The month of June honors both National Ocean Month and World Ocean Day (June 8). What better time, then, to check out photos of undersea life and be reminded that things "down there" are just as important as things up here on land. Here, a manatee goes about its day. The manatee, also known as a "seacow," is an air-breathing herbivore listed as a federally endangered species. Manatees are slow moving and can't swim quickly away from boats. This often results in collisions that can kill or injure them.Whales Counted With Space Satellites
Life's a beach. Mom and her baby elephant seal roll around in the sand in Ano Nuevo Island, Calif.Elephant Seal Calls Tell Rivals Who's Boss
Robert Schwemmer, NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries
A humpback whale breaches in the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, off the coast of California.Distinct Humpback Whale Populations Found in North Pacific
A blue rockfish fans for the camera in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, in California.200-Year-Old Fish Caught Off Alaska
A Southern sea otter, aka,
Enhydra lutris nereis
, wonders what all the fuss is about, at South Harbor, Moss Landing, Calif. The World Ocean Day Photo Contest entrant was Submitted by Dr. Steve Lonhart.PHOTOS: Otter vs. Gator: Otter Wins
A white-lobed sponge brightens up the scenery. It's one of several images of rarely seen deep-sea animals that were captured on camera in Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary during a NOAA expedition. Researchers used a NOAA remotely operated vehicle in waters 328 to 656 feet deep off the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. The research was funded by NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program.Strange, Carnivorous Sponge Found In Deep Sea
This image brimming with colorful marine life is from the Pearl and Hermes Atoll. It's a huge oval coral reef within several internal reefs and is the second largest among the six atolls in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.PHOTOS: Sharks, Marine Mammals Hang in Paradise
Having no backbone isn't always a bad thing! Just ask any octopus. These boneless invertebrates know how to squeeze into (and out of) many a tight spot. They have three hearts, nine brains and blue blood. (Two hearts send blood to the gills, while the third pumper sends it to the rest of the body.)VIDEO: Octopi Have a Brain in Every Tentacle
Rapture Reef sits within the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument. The monument encompasses more than 140,000 square miles of ocean and coral reef habitat.PHOTOS: Life in Australia's Great Barrier Reef
This seal is eager to wriggle its way back to freedom, as divers release it from fishing nets. Marine debris -- such as these nets -- makes a serious impact on its surroundings. From being an eyesore on a beach to injuring marine life or stopping a 400-ton vessel at sea, it causes problems that are difficult to ignore.Seal Pup Found in Forest
Family togetherness takes on new meaning for a jellyfish-like animal that coordinates its swimming, so the entire colony moves together as one organized unit.
The remarkable discovery, reported in Nature Communications, exemplifies a perfect division of labor among young and old, and could one day inspire better manmade underwater vessels.
“This is a highly efficient system in which no developmental stage is wasted,” lead author John H. Costello of Providence College and the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole said in a press release.
Young members of the species, Nanomia bijuga, situate themselves at the leading end of the colony’s propulsive unit. There, they use their little jets for turning and steering.
The older, bigger members, on the other hand, are positioned further back. They provide powerful thrust as the colony migrates from the deep ocean to surface waters.
“It’s a quite sophisticated design, for what would seem like a simple arrangement,” Costello said.
N. bijuga is technically a “physonect siphonophore,” which is a colonial organism related to jellyfish, anemones and corals. At night, they feast on plankton and other small organisms at the ocean’s surface. During the day, to avoid predators like fish, they head to deeper waters.
In a single day, the colony unit can travel over 656 feet. For the bigger, jet-producing members that take on more work, the researchers say their effort is monumental. The scientists liken it to a human adult running a marathon every day while towing the equivalent of its body mass behind it.
As for the youngsters, Costello said they “have what we call a long lever arm. They are like the handle of a door. If you push on a door near its hinges — its axis of rotation — the door is hard to open. But if you push on the door handle, which is far from the axis of rotation, the door opens easily. A little force placed with a big lever arm has a big effect on turning.”
That simple technology will surely be built into the planned manmade underwater vehicle, inspired by these animals.
“Just because the young ones are small,” Costello concluded, “it doesn’t mean they aren’t important.”
Photo: Screen grab of Nanomia bijuga colony swimming. Credit: John Costello, Marine Biological Laboratory