The Beacon: Brianna Elliott's blog

Ocean Roundup: Most Distinct Humpback Whale Population Discovered, Sea Turtle Fossils Discovered in Australia, and More

The Arabian Sea humpback whale population is the most distinct

A humpback whale. The humpback whale population in the Arabian Sea was discovered to be the most genetically unique. (Photo: NOAA Photo Library / Flickr Creative Commons)

- Scientists have found that humpback whales in the Arabian Sea are the most genetically distinct in the world. The scientists say they have remained isolated from other populations for 70,000 years—a trait that’s quite rare for animals that embark on such long migrations. Discovery News


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Steller Sea Lion Protections Weakened with New Fisheries Ruling

NMFS weakened protections for steller sea lions

A Steller sea lion bull on Agattu Island at the western end of the Aleutian Islands. (Photo: Anne Morkill, images.fws.gov via Wikimedia Commons)

Late last month, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) issued a final rule that weakens protections for the endangered western population of Steller sea lions.


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Elusive, Haunting Black Sea Devil Caught on Camera for First Time

Scientists captured the elusive black sea devil anglerfish on film

A screenshot of the black sea devil caught on film by researchers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. (Photo: MBARI / YouTube)

The dark, cold deep sea is home to a vast amount of creatures that seem like something out of a horror film rather than ocean animals—and their names are often just as terrifying, like the spookfish or the fangtooth fish. While we speculate on just how scary many of the creatures are, many of these animals are poorly understood since they live in environments that are so difficult to access.


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Ocean Roundup: Mechanisms behind Pufferfish Inflation Discovered, Critical Habitat Proposed for Ringed Seals, and More

New research shows how pufferfish inflate

The black saddled pufferfish (Canthigaster valentini). (Photo: Cliff / WikiMedia Commons)

- New research shows that healthy coral reef systems are actually quite noisy, but are quieting down after damage from acidification, harmful fishing practices, pollution, and more. Researchers looked at coral reefs in the Philippines and found that noise stemming from unprotected reefs was about a third of that in healthy reef communities. Grist


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Humpback Whales’ Scars Help Explain their Migratory Patterns, Study Finds

Scars on humpback whales help reveal migration routes

Scars on humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) flukes. (Photo: Jeff Li / Flickr Creative Commons)

In the Southern Hemisphere, humpback whales migrate between feeding grounds around Antarctica to breeding grounds in tropical waters, but an understanding of these stocks—divided into “Breeding Stocks A-G” for management purposes—has long been hazy because of a lack of data. But recently, researchers analyzed an unsuspecting feature of humpback whales to better understand their migration patterns: scars on their flukes.


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Ocean Roundup: Male Galápagos Sea Lions Take More Time to Raise, Cosmetic Contaminants Found in Antarctica, and More

Male Galapagos sea lions take more time to raise

A Galápagos sea lion (Zalophus wollebaeki) pup. (Photo: Scott Ableman / Flickr Creative Commons)

- Scientists say that chemicals in soaps, lotions, sunscreen, and other fragrances have made it to Antarctic waters. The scientists also found traces of chemicals in clams, fish, and sea urchins, and say that some predators like seals could now possibly become exposed to the chemicals. The Guardian


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Shell’s Lawsuit against Environmental Groups Declared Unconstitutional by Appeals Court

Shell's lawsuit was ruled unconstitutional by a U.S. Appeals Court

Royal Dutch Shell’s Kulluk drilling rig is towed from Kiliuda Bay after running aground in December 2012. (Photo: U.S. Pacific Command / Flickr Creative Commons)

Last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Court rejected a lawsuit filed by Royal Dutch Shell roughly two years ago against 13 environmental and Alaska Native entities, including Oceana. Shell sued the groups in a “preemptive” move to keep them from being able to sue Shell over its plans to drill in the Arctic. The court ruled that this was a “novel” move by Shell—and one that wasn’t permitted under the United States Constitution.


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Ocean Roundup: More Orcas Converging near Puget Sound, Hawaii’s Coral Reef Ecosystems Found in Poor Condition, and More

Orcas are moving closer to the Puget Sound

Offshore orcas have been moving towards the Puget Sound. (Photo: Miles Ritter / Flickr Creative Commons)

- Recently, “exotic orcas”—orcas that are typically found off California’s continental shelf—have been converging in unusually high numbers in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Scientists suspect ocean temperatures and food availability are drawing the orcas closer to the coast, but they’re still investigating the cause. UPI


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Exploring Spectacular Sea Urchins: A Look at the Diversity of These Marine Invertebrates (Photos)

Hundreds of species of sea urchins exist

Stony sea urchin (Paracentrotus lividus), pictured Spain during an Oceana Ranger Atlantic Cantabric Expedition in 2008. (Photo: Oceana / Sergio Gosálvez)

Sea urchins—related to sea stars, sea cucumbers, and more—may appear as alien-like creatures with their numberous spines and vibrant colors. But, don’t let their seemingly strange appearances fool you: These marine invertebrates are excellent at self-defense and play important roles in balancing ecosystems. 


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Ocean Roundup: Nearly 1,000 Sea Turtles Strand off Cape Cod, Suez Canal Expansion Poses Environmental Risks, and More

A nesting Kemp’s ridley sea turtles. Nearly 1,000 sea turtles, most of them Kemp’s ridleys, stranded off Cape Cod over the past month. (Photo: National Park Service [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

- Scientists are sounding the alarm on the Suez Canal expansion, saying it will invite invasive species from the Red Sea that could wreak economic and environmental damage in the Mediterranean Sea. Egypt is both widening the existing channel and adding an extra lane.  The Guardian


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