What better way to get into the Valentine’s Day spirit than by reigniting your love affair with the ocean? To do just that, the South Carolina Aquarium welcomed Dr. Ellen Prager, renowned marine biologist and acclaimed author, to discuss her title, “Sex, Drugs and Seaslime.”
With heart-shaped pizza in hand, graciously donated by Papa Johns, the audience was ready to learn about “the bizarre world of life on, in and under the sea.”
Chapter 1: The Invisible Crowd
Close to one million organisms can be found in a single drop of sea water, “A good reason to close your mouth!” Prager laughed. It’s a slimy world under the sea. Take microscopic foraminifera for example; they use spines dotted with algae and mucous. If they’re unable to catch food with their gooey arms, they can generate their own food through the algae’s photosynthesis. Check out the lecture recording to play a round of “whose larvae is this?” with the audience!
Why should we care about these little guys? Plankton, the smallest ocean creatures, support the ocean food web, including the seafood we like to eat. Did you know plankton are also used in beauty products, medications and biotechnology?
Chapter 2: Mega Slime, Seduction and Shape Shifters
Hagfish: long, bony fish with no jaws, may be the slimiest of them all. They slide their way into the gills, mouths and rear ends of decomposing animals. Not only are they important members of the ocean’s clean-up crew, but future biodegradable clothing may be created from hagfish slime. From sea cucumbers eviscerating their internal organs, to escape predators, to nudibranchs imitating toxic colored animals to avoid becoming lunch, Prager only had time to skim the slimy surface of the world below.
Chapter 3: Let’s Talk Snails
The well-endowed queen conch has a penis, or “verge,” that is more than half of its total body length. Many members of the audience recoiled when Prager mentioned that crabs and other animals will dine on this body part during conch mating, “Don’t fret, they can grow another,” assured Prager. Other marine snails like cone snails contain a strong venom used in an opioid alternative pain killer.
“Even the most bizarre creatures add value to the ocean ecosystem and to humans,” concluded Prager. Coral reefs have an estimated value of over one trillion dollars per year, not including all of the benefits that haven’t been discovered. The ocean is not only an imperative source of food, but may also hold the key to medical and military advancements.
Thanks to the Live Living Network, you’re able to view Prager’s talk here.
Prager gave the crowd a small sample of her 11-chapter book. Pick up your own copy to learn why male jawfish incubate their eggs in their mouth, why parrotfish sleep in a mucous cocoon, why male octopuses amputate their arms and much more!
Thank you to our sponsors, Mary and Mason Holland; Christopher Kauker, Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc.; Papa John’s Pizza and Buxton Books.
The Holland Lifelong Learning finale, Testing the Waters: A Comfortable Conversation About Climate Change, is coming up! Purchase your tickets.