Deep in the Gulf
The wonders beneath Gulf waters.
By Melissa Gaskill and Louie Bond
The Gulf of Mexico laps against 367 miles of Texas coast. We build fanciful castles along its beaches, attach kites to surfboards to fly across the waves and lean against pier railings to cast at shadows beneath the foamy saltwater. Those with boats (and stomachs) capable of longer sea travel head out to the snapper banks, but even then, we’re just skimming the surface of the ninth-largest water body on the planet.
As you tilt your beach umbrella and watch the endless waves roll in, do you wonder about what lies before you, deep in the Gulf waters? Do you envy those who spit into dive masks and don scuba tanks and fins to dive in deep and explore the mysteries hidden to those above?
In reality, the Gulf is a giant basin — created when continental plates collided 300 million years ago, causing the sea floor to sink — that serves as a nursery for ocean species. A Nature Conservancy report identified four major migratory pathways or “blueways” crossing the Gulf. Billions of fish, mammals, sea turtles and birds swim or fly through this network of wildlife superhighways year-round. Some of these species are threatened or endangered.
Texas shares the Gulf border with four U.S. states on the Gulf’s north, five Mexican states on the west and Cuba to the southeast. Around the edges of that huge basin, about half of the Gulf’s water runs rather shallow over continental shelves. The Gulf Stream, which originates in these warm waters, is one of the strongest ocean currents in the world.
One of the many treasures below, the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, faces growing threats from rising temperatures, invasive lionfish, loss of top predators and more. These stories take us on a dive to examine those threats and how Texas scientists address them. Along the way, we’ll enjoy a cool respite from the Texas heat amid the wonders beneath Gulf waters.
More in our reef series: Texas Treasure Threatened | Building More Reefs | Life at an Artificial Reef | Swimming with Sharks | Roar of the Lionfish
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