Chesapeake Requiem, the Black Friday for Climate Change, whale earwax, killing the GRE, and more! Monday Morning Salvage: November 26, 2018

Foghorn (A Call to Action!)

  • Friend of the blog and submarine legend Erika Bergman is leading an expedition to Belize’s Blue Hole! Follow along as she maps this unique ocean feature: Belize Blue Hole 2018. Some dudes are tagging along, too.

Flotsam (what we’re obsessed with right now)

Climate change affects the natural, built, and social systems we rely on individually and through their connections to one another. These interconnected systems are increasingly vulnerable to cascading impacts that are often difficult to predict, threatening essential services within and beyond the Nation’s borders.

The Gam (conversations from the ocean-podcasting world)

  • Speak Up for the Blue on art and the ocean.

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Six ways the new Old Spice ad violates the Marine Mammal Protection Act

This is art. Maybe. Probably. Old Spice has taken it upon themselves to ask the all-important question: How many different violations of the Marine Mammal Protection act can we demonstrate in a single minute and fifteen second commercial? As it turns out, quite a few.

The Marine Mammal Protection Act expressly forbids the “taking” of marine mammals, a “take” being defined as:

“To harass, hunt, capture, collect, or kill, or attempt to harass, hunt, capture, collect, or kill any marine mammal. This includes, without limitation, any of the following:

  • the collection of dead animals, or parts thereof
  • the restraint or detention of a marine mammal, no matter how temporary
  • tagging a marine mammal
  • the negligent or intentional operation of an aircraft or vessel
  • the doing of any other negligent or intentional act which results in disturbing or molesting a marine mammal
  • feeding or attempting to feed a marine mammal in the wild.” 


Broadly, this include any actions that may interfere with a marine mammal’s behavior or cause it undue stress. Fines can be… severe.

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Release the Karaqan! How does Aquaman’s latest foe stack up against real ocean giants?

Aquaman #27. DC Comics.

Aquaman #27. DC Comics.

It’s been more than 2 months since we last discussed the patron saint of Southern Fried Science, the one and only Aquaman. The Atlantean übermensch has a new lead writer, Jeff Parker, who’s teamed up with Aquaman veteran Paul Pelletier to produce an engaging and visually stunning story. After the epic conclusion to Throne of Atlantis, Aquaman is off on an entirely new adventure. Unfortunately, this new quest puts our hero in the path of a gargantuan guardian of ancient Atlantis, the Karaqan!

The Karaqan is big, but just how big is it? How does the Karaqan stack up against living sea creatures? Could an arthropod ever get as big as the Karaqan? Most important, if Aquaman does successfully slay the Karaqan, just how much Old Bay would we need to steam it?

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The Sex Lives of Spoonworms: 10 marine animals with parasitic, dwarf, and otherwise reduced males

Earlier this week, Fox News commentator and all-around terrific guy* Erick Erickson, while discussing a recent Pew Study that revealed that women were the sole breadwinners in 40% of US households that contain children, had this to say:

“I’m so used to liberals telling conservatives that they’re anti-science. But liberals who defend this and say it is not a bad thing are very anti-science. When you look at biology—when you look at the natural world—the roles of a male and a female in society and in other animals, the male typically is the dominant role. The female, it’s not antithesis, or it’s not competing, it’s a complementary role.”



I’m not sure where Erickson got his science education from, but it’s pretty clear he should have spent a little more time shopping around on the free market, because he sure is wrong. How wrong? I managed to assemble this list of 10 marine species with dwarf, parasitic, or otherwise reduced males (including an entire female-only class) while waiting for my toast**. So have a seat and let me show you how much weirder and more wonderful the world is than Erickson’s Disney-esque misinterpretation of biology.

1. Anglerfish

The deep-sea Anglerfish is among the most common examples of parasitic males in the marine world. Anglerfish comprise a variety of taxa in the order Lophiiformes. Almost all (females) possess a specialized appendage that acts as a lure to attract unwary prey. Life in the deep sea is rough–even though it is the largest and most diverse ecosystem on Earth, biomass is fairly low–so finding a mate is a struggle for these slow swimming fishes. The solution: carry your partner with you.

Male anglerfish are tiny, often less than 5% the size of the female, but they possess powerful olfactory receptors, allowing them to seek out females. Once a mate is located, the male anglerfish latches on to her abdomen, fuses his circulatory system with hers, and is then slowly digested until there’s nothing left but a sac of gonads surrounded by basic life-supporting tissues. Female anglerfish are not monogamous, either. At any given time she could be covered by a half-dozen parasitic males. Kinky.

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Finding Melville’s Whale – Cetology (Chapter 32)

Chapter 32 of Herman Melville’s classic – Moby Dick. Read along with us and discuss this chapter or the book as a whole in the comments. Visit this page for the complete collection to date: Finding Melville’s Whale.


Let this be the book of the whale,
chronicle of tortured naturalists.
For who could fathom those great depths
and plum the drum of waves on hull
without a loyal oath, Leviathan!
Lord tyrant of the sea, Sperm Whale!
and this is his kingdom, his loyal court.

Let it first be said, before numbering
the pages of his family
that as certain as they swim in the sea,
the whale is no more than a fish.
A fish remarkable in its warm blood
and lungs, that drive it to the surface,
but, Linnaeus be damned, it is a fish!

These are the three books of the whales’ novel.
Each divided again into
a bookbinder’s twisted taxonomy.
The largest of all, Folios,
those of middling magnitude, Octavoes,
the smallest, duodecimo.
Beyond them, the whales of myth and fable.

FOLIO, Chapter 1, Sperm Whale
          Most formidable of all whales
          and most valuable.
          Within his head, spermaceti,
          the richest oil.

FOLIO, Chapter 2, Right Whale
          The bearer of whalebone, baleen.
          First to be hunted.
          Its tortured taxonomy lies
          entangled with doubt.

FOLIO, Chapter 3, Fin Back
          This solitary, curse-ed Cain,
          swims always alone.
          The whales, in all their forms, deny

FOLIO, Chapter 4, Hump Back
          Joyful, but worthless.

FOLIO, Chapter 5, Razor Back
          Unknown to Melville
          and an enigma to modern
          cetologists, none
          have seen anything but his back.

FOLIO, Chapter 6, Sulfur Bottom
          The Blue Whale, never
          chased by whale men of Nantucket.

OCTAVO, Chapter 1, Grampus
          Small in stature, rich in oil.
          His arrival heralds the sperm,
          His larger twin.

OCTAVO, Chapter 2, Black Fish
          Fine oil for a smaller whale.
          He approaches as a pilot
          over the shoals.

OCTAVO, Chapter 3, Narwhal
          The polar beast bears a lone horn
          to split the icy northern sea.
          Curious beast.

OCTAVO, Chapter 4, Killer
          “The killer is never hunted.”
          It is a poor choice for a name,
          for at sea, we are all killers.

OCTAVO, Chapter 5, Thresher
          A flogger of beasts,
          the leviathans’ task-master.

          The great whale in miniature.
          Some come rich in oil and meat,
          but of their families, nothing
          is certain.

This is but a poor system for naming
and many whales are yet to be counted,
nor will they ever be.

We shall number them as we boil them
and know them only by lamplight
and the stains left in our try-pots.

Visiting Bonehenge

The following is a repost from the old Southern Fried Science WordPress blog. The original can be found here.

Keith Rittmaster presenting spermaceti oil to my Southern Fried Students

I finally had the chance to visit the the legendary Bonehenge. For those of you who aren’t longtime followers of this blog, Bonehenge is Keith Rittmaster’s vision to rearticulate a Sperm Whale skeleton and put it on display at the North Carolina Maritime Museum. We blogged about Bonehenge last year, and raised $200 for the project this summer.

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Bonehenge – Community action in science outreach

The following is a repost from the old Southern Fried Science WordPress blog. The original can be found here.


If a 33.5 foot Sperm Whale (Physeter macrocephalus) stranded on your beach, what would you do with it? Leave it to rot? Drag it out to sea? Blow it up? Keith Rittmaster of the North Carolina Maritime Museum decided to do one better.

This blog has never been known for heaping praise on marine mammals, but these creatures are the exception. Sperm whales are extremely strange animals. There are some fantastic online resources available that do a great job covering basic sperm whale biology, so I’d like to skip the intro and talk about some sperm whale features I find fascinating.

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