Sea Technology

DEC 2017

The industry's recognized authority for design, engineering and application of equipment and services in the global ocean community

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30 st / December 2017 Corals Seem to Like The Taste of Microplastics A new Duke University study of plastic ingestion by corals suggests that visual cues, such as a resemblance to prey, don't factor into the appeal of mi- croplastics as food because corals have no eyes. Instead, corals go by taste. Corals in the experiments ate all types of plastics but preferred unfouled microplastics by a threefold difference over microplastics covered in bacteria. This suggests the plastic itself contains something that makes it tasty. When plastic comes from the fac- tory, it has hundreds of chemical ad- ditives. Any one of these chemicals or a combination of them could be act- ing as a stimulant that makes plastic appealing to corals. Further research will be needed to identify the specific additives that make the plastic so tasty to corals and determine if the same chemicals act as feeding stimulants to other marine species. Because plastic is largely indigest- ible, it can lead to intestinal blockages, create a false sense of fullness or re- duce energy reserves in animals that consume it. It can also leach hundreds of chemical compounds into their bodies and the surrounding environ- ment. The biological effects of most of these compounds are still unknown, but some, such as phthalates, are con- firmed environmental estrogens and androgens—hormones that affect sex determination. Wave Glider Helps Assess Great Barrier Reef Health The Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), in partnership with Boeing, has demonstrated how a high‐tech autonomous ocean vehicle can improve monitoring of the Great Barrier Reef and coastal waters. A seven‐day trial saw the vehicle cover 200 nautical miles of the central Great Barrier Reef in what is the first major milestone of a five‐year joint research agreement. The Wave Glider vehicle, devel- oped by Boeing subsidiary Liquid Ro- botics, was deployed to help assess the health of the coral reefs and ecosys- tems. Powered by waves and sun, the vehicle provided continuous, real‐time environmental ocean data using on- board sensors and software. The tech- nology allowed scientists to measure atmosphere and water over long peri- ods of time. Shrimp Parasite Study Might Have Implications for Human Health Tiny shrimp infected by a micro- scopic parasite are growing in abun- dance in nutrient-fueled salt marshes and may well portend future threats to humankind. The study, co-authored by Dr. Rich- ard Heard of the University of Southern Mississippi's Gulf Coast Research Lab- oratory, builds on a long-term experi- ment in which researchers have been adding nitrogen to a New England salt marsh each year since 2004 to investi- gate how these key coastal ecosystems respond to nutrient-rich runoff from fertilized fields, wastewater treatment plants and other human sources. To reproduce, the parasite needs to get into the gut of a bird. Turning the amphipod bright orange makes it be- ocean research

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