First ever video of Ghost Shark, with sex organ on its head, alive in the ocean

Ghost sharks, aka chimaeras, are elusive relatives of sharks and rays that live in the black depths of the ocean, as far down as 2,600 meters. The Ghost Shark was captured on video by a remotely operated vehicle deployed on a geology expedition by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in waters off Hawaii and California. The scientists who analyzed the video think that it's a pointy-nosed blue chimaera (Hydrolagus trolli) that usually calls the waters off Australia and New Zealand home. This is the first time researchers have known this species to swim in the Northern Hemisphere. From National Geographic:

Unlike those more well-known sharks, chimaeras don’t have rows of ragged teeth, but instead munch up their prey—mollusks, worms, and other bottom-dwellers—with mineralized tooth plates.

A pattern of open channels on their heads and faces, called lateral line canals, contain sensory cells that sense movement in the water and help the ghost sharks locate lunch.

And perhaps most fascinating, male chimaeras sport retractable sex organs on their foreheads.

Read the rest

Honest mimicry vs. dishonest mimicry

I learned that there are two forms of mimicry in nature -- honest mimicry (e.g., bees and wasps look similar and advertise that they can sting) and dishonest mimicry (e.g., some flies look like bees and wasps to trick predators into thinking they can sting).

Inés Dawson, a graduate and PhD student at the University of Oxford, is the creator of this video, which is part of a science series on YouTube called Draw Curiosity. Read the rest

Scientists find first of its kind two-headed shark

University of Malaga scientists were studying the cardiovascular systems of Atlantic sawmill catsharks (catshark (Galeus atlanticus) when they found one with two heads. This is the first time that dicephaly (two-headedness) has been seen in an egg-laying shark. From National Geographic:

The causes of dicephaly aren't known, but the researchers—led by Valentín Sans-Coma of the University of Malaga—suspect that genetics are the most likely culprit (rather than some environmental factor, à la Blinky, the three-eyed fish, from The Simpsons)...

"We see two-headed sharks occasionally," says George Burgess, director of the Florida program for shark research at the Florida Museum of Natural History. "It's an anomaly, caused by a genetic misfire. There are lots of different kinds of genetic misfires, and most don't make it out of the womb."

"There’s a reason you don’t see a lot of sharks with two heads swimming around: they stand out like a sore thumb, so they get eaten," adds Burgess. "They would have trouble swimming and probably digesting food."

Read the rest

Royal Society's remarkable 2016 nature photo finalists

Tane Sinclair-Taylor's image of a clownfish and a bleached anemone is one of the many remarkable biological photographs chosen as finalists and winners in Royal Society Publishing's 2016 contest. Read the rest

Tiny Pac-Man game uses real single cell organisms

Researchers in Norway built a 1mm wide Pac-Man board and populated it with single cell organisms.

From PopSci

You can't control them, but it's fascinating (and a bit creepy) to watch Euglena, ciliates, and rotifers wander around the oh-so familiar maze. While the video might give you a creepy-crawly tingle, worry not: there are probably far more microscopic creatures on an old arcade joystick from the original Pac-Man than you could possibly fit in this mini maze.

Read the rest

Shocking video of an electric eel leaping from its tank

This intense slow-motion video, depicting an electric eel jumping from a tank to zap a faux alligator head, accompanies a new scientific paper by Vanderbilt University biologist Kenneth Catania. From Nature:

Catania first spotted the behaviour during earlier laboratory experiments with electric eels (Electrophorus electricus), when they would leap upwards to attack a metal-rimmed net as he was trying to fish them out of their tanks. He analysed it by presenting the eels with carbon rods and aluminium plates at which they struck; the video’s plastic alligator, with its flashing light-emitting diodes that are powered by the eel’s electrocution, is his dramatic demonstration of the effect...

The behaviour allows eels to directly shock their opponents, rather than having their voltage dissipated by water.

It is the first time that this has been recorded in a research paper, Catania says — although he argues that his discovery supports a widely disbelieved observation made more than 200 years ago by the Prussian explorer and naturalist Alexander von Humboldt. In a paper published in 1807, von Humboldt recounted that he had seen South American native fishermen herding horses into a pool of electric eels; the eels would discharge themselves against the horses and could be fished safely when they were exhausted.

According to Catania, there are other mysteries of the electric eels left to be solved, like how it can electrocute another creature without zapping itself in the process.

"Leaping eels electrify threats, supporting Humboldt’s account of a battle with horses" (PNAS)

Read the rest

Bumblebees sense electricity with their fine hairs

In 2013, Gregory Sutton from the University of Bristol published an important paper demonstrating that bumblebees can sense electricity (his experiment trained bees to associate current in fake flowers with nutrients, and showed that bees preferentially sought out electrified flowers), but now how they sensed it. Read the rest

Programmers' stress levels can accurately predict the quality of their code

In Using (bio)metrics to predict code quality online, presented at the ACM's 38th International Conference on Software Engineering, two Swiss researchers presented their work on monitoring programmers' biometrics to predict the quality of the code they were writing.

Read the rest

It's too late to do anything about sudden oak death, which has already killed 1,000,000 trees

Phytophthora ramorum is a mold, related to the Irish Potato Famine pathogen, that causes some oak and tanoak trees to split open and bleed out all their sap, something called "sudden oak death." Read the rest

Virus trading cards, animated and 3D-printable

Eleanor Lutz used files from the Protein Data Bank to model the molecules comprising the viruses that are the scourge of our human race. Read the rest

Avocados should not exist

“The avocado is highly regarded by many people as delicious and nutritious, but the most extraordinary thing about avocados may be their very existence.”

Read the rest

When the antibiotics run out, maybe we can use GMO maggots to stave off infection

NC State University researcher Max Scott and colleagues have engineered a strain of transgenic blueflies whose maggots secrete human growth factor, which they hope to use to fight infections in patients with non-healing wounds for whom antibiotics do not offer any hope. Read the rest

Heatmaps of the human body in varying emotional states

Disappointingly, these heatmaps of human bodies whose owners are experiencing various emotional states were not produced with infrared cameras, but rather with self-reporting by subjects being asked to say where they were experiencing more and less sensation while watching videos and seeing words intended to trigger those emotions. Read the rest

Gorgeous 3D printed trilobites

D. Allan Drummond, the University of Chicago biologist who recently 3D printed and cast a fascinating model of a yeast cell dividing, also creates exquisite bronze sculptures of trilobites, marine arthropods that went extinct 250 million years ago. Images and video below.

See more at Professor Drummond's Instagram feed.

(via SciAm)

Read the rest

3D printed model of cellular division

D. Allan Drummond, assistant professor of biochemistry, molecular biology and human genetics from the University of Chicago's The Drummond Lab 3D printed this model of a yeast cell dividing in solid bronze: "Late-anaphase budding yeast, mother & daughter." Read the rest

China plans to ban ivory trade “within a year or so.” US official: Yes it's a “huge” deal.

During his visit to Washington last month, China's President Xi Jinping vowed to stop the commercial trade in ivory in his nation, but didn't say much about when or how.

Read the rest

'Dracula fish' and snub-nosed monkeys among 200+ new species discovered in Himalayas

“A sneezing monkey, a walking fish and a jewel-like snake are just some of a biological treasure trove of over 200 new species discovered in the Eastern Himalayas in recent years,” reports the World Wildlife Foundation today.

Read the rest

More posts