Every year, usually in the summer months, large chunks of seaweed unleash from the floor of the Sargasso Sea (an area of the Atlantic that makes up part of the Bermuda Triangle) and heads to the Caribbean. Ocean currents carry Sargassum weed as far as the northern Gulf of Mexico, where it accumulates in shallow waters near coral reefs all along the way.
Not all Sargassum originates from the Sargasso Sea, duly named after early Portuguese sailors encountered large amounts of the weed while sailing across the Atlantic. Species of Sargassum Weed can be found in every ocean in the world except the Antarctic, although it is most prevalent in temperate and tropical waters.
Also called “gulfweed”, Sargassum survives thanks to antibacterial chemicals called phenolics and stays afloat thanks to clever air bladders.
While the free-floating (planktonic) species may be the most notable, floating freely after detaching from the sea floor, two species (natan and fluitan) have adapted by becoming holopelagic, which means they now reproduce vegetatively, without needing a surface on which to attach.
Even a species of fish has adapted over time to effectively use the Sargassum for camouflage. Sargassum fish, baby turtles, sea horses, and hundreds of other species of marine life call this floating Sargassum home.
Sargassum fronds provide shelter, food and a place where schools may form, protecting young fish from predators for thousands of miles. Some marine life even seeks out Sargassum when in need of protection. Large game looking to feed on all the young fish can be found hovering around large areas of Sargassum.
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