Monday, July 20, 2009

bloody barnacles!

Here are home videos of some of my favorite study organisms, barnacles! At the Vancouver Aquarium, I saw these dramatic red Pollicipes polymerus gooseneck barnacles and also these impressively large acorn Balanus nubilus (confirmation anyone?), surrounded by white anemones. While intertidal gooseneck barnacles are common on the Pacific coast, they are not present on the Atlantic U.S. in the intertidal - so I brought them home...on video.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Spartina likes it hot

Some like it hot. Spartina patens, the dominant grass in New England salt marsh, does, but many salt marsh forb species, pictured above, do not. In field experiments warming areas of salt marsh on the border of Spartina grass and forb panne zones, I found that the species in the forb panne, a unique and diverse group of stress tolerant forbs, were outcompeted by Spartina under warmer conditions. Plant diversity rapidly declined in experimentally warmed plots as Spartina took over.

From these results, my co-author, Mark Bertness, and I predict declines in salt marsh plant diversity and reductions in forb panne area in the near future due to global warming. In fact, in the warm years when we did our experiment (2004-2006), forb panne area was lost even in control plots, and forb pannes were lost before our very eyes. Read all about it in this month's Ecology Letters.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Synchronized swimming and nursing

Incredibly, the Vancouver aquarium is home to two captive-bred beluga whale calves at the moment, one one-year old and one three-week old. It's an rare opportunity to see whales do things you have always wondered how they do, such as give birth. When I was visiting recently, I observed the one year old calf nursing. The museum guide explained their tandem movements: the calf bumps the underbelly of the mother to signal a desire to nurse, they swim together underwater and the calf, with it's tongue shaped like a straw, takes a drink from one of the mother's two nipples, located close to her tail. Watch it happen in the video that I took - you can see a trail of whale milk in the water as the calf pulls away at the end.