Misunderstood Marine Life # 6 – Jellyfish

photo by Amy Freitag

“Yikes! It’s a jellyfish, get out of the water!”

I can’t remember how many times I heard this shriek from my friends as a kid around the end of July, when loads of comb jellies washed ashore, the casualties of their massive breeding efforts. Like most kids with a good poking toe, however, I figured out that these jellies couldn’t hurt me. For a number of reasons, not all jellyfish equal a painful sting.

Furthermore, like many sea creatures, they are symbolic of a beautiful greater ecosystem at work but often lead to squeaks and squeals of fear rather than smiles of appreciation. I’ll go so far to say that jellyfish are a good candidate to be a charismatic creature of the sea.

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10 misrepresentations about climate change

Few scientific fields generate as much controversy as climate change. Misunderstandings, misrepresentations, and outright lies are common. While environmentalists rightly criticize anti-global warming activists for not being truthful, neither side is innocent. Presented here are five common misrepresentations from both sides and the truth about those issues.

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Misunderstood Marine Life # 7 – The Living Fossils

Horseshoe Crabs - Andrew David Thaler

Horseshoe Crabs, Coelacanths, Seven-gilled sharks, hagfish. Throughout the oceans there are creatures whose primitive bodies hearken back to earlier days in our evolutionary history. They possess basal characteristics that are more akin to those of the ancestors of our contemporary phyla. Because we can look into these organisms and learn something about our own deep past, we think of them not as modern descendants, but as living fossils, relics of a primeval state.

This is, of course, a misnomer.

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Welcome to a Week of Ocean Pseudoscience!

Few things have inspired the human imagination quite like the ocean. The vast, mysterious deep is the stuff of poets, artists, explorers, and scientists. A natural result of this seemingly endless, unfathomable world-beneath-the-waves is the emergence of a broad and persistent ocean mythology, ranging from tales of sea monsters, to near magical healing powers, to perceptions of infinite abundance. Every year, we take a week to explore these myths – the fictions, falsehoods, and pseudoscience – surrounding the ocean.

Welcome to a Week of Ocean Pseudoscience!

We’ve got some great posts on our plate, starting today. We’ll be counting down our top seven misunderstood marine creatures, exposing some deceptions from the climate denial industry, investigating rumors surrounding the use of ethanol additive in outboard motors, and having some fun with cryptozoology. David will probably have something to say about sharks, too.

Along the way, our friends from Deep Fried Sea will join us as they wander the ocean looking for the still missing Iffy and meet all kinds of weird and wonderful marine creatures.

That awesome logo was designed by Jason Robertshaw of the Cephalopodcast. If any other ocean bloggers want to join in, feel free to stamp your post with that logo and shoot me an e-mail so we can link to it from the homepage. Over on twitter, feel free to tweet us your favorite ocean psuedoscience, with the hashtag #PseudOcean (and follow us @SFriedScientist, @WhySharksMatter, and @bgrassbluecrab). So settle in for a week of ocean pseudoscience.

Real Monsters – Eurypterids!

Image from PicsDigger.com

My favorite real sea monster is the Eurypterid, also known as the Sea Scorpion. These fearsome predators were the largest arthropods ever to live- they could grow to over six feet in length! Eurypterids are believed to have crawled along the seafloor using their pincers to grab trilobites and other prey. Sadly (or fortunately, depending on your perspective) these impressive predators have been extinct for hundreds of millions of years.

~WhySharksMatter

Real Monsters – The Giant Isopod

Now that Ocean of Pseudoscience Week has come to a close, we thought it would be a good time to talk about our favorite real sea monsters – amazing marine creatures that capture the imagination. For mine, we naturally have to take a trip to the deep sea to find Bathynomous, the giant deep-sea isopod.

Giant isopods are the monster cousins of the terrestrial isopod commonly know as the rolly-polly or pill bug. First discovered in 1879, these deep-sea scavengers can reach over a foot in length, dwarfing the much more minuscule common isopods, found on beaches and docks around the world.

Dr. M from Deep Sea News has done quite a bit of research on why these isopods get so big. Isopocalypse 2010 is a good place to start. IN short, giganticism is not uncommon in the deep sea, and may be a response to a food-limited environment. But you’ll have to check out the Deep Sea News post for more details.

The majestic Deep-sea Isopod

~Southern Fried Scientist

An Ocean of Pseudoscience Week Recap

Over the last week we’ve explored dozens of maritime mysteries, ocean pseudoscience, and plain old non-sense. Many have been goofy and fun – the green flash, the bloop, Atlantis, the Montauk Monster. Some have been practical – can methane bubbles sink ships, cures for seasickness, chemosynthesis and photosynthesis, sharks and cancer. Others have been thought provoking – Aquatic Ape Hypothesis, the Tasaday, Banker Horses, Osedaxand Creationism.

We’ve counted down our favorite sea-monsters:

  1. Kraken
  2. Scylla and Charybdis
  3. Aspidochelone
  4. Ningen
  5. Mermaids
  6. The Loch Ness Monster
  7. Steller’s Sea Ape

And discovered that sometimes, the mythical creatures are actually real.

Charlie has joined in on the action too, busting myths, faking mermaids, staging a moon landing, walking with bigfoot, and fighting the kraken.

There have been tons of great posts from within the Southern Fried Science Network:

And our colleagues at other sites have joined in on the fun ,too:

But beyond the silly stories, ocean legends, and maritime mythos, many of these pseudosciences involve a lack of critical thinking that can do real and lasting harm to our ocean ecosystem. These are the beliefs that drive management decisions – Maximum Sustainable Yield, that mislead consumers – Orange Roughy and Shark Fin Soup, that poison our oceans – The Ocean is Infinite, and the distract us from real solutions – iron fertilization. In the end, this lack of skepticism and desire for simple, un-nuanced answers is precluding us from finding real, lasting solutions to some of the biggest problems facing our planet.

Despite the seemingly lighthearted and whimsical nature of many of the phenomena discussed during this Ocean of Pseudoscience Week, these beliefs are not harmless. People need to approach these ideas with both curiosity and skepticism – the future of the oceans depend on it.

~Southern Fried Science