Short Subjects from September, 1995


We read in the Broward Busycon which got it from the Orlando Sentinel that Florida's thirst is diverting ever more fresh water from the Everglades, water that would flow into Florida Bay and dilute its salinity if its destiny were left to nature. So Florida Bay is getting saltier and saltier. University of Georgia ecologist James Porter says the excessive saltiness is causing the warmer water to sink, rather than float along the surface as it should, because it is weighted down with salt. The higher salinity and temperature produce cloudiness and algae which damages the coral; in seven years, almost half of it is gone.

On the other hand, the Busycon tells us, the pink shrimp catch in Florida Bay is up 64%, the first increase since 1987, and the jump in harvest may be caused by an infusion of fresh water into the Bay, stemming from a new sewage treatment method which reduces pollutants in sewage by 90%. And the coral there is growing.


The scallops are coming back to Tampa Bay! The return of decent water quality has brought this bonus, which is mentioned in Suncoast Shorelines. Unable to survive in cloudy, low-salinity water, the once abundant Argopecten irradians concentricus had disappeared. This year's Great Bay Scallop Search may not have turned up many of the seagrass- and salinity-loving critters, but they were in new areas.

The next step is to reseed the bay. The current population is too low to repopulate on its own, so juveniles are being brought in for dispersal. Unfortunately, the scallops spawn only once and then die, so a bad year could be disastrous to the project. Careful monitoring of the mesh cages of young scallops will be required until a healthy population is once more established.


Small jellyfish-like animals are now the oldest known multicellular life forms. Fossils of these creatures, 15 million years older than any previously known multi-celled organism, have recently been found in Mexico by a geology expedition from Mt. Holyoke College, MA.

OCEAN PLANET. . . A Totally Immersing Experience

The Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. has developed a major new traveling exhibition, "Ocean Planet." Based on the concept that Earth is really an ocean planet and we are all seafarers who have a hand and a stake in what happens to the seas, the exhibition celebrates the oceans' spectacular diversity and examines the environmental issues they face. It is a multi-media production, using photos and live theater, computer animation, specimens and artifacts, videos and sculpture.

At the Smithsonian through Jan. 2, 1996, it will go to the Presidio of San Francisco March 30-June 23; Columbus Center in Baltimore July 27-Oct. 20, 1996; The American Museum of Natural History, New York Nov. 23 1996-Feb. 16, 1997; the Bishop Museum in Honolulu July 12 - Oct. 5, 1997; Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago May 23-Aug. 15, 1998; and Museum of Science, Boston Sept. 19-Dec. 13, 1998. Seven other cities will be added to the schedule.