Monday, February 26, 2007

Newly Discovered Antarctic Beasts

(1)This psychedelic octopus was also found in the frigid waters off Antarctica, one of the world’s most pristine marine environments.

(2)These deep-sea sea cucumbers, all moving in the same direction, were abundant in the area explored.

(3)The collapse of the 5,000-year-old ice shelves over the last dozen years gave the scientists a unique opportunity to see new species, such as this amphipod crustacean.

(4)Explorers off the coast of Antarctica found fast-growing sea squirt settlements, which apparently started colonizing the area only after ice shelves collapsed.

Story in "comments".

Friday, February 23, 2007

Spear-Making Chimpanzees

Chimps Make Weapons to Hunt, Scientists Say By Maggie Fox, Reuters

WASHINGTON (Feb. 22) - Chimpanzees have been seen using spears to hunt bush babies. It was only the females who fashioned and used the wooden spears.

Full article in comments !

Giant Squid: Captured.

Video as long as the snag lasts can be seen at my Lovecraft blog ... (click).

Rare Squid Could Be Largest Ever Hooked: Massive Catch Has Rings the Size of Truck TiresBy RAY LILLEY, AP

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Feb. 22) - A fishing crew has caught a colossal squid that could weigh a half-ton and prove to be the biggest specimen ever landed, a fisheries official said Thursday. (21 Feb 2007)

The squid, weighing an estimated 990 pounds and about 39 feet long, took two hours to land in Antarctic waters, New Zealand Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton said. The fishermen were catching Patagonian toothfish, sold under the name Chilean sea bass, south of New Zealand "and the squid was eating a hooked toothfish when it was hauled from the deep," Anderton said. The fishing crew and a fisheries official on board their ship estimated the length and weight of the squid: Detailed, official measurements have not been made. The date when the colossus was caught also was not disclosed.

Colossal squid, known by the scientific name Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni, are estimated to grow up to 46 feet long and have long been one of the most mysterious creatures of the deep ocean.
If original estimates are correct, the squid would be 330 pounds heavier than the next biggest specimen ever found.

"I can assure you that this is going to draw phenomenal interest. It is truly amazing," said Dr. Steve O'Shea, a squid expert at the Auckland University of Technology. If calamari rings were made from the squid they would be the size of tractor tires, he added.

Colossal squid can descend to 6,500 feet and are extremely active, aggressive hunters, he said.
The frozen squid will be transported to New Zealand's national museum, Te Papa, in the capital, Wellington, to be preserved for scientific study. Marine scientists "will be very interested in this amazing creature as it adds immeasurably to our understanding of the marine environment," Anderton said. Colossal squid are found in Antarctic waters and are not related to giant squid found round the coast of New Zealand. Giant squid grow up to 39 feet long, but are not as heavy as colossal squid.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Endangered Rhino

JAKARTA, Indonesia (Feb. 20) - The first Sumatran rhino born in captivity in more than 100 years arrived in Indonesia on Tuesday with a single task - to breed and help save the endangered species from extinction.

The 5-year-old rhino, Andalas, was flown from a zoo in the United States to Jakarta's international airport. After a checkup he was to travel another 12 hours by truck and ferry to a rhino sanctuary on Sumatra island, where females Rosa and Ratu await.

"He is young and still full of energy," said Arman Malonongan, Indonesia's director general of forest and wildlife conservation. "Let's just hope he falls in love there."

The Sumatran rhino is considered the most threatened of the five rhino species, with less than 300 still alive in isolated pockets in the forests of Malaysia and Sumatra, which is also home to endangered tigers and elephants.

Rampant poaching for its horns - used in traditional Chinese medicines - and destruction of forests by farmers, illegal loggers and palm oil plantation companies has decimated their numbers over the past 50 years.

Conservation groups say saving the Sumatran rhino from extinction is possible, noting sustained efforts in India and Africa have led to booming numbers of species in those countries.
But they say breeding programs like the one that is bringing Andalas back to Sumatra and greater political will to stop poaching and forest encroachments are essential if numbers are to recover.

Andalas was born in 2001 in the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, the first time a calf was bred and born in captivity since 1889, when a live birth was recorded at the Calcutta Zoo in India.

"We persevered through five years of intensive effort and endured many setbacks before finally producing Andalas ... so it is hard to see him go," said Dr. Terri Roth, the zoo's vice president of conservation, science and living collections.

"Yet, we want nothing more than to help save this species from extinction, and if that means giving up our first-born calf, then we will rejoice in the opportunity."

Sunday, February 18, 2007

25 million year old frog

Researchers believe that this frog recently found in Mexico could have been preserved in amber for 25 million years.jpg

Multilegged Duck

(18 Feb 2007) Webbed feet run in Stumpy's family, but he's the first to have four of them.
A rare mutation has left the eight-day-old duckling with two nearly full-sized legs behind the two he runs on. Nicky Janaway, a duck farmer in New Forest, Hampshire, 95 miles (150 kilometers) southwest of London, unveiled the duckling to reporters on Saturday.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

More On the Fluorescing Squid

The film captured the squid in action: 1. The squid swims towards the bait; 2. It spreads its arms wide; 3. It swims around the bait, twisting its body; 4. It grabs the bait with its eight arms.

Colossal Squid Lights Up the Deep Sea !!

By Rebecca Morelle
Science reporter, BBC News

The squid wasn't as sluggish as was first thought
The squid in action
Big deep-sea squid emit blinding flashes of light as they attack their prey, research shows.
Taningia danae 's spectacular light show was revealed in video footage taken in deep waters off Chichijima Island in the North Pacific.

Japanese scientists believe the creatures use the bright flashes to disorientate potential victims.

Writing in a Royal Society journal, they say the squid are far from the sluggish, inactive beasts once thought.

In fact, the footage, taken in 2005 - the first time T. danae had been captured on camera in their natural environment - reveals them to be aggressive predators.

The squid, which can measure over 2m (7ft) in length, deftly swim backwards and forwards by flapping their large, muscular fins. They are able to alter their direction rapidly by bending their flexible bodies.

The films, taken at depths of 240m to 940m (790 to 3,080ft), also show the cephalopods reaching speeds of up to 2.5m (8ft) per second as they attack the bait, capturing it with their eight tentacles.

Blinding flashes

However, the intense pulses of light that accompanied the ferocious attacks surprised the research team.

Dr Tsunemi Kubodera from the National Science Museum in Tokyo, who led the research, told the BBC News website: "No-one had ever seen such bioluminescence behaviour during hunting of deep-sea large squid."

The footage reveals the creatures emitting short flashes from light-producing organs, called photophores, on their arms.

Writing in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the team said: "[The bioluminescence] might act as a blinding flash for prey."

The light would disorientate the squid's intended prey, disrupting their defences, they added.

It could also act, the scientists commented, "as a means of illumination and measuring target distance in an otherwise dark environment."

However, further investigation revealed the light bursts may also serve another, quite different, purpose away from the hunting field - courtship.

As the squid drifted around torches that had been attached to the bait rig, they emanated long and short pulses of light.

The team believe the torch lights may have resembled another glowing T. danae , and the squid were possibly emitting light as courtship behaviour.

Difficult subjects


Deep-sea squid - once thought to be legendary monsters of the sea - are notoriously difficult to study, and little is known about their ecology and biology. Several species prowl the ocean depths.

T. danae is thought to be abundant in the tropical and subtropical oceans of the world. The largest reported measured 2.3m (7.5ft) in length and weighed nearly 61.4kg (134.5lbs).

Larger species of giant squid belong to the Architeuthidae family: females are thought to measure up to 13m (43ft) in length.

But the aptly named colossal squid ( Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni ) is thought to be the largest of all - possibly reaching up to 14m (46ft) long.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Weird Chickens !! In Key West, Florida

In Key West, Florida, city commissioners boted to remove the roaming street chickens. There are up to 3000 wild chickens in the city and have mostly been left alone to attract tourists. Recent concerns of bird disease initiated a crack down (or cluck down). However, a previous 2004 attempt that rounded up 500 chickens failed as some chicken-sympathizers opened the cages and let them loose.

Coffee News, Louisville, KY Volume 2:35H, 5 February 2007.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Psychic Red Squirrel

Are RED SQUIRRELS psychic? Scientists aren't willing to go that far, but they do say the animal has a built-in ability to stay one step ahead of its food source. According to Science, trees use an evolutionary "swamp and starve" tactic in attempts to prevent animals from eating its seed (Science 2006, 314, 1928). The trees attempt to starve predators some years, so that in fruitful years, there will be fewer seed predators around to consume the bountiful crop.

There's just one hitch in the near-perfect plan: The American and Eurasian red squirrel has concocted a counterattack. The red squirrel has somehow discovered how to anticipate a boom seed season and has responded by defying nature and producing an unusual second litter of pups.

"American reds gave birth to larger litters in advance of high food production and were most likely to breed as yearlings," the researchers state. "The most striking effect was that females produced a second litter after a successful first litter in advance of high food production. In most cases, females were still lactating with the first litter when they conceived the second, suggesting that the normal physiological inhibition of ovulation by lactation characteristic of mammals had been circumvented."

Although scientists have yet to understand how the red squirrel is able to predict the trees' behavior, they suspect it is linked to "visual or chemical stimuli," such as buds, flowers, or pollen cones, which "may be correlated with the size of the forthcoming seed crop." Now that's nuts.

Weird Fluorescent Spider !!

Extracted from …
Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © 2007 American Chemical Society
January 29, 2007 Volume 85, Number 05 p. 8
Critter Chemistry
Spider Seduction Requires UV Light
Sex-specific use of UV light to seek out a mate is a first
Sarah Everts

Science © 2007

The female jumping spider attracts mates by using organs called palps, which are located just below her eyes and fluoresce when excited by UV light Without UV wavelengths, these spiders get no love.

Males reflect UV light off scales on their faces and bodies during the mating game, whereas females have sensory organs called palps, typically used to capture prey, that fluoresce bright green when excited by UV light.

In the absence of UV light, the success rate for consummating courtships decreases, explains senior author Daiqin Li of the National University of Singapore. "The fluorescence really seems absolutely essential for the males to recognize the females," comments Thomas Cronin, at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. "In most other creatures, fluorescence is a supplementary signal to add contrast. In these spiders, it seems necessary for the male spider to find a female."