Tag Archives: new species

Science Quickies: The Universe In A Single Photo, Pink Leopards, Extreme Face Transplant, and Sexy Newt Kidneys

12 Apr

Neil deGrasse Tyson has a new book out, which states his argument on why funding of space exploration is essential. He also did a recent interview with NPR which is definitely worth listening to. In other astronomy news, new models show that we have several “mini-moons” orbiting around us, from the size of a softball to a washing machine. They are hard to spot, but can occasionally enter our atmosphere, creating a brilliant fireball, according to National Geographic. NASA also recently released a new photo, which is essentially our entire universe in a single photo. It’s absolutely beautiful! According to Huffington Post: “NASA recently unveiled a new atlas and catalogue of the entire infrared sky, which includes more than a half billion stars, galaxies and other objects captured by the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission. It is comprised of more than 2.7 million images taken at four infrared wavelengths of light, capturing everything from nearby asteroids to distant galaxies.”

In the world of medicine and public health, a few things caught my attention.
First, a Chinese kid recently sold his kidney in order to raise money for an iPad, and later suffered from renal failure. He only received $3,500 for the organ, which typically goes for $35,000 in the Chinese black market, according to the article.
In a far less depressing story, researched of Lund University in Sweden announced that a vaccine against heart attacks may be available in 10 years. Scientists have discovered a new drug that stimulates the body’s immune system to produce antibodies which prevent heart disease by stopping fat building up in the arteries. Fat buildup can be reduced by 70%, the researchers claim.
A Virginia man has just had the most extensive face transplant in history.

A 1997 gunshot injury left Richard Norris without a chin, nose, teeth, and lips. The face transplant took 36 hours and is the result of a team of 150 medical professionals. According to the article: “Just six days after his surgery, Norris was saying some words, shaving and brushing his teeth. He’s also beginning to get some feeling back in his face.”
Is there a link between burns and cancer? A recent study from the University of Western Australia seems to think so.


A “strawberry” leopard has been discovered in a South African reserve
, the first documented case of its kind. The leading theory is that the leopard has erythrism, which could cause the pink coloration. Also, red-spotted newts have incredibly sexy kidneys. Seriously.  In other news of adorable amphibians, 5 species of frogs have been rediscovered in recent field expeditions on the Congo, including a species of transparent frog. In Indonesia, a new species of wasp has been found, which has several unusual characteristics and is shrouded in mystery.

Advertisements

New Species of Alaskan Water Flea Discovered And It’s ADORABLE!!!

26 Mar

New species discovered by scientists in Northwest Alaska

by Doug O’Harra

Scientists have discovered a new variety of water flea in a roadside pond on the Seward Peninsula outside of Nome, suggesting that life in the Alaskan Arctic may be far ecologically mysterious than previously thought.

This tiny crustacean — now named Eurycercus beringi — was identified during a multi-year, trans-continental investigation of water fleas that squiggle through small lakes across Alaska, Siberia and other Northern Hemisphere locales. The creatures fill a niche near the bottom of the freshwater food chain, providing summer food for birds while munching on even smaller life that erupts during the intense, brief Arctic summer.

Among other things, the scientists documented 10 different species of water fleas in these northern ecosystems instead of the two previously thought to live there. That represents a remarkable five-fold increase in water flea diversity in the Far North.

Don’t dismiss these findings, reported Feb. 24 in the journal Zootaxa, as just some arcane taxonomic trivia about weird-looking pond monsters — especially in the face of widespread permafrost melt and climate change.

With summers growing warmer and vegetation shifting, aquatic life unknown to modern science might be squirming incognito off the toes of our XtraTufs in potholes and tundra lakes that have begun to vanish and shrink. As these water bodies drain into the Earth or dry up, their biological treasures could vanish with them.

“It is well known that parts of Alaska and Siberia have suffered a huge reduction in freshwater surface area, with many lakes and ponds disappearing permanently in the past few decades,” explained co-author Derek J. Taylor, a biologist at the University at Buffalo, in this story about the research. “What we’re now finding is that these regions with vanishing waters, while not the most diverse in the world, do contain some unique aquatic animals.”

“Some of these subarctic ponds that water fleas inhabit are held up by permafrost, so when this lining of ice melts or cracks, it’s like pulling the plug out of a sink,” Taylor added. “When you see the crop circle-like skeletons of drained ponds on the tundra you can’t help but wonder what animal life has been lost here.”

Along with Eugeniya I. Bekker and Alexey A. Kotov of the A. N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution in Moscow, Taylor concentrated on the quarter-inch-long water fleas from the genus Eurycercus in ponds across the globe. One surprising finding? These particular water fleas appear to be more diverse in northern regions than in the tropics.

“This is a counterintuitive concept, as scientists have long supposed that the advance and re-advance of ice sheets reduced much of the species diversity in colder climates,” Taylor explained in this story. “However, there is growing evidence that some northern areas remained ice-free and acted as hideouts during the harsh glacial advances.”

Contact Doug O’Harra at doug(at)alaskadispatch.com

A Shiver of Catsharks

12 Mar

Science has found a new species of shark! And not just any shark, but a catshark, which is undoubtedly the cutest word ever. I want one. Actually, I want a whole bunch of them. Which, since they are a type of shark, could be referred to as a shiver of catsharks.

Here is the original article, via Wired Science:

New Shark Species Discovered in Galapagos Islands

By Adam Mann


Scientists conducting deep-sea dives around the Galapagos Islands have identified a new species of shark. Part of a family known as a catsharks, the new species is about 1.3 feet long, roughly the same size as a typical housecat.

Catsharks (also sometimes known as dogfishes) are one of the largest families of sharks. The new species — named Bythaelurus giddingsi — was identified from seven specimens during two submersible treks in 1995 and 1998. Researchers have suggested the Galapagos Catshark as the common name of the new species.

The seven specimens were taken to the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, where scientists compared them to other known catsharks. B. giddingsi individuals are chocolate-brown and have pale, leopard-like spots randomly distributed on their body. This distinguishes them from other closely related species, which are typically dusky or possess a straight line of spots.

The arrangement of spots on each Galapagos Catshark appears to be unique, with most individual sharks having an identifying spot on one side that is smaller, larger, or differently shaped than the opposite-side spot.

The description of the new species appears March 5 in Zootaxa.

Sharks in many places around the world face extinction from human activity, such as commercial and recreational fishing. Researchers estimate that 100 million sharks are killed each year.

As top-level predators, sharks are necessary to keep ecosystems in balance. Because the Galapagos Catshark is only found in one place, researchers fear it may be more susceptible to extinction pressures.