There’s some seriously cool geology down at the world’s deepest known hydrothermal vents.
Evolution is the most creative force on the planet. Everywhere we look, we find species with novel and phenomenal adaptations that put their comic book brethren to shame. In no ecosystem is this more apparent than in the vast and unfathomable ocean. Marine species, especially those in the deep sea, have evolved to survive in a environment that is completely alien to us. Several months ago, I unveiled “Five organisms with real super powers that rival their comic book counterparts“, but that was just the beginning. Without further adieu, I give you 5 more marine organisms that put their superhero counterparts to shame (and one bonus critter).
The blind shrimp with super senses
In the deep sea, eyes are not among the most useful sense organs. While many deep-sea species have extremely reduced eyes, some have abandoned these organs entirely. Rimicaris exoculata is a shrimp endemic to deep-sea hydrothermal vents in the mid-Atlantic that is completely eyeless. Its carapace is smooth, without even a hint of reduced, vestigial eyes. This, unfortunately, is a problem because Rimicaris exoculata is a farmer. The blind shrimp grows bacteria in its gill chamber, bacteria that can convert the chemical-rich hydrothermal vent fluid into food for the shrimp.
For lack of a more descriptive adjective, hydrothermal vents are hot. Some can exceed 400°C. Rimicaris exoculata needs to get close to this hot vent fluid to feed its crop of bacteria, but not so close as to become a hydrothermal hors d’oeuvre. And so, the blind shrimp evolved a completely new light-sensitive organ mounted on the top of its carapace–the rhodopsin-rich dorsal eyespot.
The dorsal eyespot of Rimicaris exoculata doesn’t “see” in the normal sense, there is still almost no light in the deep sea. Rather, this shrimp is adapted to detect the black body radiation emitted by the hydrothermal vent. For Rimicaris exoculata, the deep sea glows with the light of super-heated hydrothermal fluid, allowing it to both find food for its bacterial crop and avoid getting cooked itself.
It should be no surprise that Rimicaris exoculata is undoubtedly the favorite deep sea organism of another blind champion with super senses–Daredevil.
I’d like to introduce you to a new series I’ve been working on called “Conservation Conversations”. Each discussion, which will take place first on twitter, will focus on a particular marine conservation issue. I will then Storify and share selected responses here on the blog, allowing the conversation to continue.
The first conservation conversation focused on sustainable seafood. A new paper showed that many fisheries scientists and conservationists believe that the Marine Stewardship Council’s “sustainable seafood” certification process is too lenient, a topic I’ve written about before. I wanted to know how my twitter followers decide what seafood is sustainable. I also asked whether they choose to avoid seafood entirely or focus on sustainable seafood.
We actually watched an Oceanic White-tip take several lunges at the ROV Isis on her way down. Sadly, she was only visible on the umbilical camera (a low-res upward facing camera we use to watch the status of the ROV’s tether), which we don’t record.
Graduate school comes with several financial challenges that require planning and careful attention to details. Chief among these challenges are the two big wallet busters: university reimbursements and international travel. Often these two combine to form a deadly, money sucking hydra. You will inevitably need to pay for something – airline tickets, hotels, fuel, equipment, contractors – out of your personal funds, and then file for reimbursement with your university. Depending on how efficient your finance office is, it could take anywhere from four days to several months for your reimbursement to be issued. If you paid with a credit card, during this time you’re paying interest on those charges.
International travel adds another layer to the mix. Most credit card companies will charge a foreign transaction fee (often 3%), there’s a high degree of variability regarding which networks are accepted where, and many nations have adopted EMV chips (a feature few US cards have) for added security. Whether it’s for a field season or a major scientific conference, you will probably have to make at least one big international trip. If you haven’t planned ahead, you may find yourself stuck with little or no functional currency, and end up leaning heavily on cash advances, travelers checks, or other high fee alternatives.
You should use a credit card to pay for reimbursable expenses, especially travel, if for no other reason than you need money in your bank account for things like food and shelter. If you’ve read my previous post–Credit, why it matters, how to build it, and how to use it–then this should seem familiar. I’m talking about your tank, with some particular caveats for international travel. If you’ve planned ahead and paid attention to the details, you can carry an extra balance for several months without incurring any additional fees.
Graduate school can be a financially volatile time. Grad students, often living on a low, fixed income, may find that they are required to shoulder unexpected expenses–new computers, travel for research, professional attire, not to mention the cost of relocating to a new area. Many graduate students arrive straight out of university, having never needed to manage a household’s finances. In this situation, credit seems like an appealing solution. If used conservatively, a few reasonable lines of credit can help the struggling graduate student get the most out of their financial situation. If used carelessly, credit can saddle you with massive debt that will follow you for years after graduate school. As we’ve argued in our previous posts about surviving grad school, beyond student loans, earning an advanced degree shouldn’t put you into debt.
But there is another reason to maintain a few active lines of credit. Your credit score is how banks decide whether or not to give you a loan. If you want to buy a house or a car, most people will need to finance that purchase, and for that you need a decent credit score. Having a good credit score will result in lower interest rates and save you money. Many landlords, especially in big cities, require credit checks just to rent an apartment. Credit can also help you out in an emergency. If the transmission drops out of your truck or you have to make a last minute cross-country trip to visit a sick relative, credit will allow you to pay off that expense over a few months, rather than taking a major hit to your savings all at once.
Relying too heavily on credit, and failing to pay of the bills in a timely manner, will crush you with increasingly growing debt. Learning to manage credit is an important life skill, especially in countries like the United States, where credit is king.