Thursday, November 12, 2009

Sea foam...What the heck is it?

Have you ever walked down the beach and all of this foam is all over the beach? I have always wondered what it was and now I know!!

If you have been listening to the news lately you will have heard that there have been massive sea bird kills from the California coastline all the way up to Washington in from September to early November. The culprit... microscopic phytoplankton in large numbers named Akashiwo sanguinea. Phytoplankton blooms are common and normal in nature when extra nutrients are being turned up. "The interesting thing about this particular dinoflagellate is that when it is churned up in heavy surf the hard outer shell breaks open releasing a surfactant that is then whipped up into essentially a coastal bubble bath" (Penelope Chilton, Research Coordinator for COASST). The bubbles make it impossible for birds to preen and soon their skin gets wet and they beach themselves and die of hypothermia. (Photo by Valerie Lindborg)

Akashiwo sanguinea (from our Sound Toxins lab) A beached loon with foam (Picture from National Geographic)

Well I hope you learned something about sea foam! People are helping locally in every way they can to help these birds and get them back into the wild check out the other news articles:

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/10/091030-sea-slime-birds-picture.html

http://www.ibrrc.org/algae-slime-response-2009.html

http://blogs.discovery.com/animal_news/2009/11/sea-slime-killing-seabirds-off-oregon-and-washington.html


Thanks for reading!


Lab Coordinator at PTMSC
Valerie Lindborg

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