Hakai Magazine

Coastal science and societies

Just don’t ask one to drive a nail. Photo by Michael Weberberger/imageBROKER/Corbis
Just don’t ask one to drive a nail. Photo by Michael Weberberger/imageBROKER/Corbis

Stories from the Seven Seas

What’s behind hammerheads’ weird heads? And other stories we liked this week.

Authored by

by Colin Schultz

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Hakai Magazine is all about the coast, but other outlets sometimes share our fascination. Every week on Strand we round up our favorite coastal stories from around the web.

Why do hammerhead sharks look like that?

by Henry Nicholls for BBC

“If you are thinking that it doesn’t really resemble a hammer, youd be right. Scientists refer to the shape of a hammerheads head as ‘cephalofoil’, because of its thin, wing-like appearance.

This strange arrangement is a surprisingly recent evolutionary innovation. Whilst the first sharks appeared some 450 million years ago, molecular evidence suggests that the oceans have only harboured hammerheads for the last 20 million years or so.

‘They are the youngest extant species of sharks,’ says David Jacoby of the Zoological Society of London in the UK.”

Collapsing Greenland glacier could raise sea levels by half a metre, say scientists

by Ian Sample for The Guardian

“The huge Zachariae Isstrom glacier in northeast Greenland started to melt rapidly in 2012 and is now breaking up into large icebergs where the glacier meets the sea, monitoring has revealed.

The calving of the glacier into chunks of floating ice will set in train a rise in sea levels that will continue for decades to come, the US team warns.

‘Even if we have some really cool years ahead, we think the glacier is now unstable,’ said Jeremie Mouginot at the University of California, Irvine. ‘Now this has started, it will continue until it retreats to a ridge about 30km back which could stabilise it and perhaps slow that retreat down.’”

How salmon switch on infrared vision when swimming upstream

by Ed Yong for The Atlantic

“In rivers, flecks of mud and algae shift the underwater light away from the clear blue of the ocean and towards the red end of the spectrum. The salmon compensate for this: A simple biochemical switch in their retinas gradually enhances their ability to see infrared light. The salmon effectively transform their eyes into night-vision goggles, so they can see further into the murky water where they’ll fight, mate, spawn, and die.”

Sea lion flippers could inspire super-stealthy submersibles

by Matt Simon for Wired

“Three years ago, mechanical engineer Megan Leftwich of George Washington University was at the zoo with her kids and noticed something strange about the sea lions jetting about their tank. Other marine mammals like whales and dolphins, and almost all fish, power themselves around with their tails. Sea lions, though, are mavericks. They pull themselves through the water with their powerful front flippers.”

Listen to this organ in Croatia that uses the sea to make hauntingly beautiful music

by Evan Porter for Upworthy

“Imagine walking along the picturesque Adriatic Sea, treading lightly on a set of white stone steps as a cool breeze rolls past.

Carved into the steps are narrow channels that connect to 35 organ pipes, each tuned to different meticulously arranged musical chords.

As the waves lap against the steps, they push air through the pipes and out whistle-holes in the surface above, making a harmonious and completely random musical arrangement.”

Cephalopod science is even weirder and more mysterious than you imagined

by Eric Grundhauser for Atlas Obscura

“Nothing is simple about squid and octopi, neither their behavior nor their molecular make-up. As Rosenthal notes, the roots of cephalopod behavior is completely alien to our own. ‘You could argue that a mouse or a dog or us or a chimp, that we’ve come along a similar lineage to achieve behavioral complexity.’ says Rosenthal ‘Becoming organisms that can make choices, solve puzzles, things like that.’ However cephalopods have come to this sort of higher functioning through a completely different, and seemingly unique lineage that we are now trying to understand.”

Tricked and indebted on land, abused or abandoned at sea

by Ian Urbina for The New York Times

“’It’s lies and cheating on land, then beatings and death at sea, then shame and debt when these men get home,’ said Shelley Thio, a board member of Transient Workers Count Too, a migrant workers’ advocacy group in Singapore. ‘And the manning agencies are what make it all possible.’”