center for marine science

Wildlife Wednesday: Manatee Awareness Month

Did you know November is Manatee Awareness Month? Manatees are the official marine mammal of Florida. Sailors once mistook them for mermaids, hence the name of the manatees’ scientific order, Sirenia. There are three species of manatees in the world: The West Indian manatee, the West African manatee and the Amazonian manatee. All are vulnerable under the IUCN Red List. But only one—the West Indian manatee—lives in the United States, where it’s federally endangered. It’s estimated less than 10,000 mature manatees remain in the wild. Collisions with boats are the single greatest threat to their survival, followed by loss of warm-water habitats. But if you like going out on the water, you can help protect them! The best tips are to keep a watchful eye for manatees or manatee signs, reduce your speed, and avoid shallow areas with seagrass beds where they could be feeding. (Photo: John Parker/Smithsonian Environmental Research Center)

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Since it’s on our social media pages, I can finally tell y'all this story.

Last week, our little Pokey butt helped save a life! The vet from the marine science center just south of us had a sick kemp’s ridley being rehabilitated that needed a blood transfusion, and we were able to help out! Though Pokey has a shoulder disease that impacts his ability to survive in the ocean, he is otherwise a healthy turtle. The donation of his blood helped the sick animal recover, and the staff is hopeful for a full recovery and release of the turtle.

I feel so privileged to have been a part of this. The turtle I care for every day helped save the life of another endangered turtle like himself! This incredibly tangible aspect of species conservation was a huge reminder of why I love my job and why I do the things I do. This right here is what zoos and aquariums are all about. Together we are an awesome, awesome force for good.

The Microscopic Creature That Lives in a Glass House

Ever wonder what it’s like to live in a glass house? Striatella unipunctata, a tropical diatom often found on coral reefs, spends its entire life like this. Because their cell walls are made of silica, the main component of glass, diatoms are often called “algae that live in glass houses.” Though since the silica also contains water, “algae that live in opal houses” might be closer to the truth! (Photo: SERC Phytoplankton Lab) 

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Dancing juvenile skates

This video was shot at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport Oregon. Music by Kevin MacLeod.

Microscope Monday: Dinoflagellates Unite

How many creatures do you see moving through the water? If at first glance it looks like just one, don’t be deceived. This dinoflagellate, called Polykrikos hartmanii, forms “pseudocolonies,” in which several individual organisms (called zooids) are joined together, hunting for other dinoflagellates to feed on. A single pseudocolony can contain anywhere from 4 to 16 individuals. It’s thought that these pseudocolonies form because of incomplete cell division: Another nucleus forms, but the new cell doesn’t break off. (Video: Tim Mullady)