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Deep-Sea Worms and Shrimp

A tubeworm in a hydrothermal vent in the Atlantic Ocean. Photograph by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

By David E. Boruchowitz

Chemosynthetic tubeworms (tubeworms that derive energy from chemicals in the water) are known from hot vents on the Pacific Ocean floor, and chemosynthetic shrimps from hot vents on the Atlantic Ocean floor, but now they have been found together at Caribbean hot vents. The discovery of deep ocean ecosystems not based on the energy from sunlight was a major find of the late 20th century, and continued exploration with ROVs (remote operated vehicles) steadily increases our knowledge of life at great depths.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110913212932.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sciencedaily+%28ScienceDaily%3A+Latest+Science+News%29

Posted September 14th, 2011.

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The End of Coral Reefs?

A section of Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Photograph by Reuters.

By David E. Boruchowitz

In a book published today, Our Dying Planet, author Professor Peter Sale of the University of Sydney predicts that all coral reefs will be gone by the end of this century. The idea that there are children already born who will see a world without coral reefs is an alarming one, but one Sale hopes will spur people to save the reefs. He says that this is an attainable goal, but it will require a concerted effort. It is certainly sobering to think that soon the only reefs may be in aquaria!

http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/nature/coral-reefs-will-be-gone-by-end-of-the-century-2352742.html

Posted September 12th, 2011.

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Mystery Blobs from Irene

Potato sponges. Photograph by Michael Moore.

By David E. Boruchowitz

Numerous inquiries about floating grey blobs left in hurricane Irene’s wake to the Virginia Institute of Marine Science in Gloucester Point, Virginia have been answered by Professor Emmett Duffy: they are potato sponges in the genus Craniella. Ripped from the substrate by Irene’s wave action, the floating sponges quickly died, creating the foul stench reported from the blobs.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110910133948.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sciencedaily+%28ScienceDaily%3A+Latest+Science+News%29

Posted September 12th, 2011.

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Two Against One: Urchins Outnumbered

Wrasses work with starfish to eat urchins. Photograph by Lawson Wood/Corbis.

David E. Boruchowitz

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21128284.300-wrasse-and-starfish-gang-up-on-sea-urchins.html?DCMP=OTC-rss&nsref=online-news

Italian researchers have discovered that the ornate wrasse Thalassoma pavo and the starfish Marthasterias glacialis present a double threat to sea urchins. The abilities of the two predators complement each other. The starfish attacks an urchin, causing it to flip over. The wrasse eats off the urchin’s tube feet, crippling it. Then the starfish can finish off the immobilized urchin. This does not appear to be a case of cooperation, but one of two predators benefitting from each other’s skills.

Posted September 8th, 2011.

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Soft Coral Reef Builders

Professor Yehuda Benayahu on a soft coral reef. Photograph by Tel Aviv University.

By David E. Boruchowitz

Everyone knows that reefs are built by hard corals, whose stony skeletons accumulate into rock, right? Nope!

New research by a joint Israeli and Taiwanese team reveals that soft corals play a significant role in reef building as well. Soft corals have pin-like structures called sclerites in their tissues that provide support to the animals during their life and reef building materials after their death. Some reef rocks thought to be composed of hard coral skeletons turned out to be made up of soft-coral sclerites naturally cemented together over time.

http://www.underwatertimes.com/news.php?article_id=10170248965

Posted September 4th, 2011.

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More Zebrafish Research

Zebra danio _Danio rerio_. Photograph by Oliver Lucanus.

By David E. Boruchowitz

One of the most popular mainstays of the aquarium hobby is the zebrafish Danio rerio. This species is also one of the most popular lab animals, and research on an enormous variety of scientific and medical topics have depended on these hardy, prolific fish.

And once again they have provided medically-significant data. Researchers have just published a study in which the fish were used to help model melanocyte differentiation—the way in which precursor stem cells differentiate into pigment cells in the fish’s skin. Understanding how this occurs could very well provide insights into the formation of melanomas (pigment cell cancer of the skin).

A summary of the article is at: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110901171248.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sciencedaily+%28ScienceDaily%3A+Latest+Science+News%29 and you can read the original study at: http://www.plosgenetics.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pgen.1002265

Posted September 2nd, 2011.

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Sixth Great White for Monterey Bay

A great white shark patrols the Open Sea Exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Photograph by the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

By David E. Boruchowitz

Regular readers will undoubtedly remember our October 2005 cover story about the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s record successful maintenance and subsequent release of a baby great white shark. Since then they have kept and released four others, and now the sixth is in their million-gallon Open Sea exhibit. If you want to catch a glimpse of it, you can try their live webcam at http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/efc/efc_opensea/open_sea_cam.aspx and for the full article, check out http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/cr_whiteshark/whiteshark_ours.aspx.

 

Posted September 1st, 2011.

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Coral Share UV Secrets

Corals are shielded by an effective, natural sunscreen that prevents them from being burned. Photograph by the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences.

By David E. Boruchowitz

You’re probably aware that many corals are photosynthetic, making use of the plentiful tropical sunshine to produce their own food with the help of resident zooxanthellae (symbiotic algae in the coral’s tissues). To maximize photosynthesis, these corals live in very shallow water where the sunlight can easily penetrate. As anyone who has visited the tropics can attest, that plentiful sunshine comes with a hefty dose of burning UV radiation. Why don’t corals get sunburned? A team of British scientists studying Acropora coral on the Great Barrier Reef believe they’ve found the answer.

It seems that those zooxanthellae also produce substances that protect against harmful UV rays. Not only do the host corals benefit from this natural sunscreen, fish that feed on the corals also share the protection. This leads the scientists to believe that one day we may be able to get our sunscreen in a pill!

For now, however, they are working on using genetic engineering to obtain bacteria-produced analogues of the sunscreen substances to test in a lotion.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-14717834

Posted September 1st, 2011.

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Two New Plecos Named

Gold nugget pleco. Photograph by Mark Smith.

By David E. Boruchowitz

Two aquarium favorites in the genus Baryancistrus have graduated from L numbers to scientific names. The gold nugget pleco, known by three L numbers, L18, L85, and L177) has been described as B. xanthellus. The mango pleco, called L47, is now B. chrysolomus.

You can read a summary of the article at http://www.aquaticcommunity.com/news/lib/1461 or the original paper at http://www.ufrgs.br/ni/vol9num2/v09n2a01.pdf.

L numbers have long been used to keep track of loricariid catfishes, commonly called plecos, that become popular in the aquarium hobby before scientists describe them. This pair of related species are among the plecos prized for their distinctive coloration. Both have yellow margins to the dorsal and caudal fins as juveniles. B. xanthellus displays yellow spots all over the body and fins while the spots on B. chrysolomus are very faint. Both species feed primarily on algae and require a vegetable-based diet in captivity.

Posted September 1st, 2011.

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Red Shrimp Eating Video

Fire red shrimp. Photograph by MP. & C. Piednoir.

By David E. Boruchowitz

Freshwater shrimp are one of the hottest newcomers to the aquarium hobby, and selectively bred red ones are extremely popular. One of the amazing things you can observe in your pet shrimp is the way they feed. Seeming to stare off into the distance, they sample detritus completely by touch and scent, moving their feeding appendages in apparent fast forward, transferring edible finds to their mouthparts at the same pace. Here’s a close-up video that shows the process: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CWL2XUU8PJw

Posted August 31st, 2011.

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