Deep-sea trawling smoothes out the wrinkles of canyons on the continental slope, making marine mountainsides look more like ploughed fields, changing the habitat of deep-sea creatures. The process rivals landslides and storms as a shaper of the deep sea, according to work published today in Nature. Continue reading
On their own, cyanobacteria are tiny photosynthetic organisms floating in the sea. But when they join forces, linking together into chains and then mats by the millions, they can become a threat. Before long, the bacteria change the color of the sea’s surface and even soften the wind-tossed chop. One study of cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, although they are not algae, predicted that rising sea temperatures could help the already widespread creatures expand their territory by more than 10 percent. Now researchers are asking whether mats of cyanobacteria might themselves affect local sea temperatures, thus creating a powerful feedback loop. Continue reading
It seemed like as good a place as any to brood, so whelks covered it with their eggs. Then crabs crawled onto the scene in a slow-motion seafloor pursuit. Octopi floated in from the murky abyss. Together they tore the whelks from the shells, and left behind a mound of empty conches as a warning to others. Sunken shipping containers are not safe for whelks. But they might make a safe refuge for a lot of other sea creatures, according to a new study that examined how the detritus of seaborne commerce affects residents of the deep sea. Continue reading
Seismologist W. Steven Holbrook and oceanographer Raymond Schmitt might be forgiven for talking past each other aboard a research cruise. Oceanographers normally drop probes overboard, measuring the ocean’s temperature, chemistry and motion. To seismologists, however, the ocean is in the way of their measurements: They typically tune their microphones to detect echoes from below the seafloor in search of clues about Earth’s structure. But over the past five years, Holbrook and Schmitt have learned to listen to each other — and to apply seismic techniques to hear hints of the ocean’s structure.