Posts Tagged ‘Great’

Hundreds of new marine species have been found on Australia’s coral reefs, surprising biologists worldwide.  The first systematic scientific inventory of spectacular soft corals in the region showed around 300 soft coral species, half of which are believed new to science; nearly one hundred small crustacean species; and an unusual amphipod of the Maxillipiidae family.  This creature has a whip-like back leg that is almost three times the size of its body.

The great biodiversity of reefs are in danger.

The great biodiversity of reefs are in danger.

Also found were a new species of tanaid crustaceans, which are shrimp-like creatures with claws that are larger than their bodies; and a beautiful, rare Cassiopeia jellyfish.”

Between 40 and 60 percent of the tiny amphipod crustaceans listed, in the survey will be formally described for the first time.  This truly earns them the title of the insects of the marine world.  Other major finds included potentially new worm species, known as bristle worms.  They are relatives of leeches and earth worms. As many as two-thirds of species found at Lizard Island alone were believed new to science.

Corals face threats ranging from ocean acidification, pollution, and warming to overfishing and global warming, and this is all the more reason to protect them.  They are an amazing source of biodiversity and beauty that should never be lost, but is on the brink of destruction.


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The amazing Cuttlefish, or Sepia apama, can live around 2-3 years in the wild.  During that time, they can grow up to 1.5m (5 feet) and weigh nearly 15kg (33 pounds). 

Cuttlefish have sucker-lined appendages growing from their heads: eight long and prehensile arms, and two retractile tentacles.  They have a highly developed central nervous system and highly developed complex eyes, which focus by changing the shape of the entire eyeball.  They have thick shells beneath their muscular mantle.  This mantle is expanded and contracted to expel water from the mantle cavity through the funnel.  The mouth consists of a bird-like beak, jaws, and a rasping tongue.

The main diet of cuttlefish is small fish and crustaceans. Cuttlefish shoot out two tentacles, which are usually tucked away in pouches under their eyes.  Prey is then pulled into the powerful suckered arms and then eaten by crushing the animal with their beak.

Cuttlefish can crawl, swim, or employ jet propulsion to burst with surprising speed.  Cuttlefish are prehaps best known for their amazing ability to change color and shape to show aggression, fear, or sexual excitement.  Under their skin, they possess a dense layer of elastic pigment sacs called chromatophores, which are used to change their colour. As camouflage, colour changes are used to match surroundings with extraordinary accuracy, as seen in the video above.  Males duel using an intricate combination of colour and body language, pulsing vivid stripes of blues, purples and greens over their mantles.  Groups of around seven males battle with each other using intense blasts of colour until one emerges as the winner.  He then turns his attentions to the smaller females, mesmerizing them with another kaleidoscopic display (This does not work on human females, many of whom think lava lamps are stupid).  Like all members of the squid family they can use jets of ink to confuse and escape from attackers. 

Until recently, the cuttlefish harvest at the spawning grounds near Whyalla, South Australia, was limited, but new markets in Asia caused a dramatic increase in commercial fishing beginning in 1996.   Despite that, the cuttlefish are not listed by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Also, check out http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/camo/ and click, watch a preview and Anatomy of a Cuttlefish.

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Once again, I delved into the Encyclopedia of Life to bring you an animal for this week.  It is the Pronghorn Antelope.

The Pronghorn Antelope in Motion

The pronghorn antelope is the only gazelle-like creature left on North America after the split of Pangea.  They live up to 10 years in the wild.  They stand around a meter and a half to the shoulder, but males are bigger than females.  Their wonderful horns are garnered on both genders, male and female.  Their sandy coats make it very difficult to see them in the American Western grasslands.  There, they feed easily on grass and other small bushes.

Pronghorns are naturally very curious animals.  As a result, they would inspect anything that moved, including predators.  Since they are extremely fast, the second fastest land animal after cheetahs, they could escape from most of their predators.  But, when humans began to hunt them, they could not outrun bullets.  Thus, their own curiosity, nearly caused their extinction.  Fortunately, conservation efforts have brought the populations up to a healthy level once more.  Now, however, their status is once again threatened because of the destruction of their habitat by increased urban sprawl. 

An interesting fact about Pronghorns is that Pronghorn fawns are actually safer living around wolves.  Why?  Because it seems wolves will kill coyotes, the main predators of Pronghorn fawns.  Thus, hunters who kill wolves for killing the Pronghorn are actually perpetuating the problem.

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Even the Ancient Mariner would be appalled at the state of water in the Great Lakes.  Authorities in major cities along the Great Lakes are encouraging residents to stop flushing used medication down the toilet … literally.  Good sized amounts of medicine has been found in the drinking water of the cities, the leaders are now setting up drop off sites for old medicine so that it can be disposed correctly.

The Polluted Waters of Lake Erie

The Environmental Protection Agency is helping pay for more than 70 collection points in eight states that will take old medicine, along with electronic waste like computers, cell phones and televisions, so they are not just thrown into any old landfill or the water of the Lakes themselves.

A five-month inquiry by the AP National Investigative Team found trace amounts of anti-biotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers, and sex hormones in the tap water of around 25 major cities along the Great Lakes.  It was later discovered that residents were simply flushing their medicines down the toilet.  The water was then dumped in the Lakes.  Filters did not extract the medication, thus contaminating the water. 

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The Birds

Thousands of dead birds have been washing up on the shoreline of the Great Salt Lake in Utah.  A panic hit the state.  The interesting thing was: the dead birds did not perish of the dreaded avian flu.

An Eared Grebe

Avian cholera killed more than 15,000 birds who lived near or on the lake last fall.  Most of the dead birds were Eared Grebes.  The bacteria spread ramantly through the bird population killing many.  The salt water the lake preserved the birds so they did not decay, even though they all have been dead for months at this point and have only now begun to wash up on shore.  The bacteria do not affect other people or animals, and the birds have been dead long enough that they no longer are carriers or the pathogen.

Fortunately, there are hundreds of thousands of birds that migrate over the area, and the 15,000 or so deaths will not hurt the general population of grebes or humans for that matter.


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The biodiversity in the Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef: this is the only living organism large enough to be seen from space.  It stretches 1,200 miles off of the coast of Queensland, Australia.  Amongst the reef, there are hundreds of smaller islands ripe for exploring.  This is the largest marine preserve in the world. Naturally, it is hoe to a plethora of 500 species of beautifully colored coral, 4,000 kinds of shellfish, 1,500 different fish species. 

This reef is perfect for water sports, including sailing, snokeling, and diving.  You can find a travel agency or guides who are willing to help you out on the reef almost anywhere on the northwest coast of Australia.  If you are not into the diving, there is an underwater observatory where you can see all the wonderful underwater biodiversity. 

The best time to travel here is from October to November for the best ocean water conditions.  The clear waters and beauty of the reef is absolutely stunning, and as global warming and changes in climate destroy reefs everywhere, we should try to visit, appreciate, and protect this valuable and unique ecosystem.

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The Great Wall of China

They don’t call it great for nothing!  The Great wall is the only man-made structure that can be seen from the moon.  The ancient Chinese built the wall in 221 B.C. to ward off Mongol raiders.  When added together, the wall spans 3,750 miles.  Over a million workers including slaves, prisoners, peasants, and soldiers built the 10,000 battlements and watchtowers.  The Great Wall is like the ancient Chinese described it: a slithering dragon resting on the backs of the mountains. 

The main site is located about 50 miles northwest of Beijing, China.  The best time to visit the wall is in the late afternoon, as then all of the tour buses have left and there are much fewer people.  Even though only a third of the original wall is still standing today, the effect is no less magnificent.  This is a showcase of superb engineering and what monolithic structures humans can create. 

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