Given the almost endless stream of insults we're hurling at the oceans and marine life, isn't it time we recognize how much we have to gain from these marvelous creatures? For concrete, bottom-line thinkers, that's the selfish, anthropocentric "we" -- forget appreciating the intrinsic majesty of marine life. I'm talking saving our lives, and saving our planet.
Take humpback whales. Cruise ships may run them over and kill them, but scientist Frank Fish found inspiration for more-efficient wind turbines from the shape of humpback flippers. As a result, clean wind energy could be more profitable to bring to market from Whalepower, a company using the humpback-inspired design.
How about seahorses? Researchers in Australia are studying the development of the seahorse eye for clues that may help reverse macular degeneration -- a disease that causes progressive blindness as people age.
Living corals, so vulnerable to climate change as oceans warm and turn more acidic, may also hold a solution to the threat. The Moss Landing Cement Co., just up the road from Monterey Bay Aquarium, believes it can produce an eco-friendly cement by mimicking the way corals build their skeletons -- in this case, by combining seawater with carbon dioxide from a neighboring power plant.
And what about kelp, the humble seaweed? Like the humpback-inspired turbine, a new bioWave turbine design is based on the way that marine plants sway back and forth with the pulsing of the waves.
There are so many more innovations just like these, and likely others to come as we learn more about how animals and plants have adapted to life in the ocean. The aquarium's sharing a number of stories in a daily auditorium program, Whales to Windmills: Inventions Inspired by the Sea.
The trick now is to preserve them -- and their homes -- so we can reap the benefits.