Friday, December 12, 2014

Scientists Film Rare & Not So Pretty Deepwater Fish

Anglerfish photo by MBARI

YIKES! That made me jump.  But, the beauty of this rarely seen deep-sea creature with its own headlamp, is the rarity of seeing it! 

So, while it doesn't have the face of a beauty queen, this rare female anglerfish, recently played for the cameras of a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) at about 1,900 feet (580 meters) deep off the California coast. 

When scientists from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute found the. 3.5 inches long (9 centimeters) anglerfish, they brought her back up with the ROV—something that has never been done before.

Now she lives “in a special darkroom that looks more like a walk-in freezer than a sterile laboratory,” reports National Geographic News. 

Like the anglerfish in Finding Nemo, with its lighted lure at the top of its head, scientists want to find out if they keep the light on all the time or if they use it at certain times.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Students Create Videos About Plastic Pollution

A teacher friend of Neptune 911 for Kids sent us these links for student-made videos about plastics in the ocean.  We give these talented students a big, gold sea star for their work. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Dunkin' Donuts Listens to Grade School Kids

Real Sea Stars from Brookline, Mass.
 (An Ocean Conservancy photo)
Styrofoam is an everyday product used for taking home leftover food from a restaurant, or for serving a cup of hot chocolate. It’s cheap.It’s lightweight. It also stays in our environment for hundreds of years.  
Styrofoam is a polystyrene plastic made from oil that is slow to break down and is one of the biggest sources of litter along our waterways.  When it makes it to the ocean, fish and sea birds can easily mistake it as food.  
Would you eat plastic?  Probably not because you know it was not meant to replace carrots or even a chocolate chip cookie!
A group of fourth, fifth and sixth grade students at Park School in Brookline, Mass., decided to make a difference. 
They wrote the following on the website,
We fourth and fifth graders know for sure that Dunkin’ Donuts is a great place! We love having a Munchkin snack and a hot cocoa after school. However, we are concerned about the Styrofoam cups they use. They sell more than 1.7 billion coffees a year, and most of them come in Styrofoam. We have come to a conclusion, these cups are really affecting our lives, your life, and everything you care about. We're going to prove to you that Dunkin’ Donuts has to stop using Styrofoam or else there will be big consequences. Dunkin' Donuts should stop using it because, first of all, it’s bad for the environment. Secondly, it’s bad for animals. And lastly, because it causes human health issues. So, if you work at Dunkin’ Donuts, or if you are connected to Dunkin’ Donuts, please stop using Styrofoam cups by Earth Day, April 22, 2015.

The bosses at Dunkin’ Donuts invited the students to a meeting and agreed to switch to more environmentally-friendly cups for their hot drinks.
Neptune 911 for Kids gives these kids a big gold sea star!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Slimy Hagfish Love a Gooey Jellyfish Buffet

In the grown-up version of Neptune 911 for Kids, Neptune 911, there are shared stories about how jellyfish may be a new challenge for our seas.  Jellyfish are blooming like crazy in warmer, over-fished seas.  Some experts call this jellyfish population explosion "the jellification of the oceans."

There are between 1000-1500 types of jellyfish.  Some are tiny, others are scary-big, like this huge Echizen jellyfish off the coast of Komatsu in northern Japan. YIKES!

AFP Photo

These heartless, brainless and gooey creatures that look like beautiful and imaginative art, are not known as a food source.  So, with this expansion of the jellyfish population, what happens when they die? Do they just melt away at the bottom of sea?

Nope. Researchers just discovered that the slimy hagfish, crabs, and other scavenger absolutely love a dead jellyfish buffet. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

"Keep the Sea Free of Debris" Art Contest

2nd Grade Winner from 2014

We all know that trash on our beaches and in the ocean is U-G-L-Y!!! It is also not healthy for seabirds, seals, fish, whales and all of the beautiful creatures that live in the sea.

If you are in grade Kindergarten through 8th grade in any U.S. state or territory, you can enter an art contest sponsored by NOAA.

Your art must be about marine debris.  

What is marine debris?

It's all that trash that you and I make everyday.  It is the trash that get's away from us and winds up in creeks, rivers, lakes, and the ocean.

Ask your teacher or parent about how you can enter this contest. Click this link "Keep the Sea Free of Debris" for more information about this contest. 

The last day to submit entries is November 17, 2014.

All students in grades Kindergarten through 8th grade from all U.S. states and territories–recognized public, private, and home schools are eligible to participate. Schools, including home schools, must be in compliance with federal and state civil rights and nondiscrimination statutes. Students must work individually.

For a complete list of contest rules, download the 2015 Marine Debris Art Contest Flyer, located under the "Resources" box.

Criteria for Art & Description
Each entry must be composed of a piece of artwork and a description (on entry form). All must meet the requirements below. Students are highly encouraged to check out the rest of the NOAA Marine Debris Program's website for information about marine debris.

Entries (entry form and artwork) should be mailed to:

Marine Debris Art Contest
ATTN: Asma Mahdi
NOAA Marine Debris Program
1305 East-West Highway Rm #10203
SSMC4, 10th Floor
Silver Spring, MD 20910

All entries must be postmarked by Monday, November 17th. Please note that entries will not be returned.

If you have any questions, please contact Asma Mahdi at (301) 713-4248 Ext. 235 or

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Celebrate Cephalopods!!!

 "Rebecca Kibler/Marine Photobank."
While giant pods of sperm whales in California made the headlines, Neptune 911 loves that we are smack in the middle of Cephalopod Awareness Days!

So let's wave our tentacles in the air and celebrate the amazing cephalopod.  WHOA!  That's a big word!

Try saying it really fast eight times (like the eight arms of an octopus)--or ten times like the ten arms of a squid.

Members of the "Cephalopod Club" include octopus, squid and cuttlefish.  If they had a bone in their back, they could not have joined this very special boneless-club.

These creatures of the deep sea are fascinating. Here are some facts from Cephalopods ofthe World, a free UN FAO illustrated fact sheet on nearly every living cephalopod.

  • Cephalopods are represented in the fossil record dating back 500 million years.
  • There are about 800 species of living cephalopods known to science, with many more as yet to be discovered.
  • Since ancient times, cephalopods have been a recurring motif in myth, arts and literature and they remain a subject of popular culture today.
  • Cephalopod are an important fishery with catches steadily increasing over the last 30 years, from about 1 million metric tonnes in 1970 to more than 3 million tonnes in 2001.
  • There are no species of cephalopod currently listed on the UN endangered species. However, this is more a testament to how little we know about these animals than a true indication of their conservation needs.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Rare and Huge Pod of Sperm Whales in California Waters

Mother and baby sperm whaleCC BY-SA 2.0
So you board a Southern California whale watching boat thinking that a few humpback whales will give you a show.  That's expected.  But suddenly the boat's captain excitedly announces over the boat's loudspeaker, "Folks we have something I have never seen before in these waters!  We are approaching a giant pod of 60-100 sperm whales." 

That happened yesterday.  Wish I was there.

Sperm whales are the largest tooth whale.  

From National Geographic:

Sperm whales were mainstays of whaling's 18th and 19th century heyday. A mythical albino sperm whale was immortalized in Herman Melville's Moby Dick, though Ahab's nemesis was apparently based on a real animal whalers called Mocha Dick. The animals were targeted for oil and ambergris, a substance that forms around squid beaks in a whale's stomach. Ambergris was (and remains) a very valuable substance once used in perfumes.

Videos from October 6, 2014

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Children on Every Continent Help Clean Beaches

Columbia River Scouts
Children on every continent joined the recent effort to clean their beach during International Coastal Cleanup Day.  This is the world's largest volunteer effort to clean our oceans and waterways. 

Ocean trash is dangerous for us.  Ocean trash is also very dangerous for all the creatures that live in 
the sea.

From Ocean Conservancy

School children are seen on the beach on World Coastal Cleanup Day in Mumbai. (Source: Express photo by Vasant Prabhu)

Contra Costa Cleanup

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

"Unusual" Whale Shark in California Waters

Photo from Pete Thomas Outdoors of whale shark
near Catalina Island.
Imagine finding a 20-25 foot whale shark near Catalina Island, just 26 miles off the Southern California shoreline.  Well, a fishing boat did find one on Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014. That's unusual.  So unusual that Dr. Christopher Lowe, who runs the Shark Lab at Cal State Long Beach said that "...whale sharks are very rare in this neck of the woods."

Whale sharks are usually seen in warmer waters, like in Hawaii,  Mexico and the Sea of Cortez--not in California's cooler waters.

But unusual events continue along California's coastal waters.

Scientists who measure water temperatures from satellites, report that the surface of Pacific coast, especially in Southern California, is warmer than usual.  They write that this warming event is "...ongoing and highly unusual" for this neck of the woods (or ocean!).

What does that mean?

For one, you won't have to go to Mexico to see a whale shark! It also means other exotic sea life will likely make their way to California waters instead of the tropical waters where they normally live.

Why is this important?

Each species of sea life prefer certain temperatures of water.  So, that means changes in plankton and California's fish colony.  

So while there may be more tuna in the water, there may also be less salmon (a fish that prefers cooler waters).  

Warmer waters can also change the climate of a cool-water areas.

Stay tuned.  

Meanwhile watch this video by award winning videographer, Becky Kagan Schott, about whale sharks.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Orca Pod Helps Entangled Orca Breathe

Dian is a special orca (killer whale).  She’s a 35-year-old wild orca that lives in New Zealand waters.  On Monday, Sept. 8, 2014, Dian, named for the famous gorilla researcher, Dian Fossey, was found struggling.
Cray/Crab Pot.
Dian was entangled in a rope which was attached to a heavy cray/crab pot resting on the ocean floor. It was too heavy for Dian to constantly lift and reach the surface to breath. This orca was in big trouble from entanglement.
A disentanglement team rushed to rescue the orca and discovered the most amazing thing.  Dian’s pod, including a calf, were lifting her to the surface so that she could breathe! 
Dian entangled with her pod pushing her up for air. Photo from
Orca Research Trust

Dian was rescued and is okay.  She swims free of ropes and cray pots today. 
This story comes from the Orca Research Trust in New Zealand, and Dr. Ingrid Visser, who has studied the orcas in New Zealand since 1992.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Blue Sea Creatures: Fly By the Wind and Land on the Beach

There they were, those fabulously blue and clear glass, ummm, well, what are these clumps of electric blue-see-through-kind of-jellyfish-like things on the beach???
Photo credit:  Wikipedia Commons

C. Coimbra Photo
C. Coimbra Photo
Some people call these electric blue visitors, By-the-Wind Sailors because they blow in from the middle of the Pacific Ocean where the water is warmer.  

Their real name is Velella velella and they are cnidarians (a sea-life form than includes jellyfish and coral and with out a backbone or spine). 

The last time these sailors landed on West Coast beaches was in 2006. Scientists don't know why they sometimes wash up on the beach.  They are not dangerous.  

Thursday, August 14, 2014

How Does a Whale Sleep?

Two humpback whales feeding in Monterey Bay

How does a whale sleep in the ocean? Caught with a GoPro camera on a drone, this sleeping humpback whale just drifts along at the water's surface.  

Whales, like humans, are mammals and must breathe air, right?  Because we live on land, we don't have to worry about breathing when we sleep.  But whales, how do they do this?

Scientists believe that whales don’t sleep at all like humans because they must “think” at all times about breathing.
 “…unlike fish, whales do not have gills which fish use to extract oxygen from the water, so (whales) must come to the surface get their oxygen.”
“Depending on the species whales are able to hold their breath anywhere from 5 minutes to over an hour.” That means that whales are always aware of their breathing and need for oxygen.
So, whales must always think breathing—even when asleep—because if they ignore their need to surface and breathe, they would drown.  This is called “conscious breathing.”
Fortunately, marine mammals have very special lungs. The can bring in more oxygen from the air than humans.  
Learn more on Whale Facts.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Unusual Event Off California Coast

Massive school of anchovies appears to be an oil slick.
Photo from 
Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Marine experts were stumped and amazed by a sight off the California coast near La Jolla—something not witnessed for more than 30 years.  
It looked like a giant oil slick, which would have spelled d-i-s-a-s-t-e-r.  But, fortunately, it wasn’t.  Instead it was a gigantic mass of anchovies.
Excited researchers grabbed a GoPro camera and filmed this unusual event on Monday.  
Watch for a leopard shark feasting on the anchovies.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Welcome Aboard The Nautilus Expedition Live!

We had a surprise visit from a Vampire Squid last night, perfect timing for the end of #cephalopodweek. Check out this eerie video as it drifts into the cameras of the ROV Hercules. Beautiful!
Imagine a surprise visit by a Vampire Squid.  Well, that probably won't happen to most of us.  BUT, now through October 8, 2014, you can watch live exploration of the Gulf of Mexico's deep water exploration, "The 2014 Nautilus Expedition."

Back to that Vampire Squid business.  This is what surprised the scientists today, June 27, 2014:

What is really cool about the Nautilus Expedition live website, is you can send a question to the explorers in the control room and receive a live response to your question.

So, budding oceanographers, see you aboard the Nautilus!
The Nautilus 2014 Field Schedule

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Tidepools Missing Sea Stars this Summer

Sea Star feeding on mussels.
  Susanne Skyrm/Marine Photobank.
Imagine exploring tide pools along the Pacific Ocean coastline and not seeing any sea stars (starfish--but they are not really fish).  Sea stars are the colorful stars of the tide pool.

We reported earlier that sea stars are dying all along the Pacific Coast.  Scientists think that "sea star wasting disease," may be caused by warming waters.  

If you come across sea stars in a tide pool this summer, let them be.  Please don't poke them or pick them up to have a closer look.  

Friday, May 9, 2014

An Elephant Seal Learns to Swim

Northern Elephant Seal Weaner.
C. Coimbra Photo
Did you know that when a northern elephant seal is born that it cannot swim like most other marine mammals?  

That is one of the reasons why an elephant seal must be born on land.

Did you know that a northern elephant seal pup can gain about 10 pounds a day by nursing on its mother's rich milk?  

Did you know that the pup's mother looses about 20 pounds a day while nursing her pup?

That is one of the reasons why she abandons her pup after just 4 weeks to return to sea.

How does the pup survive?

First, it weighs about 300 pounds when its mother leaves.  Now the pup is a weaner.  It joins other weaners in a "weaner pod" and rests until all the big adult elephant seals are off the beach--sometime near or in March.

Then the weaners play on the beach and in the water and teach themselves how to swim and dive.

When April nears, most of the weaners leave their birth beach and go out to sea for the first time.  They return sometime near September.

This video "Unaga Learns to Swim" shows a newborn pup through the day it finally leaves to go to sea.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Art from Plastic Bottle Caps Collected by Students

Plastic bottle caps often become food for the fish and birds.  That's a bad thing because plastic isn't meant to be food.  

The students at Carmel River School decided to put all those colorful plastic caps we find tossed on the street, or on the beach, to good use: Make a huge mural on an ugly wall inside the school yard.

Here are more ocean critters made from bottle caps that will become part of this mural at Carmel River School.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Take A Field Trip Now to a Recycling Center

A piece of plastic found on the beach
that washed ashore with
the kelp.  
Trash--mostly plastic--is causing serious harm to our oceans and all the creatures that live in there.  So, recycling our trash is one way to help our oceans become healthy.  

Here's LeVar Burton taking us on a field trip to a recycling center.

Monday, April 7, 2014

What Do You Like Most About the Ocean?

Sea and Sand 

Sand in my pocket,
Sand on my hair,
Sand is everywhere.
The sea is blue,
The sea is warm,
And it makes me smile like a teddy bear. 

Sania Nadkarni 
Kindergarten, Cupertino

1st Grader, Tanisha Sandeep Pidshetti, likes to surf.
Her drawing also took 1st place in the 
2014 Coastal Art & Poetry Contest

And it looks like 11th Grade student, who took 1st place for this entry in her age group, Emily Li,
appreciates the treasures found on the seashore.

To read more poetry by kids and see the winning pieces of art, visit: 2014 Coastal Art & Poetry

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Youth Commits To Sea Turtle and Ocean Health

When Casey Sokolovic was 8-years-old, a field trip  to the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center on Topsail Island, North Carolina, inspired the 3rd grader to make a difference.  

Now 15-years-old Casey Sokolovic has racked up a page of awards and recognitions (with her premier award coming this May--the 2014 Christopher Benchley Youth Award).  Her mission, is Love A Sea Turtle (L.A.S.T.), a project  that raises awareness of ocean conditions and an "educational outreach program and an outdoor environmental summer science camp that traces the path of fresh water to the coast," as noted on the Love a Sea Turtle website.

During this year's  MLK Day of Service, L.A.S.T. organized "..over 125 volunteers – 98 were Boys & Girls Club members! Together, we cleared and cleaned trails, removed invasive species, constructed a fossil pit, assembled fishing line recycling containers, and shared a Monday Meal," says Casey's blog.

Watch these baby sea turtles rush to the ocean

About sea turtles from Defenders of Wildlife
  • Sea turtles are one of the Earth's most ancient creatures. 
  • The seven species that can be found today have been around for 110  million years, since the time of the dinosaurs. 
  • The sea turtle's shell, or "carapace" is streamlined for swimming through the water. Unlike other turtles, sea turtles cannot retract their legs and head into their shells. 
  • Their color varies between yellow, greenish and black depending on the species.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Singing Elephant Seals of Piedras Blancas

The Three Elephant Seal Tenors of Piedras Blancas

Northern Elephant Seal weaners (pups that were born this winter and are now weaned from their mothers) can be heard singing, yapping, barking, and just raising a ruckus on the beach as they teach themselves how to swim and dive.  Once they master their basic skills, each weaner will leave--on its own time schedule--for its first six months, or so, at sea.

The next time they begin to return to the beach where they were born will be late summer and early fall. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Finding Diseased Sea Stars in Tide Pools

Sea star missing legs. Photo from UCSC
When exploring tide pools anywhere between Alaska and California, watch out.  You might find a sea star (starfish) missing legs or looking really gross.

What is wrong with them?  

Up and down the Pacific west coast, sea stars have a disease called Sea Star Wasting Disease.  It can kill a group of sea stars within just 24 hours or a few days.

Scientists at the University of California, Santa Cruz, along with
A leather star (Dermasterias imbricata) just beginning to show signs of the disease, seen on San Juan Island in October 2013; Photo: Keith Rootsaert
other researchers remain unsure why this disease has hit the west coast sea star population so rapidly.  There is a bacterium (vibrio) that scientists have identified through pathology.  And warmer ocean waters are also suspected as a cause.

With an adult, you can participate in observing the sea star wasting symptoms.  Visit

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Penguins--Slip, Slap, And Slide

Funny Penguin Videos
How Much Do You Know
About Penguins?


 How many different kinds of penguins are there?

1 kind? 16 different kinds? 

Find the answer here:


  Do all penguins live on ice?

Find the answer here:  Discovery Kids


 What is the smallest penguin in the world?

Find the answer here:  Sea*Thos Foundation


What is the biggest penguin in the world?

Find the answer here:  National Geographic

But here's the biggest penguin ever:

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Another Otter Cuteness Alert

Meet "Otter 649"  

Otter 649. MBA Photo

This 12-1/2-week-old male sea otter pup was rescued in November 2014.  He was just three-weeks-old and quite ill.  But Otter 649 is healthy now and lives at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, CA.

He doesn't have a real name yet.  He's called Otter 649 because he is the 649th stranded otter rescued  since 1984. *

The little guy can't return to the wild because he has had too much contact with humans.  

Here's the aquarium's sea otter live web cam:  Sea Otter Web Cam

* Otter 649 number comes from being the 649th stranded otter to be brought into Sea Otter Research and Conservation program .