"Sargassum" is one of the more interesting ecosystem types in the Gulf of Mexico. What is it?
Kemp's ridley turtle (Lepidochelys kempii)
© Carlos Drews/WWF-Canon
The answer is:
b. mats of free-floating seaweed
(Scroll to the bottom of this page to see how your answer compared to others.)
One of the more interesting ecosystem types in the Gulf of Mexico are the mats of free-floating macro algae called sargassum. These floating islands of seaweed that give the Sargasso Sea its name are temporary homes to many economically and ecologically important species. Larval and juvenile yellowfin tuna, wahoo and marlin are suspended in the sargassum--as are juvenile sea turtles like the critically endangered Kemp's ridley.
Today, these living islands are threatened by the oil spill from the damaged BP wellhead. Now at the whim of currents, these sargassum will be destroyed as they pass through the toxic surface oil. And they aren't the only ecosystems at risk. More ecological impacts.
Oil also leads to lethal or chronic impacts on marine wildlife. Seabirds and shorebirds such as egrets, herons and brown pelicans lose buoyancy and the ability to keep warm when their feathers come into contact with oil. They can also suffer liver damage, lesions and other potentially lethal complications from ingesting oil as they feed or attempt to clean their feathers. Blue whales, bottlenose dolphins and other marine mammals inhale toxic fumes every time they surface through the slick to breathe. An estimated 400 to 600 species are potentially at risk as the oil washes ashore, works its way into the marshes and oozes into the estuaries of the Louisiana coastline. These numbers may grow as new threats are uncovered. Species impacts.
Here's how your answer compared to others:
53 106 65 44 a. freshwater marshes b. mats of free-floating seaweed c. saltwater marshes d. vast oyster "reefs"