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Tiny cameras attached to back of gannets Tiny cameras attached to back of gannets

Researchers attached the tiny cameras to the gannets, to learn more about their habits and how they survive flying up to 300 miles out at sea. They found that the seabirds circle at 30 meters high before diving into the water at speeds of up 60mph.

Gannets are seabirds comprising the genus Morus, in the family Sulidae, closely related to boobies. The gannets are large black and white birds with yellow heads; long, pointed wings; and long bills. Northern gannets are the largest seabirds in the North Atlantic, with a wingspan of up to 2 metres. The other two species occur in the temperate seas around southern Africa, southern Australia and New Zealand.

Gannets are large black and white birds with yellow heads and pointed beaks. Gannets are large black and white birds with yellow heads and pointed beaks.

Gannets hunt fish by diving from a height into the sea and pursuing their prey underwater. Gannets have a number of adaptations which enable them to do this:

  • they have no external nostrils, they are located inside the mouth instead;
  • they have air sacs in their face and chest under their skin which act like bubble wrapping, cushioning the impact with the water;
  • their eyes are positioned far enough forward on their face to give them binocular vision, allowing them to judge distances accurately.

 

Friday, 01 March 2019 07:03

There’s no such thing as a jellyfish

 

Jellyfish with its venemous tentacles. Jellyfish with its venomous tentacles.

By all accounts, jellyfish are creatures that kill people, eat microbes, grow to tens of meters, filter phytoplankton, take over ecosystems, and live forever. Watch the video…

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Because of the immense diversity of gelatinous plankton, jelly-like creatures can individually have each of these properties.However this way of looking at them both overstates and underestimates their true diversity. Taxonomically, they are far more varied than a handful of exemplars that are used to represent jellyfish or especially the so-called “true” jellyfish. Ecologically, they are even more adaptable than one would expect by looking only at the conspicuous bloom forming families and species that draw most of the attention.

In reality, the most abundant and diverse gelatinous groups in the ocean are not the ones that anyone ever sees.

Friday, 01 March 2019 06:55

Menopausal Moms: A Mammal Mystery

Killer whales (Orcinus orca) have something in common with humans: early menopause Killer whales (Orcinus orca) have something in common with humans: early menopause

Marine Wildlife blog salutes ocean-going mothers everywhere. Especially a 60 year-old albatross named Wisdom. She holds the seabird records for both oldest bird and oldest new mother. No stranger to motherhood, it is estimated that she has already birthed 30-35 other chicks.

A 60 year-old albatross named Wisdom. She holds the seabird records for both oldest bird and oldest new mother. A 60 year-old albatross named Wisdom. She holds the seabird records for both oldest bird and oldest new mother.

This made us wonder, why can Wisdom give birth well into her twilight years while human females call it quits 20-40 years early? And Wisdom is hardly alone - baleen whales can reproduce well into their 90s!

In fact, human females are the oddballs here and a bit of a puzzle. Evolution favors those who leave the MOST offspring. Yet the average human mother has her last child at the age of 38 -- with menopause and the loss of fertility often occurring at about 50 -- even though she will typically live well into her sixties in hunter-gatherer societies, and much longer in societies with modern medicine.

In fact, human females are the oddballs here and a bit of a puzzle. Evolution favors those who leave the MOST offspring. Yet the average human mother has her last child at the age of 38 -- with menopause and the loss of fertility often occurring at about 50 -- even though she will typically live well into her sixties in hunter-gatherer societies, and much longer in societies with modern medicine.

But we are not entirely unique. Short finned pilot whale females live until they are 54 years old but stop breeding by age 36. Killer whale females stop breeding after roughly 48 years and can then live to the ripe old age of 90. Sound familiar!? We must be on to something. But what? What makes female humans, short-finned pilot whales and killer whales throw in the towel after the 5th inning of the baby-making game?

Short finned pilot whale females live until they are 54 years old but stop breeding by age 36. Short finned pilot whale females live until they are 54 years old but stop breeding by age 36.

The “mother effect” suggests that after a female has a certain number of children, she puts them at a disadvantage by continuing to engage in the risky business of childbirth. Similarly, the “grandmother effect” suggests that older females can leave more surviving relatives by helping their children’s children than by having more of their own. But these hypotheses don’t do much to explain why humans and some whales but no other species should evolve the menopausal strategy.

Lastly, there is the “reproductive conflict hypothesis” or as we like to call it “the Father of the Bride 2 hypothesis.” This theory suggests that there are simply not enough food and resources for a mother and a daughter to simultaneously raise a baby. (As is demonstrated in the 1995 comedy classic Father of the Bride 2. When Annie Banks and her mother Nina both become pregnant at the same time, Steve Martin fears what this will mean for his financial situation and ability to get a good night’s sleep. Comedy ensues.) This theory helps to explain why a woman tends to go through menopause just as her children become ready to reproduce.

So what do people, killer whales and short-finned pilot whales have in common when it comes to reproductive conflict? We care for our young for a long time. We live in packs. And we hunt in groups. But so do lots of social mammals. The more typical pattern is for younger females to help older females rather than the reverse – we need to look deeper to find out what causes the switch.

One piece of the puzzle may lie in the fact that human females (unlike most female mammals, who tend to stay put) often leave their own families to join the families of their husbands. This means that when they first arrive, they have no relatives nearby to help and so it makes sense to focus on their own kids. But that changes as they get older and their sons start having children.

Unlike right whales, humans stop reproducing in their thirties Unlike right whales, humans stop reproducing in their thirties

Menopausal female whales find themselves in a similar situation for different reasons. In these species, both males and females stay in their groups most of the time, but they leave them to mate. This means that a female’s daughters’ offspring stay in the group, so that once again as she gets older she has more relatives to help. This may also explain why before menopause females take better care of their sons – daughters are weaned at 4-6 years but sons are cared for into their teens. This makes sense because her sons’ offspring are elsewhere and so don’t compete with her own.

Who would have thought that marine mammals might help us understand human menopause? Of course the question remains – does a life spent cooled by the ocean help menopausal whales deal with hot flashes? These are the mysteries of the ocean we may never know.

Editors Note: This post was co-written with Amanda Feuerstein, program coordinator in the office of the Sant Chair for Marine Science. Dr. Nancy Knowlton is the Sant Chair for Marine Science at Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History..”

 

Friday, 01 March 2019 06:43

How Whales Become Entangled

This illustration shows how fishing lines attached to traps and buoys on the ocean floor present a potentially deadly hazard to North Atlantic right whales. This illustration shows how fishing lines attached to traps and buoys on the ocean floor present a potentially deadly hazard to North Atlantic right whales. Freeing entangled whales involves a certain amount of knowledge and caution, and should be left to the experts.

Each year, thousands of whales and dolphins die from the gear, indicating that fisheries by-catch is a significant human-related cause of cetacean mortality. Each year, thousands of whales and dolphins die from the gear, indicating that fisheries by-catch is a significant human-related cause of cetacean mortality.

What started out as a routine day of fishing for a well-intentioned New Zealand man quickly turned to tragedy when he attempted to save an entangled humpback whale off New Zealand’s coast. As reported in a June 2003 issue of the New Zealand Herald, Tom Smith arrived on the scene after picking up reports from local fishermen of a whale in trouble. He leapt into the water and tried to cut the roped whale free. Inadvertently, the whale’s fluke came down on Smith, killing him.

For Ed Lyman, a whale rescue expert with Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary who gives workshops on the subject, the New Zealand tragedy is precisely what he wants people to avoid. “Smith’s enthusiasm to do something good ended badly,” Lyman says.

The first thing Lyman and other marine mammal rescue specialists tell people is don’t get into the water. “The desire for untrained people to act on their own can often have dangerous results,” he says. “Would-be rescuers can injure themselves and also injure a whale by using improper equipment or techniques.”

A hooked knife - sharp on the inside, but dull on the outside - is attached to the entangling gear just behind the humpback's left pectoral flipper. A hooked knife - sharp on the inside, but dull on the outside - is attached to the entangling gear just behind the humpback's left pectoral flipper.

Dr. Terri Rowles, director of NOAA Fisheries Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program, the federal agency that authorizes and oversees all marine mammal rescues in the U.S., concurs with Lyman. “For both the animals’ welfare, as well as human safety, it is important that only specially permitted and trained people working under the authority of the NOAA stranding and response program cut gear and marine debris from a whale.”

Rowles emphasized that “the public should never attempt to disentangle a marine mammal, whether from a vessel or in the water, because the activity is inherently dangerous to both the animals and the people trying to save them.”

Marine mammals getting caught in fishing gear and debris is a growing problem for state and federal agencies, along with private groups dedicated to protecting these animals. Each year, thousands of whales and dolphins die from the gear, indicating that fisheries by-catch is a significant human-related cause of cetacean mortality.

David Mattila, the research and rescue coordinator for the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale sanctuary, has spent the last 25 years cutting large whales free. He stressed the importance of leaving the rescue work to the specialists by highlighting some of the hi-tech equipment available to them.

View of an entangled humpback whale within the boundaries of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. The Sanctuaries rescue team was able to cut the whale free of all gear. View of an entangled humpback whale within the boundaries of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. The Sanctuaries rescue team was able to cut the whale free of all gear.

One of the pieces of equipment that we use to help us free these animals is transmitters,” Mattila says. “Attaching transmitters to the gear ensnaring the whale allows the rescue team the ability to track the animal until proper resources and trained personnel have been assembled, and conditions are favorable to safely cut the whale free.”

In Alaska, the sanctuary program and NOAA Fisheries’ local Protected Resources Division tagged a humpback entangled in gillnet. The transmitter allowed the team to work on the animal on two different occasions, and free it nine days later. This was the first time transmitters were used to aid in whale disentanglement efforts in Alaska.

Extensive effort has also gone into developing and testing unique and specialized cutting tools that can help remove the gear safely and without causing additional harm to the whales.

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Friday, 01 March 2019 06:36

Firefly squid in Toyama Bay

  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.

Firefly-squid-in-Toyama-Bay-1-640x420 (1)

 

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

One quarter of the world's cartilaginous fish such as sharks and rays are in danger of disappearing within the next few decades.

The survey is the first to stretch their observations into "coastal seas and oceans." They found 249 (one-quarter) out of 1,041 shark, chimaera and ray species are considered threatened under the IUCN red list, a Simon Fraser University news release reported. large_great-white-shark A quarter of ray and shark species are in grave danger. We now know that many species of sharks and rays, not just the charismatic white sharks, face extinction across the ice-free seas of the world," Nick Dulvy, a Simon Fraser University (SFU) Canada Research Chair in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation, said in the news release. "There are no real sanctuaries for sharks where they are safe from overfishing." A study involving 300 experts and taking place over 20 years took "distribution, catch, abundance, population trends, habitat use, life histories, threats and conservation measures" into account when looking at the conservation status of the species'. One-hundred-and-seven species of rays and skates and 74 shark species were defined as "threatened." Only 23 percent of all the species studied were considered to be of "Least Concern." The team found the regions where these species were most threatened were the Indo-Pacific, the Red Sea, and the Mediterranean. In the most peril are the largest species of rays and sharks, especially those living in relatively shallow water that is accessible to fisheries. The combined effects of over exploitation -especially for the lucrative shark fin soup. manta ray Manta rays are large eagle rays, , typically with large triangular pectoral fins and forward facing mouths. A whole bunch of wildly charismatic species is at risk. Rays, including the majestic manta and devil rays, are generally worse off than sharks. Unless binding commitments to protect these fish are made now, there is a real risk that our grandchildren won't see sharks and rays in the wild," he said. Losing some of the aquatic food chain's top predators could cause problems throughout the entire ecosystem. The loss of these species would also be like losing "a chapter of our evolutionary history," according to Dulvy. "They are the only living representatives of the first lineage to have jaws, brains, placentas and the modern immune system of vertebrates," he said.    

 

 

glow-fish- A green biofluorescent chain catshark There is a light show in the ocean that you can't see, but many fish can. There's quite a display of neon greens, reds, and oranges going on underneath the surface.

Still, the discovery of what is hidden from human eyes -- biofluorescence in 180 species of fish -- brings up many questions for researchers.

Do fish use it to communicate with others? Do they use it to mate? What is its function? Bio fluorescence occurs when an organism absorbs blue light, transforms it and emits it as another color.

untitled Researchers discover a rich diversity of fluorescent patterns and colours in marine fishes as exemplified here B)ray C) sole, H) false moray eeI, I) chlopsidae, J) pipefish, K) sand gazer

A team of researchers from the American Museum of Natural History and other scientific organizations published a study Wednesday in the online journal PLOS ONE, reporting the findings of the first in-depth look at bio fluorescence in fish.

"We've long known about bio fluorescence underwater in organisms like corals, jellyfish, and even in land animals like butterflies and parrots," said the study's co-author, John Sparks, who is a curator in the Museum's Department of Ichthyology.

scorpionfish A red scorpion fish perched on red fluorescent algae at night in the Solomon Islands

He said the team stumbled on an eel that glowed green while he and a partner were studying a reef in the Cayman Islands. The discovery in a photograph of the eel lighting up underneath the blue lights they used led them to make four more trips in different parts of the world to get a closer look at the glow show.

The expeditions to the Bahamas in the Caribbean and Solomon Islands in the Pacific revealed a variety of fish living around coral reefs -- including sharks, rays, eels and lizerd fishes -- that exhibited bio flourescence. s

"Many shallow reef inhabitants and fish have the capabilities to detect fluorescent light and may be using biofluorescence in similar fashions to how animals use bioluminescence, such as to find mates and to camouflage," Sparks suggested, while adding the reasons will need further study.

So how do the fish recognize it? Many of them have yellow filters in their eyes, "possibly allowing them to see the otherwise hidden fluorescent displays taking place in the water," a news release from the museum of natural history said.

blenny A triplefin blenny under white light,above, and blue light, below.

"The cryptically patterned gobies, flatfishes, eels, and scorpion fishes -- these are animals that you'd never normally see during a dive," Sparks said. "To our eyes, they blend right into their environment. But to a fish that has a yellow intraocular filter, they must stick out like a sore thumb."

Some scientists cautioned that the bioflouresence might look neat in photos using special lights but also have no function.

Nico Michiels, a zoologist at the University of Tübingen in Germany, and Steven Haddock of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California, indicated to Science Now that the need for special technology to view what the website called weak fluorescence "casts doubt on the usefulness of the coloration in the fish's dimly lit natural environments."

Sparks said it will be interesting to see what the team finds next."This paper is the first to look at the wide distribution of biofluorescence across fishes, and it opens up a number of new research areas," he said.He added that there may be fluorescent proteins involved, ones that could be used in biomedical research.

 

 

“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.

sea-of-galilee-stone-structure-

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."

A DIESEL fuel spillage occurred in the vicinity of Byron Heights on Tuesday (February 4, 2014 ).

Penguins pan

The fuel supply to the Ministry of Defense (MoD) facility at Byron Heights is replenished via a sea-level pumping station that feeds a pipeline to the fuel storage tanks at the mountain top.During refueling on Tuesday, a rupture in the pipeline was identified, resulting in a loss of several thousand litres of diesel fuel into the surrounding peat. Initial assessments of the incident were delayed by poor weather conditions on the mountain. MoD and Falkland Islands Government environmental officers traveled to the area, and met with local landowners to discuss the situation and proposed remediation measures. MoD personnel conducted a full walk-over of the pipeline and were able to identify the location of the rupture and extent of the spillage. The affected section of pipework was replaced, and a further section was also replaced as a precautionary measure. A series of trenches have been dug to minimise the distance that the diesel can travel, and equipment has been put in place to collect and remove as much of the spilt fuel as possible, including multiple booms on the watercourse. ROCKHOPPER_FRONT_PAGE_1Head of FIG Environmental Planning, Steve Butler visited Dunbar Farm with the MoD on Wednesday to liaise with the land owners and ensure that they were made aware of the approach to the clean-up operation. They discussed concerns and suggestions for how events could be avoided and addressed in the future. Steve says "The military have undertaken to continue this dialogue, looking into why and how the incident occurred so that lessons can be learnt. We will continue to support both the military and the land owners in this on-going process." The MoD continues to update FIG on the progress of the remediation, and every effort is being made to ensure this incident will not be repeated. Falklands Conservation has also been made aware of the incident, and it is understood that the military will seek to engage with them on the long term remediation of the area.  

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