There Are Whales Alive Today That Are Older Than Moby Dick!
Eskimo hunters, whaling off the coast of Alaska, discovered 19th century stone and metal harpoon tips embedded in the blubber of bowhead whales. That means these relatives of humpbacks and other baleen whales were dodging harpoons as far back as the 1870’s!
Of course, Herman Melville published Moby Dick in 1851, so dating harpoons just means they were born sometime before 1879. Biologist Craig George decided to use a technique that measures certain protein chemistry in the whales eyes (basically as whales age, their eyes accumulate certain amino acids) to date them more accurately.
The result? There are likely bowhead whales out there that are more than 200 years old! That makes them older than any known tortoise, and perhaps the oldest animal on Earth! Check out more at Smithsonian.
They still don’t have anything on trees when it comes to age, though.
A recent study(freePDF) from Stanford University published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) considers how some reef building corals resist the stress of warmer waters that has caused coral bleaching around the world.
Using comparative genomics, researchers found that the heat tolerant corals have prepared for heat by switching on a set of 60 particular genes. Other coral species have also been found to switch on these genes but only after stress has already occurred. Resilient Samoan corals, however, have these genes switched on all of the time.
The results of the study show that some corals have the ability to withstand future increases in ocean temperature and highlight efforts to protect these resilient places.
Just like trees, corals accumulate rings as they grow. This is a cross-section of a deep sea coral, glowing purple under ultraviolet light.
Just like trees, coral growth changes based on temperature, light and nutrient availability — and these fluctuations are reflected in their growth rings. Scientists can use these cross-sections to study past ocean climate!
Two-Thirds Marine Species Remain Unknown: Between 700,000 and one million species live in the world’s oceans, according to a thorough new analysis, which also estimated that between one-third and two-thirds of those species have yet to be named and described. Read more…
The Pink Sea-Through Fantasia (Enypniastes eximia) is a deep-sea sea cucumber (an echinoderm - related to sea stars and sea urchins). One of two species in the genus, both have evolved webbed swimming structures that allow them to move off the sea floor - an unusual adaptation for sea cucumbers.
“it’s so big.” - she
The eyes of giant and colossal deep-sea squid are 27 cm (10.6 inches) in diameter. Modeling suggests that the huge eyes are uniquely suited for spotting sperm whales,” said the research team.
Squid can regenerate body parts, and many marine animals can regenerate their eyes, so I can only hope that the one who lost this eye is still in the water of the living and will soon have a new eye.
Google offers virtual dives among world’s coral reefs
The first underwater panoramic images were added to Google Maps in hopes that up-close views of underwater wonders will inspire people to protect them.
A puffer fish made this for his nice lady friend. A diver in Japan filmed this never before seen hatchery/nest. It measures about 6.5 feet across and consists of a circle with geometric spokes in the shape of ridges, sort of like the spokes on a wheel.
Underwater cameras showed that the artist was a small puffer fish who, using only his flapping fin, tirelessly worked day and night to carve the circular ridges. The unlikely artist – best known in Japan as a delicacy, albeit a potentially poisonous one – even takes small shells, cracks them, and lines the inner grooves of his sculpture as if decorating his piece. Further observation revealed that this “mysterious circle” was not just there to make the ocean floor look pretty. Attracted by the grooves and ridges, female puffer fish would find their way along the dark seabed to the male puffer fish where they would mate and lay eggs in the center of the circle. In fact, the scientists observed that the more ridges the circle contained, the more likely it was that the female would mate with the male. The little sea shells weren’t just in vain either. The observers believe that they serve as vital nutrients to the eggs as they hatch, and to the newborns.
More pictures and full story at Spoon & Tamago.
What an effort! Well done my lad.
If you haven’t heard of this atrocity allow me to summarise:
- Two surfers suffered from shark attacks this month. One lost his life, the other suffered the loss of a hand and a foot (other reports say ‘nearly’ lost). Last year, two surfers were also attacked by sharks.
- The species of shark involved has not been named.
- Over 300 locals and surfers rallied outside the central police station demanding a shark cull OR in other reports, protesting against denial of a cull (see below).
- Town officials say the numbers of Tiger and Bull sharks have multiplied in recent times because although it is legal to fish them, fishermen report that the sharks contain a toxin that causes severe food poisoning. The lack of fishing pressure is named as the cause of the population increase.
- The French Overseas Minister initially refused permission for a regulated cull, but this has apparently been retracted and permission is now granted for “scientific purposes”.
- Ten Tiger sharks and ten bull sharks are to be culled.
If anyone has any corrections or further information, please do share.
The cull was originally proposed to make “the oceans safer for people”. La Réunion reportedly has a healthy shark population, but other reasons have been listed as possible reasons for an increase in attacks.
There is poor waste management and surf spots are polluted with food waste and excrement. Bull sharks are known to be attracted to ‘dirty’ waters. Additionally, the time of day people are choosing to surf may also be a factor.
Read some of these:
Blindly culling sharks that “might” be the “culprit” is hardly the answer. It will not make the oceans safer, it sets a terrible precedent and it solves nothing. A complete waste of shark, and a dangerous game to play with ecosystem balance.
There is a petition you can sign, though it hardly seems enough, it’s at least something you can do: prove that this is unacceptable to the international community.
Scientists grade oceans’ health (and there’s room for improvement)
The new index looks at such criteria as biodiversity, clean water, coastal protections and carbon storage.
Based on 10 Criteria, some of our oceans (i.e. those within a country’s Exclusive Economic Zone - because there is still not sufficient data for the high seas) are graded:
- Food provision: This goal refers to the amount of seafood a country catches or grows, all sustainably, from its waters.
- Artisanal fishing: The opportunity for the small-scale fishing efforts that are particularly crucial in developing nations.
- Natural products: The sustainable harvest of living, non-food natural products, such as corals, shells, seaweeds and fish for the aquarium trade. It does not include bioprospecting, oil and gas or mining products.
- Carbon storage: The protection of three habitats, mangroves, seagrasses and salt marshes, which store carbon, keeping it out of the atmosphere and therefore mitigating global warming.
- Coastal protection: The presence of natural habitats and barriers, including mangroves, coral reefs, seagrasses, salt marshes and sea ice, which physically protect coastal structures, like homes, and uninhabited places, like parks.
- Coastal livelihoods and economies: Jobs and revenue produced from marine-related industry, alongside the indirect benefits of a stable coastal economy.
- Tourism and Recreation: The value people place on experiencing and enjoying coastal areas, not the economic benefit which is included in coastal economies.
- Clean waters: Whether or not waters are free from oil spills, chemicals, algal blooms, disease-causing pathogens, including those introduced by sewage, floating trash, mass kills of organisms and oxygen-depleted conditions.
- Biodiversity: The extinction risk faced by species as well as the health of their habitats.
- Sense of Place: Aspects that people value as part of their identity, including iconic species and places with special cultural value.
Overall, the seas get 60 out of 100. Not the best score?
Well it’s not because the sea isn’t doing it’s homework, but more that we’re bad babysitters.