Monday, June 27, 2011

Paths Across the Sea

Science often does really wonderful things, discovering exquisite facts, as this story from the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

An excerpt.

“SAN FRANCISCO -- Two broad ocean highways where countless sea creatures migrate, feed, mate and reproduce have been discovered running across the Pacific by scientists tuning in to thousands of radio signals.

“The calls have come from electronic tags fitted to the Pacific's top predators - sharks and whales and the wandering albatross, for example. In all, the 23 most important of those creatures - in the water and the air - have revealed a far more complete picture of the behavior patterns and environments of the ocean's animals than the fragmentary information known before to science.

“The discovery of the two highways is the culmination of a wide-ranging 10-year project involving more than 75 scientists from five nations, including the project's leaders, Barbara Block of Stanford's Hopkins Marine Station and Daniel Costa of UC Santa Cruz.

“The scientists call the highways "the corridors of life" and "the grasslands of the sea," and likened them to Africa's vast Serengeti Plain, where countless species of African land animals live and migrate. The ocean regions are major habitats for the Pacific's predators and their victims lower on the food chain - indeed for everything down to the krill and plankton of the ocean's depths.

“One is the huge area where the cool, nutrient-rich California Current flows southward from the Arctic along the California and Mexican coast and outward from the near-shore into the deep sea beyond. The other is the broad region known as the North Pacific Transition Zone that crosses from Japan to the coast of Washington.

“Twenty-one of the project's leading researchers are reporting their combined results today in the online edition of the journal Nature.”