This week on Ocean.org
This Mother’s Day, we dove deep into the world of under-sea parenting:
From keeping snacks handy to breaking up sibling rivalry, aquatic parenting is pretty relatable.
Communication is key for Beluga mothers and their babies – but the connection is under threat.
Ecosystems and Biodiversity
Nature often inspires new technology, and it seems that wireless communications is no exception. Living in absolute darkness, the Eigenmannia, a cave-dwelling fish, use electric signals to communicate with one another. In order to avoid interference, individuals can shift the frequency of their transmissions to avoid being jammed by nearby fish. Researchers are now developing similar methods for wireless devices to replace the current, less efficient technique of reserving large frequency ranges for specific carriers to avoid interference. Via EurekaAlert
A fungus called chytridiomycosis has been linked to dramatic population declines or even extinctions of amphibian species throughout the world. It was first identified in multiple locations in the 1970s, but now we know where it came from: genetic analysis revealed that the fungus originated on the Korean peninsula. This fungus was almost certainly spread by human action, particularly the pet trade and use of amphibians for medical and research purposes. Via Eurekalert!
For many species of fish, their fecundity levels increase as they age and grow and thus lay more eggs over time. In addition, the eggs of older females also provide extra nutrients to the offspring when compared to younger female fish. There is debate among scientists over whether or not these “superspawners” need increased protection under current fishery regulations. Via Science Magazine
Water Quality and Supply
Spectroscope measurements of water molecules have revealed why ice is slippery. It has long been assumed that materials on the ice, for example a pair of skates or a puck, caused the ice to melt and the materials slid on the water film. In fact, the water film is always there, but at some temperatures the water molecules can roll over the surface of the ice. Simulations showed that ice would be slipperiest at -7C (the temperature at which skating rinks are maintained) but that at -100C, ice would be a high-friction surface. Via Eurekalert!
Mexico City is home to about 21 million people, 20% of Mexico’s population. Its water reserves come from underground aquifers, but these are being overused and are expected to dry out in less than 30 years. As a result, the city is sinking, and earthquakes have been linked to aquifer shrinkage. Mexico City gets heavy summer rainfalls, however poor infrastructure means that the water is wasted: sewers often overflow and much of the water is lost. Via BBC (slideshow)
Silver nanoparticles are increasingly being included in items such as garments, wound dressings and water filters, because of their antibacterial qualities. Unfortunately, they retain those qualities when washed into waste treatment plants, and can kill the bacteria used to treat sewage. Even minute concentrations of silver can kill the bacteria that remove nitrogen, given long exposure times. Downstream, the partially-treated water is then prone to algal blooms, often resulting in oxygen levels too low to support life. Via Eurekalert!
Beavers, extinct for nearly 500 years in England, have recently been reintroduced under controlled conditions so their effect on the environment could be studied. Scientists monitoring their
progress have shown that a single family of beavers can significantly reduce water pollution. The beaver dams had trapped more than 100 tonnes of sediment containing high concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus, which was then prevented from flowing downstream. Via Phys.org
Some Australian scientists have applauded the most recent budget from their federal government. As well as C$1.85bn for physical sciences, the budget includes C$0.52bn towards protecting the Great Barrier Reef by reducing pollution in agricultural runoff, developing coral restoration techniques, and combating outbreaks of predatory crown-of-thorns starfish. Via Science Magazine
Energy and Power
The Achuar people in the Ecuadorian jungle have previously relied on gasoline-powered boats to connect nine communities spread out across a 67 km stretch of the Capahuari and Pastaza rivers. There are no roads, and gasoline had to be flown in. Now, a traditional 16-metre canoe has been fitted with a roof made of 32 solar panels, which provides enough power to run the motor at a fraction of the cost. Tapiaptia, which gets its name from a mythical electric eel, is the Amazon’s first solar powered public transport system. Via BBC Business News