Why Is The Great Barrier Reef So Important?

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Why Is The Great Barrier Reef So Important?

The Great Barrier Reef is massive. Its ecosystem of 3,000 individual coral reefs stretches a whopping 2,300 kilometers (1,430 miles), or roughly the distance from Vancouver to the border of Mexico, and covers an area of 344,400 square kilometers (133,000 square miles). It's so big, in fact, that it can be seen from outer space. According to the Australian government's Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, the Reef is home to a dazzling array of creatures, including 3,000 varieties of mollusks, more than 100 types of jellyfish, 1,625 species of fish, 133 types of sharks and rays, and more than 30 species of whales and dolphins. That's in addition to the many types of soft and hard corals that form the area's 30 distinct bioregions, each of which are made up of different types of reefs. With all this biodiversity, it's understandable that the Great Barrier Reef would need protecting. Tourism, pollution, and agricultural runoff pose hazards to the Reef's fragile ecosystem, but climate change is its most serious threat, according to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority's 2014 Outlook Report. Rising sea temperatures can lead to coral bleaching, and the gradual acidification of the oceans can stunt coral growth. But while the Great Barrier Reef is in danger, scientists say that it's not too late to save it. Learn more about this massive natural structure with the videos below.

"Her Deepness" Sylvia Earle Is An Accomplished Oceanographer, Author, And Educator

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"Her Deepness" Sylvia Earle Is An Accomplished Oceanographer, Author, And Educator

If the ocean could have human royalty, "Her Deepness" Dr. Sylvia A. Earle would be the one to reign it all. Oceanographer, author, educator, and explorer, Earle has been admired by individuals and organizations around the world. She's been called a "living legend" by the Library of Congress, and first "hero for the planet" by Time magazine. Earle is a National Geographic Society Explorer-in-Residence and has been chief scientist of NOAA. She also holds a world record for solo diving in 1,000-meter depth. But her accomplishments do not end there.Dr. Earle has founded many organizations to support marine life and exploration, including the Deep Ocean Exploration and Research, Inc., and Mission Blue. In addition, Earle is the chair of the Advisory Council for the Ocean in Google Earth. Her research revolves around marine ecosystems, with special consideration for exploration, conservation, and the development of technologies for use in the deep sea.

Are Sea Pens The Solution for Captive Marine Mammals?

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Are Sea Pens The Solution for Captive Marine Mammals?

In March 2016, SeaWorld announced the end to their orca breeding program. This is great news to future generations of killer whales that won't be born into captivity, but it brings up an important question for the orcas that remain: will they be released into the wild, or will they live out their days in a concrete tank? Whales and other marine mammals are extremely intelligent, and living in a tank that's a tiny fraction of their natural habitat causes untold physical and psychological issues for the animals. But experts almost unanimously agree that releasing marine mammals that have lived every moment of their lives in captivity -- with no knowledge of how to catch food or otherwise survive without humans -- is a death sentence. There could be a third option: sea pens. These huge, cordoned-off coastal habitats would work on principles similar to wildlife sanctuaries for elephants and great apes, just in the ocean. Humans would provide medical care and other protection, but the animals wouldn't be forced to perform for or otherwise interact with visitors. SeaWorld and other experts are critical of the plan. Sea pens have failed to protect whales in the past; sometimes famously, as in the case of Keiko, the whale depicted in "Free Willy" who escaped his pen and died a few months later. The damaged animals would be exposed to weather, pollution, and other environmental threats that they didn't experience in captivity. There's also the cost, which could reach the tens of millions of dollars, though groups say this could be offset by outreach and educational programs. We've collected some awesome videos on this topic. Watch them now to learn more.

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from TakePart

Key Facts to Know

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    In March 2016, SeaWorld brought an end to its killer-whale breeding program. 29 orcas remain in captivity. 0:00

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    A sea pen is a cordoned-off habitat that serves as a sanctuary for rescued marine mammals. Here's what one might look like. 0:36

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    The cost of building and maintaining the pens, which could be tens of millions of dollars, could be offset by educational programs. 1:35

How an Oyster Invader Becomes a Pearl

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How an Oyster Invader Becomes a Pearl

If you've ever struggled to remove a splinter and watched over time as your skin pushed it out on its own, you know that the human body is good at keeping out foreign invaders. The oyster's body is, too. When an irritant, such as sand or a parasite, makes its way between the oyster's shell and its mantle (the organ that creates the shell), the oyster's body jumps into defense mode. The mantle starts to wall off the foreign object with nacre, the same substance used in the inner shell and what most would call "mother of pearl." This process creates a pearl that gets bigger as time goes on, and it stays within the oyster until the oyster dies or humans harvest the pearl. But not all pearls are the near-perfect spheres you see on necklaces; rather, the pearl takes the shape of whatever object it covers. And different breeds of oyster create different colors of pearls. That's why you'll find pearls in oval, teardrop, and "baroque" shapes, and colors ranging from bright white to pale pink to deep black.

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Key Facts to Know

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    Oysters make pearls as a defensive response to foreign objects. 0:11

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    The mantle begins to deposit a substance called nacre, or mother of pearl, onto it. This is the same substance that makes up the inner shell, and any damage to the shell that reaches the mantle will also show the same response. 0:30

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    Pearl farmers usually use balls of ground, polished mussel shell to start the pearl making process. Using a similar substance to the pearl itself will prevent it from shattering when a hole is drilled into it. 2:27

Octopuses Don't Have Tentacles!

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Octopuses Don't Have Tentacles!

Many people refer to octopus limbs as tentacles, but technically, octopuses don't have any tentacles at all! Instead, they have arms. When you're talking about cephalopods, tentacles tend to be much longer than arms and only have suckers at their "clubbed" ends, whereas arms are shorter, stronger, and suckered all the way down. Tentacles also typically come in pairs. Squid and cuttlefish have eight arms plus a pair of feeding tentacles.

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Key Facts to Know

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    Octopuses have beaks that can pierce through crab and clam shells. 1:02

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    Giant Pacific octopuses have about 240 suckers on each arm. 1:25

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    The plural of octopus is "octopuses," not "octopi". 2:47