Welcome to the Plasti-Scene

“Plastic is one of the worst enemies of marine species,” the World Wildlife Fund.

We’ve all read too many headlines about plastic floating in the ocean, not breaking down, washing up on every beach, being eaten by marine creatures, and entangling lots of others. Scientists are now trying to figure out what exactly that means for all the life in the ocean – and us.

Finding the Hole Truth About Piddock Clams in the Monterey Bay

By Tierney Thys

This week, a series of large winter storms delivered hundreds of strange rocks riddled with perfectly smooth drill holes. A treasure trove to curious beachcombers, begs the question, “Who or what made all those holes?!”

The holes are the work of industrious molluscs called piddock clams or, more commonly, boring clams. Some 16 different species of not-so-boring clams call Monterey Bay home

Aquariums to the Rescue!

When the Shape of Life team was in Long Beach for the National Marine Educators conference, we visited the Aquarium of the Pacific. We were admiring a giant clam when a guide heard us and said that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) had confiscated this clam, as well as some others, as they were coming into the U.S. illegally. Sadly, FWS often confiscates fresh and saltwater fish and invertebrates from all over the world when they come into the U.S., mainly for the illegal pet trade. Aquariums have stepped in to help; here are some examples.



Giant clam Tridacna gigas on a coral reef

Virtual Urchin: A Cool Classroom Resource

It’s very easy to see sea urchin fertilization, cell division and embryonic development under a microscope. Realizing that the animals could be a great teaching tool in the classroom, the sea urchin development lab at Stanford’s University’s Hopkins Marine Station, led by Dr. Dave Epel, created the “Virtual Urchin” website. The goal of this project is to provide inquiry based lessons, available on a freely-accessible, open access website. Students can explore how scientists study sea urchins to understand larval development and metamorphosis, community ecology, pollution in the marine environment and biological evolution.

In order for students to become familiar with the body plan of the animal, the site includes sea urchin anatomy. Students can watch a video of the fertilization and the early development of the embryo online. There are also some very advanced activities about the larvae, instructing students how to virtually manipulate gene function to learn more about their development. If a teacher has access to live material, modules teach how to use a microscope, and then instructions for doing a fertilization lab in the classroom.