Ok, so it’s not literally whale soup out here, but Monterey Bay has been full of humpback whales for the past few weeks. Casey Clark, a graduate student at Moss Landing Marine Labs, has been taking advantage of this opportunity to investigate migrations and feeding behavior humpback whales in this region. Each whale’s tail (known as a fluke) has a unique pattern of black and white markings and scars, which can be used to identify individual whales, much like fingerprints are used to identify humans. As part of his research, Casey has been photographing the flukes of whales encountered in the bay and referencing them to a catalog to determine when and where they have been seen in the past. Spring and summer are great times to see humpback and blue whales in Monterey bay, so keep your eyes out for a glimpse of these huge marine mammals!
Archive for the ‘Research: Live from the Labs’ Category
by Angela Szesciorka, Vertebrate Ecology Lab
One hundred and forty two new species were discovered last year. Four of those were deep-sea shark species discovered by Moss Landing Marine Laboratories’ Dr. David Ebert and his colleagues. Their findings, as well as some interesting facts about the sharks, were featured in National Geographic among the new species found in 2011.
The previously unknown shark species they described included Pristiophorus nancyae, Etmopterus joungi, Etmopterus sculptus, and Squatina caillieti (does that last one sound familiar?).
Pristiophorus nancyae was named by Ebert and Dr. Gregor Cailliet after it was accidentally captured in a 490-meter trawl off Mozambique. This species, also called the African dwarf sawshark, is the seventh species of known sawshark. Like all sawsharks, P. nancyae has an elongated beak (rostrum) like a sword. It will swim with schools of fish, sideswipe prey with its rostrum, then snatch them up. P. nancyae was named for Nancy Packard Burnett because of her support for chondrichthyan (sharks and rays) research at the Pacific Shark Research Center at Moss Landing Marine Labs.
Stillwater Cove is one of the best studied kelp beds in the world. Moss Landing Marine Lab’s very own Mike Fox is studying giant kelp growth in Stillwater. The R/V John Martin took a group out to tag giant kelp in order to more easily locate them when they go reproductive. Large blades called sporophylls cover the holdfast and make it difficult to see the tags, so we attached white lines to a nearby winged kelp algae.
Congratulations to Phycology Lab student Paul Tompkins, who will be defending his thesis this Tursday, May 19th, at noon. Paul’s thesis is entitled “Distribution, Growth, and Disturbance of Catalina Island Rhodoliths.” What’s a rhodolith, you ask? If you can’t come hear the scoop on Thursday, check out these photos belows, or browse around the Drop-In:
Unlike most seaweeds, rhodoliths are algae that have a hard skeleton made out of calcium carbonate. The structure of a rhodolith bed creates a habitat for many types of organisms, like a mini coral reef or kelp forest. Beds like the one shown below were the subject of Paul’s thesis.
While fishing over the rocky reefs of San Jose del Cabo in Baja California, Ichthyology lab student Clinton Moran caught himself a 45-pound Pacific dog snapper (Lutjanus novemfasciatus). Clinton studies the mechanics of how fish feed – being the studious researcher that he is, he decided to clean and reassemble the head bones of his catch to display the fish’s wicked chompers. It’s easy to see where the common name comes from with those teeth that look positively canine. Check out some more fish bone displays from Clinton and other Ichthyology students.
Can you envision what a dog snapper looks like based on its teeth? Click here to see if you were close!
French international student and shark lover Marie Cachera cuddles a leopard shark from the MLML collection. Marie conducted a diet study on the starry skate as part of her Master’s thesis while visiting MLML for five months in 2009. Despite our location in a podunk town, the caliber of research of Moss Landing Marine Labs has attracted scientists and students from all over the world. Read an interview with MLML’s current international student Edem Mahu from Ghana.
by Jasmine Ruvalcaba, Phycology Lab
edited by Brynn Hooton
We’ve all heard the giant kelp Macrocystis can grow up to one meter per day. So, how do phycologists, people who study seaweeds, measure growth of different species of algae? With most, you can use a ruler of some sort. For instance, Dr. Graham, advisor of the phycology lab, has a National Science Foundation grant going right now to look at effects of climate change on intertidal and subtidal species. One factor he looks as is algal growth. To do so, we punch holes in the vegetative blade with a regular, run of the mill one-hole puncher near the base of the seaweed, and then each month go back to the same plants, and punch a new hole. We measure from the base of the blade to new the punch, from the new punch to the old punch, and the old punch to the tip of the blade. Wow, sounds like a lot to do underwater, right? Practice makes perfect.
That method is great for species that are fleshy and can grow centimeters per day, but how do you measure growth with calcified species, that grow very slowly? That’s what Paul Tompkins and I, Jasmine Ruvalcaba, are doing as a part of our thesis research. Paul studies rhodoliths, which are calcified red algae that form “beds” over soft sediments all over the world. I am studying their relatives, the articulated species. In a nut-shell, we soak our plants in stains anywhere from 5 minutes to days, depending on what type of stain we’re using, and let the stain mark the alga’s outer cell walls. After the plant is stained, we then put it back in clean seawater and let it grow. Any new parts of the plant that have grown after we took the plant out of the stain should be visible, and we know how long it’s taken to make this new growth. So, here is what we see…..
Keep in touch to read about my future adventures with coralline algae!