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10 Recent Breakthroughs in Marine Biology


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Harbor Seals Play Dots-and-Boxes With Wind Farms to Find Food
Some crafty pinnipeds may view wind farms like this one, sunk off the coast of Denmark, as stashes of food. © Cameron Davidson/Corbis
Some crafty pinnipeds may view wind farms like this one, sunk off the coast of Denmark, as stashes of food. © Cameron Davidson/Corbis

The thing about sinking structures offshore is that certain kinds of sea life love nothing better than a foundation, an anchor amid the sea's shifting tides where they can build, find food or just hang out. We've encouraged reefs to form by taking advantage of this fact, and opportunistic mussels and crabs have gravitated toward the shelter offered by offshore windmills' sunken bases for similar reasons [source: Zielinski].

Of course, where there's forage, there's bound to be foragers, as Deborah J.F. Russell of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland found when she and her colleagues used GPS devices to track the movements of harbor and gray seals (Phoca vitulina and Halichoerus grypus) near offshore wind farms in Europe. As described in the July 21, 2014, issue of Current Biology, they observed that 11 out of 200 seals made a series of beelines to each turbine, tracing out a clear grid pattern that matched the turbines' configuration and lingering at each "node" to look for food [source: Rosen]. Since the wind farms were somewhat recent additions, chances are good that the elite 11 were particularly pioneering pinnipeds [sources: Russell et al.; Zielinski].


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