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4 mysteries about the ocean scientists haven’t been able to solve yet

More than 70% percent of our planet’s surface is covered by oceans; but there’s still a lot we ignore about what lies beneath it.

The ocean seems like an alien planet given how little we know about it. Many of its creatures are still unknown to us, both in how many there are and what they are. We don’t know why they act a certain way. We don’t have a map that details the whole ocean. It feels like we probably know more about the surface of Mars than we know about the ocean floor.

Understanding the sea is to understand our planet better, at a fundamental level. “There’s so much about how the planet works that is preserved in this sort of underwater museum,” Vicki Ferrini, a senior research scientist at Columbia University, told Vox last year.

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All of this means that there are a lot of discoveries yet to be made, so let’s take a look at four mysteries still unsolved.

Why do whales strand themselves on beaches?

Every year, thousands of marine mammals like whales end up trapped on beaches or in the shallow waters near shore. But why do these creatures do this? And are humans to blame?

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It’s very difficult to have a definitive answer because we know that humans are affecting the ocean environment; however, it’s really hard to know the exact effects that are impacting this individual species. Nevertheless, it’s important to figure it out so we can protect animals more effectively.

Can a human really be friends with an octopus?

The documentary My Octopus Teacher made us question if human beings can develop a caring relationship with a sea creature like an octopus?

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In the documentary, it’s very hard to know if the friendship was genuine from the octopus’ perspective. We probably will never understand what these animals think. But it’s fascinating to think about it; because if we can connect with an octopus, can we establish healthy realtionships with other creatures?

How many fish live in the ocean’s mysterious “twilight zone”?

As we dive deeper into the ocean, less sunlight shines through. So, around the 200-meter mark beneath the surface, there’s an area called the mesopelagic, or the “twilight zone” where sunlight fades almost completely out of view, along with our knowledge about it.

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“It’s almost easier to define it by what we don’t know than what we do know,” said Andone Lavery, an acoustician at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution: “It’s remote. It’s deep. It’s dark. It’s elusive. It’s temperamental.”

But this region of the ocean is extremely important, because more fish may be living in the twilight zone than the rest of the ocean combined, and these creatures of the dark ocean play a large role in regulating the climate.

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Why do so many sea creatures glow?

While there’s no sun in the depths of the ocean, there’s light. In the ocean, there’s a display of bioluminescence, which makes creatures sparkle like fireworks in the dark. Almost every deep-water creature lights up in some way. Many scientist have spent their whole careers figuring out why so many marine creatures glow, and the answer is still elusive for most creatures.

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