Picture of the week: Halocynthia papillosa from the Mediterranean

The legacy of Lonesome George

Lonesome George was the last living member of the species Chelonoidis abingdonii that died in 2012, more than 100 years old.  George was a  giant tortoise from the island Pinta in the Galapagos.  Recently a research team published his genome (his complete DNA profile)  in Nature Ecology and Evolution. They found that the tortoise had duplicates of a gene that protects organisms against oxidative stress,  that is cell damage caused by oxygen that contributes to aging. Giant tortoises also posses more tumor-suppressing genes than other vertebrates. One reason for the extinction of giant turtles at Pinta is the decreasing numbers of partners to mate with, a development that probably  started  a million years ago

News: IVF to save bleaching GB reef corals

Coral spawning: a spectacular annual event.

ivf corals for the Reef: scientists from  Southern Cross University in Australia are undertaking the largest and most complicated coral regeneration attempt ever on the Great Barrier Reef that could help save the dying coral reefs in the northern sectors. This week they will collect millions of coral eggs and sperm during the annual and beautiful coral spawning event on the reef in the first step of the ambitious project. The grown larvae will be released after a couple of weeks on the damaged sites of the reef. see further: https://edition.cnn.com/2018/06/08/australia/great-barrier-reef-coral-ivf-intl/index.html

Another project under study is to genetically engineer new coral species that are more resistant to rising sea water temperature levels. Similar to the Red Sea corals that are known to survive even much higher temperatures than those of the Barrier reef. 


News: dramatic New Zealand whale stranding

A dramatic whale stranding  of 145  long-finned pilot whales (Globicephala melas)  occurred in Mason Bay on Stewart Island New Zealand. Since 1840, more than 5,000 strandings have been recorded around the New Zealand coastline. The cause of these strandings is still a matter of speculations. This species is notorious for mass strandings. Some believe it is the herd instinct of the long-finned pilot whales that causes the whole group to follow the one unlucky whale that strands. Like the Lemmings or Wildebeests perhaps?

News: Antarctica ice melt may slow down global temperature rise.

Cold meltwater running off Antarctica’s ice sheets and into the ocean could dampen the pace of global temperature rise, a new study in Nature suggests. The rate of melt could knock as much as 0.4C off global temperature rise, the researchers say, potentially delaying exceeding the 1.5C and 2C  by around a decade. Antarctica ice melt could also have a wider impact on the Earth’s climate, rising sea levels (estimated to be 1 meter in 2100)  reducing rainfall in the southern hemisphere and increased rainfall in the northern hemisphere. It could also cause warming of the ocean beneath the surface layer around the Antarctic coast, the researchers add, leading to further ice-sheet melt and additional sea level rise.

A new shark repellent?

Does a long distance Ocean swimmer risk a shark bite? Shark repellents sofar have proven to have little effect. But does the answer lie in a gadget like Sharkshield intended to produce a painful but harmless current affecting the muscles that control the electrical sensors of sharks?