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Close-up shot of sea surface with small waves
The Constellation of Creatures Inhabiting the Ocean Surface
The myriad species floating atop the world’s seas, called neuston, are mysterious and understudied, complicating efforts to clean up plastic pollution.
The Constellation of Creatures Inhabiting the Ocean Surface
The Constellation of Creatures Inhabiting the Ocean Surface

The myriad species floating atop the world’s seas, called neuston, are mysterious and understudied, complicating efforts to clean up plastic pollution.

The myriad species floating atop the world’s seas, called neuston, are mysterious and understudied, complicating efforts to clean up plastic pollution.

ocean
Neuston
Slideshow: Meet the Neuston, the Diverse Organisms Living at the Ocean’s Surface
Amanda Heidt | Jan 2, 2023 | 2 min read
The ocean’s surface harbors an ecosystem of colorful, understudied life, ranging from protists and cnidarians to insects.
Illustration showing where neuston reside
Infographic: Neuston Drift Atop the World’s Oceans
Amanda Heidt | Jan 2, 2023 | 1 min read
The sea surface is home to a diverse group of animals adapted to life in the open ocean, but increasingly, they’re sharing that space with plastic debris.
Various images of different types of neuston
Neuston: Living Among Plastic Debris in the Open Ocean
Amanda Heidt | Jan 2, 2023 | 3 min read
With plastic recovery operations now underway in the world’s marine garbage patches, scientists must contend with how little was known about the organisms living at the surface.
Kenneth Coale
Biogeochemist Kenneth Coale Dies at 67
Lisa Winter | Aug 4, 2022 | 3 min read
He was known for his research on iron’s role in phytoplankton biomass.
smiling woman with hands on hips with blackboard in background
In Deep Water With Gül Dölen
Peter Hess, Spectrum | Aug 4, 2022 | 10 min read
A researcher’s existential crisis led to a scientific breakthrough.
A small brown crustacean with white spots on it moving on a red branch.
Seaweed Has Its Own Matchmakers: Small Crustaceans
Alejandra Manjarrez, PhD | Jul 28, 2022 | 3 min read
A species that transports the spermatia of red algae is the first known instance of an animal facilitating fertilization in this ancient photosynthetic lineage.
Underwater brine pool
Science Snapshot: The Beach Beneath
Lisa Winter | Jul 13, 2022 | 1 min read
By better understanding underwater brine pools, researchers could learn more about the evolution of life in our oceans and the potential for life on other planets.
spikes of white coral underwater
Great Barrier Reef Suffers Sixth Mass Bleaching in Two Decades
Bianca Nogrady | May 14, 2022 | 2 min read
A survey showed that 91 percent of the reef experienced bleaching despite this year’s cooler, wetter conditions associated with the La Niña weather pattern.
Close-up of a fiber with brightly colored pathogens beside it
Microplastics in Seawater May Harbor Parasites
Christie Wilcox, PhD | Apr 26, 2022 | 2 min read
Laboratory experiments find that Toxoplasma, Cryptosporidium, and Giardia can congregate on microplastic beads and fibers, suggesting they might make their way into and around the world’s oceans by hitching rides on tiny bits of trash.
Miscellaneous diatoms, appearing as translucent blue and brownish circles and rhomboid shapes, are imaged in front of a black background.
Q&A: Fluorescence Lets Diatoms Communicate, Coordinate Behavior
Dan Robitzski | Dec 16, 2021 | 6 min read
The Scientist spoke with physicist and microbial ecologist Idan Tuval, whose recent paper challenges the assumption that these single-celled organisms only communicate via chemical signals.
microscope image of methaotrophs with black specks
Deep Sea Microbes Produce Graphite-like Carbon
Chloe Tenn | Nov 11, 2021 | 2 min read
The first evidence of biologically produced elemental carbon inspires more questions than answers.  
view from below of hundreds of silver sardines swimming in the same direction
Famous South African Sardine Run Doesn’t Benefit Sardines: Study
Alex Billow | Oct 19, 2021 | 5 min read
An analysis suggests that a commercially important mass migration of fish may have no real adaptive value.
dead fish piled in boxes along a pier, with a boat and snowy mountains in the background
Fish Poop a Big Player in Ocean Carbon Sequestration
Katarina Zimmer | Oct 8, 2021 | 5 min read
A modeling study estimates that by drastically reducing fish biomass over the past century, industrial fishing may be affecting ocean chemistry, nutrient fluxes, and carbon cycling as much as climate change.
ABOVE: A pair of Labroides dimidiatus cleaner fish cleaning a puffer fish
Cleaner Fish Alter Behavior if Partners Can See Them “Cheating”
Chloe Tenn | Oct 7, 2021 | 4 min read
A study of feeding behavior suggests the fish feed differently in front of their partners—a behavioral feature also found in primates.
sea snake swimming in blue water
Sea Snake “Attacks” Are Cases of Mistaken Identity: Study
Christie Wilcox, PhD | Aug 19, 2021 | 6 min read
The Scientist spoke to marine biologist Tim Lynch, who dusted off 25-year-old data from his PhD to figure out why olive sea snakes approach divers so often. He says the animals, especially the males, likely confuse people for potential mates.
Three researchers with headlamps on stand around a loggerhead turtle on the beach while a man covers the turtle's face with a gloved hand
Tiny Hitchhikers Reveal Turtles’ Movements and Foraging Ecology
Amanda Heidt | Jul 13, 2021 | 7 min read
Microscopic creatures called epibionts that live on sea turtles’ shells can help researchers understand their secretive lives.
corals in water with fish
First Immortal Cell Line Cultured for Reef-Building Corals
Amanda Heidt | Jul 1, 2021 | 3 min read
Lab-grown cells from the reef-building coral Acropora tenuis provide new opportunities to study bleaching, symbioses, and biomineralization.
Infographic: How Scientists Are Creating Coral Cell Lines
Amanda Heidt | Jul 1, 2021 | 1 min read
Stable, long-term cell lines will enable scientists to study everything from coral bleaching to biomineralization, knowledge that may help protect corals from ongoing climate change.
Close-up shot of smooth cauliflower polyps
Comprehensive Atlas of Reef-Building Coral’s Cells Created
Christie Wilcox, PhD | May 13, 2021 | 5 min read
Single-cell RNA sequencing helps to catalog the dozens of cell types present in a stony coral, including its elusive immune cells.
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