Ecosystems and Biodiversity

After spending weeks dragging underwater cameras across the Pacific Ocean, biologists have discovered a “shark highway” connecting the islands of Costa Rica to the Galapagos Islands. The route follows a stretch of seamounts, and a number of species of sharks, fish, dolphins, and sea turtles travel along it. Though not currently part of an established protected area, conservation biologists plan to work with local governments to protect this critical corridor. Via NPR

Over 100 years ago, steelhead trout were introduced to Lake Michigan to support recreational and industrial fishing. Since then, steelhead evolved to freshwater,compared to their saltwater ancestors. Geneticists have identified three chromosomal regions responsible for the change, relating to osmoregulation, metabolism and wound-healing. This research helps us understand how and when species adapt: an important issue in the face of climate change. Via Eurekalert!

Dolphins are extremely good at using echolocation to track shoals of fish or identify underwater objects with both range and accuracy. Now we know how. They emit two intertwined ultrasound beam components at different frequencies, and with slightly different timing. The second, higher frequency “ping” gives the dolphin increased surface detail and allows it to sense the motion of the target. Via Eurekalert!

The blanket hermit crab uses anemones as its blanket, instead of a shell. A recent French biodiversity project discovered and named five previously undescribed species of blanket hermit crabs. Compared with a shell, anemones are flexible, toxin-secreting, and hey, they’re cute, too. Via Scientific American

Climate Change

Researchers in China and Japan exposed a number of rice-growing test plots to elevated CO2 content that simulated atmospheric conditions predicted by the end of this century. They found the resulting rice contained lowered levels of vitamins B1, B2, B5, and B9. This study also confirmed previous findings of lowered protein, iron and zinc content. Via Science Advances

Scientists from University of East Anglia studying the melting Antarctic ice sheet attached temperature and salinity instrumentation to seven southern elephant seals and seven Weddell seals. The devices report statistics to satellites for nine months, until the seals molted and the devices drop off. Gathering data on water temperature and salinity is relatively simple in the summer months, but the seals help gather data during the difficult winter months.Via Science Daily


In southwestern India, fishers have been coming up with more plastic than fish.  Previously, they simply threw it back in after spending hours separating garbage from catch.  Now they haul it back to shore to process in a first-ever regional recycling centre set up by government agencies.  These centres supply local employment and reusable materials. Via National Geographic


The state of California has recently passed a law that requires dairy farmers to slash methane emissions by 40% by 2030.  Unfortunately, most of that methane comes not from the industrial side of the business but from flatulent cows, and there are 1.8 million of them in the state alone.  Previous research has shown that that cattle feed containing 2% seaweed could slash their methane emissions by 99%, and researchers are urgently trying to identify the mechanism that limits methane production. Via  Deutsche Welle


Researchers in Russia created a nuclear-powered battery with an energy density (measured as power delivered per gram) ten times that of conventional chemical batteries. Traditional nuclear batteries either produce a lot of heat or tiny currents at very high voltages, but the new design channels electrons emitted from the decay of Nickel-63 atoms into a semiconducting substrate, and this produces high currents at a usable voltage. These batteries could be useful in medical applications (as pacemakers, for instance) or as satellites. But they won’t be cheap. The semiconducting substrate is made of sheets of artificial diamond. Via Eurekalert!

A number of American states allow the oil and gas industry to spray roads with wastewater, which helps with de-icing the roads and controlling roads. A recent study reports that such wastewater can contaminate ground and surface water with radioactive materials such as radium and chemicals that interfere with hormones. Via Environmental Science and Technology


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