Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Blue Planet - Seasonal Seas

Blue Planet - Seasonal Seas


Surveys the effects of the seasons on the world's temperate seas — the most productive on Earth. Sable Island near Nova Scotia boasts the largest colony of grey seals, which breed there when the weather is at its worst. The pups remain marooned for weeks until the spring, when they are strong enough to swim. Spring also heralds the bloom of phytoplankton: it provides food for copepods, and they in turn are prey to jellyfish, which assemble in vast, million-strong swarms. On the Californian coast, giant kelp also flourishes and by summer, grows at the rate of a metre a day. It provides a sanctuary for shoals of fish and sea otters, the latter anchoring themselves to the seaweed when resting and keeping its grazers in check by eating them. Late summer in Alaska sees Pacific salmon heading inshore to breed. However, the level of their favoured river is too low and they are forced to wait in the open sea, where they fall prey to a salmon shark. The early autumn near Vancouver Island, and the temperature drops slowly. There, the last of the year's baby herring become the focus for a feeding frenzy by diving auks and murres, and marauding rockfish. Pacific white-sided dolphins also inhabit these waters and, when not hunting nocturnally, socialise during the day. As winter arrives in the north, adult herring seek shelter but are hunted by orca, which club the fish with their tails to subdue them by creating waves of pressure.

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