Overview of Course
Exploring the ocean while living aboard the MV World Odyssey offers a “mega” opportunity to expand our knowledge of some of the most charismatic marine organisms: the megafauna! Large animals, including whales, manatees, sharks, rays, bony fishes, sea turtles, marine birds, invertebrates and more, represent some of the most intriguing and vulnerable species on the planet. We will examine their evolution, ecology, life history, behavior, adaptations for survival, population decline, and need for conservation. Megafauna serve as keystone species, apex predators, grazers or filter feeders, often migrate extensively, and have the potential to influence ecosystem function over large geographic regions, depths, and multiple ocean basins. The long-lived nature of many marine megafauna coupled with their large size, make them particularly vulnerable to anthropogenic threats including climate change, habitat destruction, marine vessels, bycatch, fisheries, and direct overexploitation. Port experiences, shipboard observations, class discussions and review of primary literature will enhance our understanding of marine megafauna importance, provide opportunities to evaluate shared and unique aspects of their biology, identify tools used to study these organisms, as well as explore threats, conservation strategies and the cultural value of marine megafauna around the world.