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Can a human really be friends with an octopus? And six other mysteries of the oceans

If our planet is 70% covered in water, hence its nickname “Blue Planet”, we still have an immeasurable number of things to discover under the surface of the water. Some also believe that we know more about the Moon or Mars than about the depths of our own seas. Alongside oceanographers, biologists and seabed experts, Vox has delved into some of the greatest mysteries of our oceans.

Where is the plastic pollution of our oceans hiding?

Let’s start on the surface. Our oceans are home to so many tons of plastic waste that we like to talk about “seventh continent” when referring to this phenomenon. Nevertheless, if this flagrant pollution challenges, that which is invisible worries even more.

“99% of all plastic is gone”explains oceanographer Erik van Sebille to Vox. “We have black plastic. Just as astronomers have dark matter, we oceanographers have no idea where most of the plastic is in our ocean. We lost it.”

This is far from good news. Did this plastic disappear because it was ingested by sea creatures? What other dangers does it pose to marine ecosystems? Distressing questions that remain, for the moment, rather vague.

Why do whales wash up on beaches?

The whales stranded on the beaches often cause ink to flow as the phenomenon is impressive. If these cases are not rare, strictly speaking, scientists have nevertheless noticed that the number of cetaceans stranded at the seaside has increased over the past fifty years.

In view of the pollution of the oceans caused by humans, this first question therefore leads to another: are we responsible for this increase in the number of cases? “It is incredibly complicated to answer this question”comments Vox. “Although we know that humans affect the ocean environment, it can be difficult to analyze how these effects affect individual species.”

Can a human really be friends with an octopus?

In September 2020, Netflix broadcast for the first time The Wisdom of the Octopus, a documentary about a man’s friendship with one of these eight-armed creatures. If this film had moved more than one, a question remains: is this friendship really possible? We know that humans can develop strong relationships with their pets, but what about octopuses?

Obviously, impossible to scan one of the nine mini-brains of the beast to get its opinion. However, for writer and journalist Ferris Jabr, the question remains fascinating. “It’s like an interstellar journey”he confides to Vox. “It feels like we can get as close as possible to that kind of extraterrestrial contact moment.”

How many fish live in the twilight zone?

Also known as the “twilight zone”, this place is between 200 meters and 1,000 meters below the surface of the oceans. Due to its depth, it is still largely unknown to scientists. “Sunlight fades almost completely and our knowledge of those depths fades as well,” comments Vox.

Why is our ignorance about him annoying? According to the American media, it is possible that this “twilight zone” is home to more fish than all other areas of the oceans combined; but, above all, “these creatures in the dark part of the ocean play an important role in regulating the climate”.

Why do so many sea creatures glow in the dark?

This is what is more commonly called bioluminescence, i.e. “the production and emission of light by a living organism”, explains The Horizons. Most seabed creatures, where sunlight never penetrates, glow in one way or another.

If we know today how this magnificent chemical phenomenon works, its usefulness is still subject to many debates. Is it to communicate? To attract prey? These are just theories for now.

Why is the ocean so poorly mapped?

Only 20% of the ocean floor has been mapped. It is little, and it is even less than for Mars or the Moon. As Vox explains, “There are more people who participated in the Apollo missions to the Moon than people who visited the Challenger Deep, the deepest part of the deepest trench in the ocean”.

If the techniques have indeed evolved over time, in particular through information obtained via sonar which can then show valleys and mountains hidden at the bottom of the oceans, exploration remains to this day a great challenge for scientists.

Is it possible to access the Earth’s mantle through the seabed?

If scientists are interested in the seabed, they are also captivated by what is below the earth’s mantle, this place under the earth’s crust. Vox says that sixty years ago, a group of geologists ventured to dig through the seabed to access this famous mantle.

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While the original mission failed, the drilling techniques used at the time are now employed to collect samples from the seabed. the “journey to the Center of the Earth” however, will be for later.

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