Ocean Critters

Why whale poop is worth a fortune

Why whale poop is worth a fortune

Did you know there may only be 3000 sperm whales alive today that are capable of making ambergris? Find out more about this rare, strange stuff with a smell that is very hard to describe, in this a short podcast I made for Chemistry World.


Meeting marine predators (aka diving with sharks) – Part 2

I’m in Fiji on a research expedition with Joshua Drew from Columbia University. Before the hard research work started I took off a day and went diving with bull sharks. Read part 1 of my encounter with some of the oceans biggest predators here. Within a minute or two of being surrounded by forty bull […]


Meeting marine predators – Part 1

Meeting marine predators - Part 1

In the lead up to my first dive in Fiji a lot of people asked me if I was scared. Was I nervous? It was going to be my three hundred and somethingth dive, so by now I’m used to being beneath the waves. But the conversation that I had a few times ran like […]


Fiji fish – Napoleon wrasse

Fiji fish - Napoleon wrasse

Another coral reef fish I'm hoping to see in Fiji (on my upcoming expedition with Joshua Drew) is the Napoleon wrasse or humphead wrasse (Cheilinus undulatus). They are fish that are especially close to my heart because I spent four years studying them for my PhD. Here's a splendid male: So I'm biased – clearly – […]


Fiji fish – Emperor Angelfish

Fiji fish - Emperor Angelfish

I'm stoked to be going to Fiji this June with Joshua Drew from Colombia University and his crew of PhDs and masters students. My main role on the expedition is going to be documenting the science and spreading the word to the rest of the world about reefs and conservation and all things fishy (I like to think of myself […]


Glowing sharks caught on camera for first time

One in ten shark species are bioluminescent and now for the first time glowing sharks have been caught on camera. Check out this video from Jérôme Mallefet at the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium. I’ve written several stories for National Geographic News about Jérôme’s work, together with Julien Claes. They’re uncovering fascinating things about these illusive […]


Diving with goliaths

Diving with goliaths

Earlier this year I came face to face with some of the biggest and quite possibly the most endangered fish I’ve ever met. For my PhD I studied humphead wrasse and spent a lot of time in their company underwater so I’m quite used to seeing big fish. But goliath groupers are massive. Like humphead wrasse, dozens […]


When I got lost at sea

A little while ago I got lost at sea and washed up in an old lighthouse in London’s docklands. As luck would have it, I found myself in a room full of people sitting on blue and white striped life rings on the floor. Turned out I was in just the right place for the […]


A pair of seahorses for your weekend

Tomorrow I’ll talking at the Royal Institution about seahorses. In my moochings around the net for cool things to show the kids I found these awesome vids by liquidguru of a severn’s & a pontohi’s pygmy seahorse. So tiny! They come from a clutch of recently described mini-seahorses from SE Asia. (check out the enormous […]


Argonaut pops out of its shell

This week fishermen off California snagged an unusual visitor to their temperature waters – a beautiful female argonaut. They took her to the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium and here’s a video of her popping out of her shell. [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCBFypLcgtE[/youtube]


Senegalese seahorse caught on camera

For the first time ever a rare West African seahorse (Hippocampus algiricus) has been caught on camera. Kate West from Imperial College London has been in Senegal on a joint project with Project Seahorse and ZSL. During her investigations into the growing trade in seahorses from this part of the world, she spotted fishermen hauling […]


Manta rays – the low down

Manta rays - the low down

Hot off the presses, a new study has just come out that brings together all that is known about manta rays and their close relatives the devil rays. Over the past few years, some incredible discoveries have been emerging from scientists around the world who are finding out more about these beautiful and mysterious beasts. […]


Belize field log 2: Social breakdown on the reef

[The second installment in our New York Times “Scientist at Work” field log.] Wednesday, July 4 Our hunt yesterday produced a good haul of shrimp species, but, alas, none of the social ones we’re searching for. I worked with my former Ph.D. student, Tripp McDonald, long into the night identifying the shrimp. Though little known […]


Belize 2012 field log 1: Snapping Shrimps and Hidden Sponges

[Our team has just returned from a 10-day research trip to the Belize Barrier Reef, searching for social sponge-dwelling shrimp in a long-term study of these curious animals as models for understanding the evolution of altruism and cooperation. The New York Times “Scientist at Work” feature is posting updates from our field log. We reprint […]


Do slomo sharks snack on snoozing seals?

This week I wrote a piece for National Geographic News about a study just out suggesting that Greenland sharks could sneak up on seals and catch them while they’re sleeping. It’s a neat study, involving putting motion-sensors on individual sharks to see how fast they swim. In fact, turns out these guys swim so very […]


Giant headbutting fish

The world’s biggest parrotfish – the bumphead parrotfish Bolbomepoton muricatum – have been caught on camera for the first time headbutting each other. [vimeo]http://vimeo.com/43626409#[/vimeo] The finding was published in the open access PlosOne (so go have a read) and as Roldan Muñoz and his colleagues point out, the only way they got to observe this crazy behaviour […]


Happy International Day for Biological Diversity!

Not only that but Marine Biodiversity (yeah, it caught us by surprise too — I think the Convention on Biological Diversity needs some marketing advice . . .) Anyway, they have a cool logo which is worth a post in its own right. Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, today, 22 May 2012, is the official International […]


Twilight of the giants in taxonomy

[Adapted in part from my recent review at Faculty of 1000] In an important sense, nothing exists until it’s given a name.  And in the living world of organisms, names—official, scientific names—are assigned by unique creatures called taxonomists, experts in the minutiae of structure and biology of particular groups of organisms, working according to a […]


Weird seahorse cousins found in stone for first time

My seahorse fossil-finding friend, Jure Žalohar, has made another amazing discovery.                         Back in 2009 Jure and his friend Tomas found the first fossils of extinct seahorses in his home country of Slovenia. His latest find is the world’s first fossilized pygmy pipehorse – a […]


Teeny tiny glowing sharks could be missing link

Take a tour of sharks around the oceans and you’ll find that around one in ten has the ability to glow, sparkle and twinkle its own eerie light. Some of the tiniest and most mysterious sharks – the pygmy and lantern sharks – are the subject of a new study looking into how glowing sharks […]


Seahorse with dangerous underwear

We’re celebrating our first year of Seamonstering and I want to get things started with my very first post from April 16th last year, featuring one of my favourite seahorse illustrations. A seahorse with underpants decorated in hand grenades? Another with a shi shi hairdo? Well no. These cartoon seahorses are in fact festooned in […]


Glowing transgenic sushi

It feels a like a flash back to the heyday of black lights and lava lamps, but cutting edge transgenic technology has paved the way to fluorescent sushi. This stuff isn’t available in supermarkets (yet), but all you need is a few pet zebra fish, genetically tweaked to contain the Green Fluorescent Protein GFP (or as […]


And for my next trick… inflatable corals

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gtr1R1jpfb0[/youtube] Pim Bongaerts from the University of Queensland came up with the  idea of bringing a solitary mushroom coral into the lab, covering it in sand, and filming it trying to escape. Here it is, puffing its way out. Ingenious and beautiful. Question: does it make whooppee cushion noises as it does it? (they don’t mention […]


Brian & the Southern Right Whale

I recently chatted with award-winning underwater photojournalist Brian Skerry for the latest edition of the Naked Oceans podcast (which looks at Art and the Oceans). His pictures have appeared in National Geographic Magazine since 1998 and having spent more than 10,000 hours underwater he had heaps of amazing stories and excellent advice to share. But with only […]