Cleaner shrimp are the dental hygienists of the reef. They pick parasites, food scraps and dead skin off passing predators, even climbing into their mouths without, somehow, getting eaten. It turns out that this is the result of a multi-stage negotiation between shrimp and predator. If the shrimp wants a meal, it waves its antennae in the air as a fish approaches, and if the fish wants to be cleaned, it goes a darker colour. Unless both of these things happen, cleaning doesn’t usually occur, indicating that this is an inter-species signaling process. Via Eurekalert!

Zebrafish have  an advanced ability to see the world, with 360-degree vision to watch for predators and the skill to see barely-visible prey (mostly single-cell animals) by detecting changes in UV light. If humans had eyes as large as the zebrafish, each eyeball would be the size of a large grapefruit. Via ScienceDaily

Did you know not all corals are found in warm water? Check out these cold-water corals in the Arctic.

Over the past thirty years, over-fishing, pollution and climate change have knocked out approximately half the shallow-water reefs on the planet. But slow-growing cold-water corals make up the majority of species, and researchers in Philadelphia are trying to work out how tough these deep-water corals are. By testing changes in temperature, acidity and chemical composition, they’ll discover whether these species will survive a range of threats, from rising temperatures to deep-water oil spills. They have found that while dominant species can shrug off chemical contamination, they are vulnerable to rising temperatures. Via New York Times

Clean Waters

A study of European eels shows they are very sensitive to cocaine, which appears in trace amounts in many rivers, most notably the Thames in London. Even at the extremely low levels found in these rivers, the eels showed evidence of serious injury, including muscle breakdown and swelling. After going into “rehab” in clean waters for 10 days, the eels still showed signs of damaged muscles and increased cortisol levels. This stress hormone can cause fat wastage, and endangered European eels require these fat reserves to make a successful migration to their breeding grounds in the Sargasso Sea. Via The Guardian

Cambridge University has identified that the “ploink, ploink” sound of a dripping tap is caused not by the drop hitting water, but by the oscillations of a small bubble of air trapped beneath the water by the drop which forces the surface to vibrate like the skin of a drum. More importantly, they found out how you can prevent the noise: changing the surface tension of the water, for example by adding dish soap, can stop the sound. Via

Government Action

The US Government has revised its protection policy of America’s coastal waters and the Great Lakes, downplaying its previous role in environmental protection and promoting a new approach that emphasizes recreation, fishing, oil exploration and economic growth. Conservation groups are worried that the slow, but steady reductions in harmful algae in the Lake Erie, caused by runoff from American farms, will be reversed.  Via Globe and Mail, Buffalo News

The British government has decided not to support a £1.3-billion project to dam Swansea Bay in Wales to produce a tidal barrage. The rising and falling tide in the bay would have passed through 16 huge turbines and the resulting electricity would have powered the nearby city. While emission-free and with an extremely long life, the capital cost of the system made it unaffordable when compared to off-shore wind farms. Via The Guardian

Energy and Power

Norway is streets ahead of the rest of Europe in terms of “de-carbonizing” its transport. It has banned the sale of conventional cars starting in 2025 and already has an electric ferry fleet. Most recently, Norway demonstrated a battery-powered light aircraft, with the aim of moving entirely to battery technology for short-haul flights in 2040. Via BBC (video)

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