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MARINE LIFE

Smokers - A Sunless Ecosystem

To their great surprise biologists discovered in the 1980s a whole ecosystem of worms, crabs and fish living around cracks in the earth's fault lines.

These animals, called chemolithotrophs - chemical rock eaters - rely on boiling water, full of dissolved minerals, gushing from deep in the earth to power their ecosystem.

The discovery of these organisms shattered the accepted belief that all life on earth was ultimately powered by sunshine.

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Pregnant Fathers

One of the most bizarre sexual strategies for survival and transmission of a species through time is that of the seahorse.

The male seahorse mates with the female, then the female transfers her fertilised eggs into a special brooding pouch on the male seahorse.

The baby seahorses are born live from the abdomen of the father.

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SHARKING NEWS

Within the Pacific region, sharks are often killed just for their fins to create a popular Chinese dish, Shark Fin soup.

Simple shark biological information about how old sharks can live, their home range and the number of offspring a female shark pups in her lifetime are still not known.

Without this knowledge and proper management, sharks face the threat of extinction.

The whale shark, the world's largest fish, lives in the Pacific Ocean.

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LOST AND FOUND

You'd think it would be very difficult for an animal to hide in the ocean, especially if that animal were the size of a whale. However, as recently as the 1980s, a new subspecies of Minke whales was discovered in the Pacific Ocean.

Amazingly, even after studying these whales for ten years, scientists have trouble tracking their movements between October and May every year.

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DISAPPEARING TURTLES

Many species of turtles are seen to hatch on small sandy coral cays then disappear for twenty to fifty years before they return to lay eggs on the same beach on which they were born.

The Pacific Leatherback turtle is a gentle giant weighing close to a 907 kg and measuring 2.4 metres in length. Without proper management of their particular life-cycle needs, the Pacific Leatherback turtle may be extinct in the Pacific Ocean region within a decade. The Leatherback can live up to 150 years.

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MASTER BUILDERS

Corals are biological organisms that can create fantastic geological structures.

Some coral reefs are over 1300 metres thick, three times the height of the Empire State Building (443 metres) and longer than the Sydney Harbour Bridge (1149 metres).

If you were to string together the maze of reefs currently found in the Pacific they would be longer than the Great Wall of China.

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SLOW AND DEADLY

Small, fragile, slow moving, often brightly coloured predators found in the reefs can have extremely powerful venom.

When fast swimming prey brush against their tentacles or next to their spine they inject a lethal dose of venom.

The box jellyfish has stinging cells so powerful they can sting through the scales of fish or crustaceans. Cone shells have a 'harpoon' they can 'fire' loaded with a deadly toxin.

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LIVING FOSSIL

Some animals live in the deep cold aphotic zone of the ocean, the place where no sunlight penetrates. The nautilus, over 2 metres in diameter, can survive this depth. Over 450 million years ago, the nautilus was a dominant predator in the oceans of the world. Having survived relatively unchanged for millions of years, nautiluses represent the only living members of the subclass Nautiloidea, and are often considered to be 'living fossils'.

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FASTEST FISH

The sailfish is the fastest fish in the world and lives in all the world's oceans. It can swim at 110 km an hour.

Sailfish are over 3.4 metres long and can weigh up to 100 kilograms. They feed on a diet of sardines and anchovies. They are able to half fold back their fins into grooves whilst chasing prey and then unfold their high fins to create a wall to stop prey escaping. A very interesting thing about sailfish is that they can eject their stomachs out of their mouths and then swallow them again without harm! In this way they can expell foreign objects they may have swallowed. Sailfish are also sometimes known as the fish that "walk on water."

Sailfish have been seen to "run" along the surface of the water for over 60 metres using nothing but their wriggling tails to support themselves.

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EXPLOSION OF LIFE

This oceanic realm is considered to be the most biologically diverse ecosystem on earth. Over large periods of time this area has experienced large fluctuations in sea level. This has meant that these maze of reefs and islands have created many smaller seas that have been separated from each other by landmasses. Since this has occurred repetitively over millions of years, and included all species of marine animals and plants it has created a huge explosion of different forms of life.

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