The Beacon: tmarshall's blog

Back to School: Emperor Penguin

emperor penguin

With the end of August approaching fast, the start of classes is right around the corner. But not everyone is dreading school – in fact, fish do it all year round!

To ease you back into a learning mindset, I’ll be highlighting a different animal from our Creature Corner each day this week.

Today’s featured creature is the emperor penguin. The world’s largest penguin, they spend most of their time in the ocean surrounding Antarctica, coming to shore to mate. If you’ve seen the movie “March of the Penguins”, you know about this arduous process – crossing the frozen landscape, months of fasting as the males incubate their young atop their feet, losing most of their body weight.

Learn more about these birds – and hundreds of other creatures – over at the Creature Corner and get your mind primed for more learning!

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The Scanner

zebra shark

Happy Friday, everyone!

Before enjoying the weekend, why not enjoy some ocean news?

...One aquarium is hoping the dulcet tones of Barry White work as well on zebra sharks as they do on humans.

...Oceana’s own marine scientist Margot Stiles spoke to the Associated Press about deep-sea coral reefs off the Southeast U.S. coast, the subject of possible protection from the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council.

...The U.S. Geological Survey research of stream fish shows a common thread – every single specimen had some level of mercury contamination, with over one-fourth at higher than EPA guidelines.

...This summer, things aren’t just heating up on land – the oceans’ temperatures are at an all-time high.

...After a 200-year hiatus, the southern right whale is once again breeding in Tasmanian waters.

...Squid ink – tasty in pasta and durable as eons-old writing tool.

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The Hatchling Cam

The newest stars on the reality television circuit won’t be crying about being stranded in paradise or shopping for hats to wear to the horse races – they will be little loggerheads, making their way from nest to sea.

In the Lower Florida Keys, a webcam is trained on a loggerhead nest that is set to hatch sometime between 17 to 24 August. Any time of day or night (with the help of infrared lights), you can check up on the nest and see if there are any new additions to the turtle nursery.

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Ralph Suits Up

Can you imagine waking up one day, completely hairless? In addition to being a little chilly, you would also be susceptible to a pretty nasty sunburn. This is Ralph’s problem.

An otherwise normal Humboldt penguin at Marwell Wildlife in England, Ralph molts all in one day instead of gradually losing one set of feathers while the new coat grows in. This leaves his delicate skin completely bare and unprotected from the sun’s damaging rays. Park keepers weren’t sure how to deal with the problem – keep him indoors for weeks while his new feathers come in, constantly slather him in sunscreen – until they fashioned him his own penguin-size diving suit from the leg of a neoprene wetsuit.

Now Ralph is free to run amok with his family and friends while his feathers come in, safe from sun damage. Check out the Daily Mail article for photos and a video of Ralph paddling about.

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A Little Turtle Love

green sea turtles

We've been talking about sharks a lot lately, what with shark week getting all the attention, so we figure it's time to give sea turtles a little blog love.

As a result of the work of Oceana and others, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council took a final step last week towards protecting threatened sea turtles from bottom longlines, and others are doing their part to save these graceful creatures.

In North Carolina, the National Park Service is asking for volunteers to help patrol loggerhead, leatherback and green turtle nesting beaches along the Cape Hatteras shores.

And lastly, two bicycle and leatherback enthusiasts are combining their passions to raise money and awareness for the endangered turtles. Johnna and Jordan are Touring for the Turtles, biking from Washington, DC to Atlanta, GA.

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The Scanner

TGIF- Thank goodness it’s fishy!

And let’s never talk of that pun again.

This week in the oceans,

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Shark Week Wrap-up

Shark Week has come and gone, but I wanted to share a few last links.

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Swarms of Squid

giant squid

The massive Humboldt squid is making news from southern California up to the British Columbia coast. A population boom has divers and scientists worried. Humboldts, also known as giant squid, have been known to kill fishermen and drag divers down, rupturing ear drums and lacerating skin.

The population boom may be due to the overfishing of predators such as sharks.

Oh, and did I mention that one squid can have 20 million offspring during her lifetime? And they have 35,000 teeth, three hearts and ice blue blood?

They may sound like sea monsters – in fact, divers often don chain mail when they dive, like aquatic knights – but these giant cephalopods aren’t as scary as the effects of climate change, overfishing and pollution.

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Whale Wednesday: Orca Outing

Orcas live and travel in pods, which are groups of ten to twenty animals – this is not new information. However, researchers in Russia recently spotted superpods, groups of up to 100 killer whales. These meetings last anywhere from a few hours to a half day and are characterized by common social behaviors – mating, flipper rubbing, synchronized swimming – but to a higher degree than typically observed. What do these social clubs mean and why do they matter? They may simply be another avenue to socialize. Since their large numbers may actually scare off prey, they don’t seem to be an effective way to hunt. Perhaps most importantly, they may be a chance for whales from different pods to meet up and check out potential mates. With calf mortality rates as high as 50 percent in the first six months, any research into understanding orca reproduction is critical in maintaining healthy populations.

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Blue Impact Tours

If you are swinging through Boston, make sure to download the New England Aquarium’s Blue Impact Tour before going to gawk at the fishes. Sometimes, it is hard to include all the facts on just one label, so the tour offers a chance to get more in-depth information about the star animals and the threats they face.

Even if you aren’t heading to the aquarium, check out the chapters online. There are Barbie lobsters, prolific jellies, stressed out turtles, and color changing corals, all available in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and in closed captioning for the hearing impaired.

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