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I’ve owned fourteen octopuses over the years, and the most depressing part of bonding with these incredibly intelligent animals is their short life span. My local ones only live for about a year. I once stretched one’s life span out to 18 months by severely restricting its calorie intake, but I felt guilty about that and now just let their natural longevity take its course.

Native to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the blue-ringed octopus’ life span is only about two years. But it could end yours in a matter of minutes.

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Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 10:46 AM PDT

Marine Life Series: Shame-faced Crabs

by Mark H

If there’s one crustacean that can be described as tank-like, this is it. The body is compact, the exoskeleton incredibly hard and the claws have evolved to form a perfect fit to cover the entire face. This “face”, actually the breathing apparatus and mouthparts, is the most vulnerable part of a crab’s body, but the shame-faced crab’s claws form an impenetrable barrier to this opening.

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Harvesting oysters in New England goes back to way before colonial times. Although today oysters are harvested mainly for food, back in the 1700’s they were collected for their shells. Limestone, vital to the production of masonry mortar, was scarce in the northeast. So oysters and other mollusks were captured and added to kilns to take advantage of the calcium carbonate in their shells.

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The Biomes Center commercial fisheries exhibit.

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Tue May 22, 2012 at 06:04 PM PDT

Marine Life Series: NRN Invitation

by Mark H

Five years ago I attended Netroots Nation in Chicago. It was the highlight of that year for me (although in that same year my dog died, a long-term relationship ended and my son moved out, so the bar was set pretty low). Still, I loved every minute of it. This year, NRN is taking place in my backyard. I live just 30 minutes from Providence.

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Thu Feb 10, 2011 at 10:02 PM PST

Marine Life Series: Ruby on NOVA

by Mark H

It's been a long time, way too long a time, since I've posted an MLS diary. But PBS ran an episode on animal intelligence, and they asked me and Ruby the octopus to star in it. So, I thought I'd share.

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I did an hour-long phone interview with CNN last night. They were looking for an alternate explanation for the "psychic octopus" named Paul. Paul lives in a German aquarium and has become famous for correctly picking the winners of World Cup games.

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Thu Oct 15, 2009 at 06:12 PM PDT

Marine Life Series: The Red Knot

by Mark H

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Twice each year shorebirds along the eastern seaboard migrate thousands of miles between North and South America. In the fall they head south to their wintering grounds, and then return to their northern breeding grounds in the Spring. To make this trek and still survive means finding high protein foods to provide the energy they need. And there aren’t many items on a bird’s menu that packs in more protein than the eggs of other animals. This is where the horseshoe crab comes in.

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Although like most people I’m not all that thrilled about the damage caused by hurricanes and tropical storms when they landfall, I’m guessing that unlike most folks I eagerly await the arrival of one of the by-products of these storms. Southeasterly winds (remember, winds are named for the direction they are coming from, not for where they’re going) carry floating debris from way out in the middle of the Atlantic across the ocean and onto the shores of the Eastern seaboard. I spent most of last week picking through the mats of algae drifting towards the coast, especially sargassum weed, looking for stranded pelagic creatures clinging to the flotsam.

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As a marine educator I’ve become acutely aware of the threat posed by overfishing. In fact, I’m rather distressed about it considering that continuing our current rate of depletion of this resource it’s entirely possible that the marine ecosystem as we know it may collapse by the middle of this century.

Years ago I decided to do my part and swore off seafood completely. Although I have no animosity towards commercial fishermen, and indeed I rely on them often to obtain hard to get specimens for my education center, I’d really like to see the industry regulated in an intelligent way to preserve and protect at-risk species and the ecosystem as a whole. And as I’ve learned more about fisheries science I’ve come to the realization that boycotting commercial fishing en masse isn’t necessary. But carefully choosing what we consume is. Not only which species we eat, but how and where they are harvested or cultivated.

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Fri Jun 19, 2009 at 05:20 PM PDT

Marine Life Series: Reflex Amputation

by Mark H

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Most people are familiar with a lizard’s ability to drop its tail off at will. Also known as autotomy, reflex amputation is an adaptive behavior developed by a wide range of organisms as a means of escaping from predators. It is especially common among various groups of marine invertebrates.

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Fri Jun 12, 2009 at 05:36 PM PDT

Marine Life Series: Coral Bleaching

by Mark H

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As the term suggests, coral bleaching is the whitening of living coral colonies, a phenomenon associated with anthropogenic changes in the animal’s habitat which lead to the weakening of the colony’s health and its eventual death. Let’s take a look at what exactly is being bleached, what’s causing the bleaching and why bleaching is so devastating to these animals and their ecosystem.

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