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Friday, 01 March 2019 06:36

Firefly squid in Toyama Bay

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  Thousands of fire fly squid at waters'edge

Thousands of fire fly squid at waters'edgeThe firefly squid because of tiny photophores in their bodies, they are causing this beautiful bioluminescent phenomenon in Toyama Bay, Japan.

Tiny photophores can be found by thousands in the squid’s body, creating the ability to emit light.

The firefly squid normally are living at 1200 feet underwater, but waves in the Toyama bay pushes them to the surface, from March to June.

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Vampirotoothus

Vampire squid

vampyroteuthis1 Bioluminescent Vampire Suid

Vampiroteuthus Infernus has been around and unchanged since the dinosaurs walked the earth 300 million years ago. Its name technically means “Vampire Squid”, but the vampirotoothus is actually more closely related to the Octopus family.

It differs from both octopus and squid in that it also has spines that run along the inside of the cloak and up to the mouth. It uses bioluminescence as a defense mechanism to confuse potential predators. Instead of squirting ink when threatened, it can discharge sticky mucus of glowing blue orbs.

Fire Flies

firefly2   Fireflies are the best known example of bioluminescence (living things that glow), and there about 2,000 different species of flying beetle that claim the name. They are found around the world in temperate and tropical climates, and as a result of the varying geographical populations and characteristics, bioluminescence may be distinctive even between species. firefly1 Mushrooms Mushroom1 Glow in the dark mushrooms

There are over 60 different type of luminescent fungus, most of which are only dimly lit, but some of which are bright enough to read by. A number of theories regarding why these species actually glow are currently being investigated. Some think that it may be a warning of toxicity, while other think it might be either a ploy to attract animals that might spreads its reproductive spores, or a security light to illuminate those that might eat them, making the perpetrators visible to their own predators. Mushroom3

Thursday, 28 February 2019 13:46

Mysterious structure found at bottom of ancient lake

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“We don't know how it was constructed, its exact age is or how it was used, but we do know that it is there and it is huge.”

Dani Nadel, archeologist, University of Haifa

CNN) -- A mysterious, circular structure, with a diameter greater than the length of a Boeing 747 jet, has been discovered submerged about 30 feet (9 meters) underneath the Sea of Galilee in Israel.

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sea-of-galilee-stone-structure-
    The circular stone structure rises to a height of 10meters with a diameter of nearly 70 meters.

Scientists first made the discovery by accident in 2003 using sonar to survey the bottom of the lake but published their findings only recently.

"We just bumped into it," recalls Shmuel Marco, a geophysicist from Tel Aviv University who worked on the project. "Usually the bottom of the lake is quite smooth. We were surprised to find a large mound. Initially we didn't realize the importance of this but we consulted with a couple of archaeologists, and they said it looked like an unusually large Bronze Age statue."

The structure is comprised of basalt rocks, arranged in the shape of a cone. It measures 230 feet (70 meters) at the base of the structure, is 32 feet (10 meters) tall, and weighs an estimated 60,000 tons. It is twice the size of the ancient stone circle at Stonehenge in England.

“We just bumped into it. Usually the bottom of the lake is quite smooth, so we were surprised to find a large mound.”

Shmuel Marco, geophysicist, Tel Aviv University

Its size and location, say Marco, who also took video of the structure during a scuba dive to examine it, indicated it could have been constructed underwater as a type of fish nursery. However archeologists think it more likely it was built on dry land and later submerged by the lake.

"From a geophysical perspective, it is also important to the history of the lake, because it means the water level was lower than it was today," says Marco.

According to Yitzhak Paz, the archeologist who led the study, the fact that the structure is underwater has made it a particularly difficult study.

"If the site was inland, it would be much easier to investigate. By now we would have excavated, but because it's submerged we haven't yet been able to. It is a much harder process, both physically and financially. It is very expensive to raise support for such an enterprise."

cross section of structure

cross section of structure
    Cross -section of the structure

The exact age of the structure has been difficult to pinpoint, but calculations based on the six to ten feet (two to three meters) of sand that have accumulated over the bottom of the base -- sand accumulates an average of one to four millimeters per year -- as well as comparisons to other structures in the region, put the estimate anywhere between 2,000 and 12,000 years old.

 STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • Ancient structure twice the size of Stonehenge found submerged
  • Thought to be between 2,000 and 12,000 years old
  • Archeologists believe it was built on land then later submerged
  • Guesses as to site's purpose; could be ceremonial structure or huge ramp

The possible purpose of the structure is even more enigmatic.

Dani Nadel, an archeologist from the University of Haifa, who partnered on the site, and who has led several prehistoric excavations in the region, notes it shares similarities with communal burial sites, though he's quick to discourage anyone from drawing a definitive conclusion.

"This is such a huge structure that it truly is something unusual. It could have been a big ceremonial structure, or a ramp. There could have once been statues on top of people in certain rituals. I mean, I'm really going wild here. The truth is we don't know how it was constructed, what its exact age is, how it was used, or how long ago it was used. We have several speculations, but we don't know much except that it's there and it's huge."

Despite the limitations of examining underwater ruins, Nadel says that once they do raise the funds to excavate, there is a good likelihood that their findings will be more complete than would be possible with a land-based structure.

"Above land, many organic remains are decomposed by worms, and other creatures needing oxygen. Underwater, you don't have oxygen, so the process of decomposition is on a much smaller scale," he says.

Nadel points to Ohalo II, a site he excavated near the Sea of Galilee that had been submerged for 23,000 years before a drop in water level made it easy to excavate. Ohalo II is significant because it was one of the best preserved prehistoric sites in the world.

"In most sites, you're lucky to find five or ten seeds. At Ohalo, we found 150,000. We learned a lot about the diet (of the inhabitants), what fish they were eating, what animals they were hunting. When a site is underwater it gives us the opportunity to see history in much more detail."

What archeologists are certain of is that the monument was likely of great importance to the people who built it. Marco notes that the nearest basalt outcrop was a few hundred meters from the site, and that the stones, which were three to six feet (one to two meters) in width, would have weighed over 200 pounds (90 kilograms) at times.

"We see a society that was capable of organizing the construction of such a large structure. It's unique to transport these stones and unique to arrange them. You need to plan and to mobilize people, because they're too heavy to be carried by a single person."

Nadel points out that given the harsh environment such a structure was a particularly impressive accomplishment.

"You have to imagine," says Nadel, "these people were building something that was more durable than their brush huts."

Thursday, 28 February 2019 13:33

California diver finds 18-foot-long sea creature

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The diver – Jasmine Santana of the Catalina Island Marine Institute – reportedly thought, “I have to drag this thing out of here or nobody will believe me.”

oarfish-Santa-Catalina-Islands-CA-10-13-2013-300x187

While snorkeling off the coast of southern California Jasmine Santana made what some are now calling “the discovery of a lifetime.” It was the silvery body of a dead, serpent-like oarfish measuring 18 feet (5.4 meters) in length. Santana, who is an instructor at the Catalina Island Marine Institute, dragged the carcass as far as she could toward shore, and needed more than 15 helpers to pull the oarfish to shore. Experts say these oarfish may have been responsible for ancient legends of sea serpents. 

Thursday, 28 February 2019 13:12

Ghost Fishing Nets: Invisible Killers in the Oceans

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Abandoned fishing nets and pots, trap, maim, and kill hundreds of marine animals daily

Unseen below the surface, fishing gear reaps the oceans bounty the world over. Viewed from below, nets appear as veil walls lightly dancing the currents with a serene and silent intent. Ever since nets began to be cast out at sea eons ago, more and more fishing gear has been entering our oceans daily. And much of this gear remains in the water — lost, torn away, or simply abandoned.

ghost fishing net 1

Photo by Tim Sheerman-Chase/Wikimedia CommonsSome abandoned nets and lines wrap themselves on reefs, shipwrecks, or rocks, ensnaring marine animals, maiming, drowning or simply starving hundreds of thousands of them. Abandoned fishing gear devours sea-life with insatiable hunger. To a number of conservationists, these derelict nets are darkly referred to as “ghost gear.” In more technical terms, it can be called Abandoned, Lost, or Discarded Fishing Gear (ALDFG). ALDFG functions in a number of ways. Floating nets wander around, collecting a plethora of organisms, and eventually sink under the weight. As this biomass breaks apart in the ocean’s benthic regions, the nets shake their load and lumber upwards again, ready to wreak more havoc. Some nets and lines wrap themselves on reefs, shipwrecks, or rocks, ensnaring marine animals, maiming, drowning or simply starving hundreds of thousands of them. Pots intended for crab, lobster, and shrimp see an eclectic range of visitors. Entire crab or lobster lineages, scavenging bottom dwellers that venture inside for a hapless predecessor’s remains, perish in these traps. Abandoned gear makes no distinctions, capturing marine mammals, fish, turtles, whales, birds, sharks, rays, and invertebrates. To combat the problem, an organization called Ghost Fishing arose from a hardy band of clean up divers in the North Sea. The group started out clearing shipwrecks near their native Netherlands. Now, it’s grown into a global network of cleanup groups.. Cas Renooij, director of Ghost Fishing, explains how the organization began. “About five years back some people in the Netherlands started to clean up nets from wrecks. It turned into an environmental attempt to not just make the wrecks more attractive, but also to prevent fish from dying in those nets. Later in the process it [saving marine life] became a number one priority.” Abandoned fishing gear has become a global problem. One report, jointly issued by the Food and Agriculture Organization and the UN Environment Program (UNEP), estimates that 640,000 tons of such abandoned nets are spread across the world’s oceans, comprising up to a staggering 10 percent of oceanic litter. In the Puget Sound alone, derelict fishing gear kills over a half million sea-creatures each year, according to a Northwest Straits Marine Conservation Initiative estimate. Fifty or sixty years ago, nets were commonly made from biodegradable hemp or cotton. With the advent of synthetic, degrade-resistant materials such as nylon, nets now can remain active in the water for hundreds of years. Some plastics can remain in the marine environment for up to 600 years. When gear does finally break apart, further damage is done when marine animals eat plastic particles and polyurethane chemicals leach into the water. After seeing the destruction wrecked by derelict gear, Ghost Fishing began reaching out for help worldwide. “We looked around to see if there were more initiatives like this in the world, and we actually found some. We also found out there was no connection between them. That’s why we came up with the Ghost Fishing network. We reach out to those groups to give them a platform to get stories told, and raise awareness for the problem. We did some research and found that it wasn’t just a local problem, but a global problem,” says Renooij. “Depending on the area where we clean fishing gear, it’s a different situation everywhere,” says Renooij. The project’s has to date removed 4,500 nets, 3,081 crab pots, and 47 shrimp pots. However, preventing gear being lost in the first place has proven far less expensive than retrieval from the depths. Washington State, for instance has to spend approximately $190 to retrieve a single crab pot.

Sea_turtle_entangled_in_a_ghost_net

Photo by Courtesy of Doug Helton/NOAA A sea turtle entangled in a ghost net. Since 2010, the Olive Ridley Project freed and rehabilitated 51 endangered turtles trapped or injured in nets inthe Maldives, illustrating how such gear puts added strain on an already endangered species. Though fishermen are the source of ALDFG, they have perhaps the strongest investment in fisheries’ sustainability. Due to extremely variability in gear, regional conditions, and catch rates, and due also to insufficient data, it is exceedingly difficult to ascertain total catch killed by ghost gear. What data does exist, however, is liable to make fishermen listen. According to the California SeaDoc cleanup initiative, one abandoned net can kill $20,000 Dungeness crabs in one year. Removing the net costs $1,358. According to one study cited in a UNEP report, lost tangle nets catch around 5 percent of total commercial catch globally. Unfortunately, there is little immediate incentive to use gear that is biodegradable. Polyurethane based nets became popular in fisheries largely because they were resistant to breaking down. Implementing new technologies that would reduce ghost gear’s longevity is vital to solving the problem. The difficulty lies in convincing fishermen to take on added expenditures and trips to the net shop. “We are trying to walk to diplomatic route and convince [fishermen] to use biodegradable technologies,” Renooij says. There’s been some initial success with Dutch fishermen. “One success was switching lead weights to steel weights, it’s a definite change, not a hundred percent, but the awareness we need is starting to come up. And they are using lines that over time biodegrade, but the problem is it still takes a long time,” he says. As with so many “tragedy of the commons” scenarios, the responsibility to act lies with everyone, and the incentive with no one. The 1973 International Convention for Prevention of Pollution from Ships is a start in curtailing marine pollution, but it does not adequately address the problem of ghost fishing gear. Another area that needs attention is shoreline collection facilities. Whether due to barriers to access, unwanted costs, or downright absence of facilities, not enough used gear is making its way to shore. While it is difficult to build consensus and take action to clean international waters, fostering a sense of national stewardship could motivate people to repair coastal areas in their own countries and localities.

Whale-filled-up-wtih-534kgs-of-Plastics-300x145

In the Gansbaai/Kleinbaai South Africa area there has been one encouraging development — DICT Beach Cleanup program that mobilize school kids to collect beach litter. This partnership between DICT and Volkswagen prove to be successful in creating awareness of this problem recently in a unique conservation effort. They built a life size wire whale and filled it with 534kg plastic during whale week. 

Thursday, 28 February 2019 13:06

Scientists Solve Mystery of Birds' Flying V

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Migrating birds flap in and out of rhythm depending on where they are in formation flight_formation_ group

Secret weapon of birds and underdog hockey players alike, the flying V formation is believed to be ideal for energy and aerodynamics. A study published today in Nature not only confirms this idea, but it also fills in the blanks of how and why birds use it. Most of what we know about the physics of flying comes from studying airplanes—birds push air down to stay aloft and glide through the air similarly. Wings also leave a vortex of air in their wake: air flowing off the top of the wingtips (upwash) creates lift, and air coming off the bottom (downwash) pushes down. “The simple rule is upwash is good air, and downwash is bad air,” says Steve Portugal, a comparative ecophysiologist at the Royal Veterinary College in Hatfield, UK, and a co-author of the new study.

flight_formation_

Whether you’re a bird or a plane, you theoretically want to ride the small upwash part of the vortex. And the flying V configuration, the authors find, helps birds to do that. Previously, scientists suspected that birds formed a V in flight because the shape allowed some of them to burn less energy. A 2001 study found that pelicans at the front of the V had faster heart rates—and probably used more energy—than those further back. But how do birds behave within that configuration? Studies of flying birds in the wild are few and far between, and theoretical models of birds in flight only get you so far. So, Portugal and his colleagues teamed up with Waldrappteam, a conservation group that is reintroducing the critically endangered northern bald ibis (Geronticus eremita) to southern Europe. If northern bald ibis hatchlings are born in captivity, they think of humans as their parents and grow to rely on humans for everything. Reintroducing them to the wild is tricky—to survive, they needed to learn their natural migration route. Waldrappteam teaches these routes. Portugal and colleagues remotely observed birds that were born in a zoo in Vienna, Austria, on one such navigation lesson. First, the scientists developed data loggers, slightly smaller and lighter than an iPod, and strapped one to each bird. Then, over several weeks, the birds followed their human “parents” in a microlight parachute aircraft to spend their winter in Italy.

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How do birds sense when to flap to the beat? Bret Tobalske, a biologist who studies the biomechanics of flight at the University of Montana Flight Laboratory in Missoula, points out that the mechanism may come down to a combination of vision, whisker-like receptors on avian wingtips called filoplumes, and reflexive reaction pathways in the brain. Scientists just don't know. The study is at the forefront of a scientific trend looking at animal movement in the natural environment. “It demonstrates a dramatic step forward in measuring the dynamics of animal locomotion in the wild,” says Tobalske. The ibis project is part of a series of animal movement studies—other projects include examining packs of wild African dogs, flocks of pigeons, and herds of sheep.   

Thursday, 28 February 2019 12:55

6 Of The Most Frighteningly Bizarre Ocean Creatures

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THE HATCHFISH

hatchetfish

Given the extreme depths to which scientists must go to find these frightful–and tiny–fish, little is known about the hatchetfish. Making top models around the world jealous, the morose-looking creatures derive their name from how razor-thin they are. Anatomically speaking, the hatchetfish’s thorax is supposed to resemble the blade of the hatchet, and its cold, silver glint the metal. Their name is somewhat deceiving, though; measuring in at a mere one to five inches in length, the hatchetfish is hardly deadly. It’s just, well, pretty terrifying.

THE BLOBFISH

blobfish

More gelatinous than your grandma’s pudding, the blobfish’s strikingly jiggly appearance has captivated the attention of millions for the past several years. So striking is the mass with fins that just this year it was deemed the world’s ugliest animal. Life isn’t all that bad for this Oceania-dwelling creature, though. As the blobfish’s den is primarily near the bottom of the ocean, the water pressure is understandably high, causing the blobfish’s skin to have the approximate density of water. You might think that lack of muscle tissue would prove disadvantageous, but you’d be wrong. All that means is that when it comes time to eat, the blobfish simply opens its mouth while floating merrily above the ocean’s floor. Its lack of density means that it doesn’t have to expend any energy in order to eat. Lazy chefs around the world, direct your ire to the blobfish.

THE FANGTOOTH

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Consider the fangtooth fish to be the underwater equivalent of a menacing pitbull with a heart of gold. Despite their threatening appearance, the fangtooth is incredibly benign–especially as its poor eyesight means that if it wants to hunt, the fangtooth quite literally has to bump into its prey in order to find it. Its chompers certainly paint a different portrait, though: protruding from its mouth, in proportion to the fish the fangtooth has the largest teeth of any fish in the ocean. Good luck catching a glimpse of the sharp-mouthed animal: it resides as far as 16,400 feet beneath the sea.

THE SEA CUCUMBER

sea cucumber giant 300x260

These icky echinoderms certainly boggle the mind. Lacking a true brain and any semblance of sensory organs, the sea cucumber boasts about the same mental capacity as the food for which it is named. Nevertheless, the cuke serves as vital part of the oceanic ecosystem, as it recycles nutrients and breaks down detritus that comes its way. Unlike the actual cucumber, the sea cuke’s collagen levels allow it to make some pretty kooky maneuvers: if the sea cucumber needs to wedge itself into a tiny crevice, the collagen will loosen and the sea cucumber will effectively liquify itself to seep into its desired locale.

THE GOBLIN SHARK

goblin-shark

Deemed by some scientists as a “living fossil” and overshadowed by its flashy counterparts, the goblin shark leads a relatively mysterious existence deep below the ocean blue. The only extant survivor of a 125 million-year old family of sharks, the goblin is truly unique…and ugly. Apart from its most salient features (re: its long, flattened snout and protruding jaws), the goblin is relatively unremarkable. Given its flabbiness, most scientists speculate that the goblin shark is sluggish and relatively inactive. It’s highly unlikely you’ll ever see a goblin shark in your lifetime; when one was brought to an aquarium in Japan, it died soon after.

THE ANGLER FISH

angler-fish-bright

The angler fish is perhaps one of the most fascinating and bizarre sea creatures known to man. Not only known for their wily predation techniques (re: having a spine that grows its own fleshy mass that the angler can wiggle about so that it resembles prey, and then devouring its soon-to-be predators in one fell swoop) but also for its mating habits. When scientists first discovered the angler, they noticed that almost all of them were female…and that these specimens had what appeared to be some sort of parasitic growth attached to their lower parts. Turns out that those “parasites” were actually just greatly reduced male angler fish, whose puny size renders their sole objective in life to finding and mating with a female. Once they do find a female partner, the male anglers quickly bite into the female’s skin and thus fuses them together. From this point on, the male’s life literally depends on its female host, as they share a circulatory system. When the female is ready to mate, he pays his dues by providing her with sperm on the spot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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