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You may have known that corals are living animals but did you know that they have a partnership with algae living inside of them? Algae known as zooxanthellae (zo-zan- thel-ay) live in the coral’s tissue. The coral gives the algae protection and nutrients while the algae provide food and oxygen to the coral in return. When two living organisms help each other out like this we call it a symbiotic relationship.
Satellites orbiting thousands of miles above the earth’s surface are used to monitor some of the tiniest organisms in the ocean. Phytoplankton are microscopic organisms that use the green pigment chlorophyll and the sun’s energy to produce food. NASA satellites can detect this green variation in the ocean’s color, which scientists use to estimate changes in the population of phytoplankton.
Ocean phytoplankton produce at least half of the oxygen that we breathe. Though small in size they are able to produce as much oxygen as all of the land plants on earth combined. While trees and plants usually get all the credit for our oxygen, we actually should be thanking our marine plankton!
In the ocean, as on land, elements are constantly being cycled through different animals. An important player in this cycling process is bacteria. Bacteria can take organic matter, such as a fish carcass, and break it down to some of the essential compounds required for life. Bacteria sometimes get a dirty reputation, but they’re actually nature’s recyclers!
In the deep ocean, a hairy-armed crab called the "yeti" crab has an interesting source of food. The crab farms bacteria on its hairy arms and then scrapes the bacteria into its mouth. Talk about self-sustaining!
Photo: Scripps Institute of Oceanography Researchers at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography (UC San Diego) have created an innovative new tool that blends robotic technology with oceanography to answer questions about one of the ocean’s most abundant life forms – plankton. Planktonic organisms serve many important functions in the ocean, including fueling ocean food webs and cycling essential nutrients. However, there are still much to be discovered about their movement, dispersal, and impacts on larger organisms and ecosystems. Studying the movement of individual plankton has... (more)