Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Absurd Creature of the Week: Titanoboa

by Matt Simon
60 million years ago, in the swampy waters of what is now Colombia, there lurked a serpent of similar hyperbole: titanoboa, by far the biggest snake that ever lived. At nearly 50 feet long and weighing in at 2,500 pounds, it was 10 times as heavy as the average green anaconda, a giant that now rules titanoboa’s stomping grounds… or slithering grounds, I guess you’d say.
Titanoboa was so big, it pushed the boundaries of being able to exist on land and remain in accordance with the laws of physics. You, me, every cat and antelope and towering sauropod, we’ve all evolved under the constraints of gravity. Evolution got a bit carried away and produced the 100-foot blue whale, the biggest critter ever, only because gravity doesn’t affect giants as much in the sea…
(read more: Wired Science)
images: photo - Getty Images; Illustration - Univ. of Florida

illustration by Jonathan Burton

(via: New Scientist)

Climate Change Leads to Fish Hybiridization

A never before seen twist of events in nature reveals an unexpected effect of climate change is hybridization between a native and non-native species. A USGS study published in Nature Climate Change examined how recent climate warming has influenced the spread of hybridization between threatened native westslope cutthroat trout and non-native rainbow trout in the Flathead River system in Montana and British Columbia, Canada. 
The study noted, over the past 30 years, hybridization rapidly spread upstream, irreversibly changing the genetic integrity of native westslope cutthroat trout populations. The rapid increase in hybridization was highly associated with climatic changes in the region. From 1978 to 2008 the rate of warming nearly tripled in the Flathead basin, resulting in earlier spring runoff, lower spring flooding and flows, and warming summer stream temperatures. 

Read more: USGS - Climate - Trout

help the irrawaddy dolphins

The newly proposed Don Sahong Dam could herald the extinction of the rare and revered Mekong Irrawaddy dolphins. Today, just 85 survive in a small stretch of the Mekong River. The sound waves from the initial explosions to clear tons of rock could potentially kill dolphins equipped with highly sensitive hearing. Later, they would have to survive increased boat traffic, changes in water quality, and habitat destruction… support.worldwildlife.org

Scientists discover giant sperm fossilized in bat feces

by Morgan Erickson-Davis
In a cave in Australia, researchers from the University of New South Wales discovered giant fossilized sperm. The sperm were produced 17 million years ago by a group of tiny, shelled crustaceans called ostracods, making them the oldest fossilized sperm ever found.

The results were published recently in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.The fossils were excavated in 1988, but it wasn’t known they contained sperm until they were studied in detail by an ostracod expert last year.
Ostracods, also called mussel shrimp, are common today in aquatic environments around the world and are famous for their big sperm. Individually, ostracod sperm average 1.3 millimeters (0.05 inches) in length, which might not seem large, but they’re often longer than the entire bodies of the ostracods that produced them. In order to fit in their bodies, the sperm are kept tightly coiled in the males’ sperm ducts until they’re transferred to females, which collect 50 to 100 sperm in specific receptacles during a lengthy mating process…
(read more: MongaBay.com)

Krugman: How American Capitalism Fails—and Northern European 'Socialism' Succeeds—at Job Creation

Paul Krugman wrote his column this morning in the New York Times from Europe, a place which—conservatives like Paul Ryan would like you to believe—demonstrates the complete failure of the welfare state.
That’s because, as Krugman points out, “Our political discourse is dominated by reverse Robin-Hoodism — the belief that economic success depends on being nice to the rich, who won’t create jobs if they are heavily taxed, and nasty to ordinary workers, who won’t accept jobs unless they have no alternative.”
France, a country that the American media and conservatives particularly love to bash, is having particular success in employment rates. Krugman reports this “startling, little-known fact: French adults in their prime working years (25 to 54) are substantially more likely to have jobs than their U.S. counterparts.”… alternet.org

up-side down jellyfish

An up-side down jellyfish found in Yal Ku Lagoon, Akumal, Quintana Roo, Mexico (Caribbean).
The up-side down jellyfish, Cassiopea xamanchana, does not have the typical physical characteristics of jellyfish. Often it has a somewhat green or gray/blue coloration. This display is the result of numerous densely packed symbiotic zooxanthellae,Symbiodinium microadriaticum.
The medusa, the dominant adult phase of the life cycle, possesses four branching tentacles that extend from the body, up into the water column. These structures are used in feeding and provide nutrients in combination with what is made available by the photosynthetic dinoflagellates. The large, dome shaped exumbrella of the medusa contains a central depression that is used mainly for attachment purposes as the up-side down jellyfish remains sedentary throughout a majority of its lifecycle.
Animalia - Cnidaria - Scyphozoa - Rhizostomeae - Cassiopeidae - Cassiopea - C. xamachana

octopus laugh

Thursday, May 15, 2014

how octopus' stay untangled

Octopus arms keep from getting all tangled up in part because some kind of chemical in octopus skin prevents the tentacles' suckers from grabbing on.

That was the surprise discovery of scientists who were trying to understand how octopuses manage to move all their weird appendages without getting tied in knots.
Unlike humans, octopuses don't have a constant awareness of their arms' locations. It's kind of like the eight arms have minds of their own. And as an octopus arm travels through the water, its neighboring arms are constantly in reach.npr