The Water Bear is a Super Star of Survival!

Here’s something to think about. Who will still be here once even we humans have gone the way of the Dodo? Well, there’s a solid chance that it may be the mighty little Tardigrade, or Water Bear.

Tardigrades thrive most everywhere on earth, and even in outer space. Although over 1,000 Tardigrade species waddle around our planet, you’d never know it because most of them are only around 1 mm in length. Thriving most everywhere on earth – from Antarctica to the Amazon, and from the top of Mount Everest to the Challenger Deep,  Tardigrades can withstand up to 6,000 times the atmospheric pressure at sea level, or about 6 times more pressure than the squeeze at the deepest point in the ocean.


These little guys can survive temps from -475 degrees F to well over the boiling point of water. They can lie dormant for up to 100 years, and be revived by only one drop of water.

Direct exposure to ionizing radiation won’t phase them either. Tardigrades can survive as high as 500,000 rads of ionizing radiation. FYI, a dose of 1,000 – 2,000 rads is fatal to humans, and we suffer significant damage with much lower exposures.

In 2007, the European Space Agency launched a spacecraft full of science experiments. During the mission, the Water Bear astronauts prevailed over sub-zero temperatures, unrelenting solar winds, cosmic radiation and an oxygen-deprived space vacuum. And although humans have about 90 seconds in those conditions before we’re toast, the Water Bears didn’t mind, they just went about their business and laid eggs!

  • The Water Bear Song | Science Rap | Coma Niddy

    Leading Image: Tardigrade in Moss. Image (c): Nicole Ottawa & Oliver Meckes

By Deb Castellana for Mission Blue. Originally published at

First Pacific Leatherback Conservation Day in California – Oct. 15

Peak Season for Sightings of California’s Official Marine Reptile Along the Coast

The leatherbacks are here! The state of California’s first official Pacific Leatherback Conservation Day on October 15 comes at the peak of the season for leatherbacks feeding on jellyfish along the state’s coastline. As many as 300 endangered leatherbacks swim the coastline every year in search of jellyfish. While many threats to the survival of the critically endangered sea turtle remain, California’s coast is today a safe haven for this ancient marine species.

So far this year 16 sightings of the elusive leatherback sea turtles along the Central California coast were reported by whale watchers, fishers and researchers to the Leatherback Watch Program, a citizen science program organized by Turtle Island Restoration Network ( in Olema, CA.

The Pacific leatherback sea turtle swims 6,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean to feed on jellyfish that are abundant along the California coast during summer and fall months. Sea turtle biologists using satellite-tracking tags discovered only in the past decade that these leatherbacks migrate to our coast from distant nesting beaches in remote Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and island nations in the Western Pacific. These trans-ocean travelers are most abundant in the summer and fall but have been sighted offshore of California year-round.

Photo (c) Doug Perrine

Photo (c) Doug Perrine

On Sunday, October 13th, the Leatherback Watch Program is going out once again to search for leatherbacks on an educational expedition from San Francisco Bay to the Farallon Islands. Anyone can join the day-long cruise in the heart of leatherback habitat. Get the details here: (

The Pacific leatherback sea turtle was designated California’s official marine reptile last year. The passage of the California Marine Reptile Bill in 2012 (AB 1776-Fong sponsored by designated Pacific Leatherback Conservation Day on October 15 every year and prioritized conservation of this critically endangered sea turtle species. The new state law also calls for increased education and outreach to schools and all Californians about the importance of leatherback sea turtles along our coast.

To help spread the word about leatherbacks and how to protect them, we recently launched the Leatherback Conservation Pledge, urging Californians to make a promise to take steps to help protect leatherbacks by swearing off seafood with high turtle bycatch, reducing use of plastics and educating others about the leatherbacks that swim the California coast. A new Leatherback Conservation Activity Guide, Facebook page and other free educational materials are now available for free at

Photo (c) Mark Cotters

Photo (c) Mark Cotters

To promote hands-on conservation and collaboration, we are also thrilled to be bringing together sea turtle scientists, advocates and policy makers from both sides of the Pacific for the first Pacific Leatherback Sea Turtle Conservation Summit in Monterey next week. The goal is to create a new conservation partnership across the ocean to ensure that leatherback sea turtle populations survive and thrive both on nesting beaches and in the ocean waters where they spend most of their lives. The summit will engage over a dozen Indonesian delegates from the state Papua Barat, Indonesia, with California state officials from the Department of Natural Resources and elected officials including Assemblyman Paul Fong.

Top leatherback researcher Scott Benson from Moss Landing will share his vision and experiences tagging sea turtles. Click here to view his landmark study published in 2011 in Ecosphere. Indonesian researcher Ricardo Tapilatu will bring his knowledge from the nesting beaches. Download his 2013 study about the decline of nesting leatherbacks here.

Pacific leatherback sea turtles are “living dinosaurs,” having survived 100 million years virtually unchanged. The leatherback is the largest, deepest diving, and fastest swimming of all the seven species of sea turtles in the world. The largest adult leatherback ever recorded grew to nine feet long and weighed over 2,000 lbs.! It is the only sea turtle species with leathery skin and ridges on its back instead of a hard shell. Today, this ancient ocean dweller is critically endangered and at risk of extinction.

Pacific leatherback sea turtles are among the most imperiled of any sea turtle population in any ocean basin on Earth. Their population has declined by approximately 95 percent in the last 25 years. This drastic population decline has resulted primarily from human activities such as capture in fisheries, poaching of eggs and adults, habitat loss, marine plastic pollution and climate change. The leatherback sea turtle was listed as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act in 1970. Increased awareness, education, and conservation policy enforcement is needed to ensure the continued survival of the Pacific leatherback.

In a significant conservation victory, nearly 42,000 square miles of ocean waters along the U.S. West Coast were designated as protected critical habitat under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, including 16,910 square miles of California’s coastal waters. The Pacific leatherback critical habitat is an area where leatherbacks feed on jellyfish. Jellyfish are the main food source for all leatherbacks. They eat several hundred pounds of jellies each day when feeding in their critical habitat. Without a safe haven to feed, they could not survive their migration back across the Pacific. This Pacific leatherback critical habitat is the largest protected area for sea turtles in U.S. conservation history.

Pacific leatherbacks have been protected from the California drift gillnet fishery since 2001 with the Pacific Leatherback Conservation Area. The Pacific Leatherback Conservation Area prohibits drift gillnet fishing between August 15 and November 15 along the California and Oregon coasts from Point Sur to Lincoln City, Oregon, out to the 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone. The PLCA has reduced the number of leatherback entanglements in the fishery from 112 between 1990 and 2001; to two between 2001 and 2012.

Take the Pacific Leatherback Conservation Pledge!

by Teri Shore, Program Director, Turtle Island Restoration Network (

Bremerhaven Didn’t Go Our Way, But Hope Is Alive!

What a shame that proposals at the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) meeting in Bremerhaven for the two largest ocean sanctuaries in the world in the Antarctic Ocean were blocked by the Russian delegation. Instead of losing hope, let’s redouble our efforts and fortify the belief that we can protect these pristine waters for future generations. Our next big opportunity to apply positive pressure to the fate of the Antarctic will be in Hobart this October. Let’s pounce on the opportunity.

We at Mission Blue were blown away by the energy and dedication of the Antarctic Ocean Alliance (AOA) in their campaign to influence CCAMLR to create this important Marine Protected Area — Hope Spot — to build a healthy Antarctic Ocean for the future. They called the Russian delegation’s blocking of the proposal “the loss of an extraordinary opportunity to protect the global marine environment for future generations.” So true. Yet, with this lost opportunity, we must keep a sharp eye on the future to find a new one.

According to sources on the ground, the delegations grew frustrated by Russia’s actions, including those from China and Korea. Russia wasted precious time and diverted significant attention away from discussions of these enormous potential Hope Spots.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said, “We’ll soon get another bite at the apple and a formulation for protecting the Ross Sea can and will be found, period,” he said. ”Yes, the road has been harder than we hoped. But I am pleased that so many countries were willing to work together towards this crucial objective.”

That’s the spirit! And, we stand with the AOA when they say: “Game over. For now. Until Hobart – when we win.” If we keep the hope alive, we can together protect these Hope Spots, seeds of tomorrow’s healthy ocean.

Will Antarctica Soon Become the Largest Marine Protected Area on Earth?

Rockhopper Penguin

This month, CCAMLR, the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, will meet in Bremerhaven, Germany to again debate whether or not to establish a large marine protected area in one of Mission Blue’s Hope Spots, the Ross Sea. The 25 participating nations will ultimately decide the fate of what has been called the most pristine ocean wilderness on earth. And it’s by no means a done-deal.

It’s critical that our voices continue to be heard loud and clear – all the way to Bremerhaven. One of the things you can do is to sign the petition from the Antarctic Ocean Alliance on this page, and also ask to receive their newsletter for updates so that you can continue to support each stage of the campaign.

New Zealand filmmaker, Peter Young is bringing attention to the campaign by touring the US with his documentary, The Last Ocean, which explores the race to save the Ross Sea. As pressure mounts on nations to protect the Ross Sea from commercial fishing, Young is positioning his film center stage for maximum impact.

The Last Ocean has been selling out in theaters. It is being promoted in 24 countries in seven languages and has been released online in a video-on-demand format, available here and also on iTunes.

Photo: John Weller

Photo: John Weller

What surprises Young is that the crisis in the Ross Sea is such a revelation to viewers. He’s heartened that Whole Foods, and now Safeway have chosen not to sell Chilean sea bass from the Ross Sea. “It’s a major step. They are two of the biggest supermarket brands in the US.”

At a screening of the film in March, US Secretary of State John Kerry signaled support for a New Zealand-US proposal for the Ross Sea.

The proposal involves a 876,450 square mile protected area involving a tag-and-release program on the continental shelf of the Ross Sea, where the highest concentration of ‘Chilean Sea Bass’ is found.

“If it goes through, it will be a good first step, but there’s still a really long way to go to what should be really happening in the Ross Sea,” Young said.

The success of the talks in Germany may rest heavily on fishing nations Russia, China and Ukraine, whose votes prevented a consensus among the CCAMLR Nations last year.


The Incredible Mantis Shrimp


The Mantis Shrimp, or stomatopod, has eyes that are compound, like those of the dragonfly, although they have a far smaller number of ommatidia (about 10.000 per eye); however, in the mantis shrimp each ommatidia row has a particular function. For example, some of them are used to detect light, others to detect color, etc.

Mantis shrimp have much better color vision than humans (their eyes having 12 types of color receptors, whereas humans have only three), as well as ultraviolet, infrared and polarized light vision, thus having the most complex eyesight of any animal known. The eyes are located at the end of stalks, and can be moved independently from each other, rotating up to 70 degrees. Interestingly, the visual information is processed by the eyes themselves, not the brain.

Even more bizarre; each of the mantis shrimp’s eyes is divided in three sections allowing the creature to see objects with three different parts of the same eye. In other words, each eye has “trinocular vision” and complete depth perception, meaning that if a mantis shrimp lost an eye, its remaining eye would still be able to judge depth and distance as well as a human with his two eyes. Scientists are only starting to understand the mysteries of Stomatopod vision; for the moment, we can only imagine what the world really looks like to a mantis shrimp.

Photo: Andy Wingate

First-Ever National Ranking Shows Most Coastal States Failing to Protect Oceans

Kip Evans Photo
Seattle WA – Today two leading marine science and conservation organizations, the Marine Conservation Institute and Mission Blue, issued the 1st-ever quantitative, scientifically rigorous national ranking of states’ protection of their ocean waters.  SeaStates: How Well Does Your State Protect Your Coastal Waters? shows that most states and territories are failing to safeguard our nation’s marine life, seafood and coasts.
Oceans are crucial to our health and economy.  Coastal counties include only 5.71% of the area in the lower 48 states but generate 35.54% of the Gross Domestic Product.  Indeed, coastal counties generate $7,992 more GDP per person than inland and Great Lakes counties. “Despite so many threats to their health, states are failing to protect our ocean waters,” said Dr. Lance Morgan, President of the Marine Conservation Institute. “No-take marine protected areas are the gold-standard for healthy oceans, but far too few states and territories are designating them.” SeaStates measures the percentage of state’s waters they strongly protect.  Being free from fishing, oil drilling and other extractive uses allows marine life in no-take marine reserves to thrive and recover their former abundance.  That’s crucial because marine animals and plants maintain healthy oceans essential to people.
As coastal areas face increasing overfishing and climate change, strong marine protected areas maintain biodiversity, fisheries and coastal economies.  Dozens of studies show that no-take marine reserves provide more effective protection than weaker protected areas, often providing an overflow of marine life into surrounding waters.  Many marine scientists recommend designating at least 20% of state waters as no-take areas as the best way to sustain ocean health. “Whether you love our oceans for their beauty, for their fishes and marine mammals or for generating half of the oxygen we breathe, you should want them to be strongly protected.  But most states in this report get a score of zero and only a handful are protecting even 1%. That’s not good enough when our oceans are facing grave threats like overfishing and pollution.
>'A Day of Remembrance' at Grand Isle
America’s oceans and people deserve better,” said eminent marine biologist and President of Mission Blue, Dr. Sylvia Earle. “The United States has a long way to go if we want to be a world-leader in marine conservation.” SeaStates shows that 15 coastal states (AL, AK, CT, DE, GA, LA, MD, MA, MS, NH, NJ, NY, RI, SC, TX) out of 23 have no (zero) no-take areas.  Six states (FL, OR, WA, NC, VA, and ME) have designated barely 1% or much less of their coastal waters as no-take areas.  Only 2 states strongly protect over 5% of their waters in no-take reserves.
Hawaii ranks 1st for ocean protection with 22.9% fully protected (most inside the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument), while California ranks 2nd with 8.7%. “SeaStates shows that very few places are getting the protection they need” said Dr. Morgan “and most states are doing a very poor job of safeguarding your oceans.  It’s time for that to change.  Seabirds, whales, groupers and deep sea corals all need refuges where we do everything possible to protect them.” The science team at Marine Conservation Institute compiled SeaStates using, the world’s best information source on marine protected areas. To read the full report visit

The Marine Conservation Institute is a nonprofit organization dedicated to securing protection for the oceans’ most important places.  Founded by marine ecologist, Dr. Elliott Norse in 1996, Marine Conservation Institute sees the big picture and uses the latest tools in collaboration with scientists, government officials, businesses and conservation organizations to recover healthy, living oceans around the world for us and future generations.  See

Feature Photo Credit: Kip Evans Photography

A Reaffirmation of Hope at the Seattle Aquarium

Screen Shot 2013-05-22 at 12.03.00 PM

In a fantastic event last night at the Seattle Aquarium, Sylvia Earle and Greenpeace’s Phil Radford announced the Bering Sea Canyons as the official 19th Hope Spot. The event attracted a large turnout and impassioned speeches in defense of the new Hope Spot. Moreover, a bonafide airship was in play to promote the event!

Screen Shot 2013-05-22 at 12.04.49 PM

The Bering Sea isn’t just chilly…it’s also super cool: these 770,000 square miles of tempestuous waters off the coast of Alaska and Siberia are home to immense populations of fish, seabirds, marine mammals and ancient corals, as well as the Bering Sea Canyons, the largest and deepest submarine canyons in the world — larger than the Grand Canyon. This rich ecosystem has supported indigenous tribes for thousands of years and currently provides over half the seafood caught in the United States.

If half the total US catch sounds like a lot, that’s because it is. Sadly, under this enormous commercial pressure, the Bering Sea is in decline. Since the 1960’s, the region has seen steep declines in top predators — i.e. whales, sea lions, seals — with some populations dipping by over 80 percent of historic levels. Moreover, trawling nets are decimating ancient corals and sponges in the deep canyons, which are critical to the ecosystem and are hundreds to thousands of years old.

The Bering Sea was a rich ecosystem of harmony, and now it faces collapse due to the pressures of industrial fishing. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council is the steward of these precious waters and, as such, they must protect the sensitive habitats, so the Bering Sea can continue to be a flourishing ocean ecosystem into the future. With the global ocean in a general decline, the preservation of the Bering Sea as a Marine Protected Area — or Hope Spot — is critical.

Please join your voice in this cause. Sign the Greenpeace petition to help protect the Bering Sea Canyons and reach out to support in any way you can.


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