Chapter 1 The Science of Marine Biology

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Chapter 1

Marine Biology

  • The scientific study of the organisms that live in the sea

Practical Reasons to study marine biology

  • Vast source of human wealth

  • food, medicines and raw materials

  • Recreation to millions

  • Supports tourism

  • Some marine organisms

  • cause problems by causing

  • disease or attacking people

  • Harm us indirectly by injuring or killing other marine organisms that we value for food or other purposes

  • Erode piers, walls and other structures, foul ship bottoms and clog pipes

Fundamental Reasons to study Marine Biology

  • Marine life determines the very nature of our planet

  • Produce much of the oxygen they breathe

  • Regulate earth’s climate

  • Shorelines are protected and shaped by marine life

  • Some marine organisms create new land

  • Ocean’s living systems are worth more than $20 trillion a year

We must learn all we can about marine life

  • To make both full and wise use of the sea’s living resources

  • To solve the problems marine organisms create

  • Predict the effects of human activities on the life of the sea

  • Marine organisms provide clues to earth’s past and the history of life and our own bodies

The Science of Marine Biology

  • Science of biology applied to the sea

  • Includes basic chemistry

  • The study of whole organisms, the way they behave or where they live and why

  • Global perspective

  • Marine biology is closely related to oceanography (the scientific study of the oceans)

  • Geological oceanographers – study the sea floor

  • Chemical oceanographers – study ocean chemistry

  • Physical oceanographers – study waves, tides, currents, and other physical aspects of the sea

  • Biological oceanography – closely related to marine biology – can be considered the same thing

The History of Marine Biology

  • People started learning about marine life forms as soon as they saw the ocean

  • Coastal people in virtually ever culture developed a store of practical knowledge about marine life and the oceans

  • Knowledge of the ocean and its organisms developed as people gained skills in seamanship and navigation

  • Greek philosopher Aristotle (4th century BC) is considered by many to the first marine biologist

  • He described many forms of marine life and many of his descriptions are still valid

Dark Ages

  • Little learning and discovery occurred

  • 995 AD Leif Eriksson discovered Vinland (N. Am.)

  • Arab traders were active on the ocean at this time – learned about wind and current patterns and monsoons


  • Europeans began to investigate the world around them

  • 1492 – Columbus – discovers “New World”

  • 1519 – Magellan – sailed around the globe

  • Fairly accurate maps were created during this time

  • Captain James Cook – English sea captain

  • Was one of the first to make scientific observations along the way and to include a full-time naturalist among his crew

  • First to use a chronometer – accurate time piece

  • Brought back specimens of plants and animals

19th Century

  • Common for vessels to take a naturalist along to collect and study the life forms that were encountered

  • 1831- HMS Beagle – Charles Darwin goes on a 5 year voyage – develops the theory of evolution by natural selection

  • Darwin explain how atolls form and used nets to collect plankton and studied barnacles in detail

The Challenger Expedition

  • Middle of the 19th century – voyages are taken just to study the oceans

Edward Forbes

  • 1840-50’s – carried extensive dredging of the sea floor – most influential marine biologist of his day

  • Discovered many previously unknown organisms

  • Recognized that sea life is different at different depths

  • Inspired new interest in the life of the sea floor

Charles Wyville Thompson

  • Lead the first major oceanographic expedition

  • HMS Challenger

  • British navy supplied the ship

  • The ship was outfitted for the expedition with the best scientific equipment of the day

  • December 1872 the Challenger set off on its 3 ½ year voyage

  • The crew sailed around the world and gathered information and collected samples

  • Volume of data collected was enormous

  • It took 19 years to publish all the data collected

  • The data filled up 50 thick volumes

  • The challenger brought back more information about the ocean than had ever been recorded in all previous human history

  • The expedition set new standards for studying the ocean

  • Measurements were made systematically and carefully and meticulous records were kept

  • Laid the foundations of modern marine science

Growth of Marine Labs

  • Biologists began to work at the seashore

  • Allowed for long term observations and experiments that were not possible on the ship

  • Henri Milne Edwards and Victor Andouin – 1826 – French – began to make visits to the shore and study the life there

  • Permanent laboratories dedicated to the study of marine life were established

  • First lab – Stazione Zoologica – 1872 – Naples, Italy

  • Marine Biological Society of the United Kingdom – 1879 – Plymouth, England

  • First major American Lab – Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, Mass

World War II

  • Had a major effect on the development of marine biology

  • Sonar (sound navigation radar) – developed in response to the growing importance of submarine warfare

  • Sonar – based on the detection of underwater echoes

  • Understanding the sounds produced by marine mammals now became a matter of national security

Years after World War II

  • Refinement of SCUBA (self contained underwater breathing apparatus)

  • Basic technology used in SCUBA was developed by French engineer Emile Gagnan

  • Jacques Cousteau modified the apparatus, using it to breathe compressed air under water

  • Cousteau devoted his life to scuba diving and the oceans

  • Films, books and television programs inspired a fascination with the ocean

  • Also alerted people to the threats to the health of the marine environment

Marine Biology Today

  • High tech subs can descend to the deepest parts of the ocean

  • Variety of odd looking vessels provide specialized facilities for marine scientists

  • Underwater robots take photos, make measurements and collect samples in the ocean depths

  • ROV’s (remotely operated vehicles) are controlled from the surface

  • AUV’s (autonomous underwater vehicles) are preprogrammed to do their jobs independently of direct human control

  • Computers allow scientists to rapidly analyze huge amounts of information

  • Satellites orbit the earth peering down into the ocean – can capture the big picture

Satellites can measure:

  • temperature of the sea surface

  • track ocean currents

  • determine the abundance and kinds of organisms present

  • monitor human impacts of the ocean

Remote Sensing Technology

  • Used to study the earth and its oceans from afar

  • Track the migrations of whales

  • Electronic buoys travel in oil spills to monitor the path the oil takes

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