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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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