The Island of Doubt

Carnival of the Blue 12

In a rare treat on the usually quiet and contemplative Island of Doubt, I now bring you the 12th edition of the Carnival of the Blue, a celebration of all things wet and wonderful. Islands are only islands, after all, if they’re surrounded by water.

Hong Kong, for example, is what it is because of what it isn’t: the mainland. Between the Special Administrative Region and China proper can be found the shallows of Mai Po, a staging area for thousands of sought-after East Asian/Australasian shorebirds, black-faced spoonbills, Chinese egrets, Saunders’ gulls, and a host of other species that pass through the region in the narrow window between April and May. In other words, right about now. Charlie of 10,000 Birds gives us a tour. As Charlie writes, “there are migration hotspots – and then there are world-famous HOTSPOTS.”

i-a38c21f893d13b5195f7b98b2b905dcc-coraltable.jpgThe term “hotspot” in the ecological sense often refers to regions of high species richness. And for the marine world, that usually means coral reefs. Unfortunately, most are under considerable stress from rising sea temperatures, siltation, dynamite fishing, the list goes on. Fortunately, there are laudable efforts to repair some of the damage, as Rick MacPherson of Malaria, Bedbugs, Sea Lice, and Sunsets writes in “How Is A Coral Reef Like A Coffee Table?” EcoReefs may be able to shorten blasted coral recovery times from 100 years to 15. Let’s hope so.

Rick, who just happens to be director of conservation programs with the Coral Reef Alliance, is one of the subjects of the latest Cephalopodcast from Jason Robertshaw. Joining Rick and Jason for the session is Karen James of The Beagle Project. Also on the program was Kevin Zelnio of Science Blogs’ Deep Sea News, although only in musical form.

Speaking of which, DSN is where we find a wrap-up of Coral Week and its 27 posts.

Back when I was just starting out on the voyage that brought me to the island, I found myself watching the dissection of a squid at the hands of a senior researcher at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass. Loligo pealei, I learned, is a most useful species for biologists interested in nerve transduction thanks to that marvelous giant axon. So I’ve always had a soft spot for the little guys. As does Mark H. of Daily Kos, as it turns out. The latest effort in his Marine Life Series is devoted to “Squid Egg Mops” and little Loligo in particular. Gotta love ‘em. Especially as calamari in a good Greek restaurant.

i-3952db1378d9a5dc5f4c5a64d98c0bea-entangled+whale.jpgMark Powell of Blogfish brings us a less appetizing menu option. When you eat Maine lobster, he writes in “A side of whale with your lobster?“, you’re paying someone to string a spider web of ropes in the ocean that can (and do) trap whales. “Is that what you want to buy, a side of whale with your lobster dinner?

Ummm. No? Can we turn to something else, now?

i-1aee91bc1adab0ed773a5eb9e8993536-orca.jpgHow about one of the truly awe-inspiring sights on the planet: the congregation of orcas in the Salish Sea that separates Vancouver Island from British Columbia and Washington state. “Ocean” of Island Rambles is a first-time contributor to the Carnival, and if the illustrations for “Whales are Talking to Me” are representative samples, I hope the photos keep coming.

A more benign example of technology’s powers is on display at Zooillogix, courtesy of the Brothers Bleiman. Despite the Yanni soundtracks that accompany the videos, the sight of the “Robotic Jellyfish that Move Autonomously” is positively eerie. One swims underwater, the other is a helium-filled balloon. Very cool.

Never fear, however, for the Bleimans have not lost their fascination with what evolution hath wrought. Also worthy of note are posts on the recent discovery of a lung-less frog, the incredibly complex eyes of mantis shrimp, the odd mating rituals of grunion, and what look like outtakes from Ridley Scott’s Alien but are in fact the birth of new Surinam toads.

If frogs jumping through skin aren’t scary enough, how about a 30 foot long, 900-pound colossal squid? Sheril Kirshenbaum’s got the story at her Correlations blog over at Wired Science. As Sheril points out, those who get to examine the great creature “have a way cooler job than we do.”

In her other blogging job here at the Intersection, Sheril makes an even more bizarre discovery. Apparently, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the guardian of America’s sea and everything in it, “has never had a statutory basis for its existence” WTF? No wonder we’re running out of fish. And whales. And coral…

And finally, an even more terrifying scenario, courtesy of the sole permanent inhabitant of the Island of Doubt. I’ve written a little science fiction, in which the ocean plays a starring, but not very uplifting, role in “It’s the end of the world as we know it.”

Extra: News too good not to add, even if it does arrive a day late. Besides, it’s about whales. Sightings of humpbacks are up on Chile’s coast, Even better: “Chile is poised to declare its entire coastline a whale sanctuary — perhaps by June, when it hosts the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC). Establishing the sanctuary would make permanent a ban on whaling that now extends through 2025.” This from the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Sea Notes.

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