The writers at Deep Sea News are big fans of all things invertebrate. We bend over backwards trying to convince people that deep-sea worms, isopods, anemones, and squid are the coolest animals anywhere on Earth. We stick up our noses at charismatic megafauna like sea turtles and whales, thinking “What could possibly be so interesting about air breathing animals with bilateral symmetry?”
We recognize that “normal people” like the vertebrates, especially the marine megavertebrates. People identify with seals, penguins, and sea lions in ways that invertebrate biologists will never understand or aspire to. No one loves a lobster. We rescue them from the boiling pot as children, and hide them from our parents in the bathtub (this is true). We love to catch them and eat them with butter. We love the efficiency in their design, and the vagueries of their life history, but we’ll never feel the same emotion for a lobster that a dolphin trainer feels for their animal. No way. Invertebrate biologists just don’t go there.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe there is something very special about the megavertebrates. They make good habitat for parasites. Oops. Sorry. I mean,… they have a connection to people. This hit me once when I was preparing a testimony for the Ocean Commission in Hawaii. I sat on a porch the night before writing of the whales of yore, enraptured by their treacherous demise, when an upwelling of emotion came over me suddenly. I was petrified by a thought. If we hunted these whales nearly to extinction, I wondered, what else are we capable of? Are all seven species of sea turtles endangered because of the human race? Is this a sign? A portent of doom? Could we be next?
Megavertebrates tug our heartstrings because these animals are the most like us. We recognize ourselves in their expressions. We can even picture ourselves in their skin– diving deeply like whales, resting on the beach like seals, swimming playfully like dolphins, lying on our backs wrapped in kelp like otters. Part of us longs to be there with them, away from the worries of the modern world.
So we follow them now, into the deep blue sea. Welcome to Megavertebrate Week. Over the course of the next few days we’ll explore deep diving behavior in whales, turtles, and elephant seals, tune in to some important conservation happenings, tap into new research, and learn a few things along the way. Enjoy the postings we offer this week, please. Several first-time writers will be contributing. Comment often if you can. Thanks for reading.
Bouchet, P. 2006. The Magnitude of Marine Biodiversity. in The Exploration of Marine Biodiversity: Scientific and Technical Challenges. , C.M. Duarte, ed..