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RESIDENT SCIENTISTS CONTRIBUTE FEATURE COLUMNS

There is plenty of intriguing information about deep-sea creatures and their environment. The deep ocean remains largely unexplored and research scientists are making new discoveries each time they dive into the abyss. Involving resident or local scientists in contributing articles / stories to the local media is an excellent opportunity to capture publicity.  Here are some examples:


 

From Myth to Reality: The Colossal Squid

Science Article – May 23, 2009
Written by: Franco Mariotti, Staff Scientist
Word Count:  602
Last Updated: May 20, 2009

It is a creature that legends are made of. A creature whose stories have come to life based on tales told by those who have spent their entire lives at sea. These stories have been handed down through generations, and they often include tentacled monsters sometimes known as the Kraken, but they’re actually stories about giant squid.

Until recently, no giant squid had ever been seen alive. We knew they existed, because from time to time their corpses would wash ashore in various parts of the world.  Some giant squid parts have even been found in the stomachs of large sperm whales (of Moby Dick fame).

Large specimens of giant squid have been found, but after death their bodies can be stretched like a rubber band and can become longer than they actually are in real life. The largest confirmed giant squid was 13 meters (42 feet) in length.

In 2007, south of New Zealand and near Antarctic waters, a fishing trawler hauled its long lines in and discovered an amazing giant of the deep, the colossal squid.  Its existence had actually been known since 1925, mainly based on ‘pieces’ found in the stomachs of sperm whales.  Scientists knew it was a different species of squid from that of the giant squid because its tentacles had swiveling hooks beside the suckers – something which the giant squid doesn’t have.  The creature was barely alive and massive. Shortly after it was brought on board it died, but fortunately, quick-thinking fishermen immediately froze the massive body. It is now on public display at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. 

This new colossal squid specimen proved to be not as long as some had hoped, since it was only about 4.2 meters (approximately 14 feet) long. But its weight was a massive, 495 kilograms (more than 1,000 pounds). The weight alone was twice as much as any giant squid ever found, and it had a larger mantle, which is the main body of the squid where the swimming fins are attached. Upon examination, scientists discovered eyes the size of dinner plates, about 30 centimeters (1 foot) across. These are the largest eyes of any animal on Earth.

Sperm whales hunt squid. We know that in the cold waters south of New Zealand, colossal squids make up 75% of an adult male sperm whales’ diet. We know this because squid have beaks for mouthparts. These beaks do not digest easily in a whale’s stomach and scientists have found intact beaks among the stomach contents. As a result, researchers can determine not only the amount of squid that a sperm whale has eaten, but also the sizes of the squids that are eaten. Beaks larger than the colossal squid at the Te Papa museum in New Zealand have been found in the stomachs of sperm whales, indicating that the colossal squid can attain even longer and heavier measurements.  

Perhaps there are creatures in the deep that can fulfill mythical legends. What we do know is that we have only explored 3% of the deep ocean. Virtually every time we travel down to the deep, we discover creatures that have never before been seen by human eyes. Thinking of this stirs within us feelings of awe and mystery and leads to one inexplicable question. What will exploration of the other 97% of the deep ocean reveal?

If you want to learn more about the colossal squid and the deep ocean, visit Science North’s newest traveling exhibition, Creatures of the Abyss, now open in the Special Exhibits Hall at the science centre. 

Franco Mariotti is a Staff Scientist at Science North

 

Discover Earth’s Last Great Frontier

Science Article – Ocean & Deep Sea
Written By: Kirsti Kivinen-Newman, Science North
Word Count:  532
Last Updated: November 19, 2008

As humans we often look to outer space, pondering the possibility of discovering extraterrestrial life. In doing so, we tend to lose sight of the fact that there is an immense expanse of our own planet – the ocean – that is full of wondrous creatures and habitats that would seem alien to most of us.
Despite the ocean’s immense size, the incredible variety of life within it, and its importance to the Earth’s ecosystem, humans know surprisingly little about it and have largely taken it for granted. Did you know that about 90 percent of the ocean remains unexplored?

Looking at the Earth from outer space 70 percent of what you see is one vast, connected ocean. The famous photo of our planet taken by the Apollo 17 astronauts was intuitively named “Blue Marble.”
What is more impressive than the vastness of the surface of our ocean is the volume of habitat that exists below the waves. The ocean is the Earth’s largest habitat, and it has creatures living in a three-dimensional space that extends from the surface down to an average depth of 4 kilometers. In fact, 99 percent of the habitable space on our planet is in the ocean. This is in contrast to the thin film of living space that we are familiar with as terrestrial creatures.

On land, we are familiar with the role that plants play in photosynthesis. In the ocean, marine plants are responsible for producing at least 50 percent of the oxygen that we breathe. The ocean is also responsible for absorbing about 50 percent of the carbon dioxide that humans generate by burning fossil fuels.

Surprisingly, all of this ocean oxygen production occurs within the top 200 meters of the ocean, because that is the limit of light penetration into the water. Below this thin layer there is no light, no plants, no photosynthesis. It is the realm of animals only.

Below the reach of light from the Sun, the deep sea is cold, dark, and under immense pressure. Technology is enabling scientists to explore these poorly understood realms, where amazing findings are being made with almost every expedition. In the deep sea, exist the tallest mountains and deepest valleys, underwater rivers, waterfalls, lakes, and communities of life that thrive in the absence of light and energy from the Sun.

On Tuesday, November 25 at 7:30pm, Science North will be hosting a guest speaker by the name of Dr. David Gallo, from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts. Dr. Gallo is an internationally renowned speaker at the forefront of ocean research. He will be immersing Sudburians in some of the incredible findings that scientists have been making in the deep sea, including amazing creatures that have never been seen before.We invite you to join us, and be among some of the first people to explore the depths of our own ocean.