin can or rotten, hollowed out piece of wood, to lay her eggs. The dad fertilizes, then watches over them until they hatch.


Did You Know?

The Sea Sponge

A sea sponge looks like a plant, but it's an animal. Encrusting sponges cover the surface of rocks, like moss. Free standing sponges attach themselves to hard surfaces or the sea bottom. They can grow into huge sizes and strange shapes. Sponges make their own chemical warfare to chase away predators. Scientists are looking with interest at this chemical. It's quite possible that the secret weapon found within the sponge's chemical warfare might stop clumps of tumor cells in their tracks in humans.

Fun Facts:

  • If two encrusting sponges dare to touch, the sponge that survives is the one who makes the best chemical to kill the quickly dividing cells of the touching sponge.
  • The barrel sponge can grow large enough to fit a person inside.
  • Most sponges are both male and female. During the mating process a sponge may be male one time and female the next.


Did You Know?

Sea Slugs

When you walk down the street, you take it for granted your feet will find the right place to step. You spend your time talking to a friend of thinking of something else. You don't think about how you're wlaking. But how do your muscles know to do what your brain says? Researchers are studying the unusual brians, sea slugs are helping scientists to understand the process of learning and memory.

Fun Facts:

  • Clever sea slugs can borrow weapons from their prey (food). They swallow harpoon-like stinging cells from jellyfish, anemones, sponges, and coral. The slugs store them in tiny sacs on their skin. When in danger, they fire away at their predators (enemies).
  • Sea slugs have a muscular foot for moving about. The foot oozes a sticky slime that helps the slug hold on to rocks and plants. The slime provides the slug with quick transportation for a fast get-away when needed.
  • Sea slugs taste terrible. Predators leave them alone after a disgusting nibble.
 

Did You Know?

The Horseshoe Crab

If you’ve ever been in the hospital with a serious injury, most likely the horseshoe crab came to your rescue. The crab’s blood is used in hospitals today. The blood is like a detective, sensing the presence of enemies. Before we can receive a transfusion of blood into our bloodstream, it is mixed with a few drops of the crab’s blood. If the blood gels or clots, the new blood is not safe. Drops of blood from the crab is also used in a solution to make sure surgical instruments are clean and free from germs.

If you’ve ever cut yourself badly enough to need stitches, say thank you to the horseshoe crab. The chitin from its’ shell is spun into a thread used to stitch up cuts or incisions. Scientists use the discarded shells of the horseshoe crab in order to protect the horseshoe crab population.


Fun Facts:

  • A horseshoe crab’s blood is blue.
  • A horseshoe crab has no jaws. It eats with it’s thighs.
  • Horseshoe crabs have ten eyes. Most powerful is it’s compound eyes. They have many different lenses, allowing them to see images in all directions at once.
  • Scientists are able to take blood from the crab, then release the crab back into the water in 48 hours without causing any harm.
  • Horseshoe crabs are not really crabs. They’re distant cousins of scorpions, ticks, and land spiders. 



Did You Know?

Sea Cucumbers

Sea cucumbers look like your garden variety of cucumbers, except for their bright assortment of colors. Sea cucumbers have five double rows of tube feet that run along the underside of their bodies. Tube feet allow them to crawl along the ocean floor and anchor to rocks. Sea Cucumbers serve as vacuum cleaners of the sea floor, sucking up everything in their path.

When threatened by predators, they shoot their guts out their hind end in the form of tiny silky threads. The threads are toxic and will stop predators in their tracks. But in no time at all, sea cucumbers can swim off and re-grow their body parts.


Fun Facts:

  • A sea cucumber can morph itself into a goopy mass in your hand, then slip between your fingers, back into the water, becoming stiff again.
  • The body wall of sea cucumbers contain a thick white material called catch connective tissue. It allows sea cucumbers to change from stiff to goopy.
  • Sea cucumbers use a stiff armor when up against predators.
  • Scientists ask, “Will studying sea cucumbers give us clues to re-growing body parts?”



Did You Know?

Cone Snails

Cone snails dwell in tropical coral shallow water reefs or swamps with mangrove trees. Mostly in Southeast Asia. They range in size from less than an inch to nine inches long. The beautiful cone-shaped shells have unique colors and patterns. A cone snail, when found empty on a beach, can be a valuable prize. People collect the shells by the millions and sell them in seaside towns around the world.

The tiny innocent looking snail has a foot, head, and tentacles, but harmless, it is not. It’s tongue with rows of horny teeth, spouts a harpoon-like barb, which is a killer. Powerful venom lies within the fleshy body. It paralyzes its’ prey when injected through the hollow harpoon-like tooth.


Fun Facts:

  • At an 18th century auction in Ansterdam, a rare cone snail shell was sold for thousands of dollars; more than the famous Dutch artist Vermeer’s painting.
  • At the narrow end of the shell, a cone snail has an elastic-like snout. After it paralyzes its prey, it opens the snout to pull the meal into its’ stomach.
  • Each species of the slow-moving cone snail produces about one hundred toxins that are mixed into a paralyzing cocktail.
  • Scientists have found that the cone snail venom (toxin) of the Conus species of cone snails, can help treat human pain as well as cancer.


 

Did You Know?

The Long-Finned Squid

The long-finned squid has a rocket-shaped body that glides gracefully through the water. It moves backwards by squirting water through a funnel below a beak-shaped mouth. The long-finned squid has a pair of tentacles, used to grab prey. The prey is then held by four pairs of much shorter arms. Squid’s eyes are always open because they have no eyelids. Squid can change colors when threatened, turning from a milky color to red, and squirting a thick cloud of pitch-black ink. The ink stops predators from watching their escape.

The long-finned squid has the largest giant axons (nerve fibers connecting nerve cells, like telephone wires) in all the animal kingdom. Most of our knowledge about how axons send messages throughout the body has come from studying the squid. Giant axons also provided the first clues on how nerves repair themselves after injury.

FUN FACTS:

  • Squid’s body shape and water-jet propulsion system makes it the fastest swimmer of all invertebrates (animals without backbones).
  • Equipped for speed, camouflage, and long distance travel, the squid is the equivalent of a Swiss Army Knife.
  • A squid’s skin can flash up to 50 hypnotic patterns. Squids use changing body color patterns to signal each other.
  • A long-finned squid’s tiny brain does tasks that requires a much larger brain in other animals.



Did You Know?

Sea Urchins

Sea urchins are often called pincushions of the sea because of their hard globe-shaped bodies, armed with bristle-like spines that look like toothpicks. They live in shallow waters and carry small rocks, pieces of shells, kelp, and anemones on their back for shade and camouflage. Tubes with suction cups move within the spines, like dancing feet. The suctioned tube feet are used for moving about, trapping food, and protection. They use their small pinchers for defense and for clutching food. Sea urchins are intimidating grazers, gobbling up whole kelp beds in their paths.

Could sea urchins have discovered the fountain of youth? They are among the longest living animals on earth. They can live and reproduce for two hundred years or more.

FUN FACTS:

  • Sea urchins are able to clone themselves.
  • A sea urchin has no brain. Instead it has a nerve ring, used to power its tube feet.
  • All sea urchins has five continuously growing teeth; useful feeding tools. They use their teeth for scraping algae, their favorite food, off of rocks.



Did You Know?

Jellyfish

Jellyfish are among the most beautiful, mysterious, and captivating creatures of the ocean. They pulse and throb in seas all over the world. Their rhythm is somewhat like your heart-beating pulse. They are fragile and translucent (frosty see-through) or transparent (clear see-through). Most jellys are umbrella or bell shaped, with long string-like tentacles that hang from their bells. Each tentacle has thousands of microscopic stinging devices, arranged in exciting patterns to attract prey.

When diving down deep into pitch-black waters, a marine biologist senses an amazing world of lights. The lights spark and glow like fairy-dust sprinkled throughout the deep water. This light is called bioluminescence. It is made by sea creatures to lure prey, keep predators away, and attract mates. Most jellyfish are able to produce such a light. But the light doesn’t twinkle, flash, or glow in the dark continuously. Bioluminescence is one of the great mysteries of the sea.

FUN FACTS:

  • Some jellyfish tentacles can reach out 100 feet or more.
  • Jellyfish are made up of 95% to 99% water. It’s body consists of two layers, with a flexible jelly-like substance in the middle.
  • Jellyfish live for three to six months. Some live only a few weeks; others may live up to two years.
 

Websites with more information:

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution http://www.whoi.edu

Scripps Institution of Oceanography http://www.sio.ucsd.edu

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration http://www.noaa.gov