Life in the sea isn’t easy. Talk to most people about the ocean and they are likely to imagine a tropical scene with a stretch of golden sand and warm, clear water. The reality is often quite different – the marine environment can be a surprisingly cold place.
If you go down to the shore today, you’re sure of a big surprise. Many will have witnessed the presence of a starfish or two when visiting the seashore or a public aquarium. Starfish come in an exciting range of colours and sizes, but have you ever given a thought to how this multi-armed wonder manages to exist in our oceans when it’s so unlike the other animals we know?
People rarely enjoy meeting a jellyfish. On the beach they appear limp, amorphous, and blistered in the sun. In the water it’s often a brush of a tentacle on exposed skin followed by a sting. They hardly evoke the serene elegance of a turtle or the majesty of a breaching humpback whale. But despite making a poor first impression, jellyfish are among the most unusual animals on Earth and deserve a second chance to introduce themselves.
The vast open ocean presents an especially challenging environment for its inhabitants since there is nowhere for them to hide. Yet, nature has found a remarkable way for fish to hide from their predators using camouflage techniques. In a study published in the current issue of Science, researchers from Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University and collaborators show that fish scales have evolved to not only reflect light, but to also scramble polarization. They identified the tissue structure that fish evolved to do this, which could be an analog to develop new materials to help hide objects in the water.