Label: Oceans

January 11, 2012

Welcome to Writing Wednesday! Every Wednesday you can publish your own creative writing on the Seymour Science blog.

Writing Wednesday has two simple rules: 

  1. Give us the best you’ve got in 5 minutes. That’s right - five minutes of creative writing. Think of it as a word extravaganza to warm up your brain for the rest of the day!
  2. Tell us your first name, the name of your school, and how old you are.
  Ready? Let’s go! Today, we want you to describe one of the amazing-looking animals found living under the sea as part of the Census of Marine Life.  Scientists have spent the past ten years searching for and cataloguing the huge diversity of life found in Earth’s oceans.

This is one of the new species they found. It is called a VAMPIRE SQUID, and it lives in Monterey Bay, off the coast of Northern California. Click the "Comments" button below and take five minutes to write about what you see in this photograph. Use descriptive words and strong verbs to describe the animal and the dark waters where it lives. You could use a comparison to help your reader imagine this creature….or appeal to the reader’s emotions to set the scene (how does it make you feel when you look at a Vampire Squid?).


What you write is up to you. Have fun with it!

Posted by: Liz Nealon

(5) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Writing Wednesday, Animals, Common Core, Oceans, Kids Write, Bell Ringers   •  Permalink (link to this article)

December 22, 2011

As school winds down and we head into the winter holiday, I want to share two great natural images for the Christmas season.



First, the Christmas Tree worm (Spirobranchus giganteus).These festive-looking creatures are found throughout the world’s tropical oceans. The "trees" are almost like crowns - each worm has two, and they are used for both eating and breathing. Look at them again - they are almost like a fish’s gills.




The second image comes from the Hubble Telescope, which captured this photograph of a Christmas ornament in space! It is actually a huge wave of energy from a supernova - the explosion of a star in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), a small galaxy about 160,000 light-years from Earth.



For those of you receiving iPads or Nook Color/Tablets this season, Seymour Simon has many quality eBooks available for purchase, some discounted as much as 50% for the holidays. If you are adding reading material to a tablet, please consider making Seymour Simon’s exceptional nonfiction for children part of your collection. Happy holidays to all!


Posted by: Seymour Simon

(3) Comments  •   Labels: Oceans, space   •  Permalink (link to this article)

November 21, 2011

What is that creature in this beautiful photograph? This animal is known as a "glass squid" (scientific name Leachia).  Sunlight filtering down through the ocean water passes right through the glass squid - it is practically invisible in the light. There are both squid and octopus like this, and they can "hide in plain sight" in sunny water.

However, they do not do so well down in the ocean deep, where there is no sunlight. Down in the deep, there are dangerous predator fish whose bodies produce a bright light that they shine directly on the transparent animals, which become visible in the predator’s "headlight."  The ability of these marine animals to produce their own light is called bioluminescence (BY-oh-loom-i-NESS-ens).

Somehow, their prey - the transparent squid and octopus -  need to have a way to camouflage themselves down in the deep. Researchers at Duke University decided to find out how they do it. They captured some of the squid and put them into a dish full of cold ocean water and shone bright lights on them. They were amazed to discover that the squid switched on their camouflage instantly, changing themselves from clear to a spotted, reddish brown. With that coloring, they can hide more easily in their dark, deep-sea environment. The researchers were amazed to see how quickly they make the change. 

If you are interested in seeing video of their experiment, click on the play button (at left) to see more.



Posted by: Seymour Simon

(7) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Animals Nobody Loves, Animals, Oceans   •  Permalink (link to this article)

November 7, 2011

I know that many of you are fascinated by volcanoes, and you will love today’s science news story. A city on the Atlantic cost of Spain has been completely evacuated, the port is closed to all ships and airplanes are banned from flying overhead, because of an underwater volcano that is threatening to erupt.

This is a submarine volcano ("sub" means under and "marine" means water).  You might be surprised to know that 75% of the magma (the hot, liquid rock found inside a volcano) that wells up from beneath the earth’s surface each year comes from submarine volcanoes, but think about it. Volcanoes are spread all over our planet, and about 70% of Earth is covered by water. So, it makes sense that most magma flows happen underwater.

The volcano first started to emerge on October 9 off El Hierro Island, and researchers from the Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO, Ministry of Science and Innovation) used cutting-edge scanners to quickly map its formation. The image at the top shows the underwater valley as it appeared in 1998. The image on the bottom shows the new formation, with the volcano crater clearly visible and a "tongue" of lava flow running down into the valley. 

"It is spectacular to see how what was once an underwater valley is now a volcanic cone with its descending lava tongue," said Juan Acosta, head of the research team.


Photo: Canary Regional Goverment handout / EPA



Posted by: Seymour Simon

(2) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Volcanoes, Oceans   •  Permalink (link to this article)

September 7, 2011

Today’s "Cool Photo of the Week" is of a Rockhopper penguin (Eudyptes chrysocome). They are called "rockhoppers" because they live on cold, rocky islands and get around by hopping from rock to rock. Click here to see a video of a whole flock of rockhopper penguins doing their thing!

These unusual looking penguins have dark red eyes, and their heads are decorated with a tuft of yellow feathers that look like eyebrows sticking out from the side of the head. They are carnivores (meat eaters), feeding on crustaceans, cephalopods and small fish. When trying to attract a mate, a Rockhopper will shake its head back and forth, tossing and showing off those beautiful yellow feathers.

Like all penguins, rockhoppers move awkwardly on land, but they are powerful swimmers. Check out this amazing video of rockhoppers surfing the waves.



You can read more about Penguins in Seymour Simon’s book, which is now available in paperback. 

Posted by: Liz Nealon

(3) Comments  •   Labels: birds, Oceans, Cool Photo, Penguins   •  Permalink (link to this article)

July 20, 2011

If you’ve ever seen pictures of whales, chances are you’ve seen a sperm whaleThese great creatures of the oceans have massive heads (that are typically one-third of the animal’s entire length!) and are known to have the largest brain of any animal on Earth. (That doesn’t mean, however, that they could beat you on a math test. Just because they have larger brains, it doesn’t mean that they are more intelligent than humans (but we’ll talk about that in another post)). 


Like most animals, sperm whales have found a way to communicate with each other. They do so through a series of "clicks" and in fact, these sounds are the loudest sounds produced by any animal. Whales can hear them even when they are miles apart. Recently a bunch of marine biologists (scientists that study animals and other organisms of the ocean) suggested that each sperm whale communicates in a very unique way. Since the communication is so unique, the scientists think that these clicks are a way of identifying each whale - much like the way your name identifies you!


The marine biologists analyzed the sounds and found that there are differences in the timing of these clicks. This is what they think sets one whale apart from the other. It makes sense that the whales should be able to figure out who’s "speaking" without actually seeing them - especially because there are times when the water in the ocean can get quite murky and hard to see through! As exciting as this discovery is, the scientists need to study many more sperm whales to confirm that these creatures each have a unique way of communicating.


Now that you’ve got sperm whales on the brain, I thought I’d leave you with my favorite whale cartoon: The Whale Who Sang at the Met. (It’s   a You-Tube video about a sperm whale who just loves to sing…) Enjoy!


whales jacketWant to know more about whales in general? Check out Seymour Simon’s book here.



Image: NOAA 


Posted by: Liz Nealon

(1) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Animals, Oceans, whales   •  Permalink (link to this article)

May 20, 2011

When the space shuttle Endeavour blasted off this week, it was carrying an unusual cargo: baby Bobtail Squid (Euprymna scolopes). Squid are cephalopods, a group of relatively intelligent animals that also includes octopuses. These baby squid are the first celaphods to travel into space. 

NASA hopes the squid will help us understand how "good" bacteria behave in the microgravity of space. As Jamie Foster of the University of Florida in Gainesville, who is running the experiment, puts it: "Do good bacteria go bad?"

We already know that disease microbes ("bad" bacteria) grow faster and become more dangerous if they are sent into space. Salmonella bacteria were sent up on a space shuttle in 2006, and when they returned to Earth they were almost three times as likely to kill mice as normal.

So far, we have only studied harmful bacteria in space. This time, the astronauts are going to run experiments that will enable us to look at good bacteria.

The reason Foster chose these animals for his experiment is pretty interesting. Bobtail shrimp carry a whole colony of bacteria, called Vibrio fischeri in their bodies, stored in their "light organs." The squid use the bacteria to create light, which they shine out of their bodies and onto the ocean floor below. That way, they don’t have a shadow, which makes it harder for predators to see them. Isn’t that an interesting camouflage tactic?

The experiment is simple. Newly hatched squid that don’t yet have the bacteria in their light organs were placed in test tubes filled with seawater and sent up on the shuttle. Yesterday, an astronaut added the bacteria to their seawater. When they come back to earth, Dr. Foster and his research partners will study the squid and see if the bacteria grew normally, if they grew faster in a good way, or if there were problems.

People often think that the space program is only about exploration. Of course, that is an important part of why we travel to space. But an equally important aspect of space travel is the opportunity to do experiments that we cannot do here on Earth. Science that we learn in space has many spin-offs back on our home planet. We have learned all kinds of new technologies. We have learned things that have helped us to learn about diseases, to better understand the functioning of the human body (including what causes "malfunctions"), and to develop new vaccines. These little squid will take us one step further in our understanding of the nature of life, and the interaction between different species. 


Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Oceans, space, Space Travel   •  Permalink (link to this article)

May 10, 2011

Regular Seymour Science readers know that we do this every Tuesday…...and isn’t this trumpetfish photo a beauty?!

I am particularly interested in the trumpetfish (Aulostomus maculatus) these days because I am working on a new book about CORAL REEFS. Trumpetfish live in coral reefs, and they often swim vertically (straight up and down, as you see here) as a way of camouflaging themselves. They want to blend in with tall coral like sea rods and pipe sponges so that they can sneak up on unsuspecting prey. They catch their food by lying so still that they look like a stick, and then sucking up passing fish into their mouths.

These fish grow to be about 36 inches (just under one meter) long. If you spread both your arms out as wide as they can go, that is about the size of a full-grown trumpetfish.


Photo: Nick Hobgood 

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Posted by: Seymour Simon

(4) Comments  •   Labels: Animals, Coral Reefs, Oceans, Cool Photo   •  Permalink (link to this article)

March 25, 2011

I very much enjoyed my Skype session this morning with some of the students at Cavallini Middle School in Upper Saddle River, New Jersey. They have been studying non-fiction writing, and 20 students were well-prepared with good questions. Nice job, and a great way to start my day!

I thought I’d share one of the answers with you. A student asked me: if I had not become a writer, what would I have done?


Thinking back to my studies, I always loved science. I fell in love with space first, and then animals. In college, I studied Behavioral Psychology, which is really the study of animal behaviors. If I had it to do all over again, I think I would have become a marine biologist. This is probably why I have written so many books about whales, sharks, dolphins, and even keeping saltwater aquariums!


I like doing Skype sessions because they allow me to connect with more students. I get many more requests for school visits than I can accept, as I need to spend at least some time at my desk, researching and writing books! If you are interested in booking me for a Skype session with your school, click on this link on my website to put in your request.

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(3) Comments  •   Labels: Becoming a writer, Sharks, School Visits, Dolphins, Oceans, Kids comments   •  Permalink (link to this article)

March 17, 2011


As the news about 9.0 earthquake and massive tsunami in Japan continues to unfold, we all feel so sorry for the people of Sendai and the surrounding area. Many people are still without adequate food, water or shelter, and it is winter there, with temperatures overnight going down below freezing. And now, survivors must worry about exposure to radiation from the damaged nuclear power plants. Nature’s power can be awesome, but also devastating, as we are seeing each day when we look at the news.

I was in a school speaking to students this week, and many of them asked good questions about the incredibly strong earthquake and tsunami that happened last week in Japan. As I was answering their questions, I found myself saying that in the long run, this is going to be a huge and valuable learning experience for scientists. I hadn’t really thought about it until that moment, but this earthquake, and in particular the tsunami, have been filmed in a way that we have never seen before. There have been many, many photographs and videos taken of the devastation following earthquakes and tsunamis over the years. But in today’s digital age with HD video cameras on many cell phones and digital cameras, we have footage the likes of which we have never seen before, particularly of the tsunami as it was actually happening.

I told the students that this is going to allow scientists to learn a lot about tsunamis, and will certainly help us improve the computer modeling and prediction instruments that drive tsunami warning systems around the world. 

Sure enough, today I found this AFP (Agence France-Presse) news story about the reaction of Australian tsunami researchers to seeing the footage. "I think the impact of the waves going across and spreading well inland on relatively flat terrain was something that we’ve never seen before," Australian tsunami expert Ray Canterford told AFP. He added that while scientists had made progress on predicting tsunamis since the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean disaster in which some 220,000 people died, there was still work to be done. "There has been progress but it’s very unfortunate for the...

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Posted by: Seymour Simon

(2) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Earthquakes, Oceans   •  Permalink (link to this article)

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