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Oceanography, Botany and Biology: Interconnection and Development Essay

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Updated: Oct 13th, 2021

Branches of science are not developed in isolation but have a close link with each other. Oceanography, botany, and biology are natural sciences examining and describing life on the earth and its development. These three branches of science are interrelated and depend upon technological development and new scientific discoveries in other areas. Ecological systems seem never actually to reach a steady-state condition because the environment changes continually, within limits, just as do elements in large-scale geophysical systems such as the weather. The assemblage of species responds variously to these environmental changes as well as to each other’s response to them, and there are time lags in these adjustments (Gross and Gross, 1995). Thus at best the species of a system are in a state of continual oscillation. The alternating waves of the abundance of predator and prey species are one example. The lag between the failure of one fishery and the development of a new one is another. From then on it is difficult to study “the environment” or “ecology” without taking human affairs into account. Man’s weight in the equilibrium is determined by such things as the number of fishermen, the efficiency of their gear, the wages that a fisherman is willing to work for, the price the public is willing to pay for the fish, and so forth.

The development of oceanography was connected with the theory of evolution developed by Charles Darwin. This theory gave rise to new researches and investigations in the marine environment. This is a pattern that has been repeated in various localities to solve special problems during the whole history of biological research. There develops an anomalous condition (often diminution of fish stocks which people remember as having once been much greater). An interested special group of people requests that the condition be investigated, and after the due legislative procedure, scientists are assigned to the problem (Manseth 1998). To understand the cause of the undesirable condition, the scientists first try to establish facts about the time when the condition was satisfactory (i.e., the normal pattern), but because records are nearly always fragmentary or lacking, this effort usually proves fruitless. Then, because they are expected to devise a remedy for the condition in a reasonable time, they make deductions and recommendations from the data they can assemble. Such an investigation may not be conducive to learning much about the normal, being bound by too many limitations, for the anomalous condition is usually sharply delimited in scope. It is limited in time to the memory of the current generation, often even to such a short period as a season or two. It is limited ecologically to the affected species which are of most economic value (Garrison, 2004).

The description of a cell and the development of microbiology opens new opportunities for botany and its experiments. During the 19th and at the beginning of the 20th centuries many French anatomists recognized the important part that the microscopical structure of plants can play in studying their taxonomy. This tradition has been carried forward until the present time by some investigators. The anatomical approach to taxonomy has at all stages been stimulated by the practical necessity of maintaining standards of quality and detecting adulteration or substitution in economic products of vegetable origin (Manseth 1998). The traditional methods of the herbarium botanist cannot be employed to identify a timber or to detect adulterants in powdered herbs. The anatomical method also finds applications in assisting archaeologists to establish the botanical origin of manufactured articles and other materials obtained during their excavations. It is also, in certain circumstances, possible to identify the partially digested remains of vegetable foodstuffs taken from the bodies of dead animals when it is suspected that their death may have been caused by poisoning. The feeding habits of animals such as foxes and rabbits can be studied by identifying particles of vegetable matter in their excreta. The solution of problems such as these, and even to give anatomical assistance in the detection of crime, have, for many years, been everyday activities at the Jodrell Laboratory. It is surprising how infrequently the attention of botany students at universities is drawn to these applications of plant anatomy. This would surely increase their interest in plant structure and also broaden their outlook (Garrison, 2004).

Very little systematic marine biological research has been devoted to the dynamics of ecological systems. There is a plenitude of descriptions of communities and catalogs of animals and plants collected in surveys. Although these have reference value to zoogeographers, taxonomists, and others interested in what is often called natural history, they tell very little about the history of nature. A list of species resulting from a survey, even one made with proper statistical technique, shows only what composed a community at one moment in its history. It is like a single frame of a motion picture about the continuity of a drama. A second survey made of the community ten years after reveals that the flora and fauna have changed (Pinet, 2006). What caused the change? Did an intensive fishery remove an important predator, permitting species lower in the food pyramid to accumulate? All these questions have to do with fish. They are equally pertinent to any other marine animals of interest, from the largest mammals down to the smallest invertebrates. It adds enormously to the difficulty of this line of research that patterns of behavior differ so profoundly among species that knowledge concerning one cannot ordinarily be applied to another. Even for a single species, behavior patterns usually change seasonally, and therefore must be followed through the course of a year. However, they have been used for subjects mostly animals that do well in small aquaria, like tide-pool fishes. These show such remarkably distinctive behavior patterns as to make one wonder what larger animals would do (Pinet, 2006). Their researchers run into an extremely difficult problem, for capturing large sea animals without injury and transporting them alive to a shore base poses a complex of formidable problems. Keeping them alive in a tank, even a very large one, and inducing them to feed and carry on their normal life habits without being conditioned by the artificial environment to the point of uselessness as experimental animals poses another set of problems.

Experiments with these conditioned-response techniques are probably the only way to determine the sensory thresholds of fishes. They must be planned and controlled with extreme care, however, to avoid conditioning the subjects to the wrong stimulus. This precaution has been very much neglected in the past. Between 1887 and 1920, at least thirty papers were published describing results proving or disproving that fishes discriminate colors. Most of these were meaningless because their authors had failed to control brightness in the experiments. Many of the troubles that plagued earlier scientists experimenting with these techniques have at last been overcome by improved measuring instruments (Pinet, 2006). Useful as these experiments are, however, they are no magic key to understanding all the mysteries of animal behavior. For example, critics might train a fish to respond to very low concentrations of various chemical substances in the water. From these studies, critics conclude that the olfactory apparatus is functioning well, and researchers might even establish a measurement of its sensitivity. Researchers cannot tell how the subject uses smell in analyzing its environment. This problem might best be attacked with a different type of experiment, based essentially on unconditioned rather than conditioned responses and designed to mimic natural situations as closely as possible. But this is exceedingly difficult (Garrison, 2004).

Bringing the animals from their native habitat to a laboratory subjects them to severe trauma. They are given too little space and are frightened; they become malnourished, diseased, and they die. If researchers could take the laboratory to the animals, as they could with a diving vessel, these technical problems could be solved. There would be other problems, of course, but researchers would at last surely be studying natural behavior. Biologists using this instrument would have the chance to answer any questions that have been puzzling us. For example, how do bottom-living fish behave? What are the diurnal rhythms of animals? What stimuli trigger their responses? How do animals space themselves about each other? How do predators attack their prey? How do the various species protect themselves against each other? How do they cooperate? (Reece and Campbell 2001). In short, what do animals do in their environment? People to whom the behavior of land animals is commonplace knowledge because they have seen it with their eyes, do not realize the vastness of ignorance about the behavior of marine animals. The original bathysphere still exists, others have been built in France and Japan, and one is being planned in the U.S.S.R. Unfortunately, these are costly to buy as well as to operate; they are cumbersome and they can accommodate few observers at a time. For these reasons the chief hope of making a submarine observation vessel generally available to biologists in a region would be for several neighboring laboratories to join forces to acquire one and keep it in continual operation (Thurman and Trujillo 2003).

Investigations in viruses and microbes allow oceanography to investigate diseases and other problems affecting marine life.

Biology Moreover, the disease is such a highly specialized subject that one can study it profitably only if he gives it full-time continuous attention and has certain special equipment which marine laboratories usually lack. Hence, the intellectual atmosphere is not very encouraging to the study of marine diseases. Nevertheless, during the past seventy years, a few scientists have described several pathogenic organisms incidentally to their other studies. There are records of dinoflagellates infecting tunicates, diatoms, pteropods, siphonophores, annelids, and the eggs of copepods (Reece and Campbell 2001). One species, Oodinium ocellatum, lives on the skin and gills of several kinds of marine fishes, with consequent dermatitis and suffocation. This disease has been a frequent cause of death in the aquaria in London, San Francisco, and New York. Bacterial diseases have been observed more often in aquaria than among feral populations of marine fishes. Tuberculosis caused by acid-fast bacteria is the most fully described. It is also relatively easy to diagnose, thanks to well-established specific staining techniques. This disease causes tubercles in the spleen and liver, sometimes also in the gills, kidneys, roe, pericardium, eye, and intestine (Garrison, 2004).

The modern interest is in the vital activities of organisms, in their physiological responses to changed experimental conditions, in the behavior of their chromosomes, in their reaction to pathological attack by other organisms, and in the biochemical reactions and metabolic changes that are going on in their bodies throughout their lives. There has been a tendency, probably inevitable, in recent years for plant anatomists to specialize in some particular field of inquiry. A perusal of the writings by some of the early anatomists already mentioned reveals how much more closely anatomy and physiology were interwoven than they often are today (Gross and Gross, 1995).

With the interest in evolution that followed the work of Darwin and Wallace there was a change of emphasis, and those who were interested in the form and structure of plants, lacking a geological record that showed the course of plant evolution with any degree of completeness, attempted to fill the gaps in phylogenetic schemes by studying the comparative morphology and anatomy of present-day plants. Work of this kind generally involves considerable speculation, and, in the minds of many botanists, the study of morphology and anatomy has come to be associated with phylogenetic speculation rather than with physiological function (Thurman and Trujillo 2003). Unfortunately, the phylogenetic interest led to the promulgation of conclusions that researchers have since come to realize were not justified by the factual information on which they were based. In consequence, there has been much fruitless controversy concerning matters that can be neither proved nor disproved from the evidence of morphology and anatomy alone. Thus researchers find that much ingenious argument was devoted to discussing such questions as to whether or not floral members are modified leaves; how far the stem consists of leaf bases; whether stems and leaves are organs of a fundamentally different character or whether leaves are shoot systems with mesophyll between the branches. The real weakness of most arguments on topics of these kinds is that, when researchers argue from the comparative structure of present-day plants alone, there is no real evidence of the direction in which supposed phylogenetic advances have taken place. The series might just as well have progressed from a-c as from c-a. The fact is that theoretical discussion on phylogenetic topics, whilst intellectually stimulating to some minds, make little or no appeal to those who can see that argument might be continued indefinitely and prove nothing or very little (Thurman and Trujillo 2003). Herein lies one important reason why plant anatomy has become unpopular, for, in the minds of many, the study of form and structure is so intimately associated with unprofitable speculation (Gross and Gross, 1995).

In sum, at the outset of this review attention was drawn to the comparative unpopularity of the anatomical approach to botany. A close link between oceanography, botany, and biology is explained by the development of natural sciences in general and the area of investigation: the Earth and the natural environment. It is for studies in systematic anatomy to be accompanied by investigations in cytotaxonomy or even in biochemistry, for the plant body is, after all, a more or less stabilized system of the products of metabolism and biochemical reaction. In passing to and fro along with it in the course of discussion researchers have paused here and there to look to the right and left upside alleys, to catch glimpses of distant panoramas, and to see how vista is related to some of the others of which botanical science is composed, noting how close is the connection between anatomical investigation and many other lines of botanical inquiry. Today, these sciences are not lacking techniques and instruments which hinder research into the psychology of marine animals, For behavior studies, the characteristics and equipment of the base of operations are more important than for most other kinds of laboratory marine research. The base of operations must be in a place where the surrounding water is clear enough for field observation and where there is a good supply and variety of marine forms for study. It might be in such a place as Bermuda, the Gulf of California, the Mediterranean, or Hawaii. It should be part of an environmental laboratory attached to an established research institution, providing the obvious advantages of a good library and a staff of scientists working in related fields.


  1. Garrison, T.S. (2004). Oceanography: An Invitation to Marine Science (with OceanographyNow, InfoTrac®). Brooks Cole; 5 edition.
  2. Gross, G., Gross, E. (1995). Oceanography: A View of the Earth Prentice Hall; 7 edition.
  3. Manseth, J. D. (1998). Botany: An Introduction to Plant Biology. Jones and Bartlett Publishers, Inc; Multimedia Enhanced 2 Revised Ed edition.
  4. Pinet, P. R. (2006). Invitation to Oceanography. Jones & Bartlett Pub; 4 edition
  5. Reece, J. B., Campbell, N.A. (2001). Biology. Benjamin Cummings; 6th edition.
  6. Thurman, H. V., Trujillo, A. P. (2003). Introductory Oceanography (10th Edition) (Introductory Oceanography). Prentice Hall; 10 edition.
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