What is a Sand Shark?

I’d like to take a moment rant about a particular pet peeve of mine, which involves the seemingly-dull subject of species common names.  As you may have learned in biology class, all identified and described species are assigned a Latin scientific name, which is intended to be a universal identifier of that species regardless of where it’s coming up in conversation.  However, scientific names are not typically very familiar to non-scientists, so common names remain the most, well, common way to refer to a species.

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Fun Science FRIEDay – Visualize the Seafloor

Happy FSF! As some of you may know (and for those who don’t), I study the bottom of the ocean, and I do so primarily using innovative technology to image the seafloor (e.g., Wormcam). The interesting work I’ve conducted has resulted in me having the opportunity to present my work to a larger lay audience, in the form of a TEDx presentation.

(Photo Credit: TEDx Newport)

(Photo Credit: TEDx Newport)

I am giving my TED talk with my good buddy and colleague Steve Sabo.  In our talk, “A Picture is Worth a Thousand Worms”, Steve & I will illustrate the significance of the ocean floor through advancements in underwater camera technology and data visualization, making complex science more accessible for everyone.

Our TED photo (Photo credit: Meg Heriot)

Our TED photo (Photo credit: Meg Heriot)

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How to follow along with CITES #COP17 on twitter

cop17_rhino_hpOn September 24th, the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) begins. I’ve made a Storify guide to government agencies, scientists, activists, and environmental non-profits who will be tweeting updates from the event. If you want to follow along with these important conservation debates and votes on twitter, follow #COP17 and follow the accounts I’ve highlighted in this Storify.

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Fun Science FRIEDay – The worlds largest sponge.

Recently a team of scientists on a deep sea expedition in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands aboard the R/V Okeanos Explorer made a monumental discovery… pun intended. While exploring the depths of the seafloor in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, with their remotely operated vehicles (ROV) Seirios and Deep Discover, they discovered and documented the largest sponge ever observed on this planet… or any planet for that matter.

Large hexactinellid sponge found in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (Photo credit: NOAA's Office of Exploration and Research)

Large hexactinellid sponge found in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (Photo credit: NOAA’s Office of Exploration and Research)

Lateral view of a large hexactinellid sponge found in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (Photo credit: NOAA's Office of Exploration and Research)

Lateral view of a large hexactinellid sponge found in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument
(Photo credit: NOAA’s Office of Exploration and Research)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Fun Science FRIEDay – Dude, I’m Glowing!

Happy Fun Science FRIEDay! After a brief hiatus, due to life, hoping this installment represents the regular…err, semi-regular, occurrence of FSF.

So this hit the interwebs pretty big earlier this week, the first documented reptile to glow. That honor belongs to the Hawksbill a sea turtle, observed first by  David Gruber, of City University of New York.

Fluorescing hawksbill sea turtle. (Photo credit: David Gruber, of City University of New York)

Fluorescing hawksbill sea turtle. (Photo credit: David Gruber, of City University of New York)

Lets get one thing out of the way before we delve into the glowing version of Crusher (for my finding Nemo aficionados). The sea turtle is not glowing, its fluorescing… there is a difference. In the ocean lots of organisms fluoresce at longer wavelengths (green, yellow, red) in response to shorter wavelengths (UV, blue, violet). It is a typical property of many biological materials and is noticeable if viewed through restrictive long pass filters, as is the case here.

That being said, documenting a sea turtle fluorescing is still pretty freaking cool! Like many scientific discoveries this was totally by happenstance. David was in the Solomon Islands to film biofluorescence in small sharks and coral reefs. And during his observations of sharks and corals glowing Crusher just swims by like, “Dude, I’m all glowing and stuff.”

Checkout the awesome video of it below, and Happy FSF!

 

 

Happy Fun Science FRIEDay – Glass Frogs

Raise your hand if you realized there were frogs so translucent you could see their innards? Ok if you actually raised your hand while reading this, kudos, but put it down now. Glass frogs are tiny green organisms whos organs are visible from their underside given the translucent nature of their bellies. There were 148 species of glass frogs, all of which reside in Central and South America.  Well make that 149 species of glass frogs now! Recently a new species of glass frog, Hyalinobatrachium dianae, was discovered in in the forested mountains of eastern Costa Rica.

A new species of glass frog named Hyalinobatrachium dianae. (Photo credit: Brian Kubicki)

A new species of glass frog named Hyalinobatrachium dianae. (Photo credit: Brian Kubicki)

The frog is nocturnal and stands out from other glass frogs because of its long, thin feet and black-and-white eyes. This new species also boasts a distinct call, which frogs produce to attract females. This frogs call is a long tiny whistle similar to the noise produced by insects, which helps explain why this frog went unidentified for so long.

Glass frogs are tanslucent, so their organs are visible. (Photo credit: Brian Kubicki)

Glass frogs are tanslucent, so their organs are visible.
(Photo credit: Brian Kubicki)

You can view this study in its entirety at the journal of Zootaxa.

 

Happy FSF!

Middle Earth could have been saved by the Endangered Species Act

Smaug gigan

Smaug gigananteus syn. Cordylus giganteus, the Giant Girdled Lizard, because of course there’s an actual species named Smaug. Photo by Wilfried Berns.

In a cave in the Lonely Mountain there lived a dragon. Not a gnarly, goblin-stuffed, slimy cave, filled with the bowels of orcs and fishy creepers, nor yet an empty, granite, echo-less cave with nothing in it to lie down on or horde: it was a dragon-cave, and that meant gold. At least it did, until a nasty band of poachers found Lonesome Smaug, the last of his species, alone, asleep, threatening none, and smote his genus from the red ledger, stripping Middle Earth of critical biodiversity.

The ecologists of Carsondell would say, of the age of war that followed, that the men and dwarves and elves and hobbits brought the darkness upon themselves. Indeed, as the Dark Lord raised his army, denuded the forests, and belched carbon from the factories of Mordor, Gandalf the Grey, one of the more powerful, though among the least conservation-minded, of the wizards would remark: “It has been said that dragon-fire could melt and consume the Rings of Power, but there is not now any dragon left on earth in which the old fire is hot enough.”

The Grey Wizard failed to mention that, were it not for his callousness, there would be*.

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10 fish weirder than the fish in the 10 weirdest fish in the world list

KeartesSarah Keartes  is a science blogger studying marine biology and journalism at the University of Oregon. A self-proclaimed Attenborough wannabe, and all-around shark junkie, she is dedicated to exploring new tools to promote ocean outreach through science communication.

Second string. Almost famous. Runner up. We’ve all been there—bowed out gracefully and stuffed down the BAMF within. I’m talking the missed, the forgotten, the less-than-top dogs (or in this case, fish). Such was the fate of these ten water-dwellers, left looking up at the podium of last month’s “Top Ten Weirdest Fish in the World” list.

Just keep swimming my finned-friends, I’ve got you covered. They may not be the blobbiest, the toothiest, or the most menacing—but for these creatures, weird comes naturally. In their honor, it’s time for round two: the top ten weirder than the weirdest fish in the world list.

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Halloween Science: Fear Makes the Ocean Go Around

Halloween, in a lot of ways, is a celebration of fear.  We dress like ghosts, goblins, and movie serial killers to give ourselves a sense of control over the things we’re afraid of.  It’s also a good time of year to indulge in horror movies, where we can watch ghosts, goblins, and serial killers terrorize other people from the apparent safety of our own homes.

From an ecological standpoint, we have it pretty good.  We’ve more or less tamed most environments on land and only make short forays into the oceans under conditions where we still have quite a few advantages.  Most of the time we have more in common with Jason than his hapless victims.  Imagine being a member of a school of menhaden or a seal that has to make daily trips through Shark Alley.  It would be like spending your whole life as a camp counselor at Crystal Lake, constantly looking over your shoulder and getting picked off the second you let your guard down.  If mortal terror was a regular part of your life, you’d better believe it would affect your daily habits.  And if every member of your species lived with that same fear, there would be places no one in their right mind would go and choices between death by starvation and possible death by being eaten.  After all, fish are always eating other fish.  Let’s take a journey through the low end of the food web and see what horror can teach us about marine ecology.

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Happy Friday! Here’s some pictures of Blue Footed Boobies

This week we learned that several blue footed boobies were sighted along the California coast, a rare, but not unprecedented occurrence. The news reports flooding in reminded me of my own experience with blue footed boobies in the Galapagos, so I decided to dig out my old photo album (yes, this predates the age of digital cameras) and pull out the booby photographs. Here, for your Friday enjoyment, are a bunch of pictures of Blue Footed Boobies.

Photo by Andrew David Thaler.

Photo by Andrew David Thaler.

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