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99 news posts in Frontiers in Marine Science

Featured news

13 Nov 2023

Endangered turtle population under threat as pollution may lead to excess of females being born

By Mischa Dijkstra, Frontiers science writer Researchers from Australia studied the influence of pollution on the sex ratio of clutches of sea green turtles. This species is at risk of extinction from a current lack of male hatchlings. They concluded that exposure to the heavy metals cadmium and antimony, accumulated by the mother and transferred to her eggs, may cause embryos to be feminized. Pollution may thus compound the female-biasing influence of rising global temperatures on green sea turtles. Green sea turtles, Chelonia mydas, are listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. They are at risk of extinction due to poaching, collisions with boats, habitat destruction, and accidental capture in fishing gear. But another threat, linked to climate change, is more insidious: sea turtles have temperature-dependent sex determination, which means that more and more embryos develop into females as temperatures keep rising. Already, in the northern part of the Great Barrier Reef off Australia, hundreds of females are born for every male. Now, researchers have shown that the resulting risk of extinction due to a lack of male green sea turtles may be compounded by pollution. Dr Arthur Barraza, a researcher at the Australian Rivers Institute […]

Image: Shutterstock

Featured news

20 Sep 2023

Shading the Great Barrier Reef from the sun might slow bleaching-induced coral decline

By Deborah Pirchner, Frontiers science writer Image: Shutterstock As ocean temperatures rise, corals can lose their color due to heat stress. Bleaching does not kill corals immediately, but they become more vulnerable to disease and starvation. Shading reefs by covering them with cloth or fog, can protect them from excessive heat. Now, researchers have tested the shading response of two coral species and found that four hours of shade during the hottest time of the day can significantly slow bleaching. This knowledge can help with solar radiation management in marine ecosystems, including the Great Barrier Reef. Over the past two decades, coral reefs have declined at unprecedented rates. This is in part because of extreme weather events, which cause wide-spread coral bleaching, a process during which corals lose their color because of stressors, including changes in water temperature, light, or nutrient availability. One of the worst mass bleaching events occurred in 2016 and 2017 on the Great Barrier Reef, causing bleaching on 91% of the system’s reefs. As frequency and severity of mass bleaching events are expected to increase in the future, researchers are looking for ways to protect corals from excessive radiation and temperatures. As part of the Cooling […]



14 Sep 2023

Identifying polar bears just got easier: Here are five Frontiers articles you won’t want to miss

By Deborah Pirchner, Frontiers science writer Image: At Frontiers, we bring some of the world’s best research to a global audience. But with tens of thousands of articles published each year, it’s impossible to cover all of them. Here are just five amazing papers you may have missed. Polar bear identity and sex can be established from paw prints The recent loss of sea ice is forcing polar bears – one of the Arctic’s biggest predators – to spend more time on land closer to human settlements. To prevent potential human-animal conflicts and to protect the species, polar bear populations must be monitored and managed. More often than not, this is a costly and difficult endeavor, in part because of the remote regions the bears inhabit. Now, a team of researchers in the US has developed a method to keep track of polar bears that might make scientist less reliant on having to capture the bears to get data. Writing in Frontiers in Conservation Science, they investigated the use of environmental DNA – cells which the animals shed when walking – collected from paw-prints in the snow to identify individual polar bears and their sex. They sampled 13 polar […]

One of the ‘tree-reefs’ being examined after five months in the Wadden Sea. Image credit: Jon Dickson


25 Aug 2023

Reefs made from culled trees can help kickstart sea life in threatened waters

By Mischa Dijkstra, Frontiers science writer One of the ‘tree-reefs’ being examined after five months in the Wadden Sea. Image credit: Jon Dickson Researchers have shown that structures made from culled pear trees sunk into soft-bottomed seas like the Dutch Wadden Sea provide excellent replacements for naturally occurring hard substrates, of which many have been lost due to human activities. These ‘tree-reefs’ were rapidly colonized and became hotspots for fish, crustaceans, polyps, and shellfish. Reefs, whether natural or man-made, are hotspots of marine biodiversity. But especially in soft-bottomed seas, reefs have now become scarce because many hard substrates have been removed due to overfishing of shellfish, dredging, trawling, and deep-sea mining. How can we restore this lost biodiversity, as encouraged by the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030) and the EU Biodiversity Strategy?   Now, researchers have shown that culled fruit trees sunk into the sea are a cheap and effective way to recreate reefs and boost the local diversity and abundance of marine life. The study, published in Frontiers in Marine Science, was done in the Wadden Sea, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the largest tidal flats system in the world.   “Here we show that native marine […]


Featured news

02 Aug 2023

Fighting chronic pain with food: Here are five Frontiers articles you won’t want to miss

By Deborah Pirchner, Frontiers science writer Image: At Frontiers, we bring some of the world’s best research to a global audience. But with tens of thousands of articles published each year, it’s impossible to cover all of them. Here are just five amazing papers you may have missed. Certain foods help ease chronic pain Chronic pain caused by rheumatic diseases often requires prolonged treatment using drugs which are associated with side effects. Eating a certain diet, however, has been suggested as a possible way to alleviate chronic pain symptoms. Recommended foods include berries, fatty fish, and avocados. In a pilot study, researchers in Spain have evaluated the efficacy of an anti-inflammatory diet in patients with chronic pain. They have published their findings in Frontiers in Nutrition. In a first step, the researchers designed a 13-item anti-inflammatory dietary guide, including anti-inflammatory foods like curcumin and coffee. Foods with inflammatory properties, for example red meat, gluten, and cow’s milk, were excluded from the list. In the second part of the study, participants followed the diet for four months. The researchers found a positive correlation between the anti-inflammatory food participants ate and physical characteristics, stress, and pain. Consuming the anti-inflammatory diet also […]

Featured news

31 Jul 2023

Scientists solve ‘enigma’ of pygmy right whales’ feeding habits

By Mischa Dijkstra, Frontiers science writer A pygmy right whales in the wild. Image credit: Henry Cordell Researchers have shown from stable isotope ratios in the baleen of pygmy right whales that this ‘most enigmatic’ species of baleen whales remains in waters off southern Australia year-round and feeds on Australian krill and copepods. Unlike larger relatives, they don’t make seasonal migrations to Antarctic regions. Pygmy right whales (Caperea marginata) are the smallest, ‘most enigmatic’, and probably least studied of all baleen whales. Baleen act like sieves in the mouth of baleen whales, which allow seawater to pass but trap small prey items like zooplankton and small fish. Pygmy right whales are rarely seen in the wild. Reason for this may be their relatively small size – up to 6.5 meters long and weighing up to 3.5 tons –, sparse distribution, and inconspicuous behavior, especially compared to the boisterous humpback whales. Historically, whalers rarely bothered hunting them. The little we know about them is mainly based on beached animals. “Here we show that pygmy right whales don’t behave like most other baleen whales: they don’t make long cross-ocean migrations,” said Dr Tracey Rogers, a professor of ecology and evolution at the […]

Image/Enric Ballesteros

Climate action

02 Jun 2023

Underwater forest’s recovery offers hope for marine restoration across the globe

by Angharad Brewer Gillham, Frontiers science writer Image/Enric Ballesteros Scientists show that efforts to restore the building blocks of marine ecosystems are paying off, with macroalgae that provide food and shelter for other species bouncing back over 10 years of growth in an underwater seaweed forest in the Mediterranean Sea. Human activity has degraded ecosystems and damaged biodiversity around the world, but ecosystem restoration offers hope for the future. Scientists studying the restoration of underwater seaweed forests which provide other species with food and shelter have found that 10 years of restoration efforts have helped a damaged forest regrow to richness and strength comparable to forests that have never been disturbed. “Macroalgal forests are found along over one-third of the world’s coastlines and underpin entire ecosystems,” said Dr Emma Cebrian of the Centre d’Estudis Avançats de Blanes, corresponding author of the study in Frontiers in Marine Science. “In 2011, a restoration action took place in the Bay of Maó, Menorca, where a macroalga species was reintroduced in the area where it used to thrive. After 10 years, we found that the associated algal species returned to the habitat, and with them, the ecosystem functions they provide.” Under the sea Cebrian […]


13 Apr 2023

Coral-eating fish poo may act as ‘probiotics’ for reefs

by Angharad Brewer Gillham, Frontiers science writer Image/ Coral-eating fish are thought to weaken coral reefs because they consume coral tissue, whereas grazer fish are assumed to have positive effects because they eat algae that compete with corals. However, a new study shows that feces from coral-eating fish contain bacteria that can be beneficial to corals. On the other hand, feces from grazers contain high levels of pathogens that can kill corals. Until recently, fish that eat coral — corallivores — were thought to weaken reef structures, while fish that consume algae and detritus — grazers — were thought to keep reefs healthy. But scientists have discovered that feces from grazers leave large lesions on coral, possibly because they contain coral pathogens. By contrast, feces from corallivores may provide a source of beneficial microbes that help coral thrive. “Corallivorous fish are generally regarded as harmful because they bite the corals,” said Dr Carsten Grupstra of Rice University, lead author of the study published in Frontiers in Marine Science. “But it turns out that this doesn’t tell the whole story. Corallivore feces contain many of the bacterial taxa that associate with healthy corals under normal conditions, potentially resulting in the natural […]

Climate action

05 Apr 2023

How a city walk may improve your mood: Here are five Frontiers articles you won’t want to miss

By Deborah Pirchner, Frontiers science writer Image: At Frontiers, we bring some of the world’s best research to a global audience. But with tens of thousands of articles published each year, it’s impossible to cover all of them. Here are just five amazing papers you may have missed. Walking in the city might be just as good for our mood as walking in nature Time spent in urban environments is associated with depletion of cognitive resources and an increasing prevalence of mental illness. Few studies, however, have measured working memory capacity. Now, writing in Frontiers in Psychology, US researchers have compared memory performance and self-reported mood before and after a 30-minute walk in a natural or urban environment. The scientists assigned participants to either a nature or an urban condition and measured differences in self-reported affect and OPSAN, a complex measure of working memory capacity, before and after going on a walk in the respective environment. Their results showed that regardless of the setting, walkers exhibited an increase in positive affect and a decrease in negative affect, suggesting that going outside for a walk can boost mood regardless of environment type. They found, however, no significant changes in working memory […]


22 Mar 2023

Unusual Toxoplasma parasite strain killed sea otters and could threaten other marine life

by Angharad Brewer Gillham, Frontiers science writer Image by Mr Laird Henkel, California Department of Fish and Wildlife Four sea otters that stranded in California were found to have died of an unusually severe form of toxoplasmosis, a disease caused by the microscopic parasite Toxoplasma gondii. Scientists warn that this new strain, never previously reported in aquatic animals, could potentially pose a health threat to other marine wildlife and humans. Scientists in California are raising the alarm about a newly reported form of toxoplasmosis that kills sea otters and could also infect other animals and people. Although toxoplasmosis is common in sea otters and can sometimes be fatal, this unusual strain appears to be capable of rapidly killing healthy adult otters. This rare strain of Toxoplasma hasn’t been detected on the California coast before, and may be a recent arrival, but scientists are concerned that if it contaminates the marine food chain it could potentially pose a public health risk. “I have studied Toxoplasma infections in sea otters for 25 years — I have never seen such severe lesions or high parasite numbers,” said Dr Melissa Miller of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, corresponding author of the study […]


16 Feb 2023

From microplastic waste to large, ancient squirrels: Five Frontiers articles you won’t want to miss

By Deborah Pirchner, Frontiers science writer Image: At Frontiers, we bring some of the world’s best research to a global audience. But with tens of thousands of articles published each year, it’s impossible to cover all of them. Here are just five amazing papers you may have missed. UK seafloor sediments rich in microplastics For years, plastics have made up a large portion of the debris polluting the marine environment. Much of this plastic consists of particles under 5mm in any dimension. Writing in Frontiers in Marine Science, an international team of researchers from the UK and Norway examined the occurrence and abundance of microplastics in UK seafloor sediments between 2013 and 2021. The scientists used a fast-screening approach for the detection and quantification of microplastics in sediment samples. They detected microplastics in every sample collected from 15 sites around the UK, which supports the argument that seafloor sediments are suitable matrices for the long-term monitoring of microlitter. The adoption of seafloor sediments as a common indicator for microlitter for the north-east-Atlantic region would allow for future assessments at a regional level as well as regional action plans rather than isolated national remediation measures, the researchers pointed out. The […]

Featured news

06 Feb 2023

‘Many kids go through a phase where they want to be a marine scientist. For me, it wasn’t a phase’

by Patricia Albano/Angharad Brewer Gillham, Frontiers science writer Patricia stands with remotely operated vehicle Deep Discoverer aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer during an expedition to explore the deep waters off the West Florida Shelf. Image: Patricia Albano.  Marine protected areas are meant to give threatened species space to live and thrive. But in a recent paper in Frontiers in Marine Science, Patricia Albano and colleagues showed that at least one protective area isn’t capturing the range that endangered sharks use as they grow, leaving them vulnerable to commercial fishing. Albano, now the Internship Program Coordinator at the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, NOAA Ocean Exploration, caught up with Frontiers to tell us a little about her career and her research, as part of our Frontiers Scientist series. Albano’s work focuses on shark ecology in an anthropogenic world and the associated conservation implications. After a BA and MSc from the University of Miami, she joined a project evaluating the efficacy of the De Hoop marine protected area (MPA) for threatened and endemic sharks off South Africa. Albano also dedicates her time to working in ocean education, supporting workforce development programs and efforts to increase diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. In 2020, she […]

Featured news

06 Dec 2022

10 Frontiers articles that caught the world’s attention in 2022

By Frontiers’ science writers Image: As part of Frontiers’ passion to make science available to all, we highlight just a small selection of the most fascinating research published with us each month to help inspire current and future researchers to achieve their research dreams. 2022 was no different, and saw many game-changing discoveries contribute to the world’s breadth of knowledge on topics ranging from the climate crisis to robotics, and exercise to the lives of our ancestors. So to round of the year, here are 10 Frontiers articles from this year that got the world’s top media talking. 1. This illusion, new to science, is strong enough to trick our reflexes Have a look at the image below. Do you perceive that the central black hole is expanding, as if you’re moving into a dark environment, or falling into a hole? If so, you’re not alone: a study published to Frontiers in Human Neuroscience showed that this ‘expanding hole’ illusion, which is new to science, is perceived by approximately 86% of people. The researchers don’t yet know why a minority seem unsusceptible to the ‘expanding hole’ illusion. Nor do they know whether other vertebrate species, or even nonvertebrate animals […]

Climate action

17 Nov 2022

Vast phytoplankton blooms may be lurking beneath Antarctic ice

by Angharad Brewer Gillham, Frontiers science writer Image: Researchers using NASA’s Earth observing system find that Antarctic sea ice allows enough light in to let hidden phytoplankton bloom in the Southern Ocean. Until now, we thought the packed sea ice of the Southern Ocean blocked all light from reaching the sea beneath, preventing phytoplankton — tiny algae which are the base of aquatic food webs — from growing there. The less light available, the less the phytoplankton can photosynthesize and therefore the less phytoplankton there will be, heavily restricting life beneath the ice. But research inspired by increasing under-ice blooms of phytoplankton in the Arctic has shown that Antarctic waters also have unexpected denizens, indicating that there is underestimated ecological variability under the ice. Blooms are often spotted as soon as the sea ice begins its seasonal retreat, supported by plenty of light and freshwater with high iron content. Yet a team led by Dr Christopher Horvat of Brown University and the University of Auckland suspected that there would already be potential phytoplankton blooms in waiting. Writing in Frontiers in Marine Science, they described using sampling from independent BGC-Argo floats and climate model output to estimate light availability beneath […]