Giant string-like creature composed of "millions of interconnected clones" found off the coast of Australia

I'm currently re-discovering Jeff Van Der Meer's Area X / Southern Reach Trilogy via Audible, because I thought a familiar Weird Sci-Fi story about an invisible lifeform that kind of ambiently inhabits the world around us, changing things in imperceptible ways until it's too late, would be a relaxing respite from the chaotic news of COVID-19.

That may have been a bad decision. I'm even more terrified now. Then I learned about this in Newsweek:

A team aboard the RV Falkor—the flagship research vessel of the Schmidt Ocean Institute (SOI)—spotted the organism, a type of siphonophore known as Apolemia, using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) in a deep-sea environment known as the Ningaloo Canyons.

[…]

Resembling a long piece of string, siphonophores—a group of creatures related to jellyfish and corals—may look like one organism, but they are actually made up of many thousands of individual, specialized clones that come together to form a single entity.

With the help of lasers mounted onto their ROV—known as SuBastian—the Falkor scientists estimated that this siphonophore's outer ring measured 49 feet in diameter, suggesting that this section alone is 154 foot in length, or about as tall as an 11-story building.

As I've now learned, these things are in fact "colonial organisms," rather than individual beings. Read the rest

Watch this teen's drone footage of a great white shark casually swimming around unwitting people

A teen flying his drone on a New South Wales beach noticed what is believed to be a great white shark swimming around unwitting waders. As Sea Life Sydney Aquarium shark expert Rob Townsend points out in the news report above, one of the most interesting things about the footage is that the shark appears to be entirely disinterested in the humans. According to Townsend, this situation is a lot more common than beachgoers would like to think.

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Albatrosses deployed to detect illegal fish vessels out at sea

With their massive wingspans and high speed, albatrosses fly across the seas in search of food. That's why marine ornithologist Henri Weimerskirch of the French National Center for Scientific Research calls the birds the “sentinels of the sea" and is using them to survey the ocean for illegal fishing boats. Apparently, the operators of these vessels frequently turn off their automatic identification system (AIS) that broadcasts who they are and their location. From Katherine J. Wu's article in Smithsonian:

(Weimerskirch) and his colleagues have outfitted nearly 200 albatrosses with tiny GPS trackers that detect radar emissions from suspicious ships, allowing the birds to transmit the locations of fishers in the midst of illicit acts...

The range of these signals isn’t big enough to be reliably picked up by stations on shore, keeping the ships’ movements mostly discreet. Radar can be detected within a few miles of the vessel itself, however—as long as something, or someone, can get close enough...

Over the course of six months, the team’s army of albatrosses surveyed over 20 million square miles of sea. Whenever the birds came within three or so miles of a boat, their trackers logged its coordinates, then beamed them via satellite to an online database that officials could access and cross-check with AIS data. Of the 353 fishing vessels detected, a whopping 28 percent had their AIS switched off—a finding that caught Weimerskirch totally off guard.

"Ocean sentinel albatrosses locate illegal vessels and provide the first estimate of the extent of nondeclared fishing" (PNAS)

image: "Wandering Albatross (Diomedea exulans) in flight, East of the Tasman Peninsula, Tasmania, Australia." Read the rest

Look at this majestic school of hammerhead sharks ready to mate

An astonishing school of hammerhead sharks surprises divers at Darwin's Arch in the Galápagos Islands in this majestic video from the BBC's Mission Galápagos series. In an article at Wanderlust, Mission Galápagos host and animal biologist Liz Bonnin lists this adventure as one of her "most amazing wildlife experiences":

The hammerheads come from all different directions and gather, swim around each other in big circles in a wonderful sort of balletic association. At the very centre of this big mass of hammerheads are the oldest, most mature females. The younger sharks swim around them. When the males come in to mate, they’ve got to weave and wind their way through this mass of hammerheads, so only the strongest, fittest males will get to mate with the females in the centre.

We are only just beginning to understand the purpose of this mass congregation, so the more scientists dive down there, the more they’re understanding its importance. It’s a very special place, and a very important behaviour, that needs to be protected. The Galapagos is one of the last jewels of this blue planet of ours. It really needs extra protection of ours oceans to make sure that that doesn’t disappear for ever. It was extraordinary.

(via The Kid Should See This) Read the rest

Watch this cool transparent deep sea creature whose eyes take up its whole head

Cystisoma is an amphipod, a creature with two kinds of legs, and they are almost entirely translucent. One major exception is their pale orange retinas, which each take up about half of its head. Read the rest

Here's National Geographic's 2016 Nature Photographer of the Year winner

"Sardine Run" by G. Lecoeur edged out a competitive field of remarkable images to take National Geographic's 2016 title. Read the rest

This googly eyed stubby squid might make your day

E/V Nautilus explores the ocean, sharing highlights of their video captures, like this adorable googly-eyed stubby squid seen off the coast of California. Read the rest

Ocean life or acid trip? Photos of psychedelic jellyfish

No, you're not tripping. And these aren't CG. You're looking at Portuguese man-of-war jellyfish captured by Florida-based photographer Aaron Ansavor who finds them on a local beach.

"It's an opportunity to explore a new world," he told National Geographic.

More images at his site Ansarov.com. (via Jux)

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Drone footage of gray whales and calves

Photographer Mark Carwardine got this lovely drone footage of a pod of gray whales frolicking off the coast of Baja California. Unfortunately, the boaters then approach and touch the whales. Read the rest

WATCH: You probably need more cute sea slugs in your life

Jorunna are colorful sea slugs with what appear to be a puffy tail and rabbit ears (actually rhinophores). They have many variations in color and markings. Read the rest

Pinnipède: animation about elephant seals

Victor Caire's "Pinnipède," a delightful homage to elephant seals, is the director's first 3D animated film. Read the rest

What you can learn from the million-dollar tuna

On Saturday, a bluefin tuna was sold at Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market tuna auction for $1.76 million. Which is a little crazy. (Also crazy, the size of the fish in question.) But the amount paid for this specimen of a chronically overfished species doesn't really represent simple supply and demand, explains marine biologist Andrew David Thaler. It shouldn't be read as a measurement of tuna scarcity, he says, but rather as an artifact of culture (and marketing). Read the rest