Amidst all the hysteria surrounding the seemingly unstoppable COVID-19, we bring you a story of a fish without blood. In 1928 a biologist sampling off the coast of Antarctica pulled up an unusual fish. It was extremely pale (translucent in some parts), had large eyes and a long toothed snout, and somewhat resembled a crocodile (it was later named the “white crocodile fish). Unbeknownst at the time, but the biologist had just stumbled on a fish containing no red blood pigments (hemoglobin) and no red blood cells – he iron-rich protein such cells use to bind and ferry oxygen through the circulatory system from heart to lungs to tissues and back again. The fish was one of sixteen species of what is now commonly referred to as icefishes that comprise the family Channichthyidae, endemic around the Antarctic continent.
Life has unbelievably complex and diverse strategies to ensure survival. Organisms are able to go dormant during unfavorable conditions, and resuscitate once the environment becomes ideal again. This can play out over relatively short time periods such as when animals hibernate, or over longer periods where organisms can go into stasis, e.g. reviving bacteria from 250 million year old salt crystals.
Researchers in Russia recently thawed out permafrost sediment frozen for the past 42,000 years, and revealed once frozen and now living nematodes. Yes you heard that correctly, worms birthed and subsequently frozen during the Pleistocene (42,000 years earlier) were just resurrected in the 21st century. Frankenstein, eat your heart out.
Eophasma jurasicum, a fossilized nematode. (Photo credit: Ghedoghedo)
In today’s FSF we bring you both a jaw dropping, and somewhat terrifying cinematic visualization of how bacteria evolve resistance to antibiotics, and overtime can become super bugs immune to any antibiotic treatment. A concise and detailed description is presented below:
This stunning video of evolution in action captures how bacteria with no resistance to an antibiotic can in a very short time become resistant to concentrations of more than a thousand times the initial concentration. Other scientists have documented this phenomenon before, but never with such vivid clarity as that provided by Michael Bay and Roy Kishony of Harvard University.
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!
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)
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)
In a very basic sense there is a general dichotomy in the grouping of organisms on this planet as either a plant or as an animal. Myself, like most of the rest of you, belong to the animal group, but there are those organisms out there that exists on the boundary; one in particular is the sea slug, Elysia chlorotica.
The sea slug Elysia chlorotica (Photo credit: Patrick Krug)
This time of year, it’s appropriate to think of things to be thankful for. This being an ocean-focused blog, I’d like to share something ocean-related that I’m thankful for, and hopefully spread a little Ocean Optimism in the process. What I’m thankful for is that Carcharocles megalodon is extinct. This may not seem like cause for optimism, but honestly the present-day ocean and Megalodon are better off without each other. And while we may not have 50-foot sharks around anymore (at least not the superpredatory kind), there are actually a lot of species we know and love that have either outlasted Megalodon or are only around because the big beast isn’t around anymore.
Ifremeria nautilei from the Manus Basin. Source: MARUM
The mining of deep-sea hydrothermal vents for gold, copper, and other precious metals, is imminent. Over the last seven years I’ve worked with industry, academia, and international regulatory agencies to help craft guidelines for conducting environmental impact studies and assess the connectivity and resilience of deep-sea ecosystems. Deep-sea mining, particularly at hydrothermal vents, is a complicated endeavor. As an ecologist and environmentalist, I’d like to see all deep-sea ecosystems receive extraordinary levels of protection. As a pragmatist and someone who recognizes that access to technology is a human right, I realize that demand for essential resources like copper, cobalt, and rare earth elements is only going to increase.
Mining a deep-sea hydrothermal vent presents a conundrum. Across the world, vents vary in their longevity and proximity to each other. A fast spreading center like those found in western Pacific back-arc basins, can have numerous, densely packed vents that persist for tens of years. In contrast, ultra-slow spreading centers, like the central Indian Ridge, may have a few, sparsely distributed vents that remain active for centuries. The sustainability of deep-sea mining is completely dependent on the type of vents being mined. Vents in slow spreading centers may never recover from any anthropogenic impact, while those in fast spreading centers could be extremely resilient to the disturbance caused by mining.
You did not mistakenly read the title, today we bring you the discovery of the first female penis in the animal kingdom.
Mating insects of the genus Neotrogla. Photo Credit: Current Biology / Yoshizawa et al.
Yoshizawa, from Hokkaido University in Japan, and his team of researchers documented this phenomenon of sexual role reversal in 4 species of rather unassuming insects in Brazil’s Peruaçu River Valley. When insects of the genus Neotrogla mate, the female mounts the male and penetrates his vagina-like opening with her penis.