The ocean is, put lightly, a big place.
The ocean takes up more than 70 percent of Earth’s surface and contains some of the most remote and hard-to-get-to places on the planet.
In fact, scientists know more about the surface of the Moon than the bottom of the ocean.
For years, scientists have tried to improve the tools with which they study the ocean, from its wide-ranging temperatures, to the patterns of deep and shallow currents, to salinity levels.
But sometimes traditional tools like buoys or remotely powered underwater vehicles just don’t cut it, especially in extreme environments like the poles.
Instead, scientists figured out a way to let nature do the work — specifically, sea creatures which carry scientific instruments through the ocean’s depths.
Narwhals sporting monitors to measure ocean temperature, salinity, and depth help scientists map hard-to-reach areas, like the cold and harsh regions around Greenland.
Auscape / Contributor
Elephant seals equipped with temperature and salinity monitors have helped scientists map the Southern Ocean, as well as study how it transports heat.
Electric rays may one day help scientists map the bottom of the ocean.
Another ocean-bottom dweller is the stingray, which could also be outfitted with depth sensors to help scientists map the sea floor.
With the data gathered from these honorary scientists, we can start filling in the massive gaps in knowledge about our vast oceans.
Read more animal stories here.