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)
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!
Several images circulate on the internet that capture the plight of rapid Arctic climate change, a phenomenon known as Arctic amplification. This image, for me, is the most alarming:
OPAH, OPAH, OPAH!
Recently scientists at NOAA’s South West Fisheries Science Center made a stunning discovery, the worlds first known warm-blooded fish, the moonfish, opah (Lampris guttatus). Until this recent discovery all fish were considered cold-blooded ectotherms – allowing their body temperature to fluctuate with the change in ambient ocean temperature. However, opah’s are different, in that these largely solitary fish regulate their internal body temperature above the ambient temperature of their environment like mammals and birds (other warm-blooded animals).
Opah off the coast of southern California. (Photo credit: Ralph Pace Photography)
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)
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)
You can view this study in its entirety at the journal of Zootaxa.
You’ve been there before. You are sitting or standing around and get a mental sensation that you need to “pop your knuckles”. A swift squeeze of your fingers and the tension is relieved. Crisis averted. But why do knuckles make that popping sound when you crack them? If questions like this keep you up at night… maybe you need to reevaluate your priorities. But, if the start of this article has piqued your interest, you will be pleased to know that a a team of researchers, led by the University of Alberta Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, have confirmed the reasons for knuckle popping.
Pull My Finger experiment. The radiofrequency coil inside the clear housing (left).
The metocarpophaangeal (MCP) joint of interest centred over the bore of the radiofrequency coil (middle). The participant’s hand within the imaging magnet (right). (Photo credit: Kawchuck et al. 2015, PLoS ONE)
Happy FSF Folks!
So this news has been making the rounds, and it is too amazing not to include for FSF. So if you missed it, you are in luck because we highlight it again here. A giant sperm whale was captured by a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) piloted as part of Bob Ballard and the Corps of Exploration’s Nautilus cruise. The whale was captured by the ROV Hercules at 598 meter (1,962 ft) below the sea surface in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana.
Sperm whale captured at 598 meter (1,962 ft) depth by the ROV Hercules. (Photo Credit: Ocean Exploration Trust)
Most people have heard of cone snails. They are the genus of venomous marine snails that shoot a poisonous “dart” (hypodermic-like modified radula tooth attached to a venom gland) to attack and paralyze their prey before feeding on it. Smaller cone snails primarily hunt and prey on marine worms, while the larger ones hunt fish. To humans the sting of a smaller cone snail is similar to that of a bee, but contact with larger cone snails can be fatal! Basically they are the badasses of the snail world.
Cone snails are venomous! Their toxin is estimated to be 1,000 times more powerful than morphine. (Photo credit: http://www.siart.karoo.net)
Last week I had the good fortune of attending the NC Oyster Summit, hosted by the NC Coastal Federation in the Museum of Natural Sciences. We talked about the wonders that oyster restoration and aquaculture development can do for water quality, economic development, and taste buds. We enjoyed the demonstration of ‘merriore’, or the taste of the sea that lends a particular flavor to each oyster that captures the ecosystem it grew in. Yet, the fact that stuck with me most is that despite all of these wonderful celebrations of the oyster for the health and well-being of NC’s coastal communities, funding cuts of around 40% to the Department of Marine Fisheries mean that a large portion of the Albemarle Sound remains closed to harvest or aquaculture because there are no staff to check those oysters for public health risks.
The “Administrative Closure” of the most northern stretches of the state’s prized Albemarle-Pamlico estuary system is a worrying precedent in many ways that highlight how leadership withdrawal of support for science can trickle down to real economic, environmental, and cultural harm.
Economic flight Read More
You have probably heard that as the global climate changes due to human influence the sea surface is going to rise and the oceans will get warmer and more acidic. The bit about the oceans increasing in acidity is particularly troubling because it implies calcium carbonate based organisms (oysters, snails, corals, etc.) will simply dissolve in this future dystopian acid-ocean (that is a bit of an oversimplification, but you get the idea).
Ocean acidity is determined by measuring the pH, which relates acidity based on the number of hydrogen ions found in the water. So long story short, as more and more carbon dioxide (CO2) is emitted into the atmosphere, it in-turn fluxes into the oceans forming carbonic acid which results in the release of hydrogen ions lowering the pH. Simple logic would suggest that this spells bad news for calcifying organism (poor Mr. Snail).
Healthy Pretopod shell (left) and degraded Pteropod shell due to ocean acidification (right). (Photo credit: NOAA [climate.gov])
It is widely accepted that the world around us is changing, and as a result the organisms that exist adapt with that change or are resigned to the fossil record. Evolution, it’s a fact of life… or is it? UCLA paleobiologist J. William Schopf, and colleagues, have discovered an organism that has remained relatively unchanged over a 2.3 billion year period. Meh, who needs evolution? These bacteria were discovered in the muddy sediments of the deep sea and represent the greatest lack of evolution ever seen!
1871 editorial cartoon depicting Charles Darwin as an ape. (Photo credit: Unknown artist in 1871 from The Hornet newspaper – no longer in publication)