Subject: NEAq Seabits 3.5 (fwd)

mike williamson (
Mon, 3 May 1999 16:53:32 -0400 (EDT)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 3 May 1999 15:32:05 -0400
From: Bruce Wyman <>
To: Seabits <>
Subject: NEAq Seabits 3.5

New England Aquarium Monthly email Newsletter
Volume 3, Issue 5, May 1999
Copyright, New England Aquarium 1999
The special "Look, ma, no more MIME problems" issue
Hello again, faithful Seabits readers. This month we bring you some sad news
from Cape Cod about right whales, an interesting discovery of a
glow-in-the-dark octopus and a preview of a great book to take to the beach
this summer. Late this month we celebrate Marine Mammal Mania here on Central
Wharf, and we are gearing up for our big free 30th Birthday Splash on June 20.
Mark your calendars!

In this issue:
   Watery Words
     - A Sad Day on Cape Cod
     - Octopus No Sucker
     - Book Review: The Restless Sea
   Out on the Net
   Travel with the Aquarium -- Summer Outings
   May Calendar
   June Calendar Preview
   Contact Us

***** WATERY WORDS ********************************************************

     "The phosphorescence was particularly good that night. By
      plunging your hand into the water and dragging it along you
      could draw a wide golden-green ribbon of cold fire across the
      sea, and when you dived as you hit the surface it seemed as
      though you had plunged into a frosty furnace of glinting light."

                        -- Gerald Durrell, My Family and Other Animals

***** STORIES *************************************************************
This month's stories
   1) A Sad Day on Cape Cod
   2) Octopus No Sucker
   3) Book Review: The Restless Sea

----- A SAD DAY ON CAPE COD -----------------------------------------------
by Sue Knapp, roving reporter

Tuesday, April 20, 1999, was a tragic day for the endangered North Atlantic
right whale. It was on this day that Staccato, a female right whale that
researchers have known since 1974, was found dead floating in Cape Cod Bay,
just a few miles off the coast of Wellfleet, Massachusetts. A day later on
April 21, scientists, led by veterinarian David St. Aubin from the Mystic
Aquarium, began the grim task of conducting the necropsy (animal autopsy)
trying to determine the cause of death.

"With a population numbering only about 325, the death of a reproducing mom
represents a serious blow to the right whale species," said Scott Kraus, New
England Aquarium Director of Research and chief scientist with the Aquarium's
Right Whale Research Project. "We've known Staccato and her calves for a long
time. It's like losing a friend or colleague." Staccato was seen swimming in
Cape Cod Bay on April 6 and again on April 15. She is the mother of at least 6

Preliminary necropsy findings have revealed that Staccato had five broken
vertebrae on her right side and a broken lower right jaw bone. These broken
bones suggest blunt trauma caused by a large ship, though the blow was
probably not sufficient to kill her instantly. Because of the presence of
abnormal skin and tongue lesions, we think she was also suffering from some
sort of chronic infection. Pathology and histology tests, providing detailed
reports on blood, bone and tissue samples, will be conducted over the next few
weeks. These tests should shed light on the stage of the infection and
indicate how long before her death she sustained the injuries.

Since 1980, the New England Aquarium's Right Whale Research Project has
studied distribution, abundance, behavior and migration patterns, genetics,
reproduction and mortality rates and methods to reduce human impacts. This
spring, usually a busy time for right whale researchers off the
Carolina/Georgia coast, was marked by unusually low calf sightings. "Each dead
right whale on the beach carries a message. This whale may very well become
the next spotted owl. Without solutions to the problems these animals face, we
could see impacts on the shipping industry along the whole East Coast. We are
now working with the industry to try and reduce or eliminate ship/whale
collision risk, but resources are limited. This administration and Congress
need to make a commitment to ensure the survival of right whales, and they
need to do it now," said Kraus.

Whalers named them the right whale because they were the right whale to hunt.
They swam slowly at the surface, making them easy to kill. Once dead, they
floated, making them easy to tow to shore. And when boiled, their thick layer
of blubber provided up to 70 barrels of oil. Today, human activities,
primarily collisions with ships, still account for about 40% of all right
whale deaths. Of the known human-caused deaths since 1976, collisions with
large ships have killed 14 North Atlantic right whales, and fishing gear
entanglements have killed 2. Inbreeding and pollution may also contribute to
low birth rates.

Droplet: Genetic research by New England Aquarium scientists indicates that
the remaining right whales may have descended from as few as 4 female right

----- OCTOPUS NO SUCKER ---------------------------------------------------
Researchers from the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution (HBOI) in Fort
Pierce, Florida recently discovered a species of octopus that looks like it
belongs wrapped around a Christmas tree rather than in the deep ocean. The
eight arms of Stauroteuthis syrtensis appear to have ordinary octopus suckers
on them, but they have lost their adhesive quality and instead appear to
contain light organs that emit a green-blue glow.

Scientists have recognized this species, known as the deep sea finned octopus,
for over 100 years without realizing it had this bioluminscent capability. How
did researchers discover this? In 1997, codiscoverer Edith Widder of HBOI
brought a live, foot-long specimen back to a lab. When the researchers turned
off the lights, this red octopus emitted a blue-green light (wavelength of
around 470 nanometers, a frequency that travels well underwater).

Speculating on why this octopus bioluminesces, scientists say this deep water
species may have evolved from a shallower water species, and probably lost the
need for suckers when it colonized the deeper ocean. The bioluminescent
quality may have developed as a way to attract mates and lure prey in the
dark. Interestingly, this species does not eat fish or other large animals,
but feeds mostly on tiny crustaceans called copepods. Widder explains, "It's
like a raccoon living on a diet of mosquitoes." Shallow water copepods are
known to have an affinity for light, though we know less about deep water

Bioluminescence is not rare in the ocean, especially in the deep water
(200-1000 meters), where around 80% of the animals emit light to attract
mates, distract predators or lure prey. In examining the suckers, researchers
found that although their overall morphology is very similar to typical
suckers, the muscles that are usually well-developed in suckers are greatly
reduced and replaced by photocytes, or light producing cells. The fact that
the organs display both sucker and light-emitting traits offers a rare glimpse
into evolution.

For more information and pictures, see the 11 March 1999 issue of Nature and
the 13 March 1999 issue of Science News (famed octopus on both covers).

Droplet: Bioluminescence is cold light. The production of light by living
organisms involves a reaction in which the energy is released as light instead
of heat. That's why fireflies aren't hot.

----- BOOK REVIEW: THE RESTLESS SEA ---------------------------------------
If ocean exploration is your thing, The Restless Sea: Exploring the World
Beneath the Waves is the book for you. Even if ocean exploration isn't on your
top ten list of most fascinating subjects, I would still recommend putting
this one on everyone's summer reading list.

Robert Kunzig, the author, has done what I, as an almost strictly fiction
(with an occasional foray into natural history) reader, would doubt that
anyone could do: He has written a book about some of the most scientifically
complex and technical questions you might have about the ocean (like, how did
it get here?) and answered them in engaging and completely understandable

Kunzig tells the stories of the explorers and discoverers who have unearthed,
so to speak, some of the ocean's secrets. The genius is in the telling. Kunzig
introduces readers to eccentric and brilliant characters, some pioneers in
oceanography and others who missed the boat. He tracks the fascinating
evolution of ideas and theories about the ocean, including theories that kept
raising their ugly heads and had to be beaten into obscurity again and again.

A glimpse inside: J. Frederick Grassle, then of Woods Hole Oceanographic
Institute, did an experiment to find out how fast deep-sea sediments are
colonized. The answer: pretty slowly. His official experiment, in which he
dredged sediment from a site, froze it so that everything in it died, returned
it to the sea and then re-examined that same sediment two years later, showed
that very few animals had colonized the sediment compared to the number
originally found. His findings were confirmed by an accidental experiment: In
1968, the research submersible Alvin snapped a cable and sunk to 5,000 feet.
Just before it disappeared beneath the waves, the researchers scrambled to
safety. Inside Alvin, their bag lunches of apples and baloney sandwiches sunk
to the bottom. When retrieved after 10 months, the lunches looked good enough
to eat. A few brave souls tried them and found them to be salty, but not
rotted at all. Life processes, as reflected in the rate bacteria degrade food,
seemed to be much slower in the deep sea than in a typical refrigerator.

Robert Kunzig is the European editor of Discover magazine. His book, The
Restless Sea, was published on March 29, 1999 by Norton.

Droplet: Practically simultaneously with Grassle's paper on the slowness of
life processes in the ocean being published in Nature, geologists on the ocean
floor were staring out Alvin's portholes at amazing sights: a lushly dense
area populated by giant tube worms with vibrant red heads, six-inch mussels,
foot long clams, sneaker-white crabs and more. They would find that the clams
grow at a rate of 1.5 inches per year -- quite a different story than the one
being published at the time.

***** OUT ON THE NET ******************************************************
For additional information, you might want to check out the following
websites. Some of these links represent partners in aquatic conservation
and animal husbandry; others are simply resources we think may help you
enrich your perspective on our watery world. By listing these websites, the
New England Aquarium is not automatically endorsing or verifying the
accuracy of their content unless explicitly stated.

Right Whales


The Restless Sea

***** TRAVEL WITH THE AQUARIUM - SUMMER OUTINGS **************************
Local trips are selling out, so sign up soon:
July 9-11, Maine Weekend Kayak and Camping Trip
July 17, Gloucester Harbor, Kayak Day Trip
July 18, Misery Island, Salem Harbor Day Trip
July 24-25, Boston Harbor Island Camping
August 7-8 Boston Harbor Island Camping
August 14, Salem/Marblehead Harbor, Kayak Day Trip
September 11, Duxbury Harbor, Kayak Day Trip

Contact the travel office at (617) 973-6562 or e-mail <> for
more information. To register, call our reservations center at (617) 973-5206.

***** MAY CALENDAR ******************************************************
Thursday, May 6, Lowell Lecture Series, Sounds of the Sea, 6:30 P.M. Man-Made
Noise in the Oceans: Irrelevant or Irreparable? Presented by Darlene Ketten,
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Mass., Harvard Medical
School. Lectures are held in the New England Aquarium's Conference Center and
are free. Reservations are required. E-mail Ken Mallory at
for more information or to make a reservation.

Saturday, May 8 and Sunday, May 9, Whale Tales Explorer Class, 9:30 A.M. These
Explorer classes are designed with the preschooler in mind. Each program
combines a story about the sea and the featured animal with a take-home art
project, a related activity or a closer look at some live animals. Program
lasts one hour and fifteen minutes. Program meets in the Exploration Center at
9:30 A.M. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Fees: $4.00 per child for
members and $8.00 per child for non-members. No fee for adult participant. The
non-member fee does not include Aquarium admission. Call (617) 973-5206 to
make reservations.

Sunday, May 9, Mother's Day Harbor Tour, 11:00 A.M. Treat Mom to a special New
England Aquarium "Science at Sea" Harbor Tour. Become scientists in Boston's
backyard while testing the waters of Boston Harbor. Trip departs at 11 A.M.
and lasts an hour and a half. Fees: Members: $8.00 per person ages 19 and
older; $6.50 per person for seniors or college students; $6.00 per person for
ages 3-18. Non-members: $9.00 per person ages 12 and older; $7.00 per person
for seniors or college students; $6.50 per person for ages 3-11. Call (617)
973-5206 to make reservations.

Thursday, May 13, Lowell Lecture Series, Sounds of the Sea, 6:30 P.M. ATOC
(Acoustic Thermometry of Ocean Climate) and the Future of Acoustics in Ocean
Exploration. Presented by Arthur B. Baggeroer, Secretary of the Navy/Chief of
Naval Operations Chair in Ocean Sciences, Depts. of Ocean and Electrical
Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Lectures are held in the
New England Aquarium's Conference Center and are free. Reservations are
required. E-mail Ken Mallory at for more information or to
make a reservation.

Wednesday, May 19, Dive Club Meeting, 6:30 P.M. The Dive Club meets in the
Aquarium Cafe. Guests and new members always welcome. Call (617) 973-0240 for

Saturday, May 22, Marine Mammal Mania, 10 A.M. to 4 P.M. Join us for a day
devoted to marine mammals, from whales and dolphins to seals and sea otters.
Find out how they keep warm during a New England winter. See how Aquarium
researchers study the most endangered large whale, the North Atlantic right
whale. Find out what to do if you see a wild seal on the beach. Meet trainers
and see how they teach, train and take care of seals, sea otters and sea
lions. Sing "Happy Birthday" to a sea lion, as he accepts birthday wishes for
the whole Aquarium (singing at the 12 P.M., 1:30 P.M. and 3 P.M. shows).
Create a birthday card, get a temporary tattoo and talk to researchers about
their work. Marine Mammal Mania is included with regular Aquarium admission.

Sunday, May 23, Whale Tales Explorer Class, 9:30 A.M. This Explorer class is
designed with the preschooler in mind. The program combines a story about the
sea and the featured animal with a take-home art project, a related activity
or a closer look at some live animals. The program lasts one hour and fifteen
minutes. Programs meet in the Exploration Center. Children must be accompanied
by an adult. Fees: $4.00 per child for members and $8.00 per child for
non-members. No fee for adult participant. The non-member fee does not include
Aquarium admission.

Wednesday, May 26, The Wonder & Mystery of the Sea, The Spirit of the Great
Auk, 6:30 P.M. Join us for an evening celebrating the majestic great auk, a
flightless bird that once lived on coastal Atlantic islands and has been
extinct since 1844. Renowned marine biologist and National Geographic Society
explorer-in-residence Sylvia Earle along with Richard Wheeler, famous kayaker
who followed the auk's migration route from Nova Scotia to Cape Cod, and Jay
O'Callahan, internationally acclaimed performance artist, will present
celebrations of the life and times of the great auk. Admission is $7.00. Does
not include Aquarium admission. Includes a reception with light snacks.
Reservations are recommended and payment can be made with cash or check at the
time of attendance. Call Taunya at (617) 973-5223 or e-mail
to make reservations.

Wednesday, May 26, Fish Forum, 5 - 7 P.M. The members of the Biology of Fishes
class will be presenting their research in a free one-evening forum that is
open to the general public. The evening will consist of 10-minute talks by
senior level students who have done exceptional research on fisheries in
crisis. Topics may include shark conservation, aquaculture and
dinoflagellates. The Fish Forum is jointly sponsored by the New England
Aquarium and the Marine Studies Consortium, and will take place at the New
England Aquarium's Conference Center. Cookies and drinks will be provided. For
more information, e-mail

Saturday, May 29, Coastal Rhythms Guided Tour, 9:15 A.M. Life moves in rhythms
on the coast, and the fishes, crabs and shorebirds sing along. But slowly, the
rhythms are changing. Meet amazing animals that move to these rhythms and
learn about how they live in today's changing world. Fees: $4.00 per person
for members, $8.00 per person plus admission for non-members. Children must be
accompanied by an adult. Tour is approximately 30 minutes long. Call (617)
973-5206 to make reservations.

Saturday, May 29, Freshwater Wander, Georgetown, 10:00 A.M. - 12:00 P.M. With
pond nets in hand, join Aquarium educators as they lead your family on a
freshwater exploration! We will look under lily pads for frog eggs and sift
the sediment in search of dragonfly nymphs. Learn how pond life changes
seasonally and see how humans have impacted this freshwater environment. Fees:
$6.00 per person for members, $12.00 per person for non-members. Non-member
price does not include Aquarium admission. Call (617) 973-5206 for

***** JUNE CALENDAR PREVIEW ***********************************************
Saturday, June 5, Freshwater Fair, 12 -4 P.M. Join us for some free freshwater
fun at Leverett Pond in Brookline. The day will include animal tracking,
thumbprint art, science experiments, pond clean-up, face painting, nature
walks and more. Sponsored by the New England Aquarium, Boston Park Rangers,
Boston Parks and Recreation Department and the Town of Brookline Conservation
Commission. Call (617) 973-0274 or e-mail for more

Saturday, June 12, Bluefish Moon, 10 A.M. - 4 P.M. Bluefish Moon is the fourth
in the "Gifts from the Sacred Waters" series celebrating Native American
traditions. Presented by the New England Aquarium and the Native Americans of
the Northeast, this event will include ceremonial singing and dancing,
storytelling, demonstrations of a traditional clambake and of
seventeenth-century cookery, including outdoor baking of bluefish, gathering
and preparation of fiddleheads and other activities related to traditional and
contemporary Native American fishing in the late spring and summer. Nations
represented will include Wampanoag, Narragansett, Passamaquoddy and others.
Starting time subject to change. Events will be held on the Aquarium Plaza and
in and around the Exploration Center. For more information, call Susan Dowds
at (617) 973-0296.

Funders for the program include the Massachusetts Foundation for the
Humanities, Lowell Institute, LEF Foundation, Maine Community Foundation, and
the Sea Grant programs of Connecticut, MIT, Maine/New Hampshire, Rhode Island,
and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

***** SUBSCRIBE/UNSUBSCRIBE INFORMATION ***********************************
To subscribe to Seabits, either visit <>
OR send e-mail to <>. In the body of your email message
write "subscribe seabits" (without the quotes).

To unsubscribe to Seabits, send email to <>. In the body
of your email message write "unsubscribe seabits" (without the quotes).

***** CONTACT US **********************************************************
Content questions and comments? Contact Jennifer Goebel at

Technical questions and comments? Contact Bruce Wyman at <>.

***** THAT'S ALL FOLKS ****************************************************
That's All Folks. May the force be with you! - Jen Goebel