Share it! Science : Outstanding Ocean Life: Mysterious Micros and "Seeing" with Skin!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Outstanding Ocean Life: Mysterious Micros and "Seeing" with Skin!

David Sim from London, United Kingdom (Cuttlefish) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Did you know that June 8th is World Oceans Day? You may be already planning or involved in an ocean event, but if not, you can brush up on some research from some amazing ocean creatures and find links to fun activities right here!

Two recent papers published in the Journal of Experimental Biology have revealed some fascinating facts about cephalopod skin. Cephalopods include ocean creatures like the octopus, squid and cuttlefish. If you have never discovered the amazing camouflage abilities of this group of animals before, you really need to check them out.

We have understood that cephalopods have cells in their skin that can adapt quickly to change color to blend into their surroundings. It has always been a puzzle that these animals could adapt to color when they are actually color blind. The new research indicates that in addition to being able to control the color of the skin, these skin cells, or chromatophores, might also be light sensitive. Further study revealed that the skin also contained visual proteins that respond to different wavelengths of light. In other words, the animal's skin actually helps it to see! The mystery has not been completely solved, but scientists are getting much closer to understanding the incredible adaptations of cephalopod skin.

Another mind-boggling article published in the journal Science, highlights the incredible microscopic creatures observed on the 3-year expedition of the research schooner, Tara. These organisms were not visible to the naked eye, so the scientists found them by looking for their genetic material in the water samples they had collected. The organisms ranged from viruses, protists and bacteria and other tiny creatures. This sea life has been described as Dr. Suess-like as they come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. See a gallery of images here. Although some of the organisms had similar genetic material to known life, many were previously uncatalogued discoveries.

We have just begun to scratch the surface when it comes to understanding the ocean. New discoveries are constantly being made. Although we might not have learned about every creature or the extent of the depths of the ocean we do understand the importance of preserving these vast bodies of water and the life within them. There is so much more to learn and appreciate! Check out the World Oceans Day website to find an event taking place near you.

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