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Wildlife in the Transoceanic

The Atlantic is the planet’s second-largest ocean, and it’s a biodiverse world that’s home to an array of wildlife. As you sail, keep an eye out for some of its most visible life forms.

3 mins read

A floating forest

If you ask a sailor or a Caribbean beachgoer about sargassum seaweed, they’ll likely tell you how much of a nuisance these floating forests can be for ships and swimmers alike. However, a marine biologist might instead tell you how these golden seaweed mats float around in tropical parts of the Atlantic and provide food and shelter for hatchling sea turtles and over 100 species of fish.

Soaring above the sea

On our transoceanic cruises, you’ll be treated to views of a sapphire sea and many of the creatures that live in it. But don’t forget to look up! The skies above the Atlantic contain a variety of seabird species. Many, like the Bridled Tern and the Brown Noddy, rely on the sea for food and only land briefly to breed.

While sailing closer to the equator, look out for tropical seabirds. You might have an encounter with a booby, which was apparently named after the Spanish word ’bobo‘, meaning ’stupid‘, because of its lack of fear when landing on ships. This made it an easy meal for hungry sailors.

Off the coasts of South or Central America, look out for frigatebirds soaring above on thin wings, stalking other birds to snatch their prey. This strategy, known as ’kleptoparasitism‘, allows the frigatebird to expend less energy when foraging, although it requires much agility. Also called ’Man-o’-War‘ birds, frigatebirds will even harass other birds until they regurgitate food they’ve already eaten, which the frigatebirds will then take for themselves.

When sea and sky meet

You may spot a peculiar fish ’flying‘ over the water. There are 40 species of flying fish, which seem to blur the line between bird and sea creature. They’re an invaluable food source for hungry seabirds out on the open sea, which can pick flying fish off the ocean’s surface as they try to escape from underwater predators.

The ’flight‘ of the flying fish begins underwater, where it picks up speed before breaking the surface, opening its wing-like pectoral fins, while keeping the lower fork of its tail in the water. It then uses the lower fork of its tail to propel itself forward before dropping into the water with a splash. The use of the tail allows it to glide much further than it could by momentum alone nature.

Ocean air-breathers

Always be on the lookout for whales and dolphins! Despite living in the sea, they’re actually mammals, so you might spot one coming to the surface and blowing water and air through its blowhole. Seeing the spectacular twirls of a spinner dolphin or the smiling face of a bottlenose is sure to make your day.

In the open, tropical ocean, you may spot sea turtles among large mats of sargassum seaweed, or catch a glimpse of one surfacing for air. These shelled reptiles can hold their breath for several hours at a time, feeding on eelgrass, crabs, fish, molluscs and other marine animals hundreds of feet below the surface.

Penguins perched on the ice of Cuverville Island, Antarctica. Credit: Espen Mills / HX Hurtigruten Expeditions

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