More than half of it has not yet passed, but 2018 already seems to be a great year for zoological findings. There is the sudden resurfacing of a previously extinct insectivore in Australia, there is the identification of a new type of exploding ant in Borneo, and now the first scientific expedition to the Indian Ocean yields at least 11 previously undiscovered species of deep-sea creatures.
The expedition is a collaboration between the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Indonesian Institute of Sciences. The team collected over 12,000 specimens from 63 sites in the two weeks that they stayed in the coasts of West Java.
“This is a part of the Indian Ocean that has never been sampled for deep-sea animals so we really didn’t know what to find,” Peter Ng, head of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum at NUS and chief scientist for the Singapore team, told AFP. “We were very surprised by the findings.”
From the specimens, they were able to identify 800 species from families of jellyfish, molluscs, crabs, fish, worms, and others. The 11 newfound deep-sea creatures include a crab nicknamed “big ears” for the ear-shaped plate that covers its eyes, a hermit crab with green eyes, a zebra-striped orange lobster, and many others.
The team has yet to sort, analyse and catalogue the entire collection, but fully expect more new species to emerge — the reason the crustaceans were so quickly picked up is because the expedition included experts in crabs and shrimps.
The scientists from both Singapore and Indonesia are expected to categorize and study further the samples they collected until they are ready to release their results, targeting a 2020 publishing date. Come to think of it, two years is a very short time, relative to the hundreds and hundreds when these deep-sea creatures were previously unknown to science.
To prevent passersby having to rescue beached whales, activists are looking for ways to better protect marine life. Some are turning to lab-grown meat to combat overfishing, while others are dealing with poachers up front. Determined to keep their own Revillagigedo Islands afloat, Mexico is placing 57,000 square miles under protection.
“It’s an important place biologically for megafauna, kind of superhighway, if you will, for sharks, manta rays, whales and turtles,” [said] Matt Rand, director of the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project… “It’s a pretty biologically spectacular location.”
Altogether, the islands are home to 366 species of fish, as well as a vast number of plants and birds. Though fishing villages have expressed concern, conservationists have assured that the reserve will help catch populations to quickly rise.
“We have a long way to go,” [Rand] says. “But there’s been incredible growth in the concept of large-scale marine protected areas. It’s almost becoming a race. Hopefully it’s starting to snowball.”
To conserve ecosystems, at least 30% of the ocean must remain untouched. I’d say 57,000 square miles is a pretty good start.
Treatments for the seeing-impaired are not always easy to come by. That’s why we make do with technology like talking cameras that allow the blind to “see.” However, a new study shows that mimicking fish eyes could potentially cure blindness.
Researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle reported that they have hacked the cells of a mouse retina to act like those of a fish—not only growing new neurons, but also wiring those neurons up to other neurons that send signals to the brain.
While surgery can treat cataracts, retina damage is incurable — but not for zebrafish. Their eyes regenerate indefinitely, assisted by a cell called Müller glia. The cell acts as a “stand in” for lost neurons. Humans also carry the cell but due to differences in DNA, cannot access this reprogrammable characteristic.
[UW Researchers found] Trichostatin-A (TSA), a hormonal treatment for breast cancer, that also happens to open up the regeneration DNA sequence. In an injured retina, these Müller glia cells treated with TSA transformed into two types of neurons, bipolar and amacrine cells, that are part of the retina’s internal wiring.
Scientists have yet to produce photoreceptor neurons, but with the way things are going, creating them is very possible.
The food industry has furiously been working towards a solution to combatting limited resources. Restaurants are attempting to save reefs by replanting oyster shells. Researchers are finding ways to grow protein by using energy sources. Now, Finless Foods is turning to lab-grown seafood, hoping to solve over-harvesting.
Finless Foods is beginning by replicating the cells of Bluefin Tuna because it is overfished… and can’t be reproduced in captivity.
“We’re growing a small sample of fish meat out from a real fish in a large bioreactor, in massive scale, in clean, sterile breweries that won’t engage in all sorts of harmful practices like run-off, won’t have high levels of antibiotics or hormones,”
31% of fish worldwide are being over-harvested. Additionally, urbanization, agriculture, general fishing, and other actions are causing the rapid decrease in fish populations.
“We are taking fish from the world’s ocean on an unsustainable pace. Globally speaking, it is one of the biggest environmental threats that this world faces.”
Other groups are also processing their own synthetic meats. It may seem a long way before cell-cultured foods hit the market, but some businesses are already aiming to get products out by 2018. If artificial salmon tastes as good as I hear it does, then there’s nothing fishy here.
We’ve all heard of recycled cosmetics packaging, but recycled cosmetics? That’s a different story. Especially if we’re talking fish guts — but this group of researchers think they could be useful. Jennifer Murphy of the Ocean Frontier Institute has recently manufactured nail polish from mussel shells.
“We presented at the Newfoundland Aquaculture Association and she was presenting all the different things like acid mine drainage treatment and road salt, and then she showed the nails. All the questions were about the nails.”
“It’s really sparkly, it’s very pretty,”
The fish waste is also used in products such as fuel, road salt, and animal feed. In fact, fish oil mixed with regular oil can produce enough power to run a small boat.
[Institute professor] Hawboldt said sustainability and smaller impacts on the earth are a natural byproduct of using fish waste to make more money from [fisheries].
The institute’s primary goal is to figure out which products work best from each species and region. As it seems, different breeds work towards different purposes. Perhaps it’s about time for a manicure?