News archive – 2013

This map shows the Gulf of Mexico and the locations of the Campeche Escarpment and the buried impact crater that caused a global extinction event about 65 million years ago. Base image: Google Earth

Mapping the demise of the dinosaurs

About 65 million years ago, an asteroid or comet crashed into a shallow sea near what is now the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico. The resulting firestorm and global dust cloud caused the extinction of many land plants and large animals, including most of the dinosaurs.
The dead salps MBARI researchers observed on the sea floor were a result of increased life in the surface waters, NOT a sign that the ocean is dying.

Feast and famine on the abyssal plain

Over one thousand miles wide and three thousand miles long, the Sargasso Sea occupies almost two thirds of the North Atlantic Ocean. Within the sea, circling ocean currents accumulate mats of Sargassum seaweed that shelter a surprising variety of fishes, snails, crabs, and other small animals.
A Grimalditeuthis bonplandi squid with one of its tentacles extended. The arrow points to a small "club" at the end of the tentacle that wiggles and appears to swim independently of the rest of the animal. Image: © 2005 MBARI

A deep-sea squid with tentacle tips that "swim" on their own

Many deep-sea animals such as anglerfish use parts of their body as lures to attract prey. Some deep-sea squids may use this strategy as well. In a recent paper, researchers associated with MBARI describe a deep-sea squid that appears to use a different method to lure prey—its tentacle tips flap and flutter as if swimming on their own.
This map shows the locations of the two aquaculture facilities in the Pacific Northwest where Environmental Sample Processors are being deployed during the summer of 2013. Base map: Google Earth.

Environmental Sample Processors help prevent seafood poisoning

Washington state is one of the nation's most prolific areas for shellfish harvesting and aquaculture. Yet, as in many other areas, Washington's shellfish may cause seafood poisoning when certain types of harmful algae or bacteria become abundant in local waters.

Photos from MBARI's 2013 Open House

On July 20, MBARI opened its doors to the public, providing visitors with a once-a-year opportunity to talk with scientists, engineers, and marine operations crews about their work.
A Mola mola (ocean sunfish) with a GPS tag attached. Over a dozen of these fish are being tracked during the REP-13 experiment. Image: Marina Oliveira.

Fish-tracking robots take to the seas and skies off Portugal

A unique field experiment being conducted off the coast of Portugal this week combines ocean robotics and marine biology in a complex aquatic dance. Researchers are using a fleet of robotic vehicles to track over a dozen Mola mola (ocean sunfish) as they forage across the coastal ocean.

MBARI research shows where trash accumulates in the deep sea

Surprisingly large amounts of discarded trash end up in the ocean. Plastic bags, aluminum cans, and fishing debris not only clutter our beaches, but accumulate in open-ocean areas such as the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch." Now, a paper by researchers at MBARI shows that trash is also accumulating in the deep sea, particularly in Monterey Canyon.
Giant tubeworms such these as have evolved to live at the boundary between oxygen-poor vent fluids and oxygen-rich seawater. If past catastrophic global environmental changes caused the deep seawater to become oxygen-poor, these worms would have had to adapt, evolve, or die off and be replaced by other animals. Image: ©2003 MBARI

Deep-sea vent animals not as isolated as they seem

Miles below the ocean surface, diverse ecosystems flourish at hydrothermal vents. Without sunlight, animals live off of bacteria that thrive on chemicals billowing out of the Earth's crust. These strange communities appear entirely detached from life on land.
This image shows a forecast of the temperature of surface waters (blue and yellow shading) and currents (black arrows) made by the Regional Ocean Modeling System (ROMS) computer model during the ECOHAB experiment. Similar models may eventually be able to forecast the locations of harmful algal blooms. Base image: Google Maps

The ECOHAB experiment—A first step toward predicting harmful algal blooms

Killing wildlife and occasionally sickening people, harmful algal blooms can be more than just a nuisance. But predicting these blooms is difficult—even more difficult than predicting the weather—because blooms result from a dynamic interaction between both physical and biological processes.
A swarm of Chrysaora jellies swims near the surface of Monterey Bay. These jellies bloom periodically along the California coast. This image was taken by a video camera mounted on MBARI's long-range autonomous underwater vehicle. Image © 2010 MBARI.

Jellyfish blooms pulse cyclically through time

A surge in jellyfish blooms over the past decade has spawned similar blooms of public fascination with these sea drifters and their apparent saturation of our oceans. Images of fish nets and nuclear-plant intake pipes clogged with gelatinous sacks of tentacles have flared concerns for fisheries and public safety.
A portion of the San Diego Trough Fault Zone that bisects an ancient seafloor channel called the San Gabriel Channel. The inset shows a close-up of the channel wall that has been offset by the fault, with white arrows indicating the direction of slip between the two plates. Image © 2013 MBARI.

Underwater robots help discover hidden faults

Hidden beneath ocean waves and masked by sand and mud on the seafloor, underwater faults are notoriously difficult to see and even more difficult to study. As a result, geologists struggle to evaluate the risks associated with these faults and often can’t include them in seismic hazard assessments.