Newfound Ocean Zone Home to 100 Species

Just a while ago, a previously unexplored region of the Indian Ocean gave us more than 11 new species to look forward to reading about, including crustaceans with fascinating appearances and others. This is an amazing breakthrough for marine biology. But accomplishments in the field just seem to keep coming, as scientists from Oxford University travel Bermudian waters to discover a new area.

But that’s not yet the amazing part — the newfound ocean zone they call Rariphotic Zone (or rare light zone) seems to be home to 100 previously unknown species as well.

[M]ore than 100 new species were discovered including tanaids – minute crustaceans – dozens of new algae species and black wire coral that stand up to two metres high . . . The survey team spent hundreds of hours underwater, either scuba diving or using submersibles and remote operated vehicles which can reach depths of 6,500 feet (2,000m).

The team of marine biologists also found a huge algal forest on an underwater mountain about 15 miles from the Bermudian coast. Gardens of corals populated by urchins, eels, crabs, fish, and other creatures were also discovered to exist on this mountain’s slopes. For reference, the world has a total of around 100,000 underwater mountains, with only 50 that have been intimately explored by scientists.

Alex Rogers, Professor of Conservation Biology at Oxford University and scientific director of Nekton — the British charity which organized the ocean exploration trip — has a rightful opinion. The discovery of an entirely new ocean zone forwards the idea that there is far more diversity to look into. We may not have even laid eyes on so many ocean species.

“The average depth of the ocean is 4,200m. If life in the shallower regions of the deep sea is so poorly documented it undermines confidence in our existing understanding of how the patterns of life change with depth,” he added.

“[This is] evidence of how little we know and how important it is to document this unknown frontier to ensure that its future is protected”.

What he’s saying is very significant. Huge actions towards marine conservation are happening, such as Australia’s 500 million dollar pledge to the protection of the Great Barrier Reef. But if we really want to protect the oceans and marine life, first we need to know in detail what we are protecting. And there is so much left to know.

--> Help make the world a better place by sharing this story with your friends:

Australia Pledges $500M to Protect Great Barrier Reef

Australia has been making waves in the environmental newsfeed this past year with some fantastic headlines: its energy sector powered 70% of the country’s homes using only renewable sources, a huge permaculture farm fed dozens and dozens of families with only organic produce, and even without human help, a supposedly extinct species of insectivore suddenly showed up. But this Sunday, Australia made just about its biggest wave yet.

Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull pledged more than 500 million Australian dollars for the protection of the Great Barrier Reef — the greatest single investment that this reef or any other coral ecosystem in the world has ever received.

[T]he Great Barrier Reef Foundation, a national non-profit . . . will use the money to counter water pollution, combat coral-eating starfish, increase public awareness, boost reef monitoring, and improve the environmental impact of surrounding businesses . . . The funds will also be used to expand reef restoration efforts, including trialling new techniques that can breed corals resistant to high temperatures and light stress.

For a while now, the Great Barrier Reef, which hosts about 400 types of coral and 1,500 species of fish, is known to be in great danger. Its damage — including coral bleaching and ocean acidification — can be traced to climate change as a consequence of burning fossil fuels, harmful coastal development, and continuous fishing despite the already-present negative effects. A 2016 study even said that more than 90% of the reef has already been affected by coral bleaching.

However, Australia’s environment and energy minister, Josh Frydenberg, is confident that “the right plan and the right investment” will help secure what he describes as a “remarkably resistant” reef . . . “The more we understand about the reef, the better we can protect it . . . Millions of dollars will go into science and to better data management and to be able to test the impacts on the reef.”

Of course, we must inevitably mull over the damage humans have caused the beautiful coral ecosystem in the past decades, but it seems to have been resilient in maintaining itself and in forgiving us. Perhaps the millions of dollars pledged to its protection can finally help us start to make up for the damage and deserve its forgiveness. I honestly can’t help but hope it’s better late than never for us and the Great Barrier Reef.

 

--> Help make the world a better place by sharing this story with your friends:

A Camera to See the Sea like a Mantis Shrimp

Humans never stop trying to improve the world for fellow creatures. We turn empty lots into homes for bees, we make highways so that hedgehogs may survive our cities, we teach orcas human speech. But we don’t know everything, and there’s a lot to learn about the world through these animals’ eyes as well. In this instance, through the eyes of a shrimp:

For a small glimpse of the mantis shrimp’s view of the ocean, humans can now look through a mantis-shrimp-inspired camera from a team led by Viktor Gruev, an engineer at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Mantis shrimp have the ability to detect up to six types of polarization in the ocean, a property of light that is impossible for humans to see. To imitate this, Gruev’s team made miniature polarized lenses, popped them inside a video camera, and collaborated with marine biologists to study how different underwater creatures use polarization.

[T]he ability to see detect polarization is widespread among cuttlefish, octopus, squid, crabs, and even some fish. Perhaps marine animals use polarization to communicate with each other, or perhaps it enhances contrast underwater for them to detect predators.

Through their findings, the team was also able to raise another important factor in the survival of marine animals: navigation. Do the mantis shrimp and other animals actually use polarization as their very own GPS? Scientists are not yet certain as to exactly how. But the idea already sounds awesome.

And with this camera, the world just might get a whole lot bigger in the future.

--> Help make the world a better place by sharing this story with your friends:

Scotland Puts An End To Cotton Swabs

It’s the end of an era for plastic products. In the past year, Kenya bid goodbye to plastic bags while the U.K. made a final salute to microbeads. Latest to kick the bucket are cotton buds, axed by Scotland’s government.

“Despite various campaigns, people are continuing to flush litter down their toilets and this has to stop. Scotland’s sewerage… systems are not designed to remove small plastic items such as plastic buds, which can kill marine animals and birds that swallow them.” [said environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham.]

The ban is the first of its kind in the U.K. Subsequently, it has encouraged cotton product manufacturers to use biodegradable materials. E-charity Fidra has attempted a number of exhausting cotton bud clean-ups — and the damage isn’t pretty.

“This decisive action is great news for the environment and for wildlife. Cotton buds are a very visible sign of our hugely wasteful habits, turning up on beaches across the globe.” [said Richard Dixon of Friends of the Earth.]

Sure, cotton swabs may feel pleasant in your ear — but not in oceans and definitely not in anyone’s stomach!

--> Help make the world a better place by sharing this story with your friends: