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.

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Orca Sighting along River Clyde in Scotland

It is certainly not new to hear about adorable orcas calling for attention, as we have seen in scientists’ accounts of how they are now close to imitating human speech, and some other media appearances here and there, like in films or video games. The latest exciting orca sighting occurred just a few days ago in the River Clyde near Gourock and Dunoon in Scotland.

Chris Denovan said he saw up to six of the mammals when he filmed them in water near Dunoon earlier this week.

They were also spotted by Lindsay Moss during a Western Ferries trip between Gourock and Dunoon on Saturday afternoon.

The pod of killer whales, dubbed by an expert as “urban Orcas,” also seemed to include at least one calf, which was seen in videos while being taught to feed by the pod’s older members.

David Nairn, of Clyde Porpoise marine mammal project, told the BBC Scotland website that they are regularly seen near Arran in the Firth of Clyde.

However, they have not been regular visitors to the upper Clyde for many years.

Orcas are quite the social creatures and tend to travel in groups. Though they are also called “killer whales,” they are not known to show any aggression towards humans or each other.

If this orca sighting really is a rare visit as experts describe it, then what a magnificent day for their human friends!

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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.

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U.K. To Tax Plastic Products To Reduce Pollution

To minimize ocean pollution, nations are campaigning against single-use plastics in the hopes of replacing them with more eco-friendly options. While Costa Rica is steadily approaching its goal of going plastic-free in 2021, Kenya has banned the material altogether. To further the cause, U.K. chancellor Philip Hammond is calling to consider plastic tax.

“The Treasury’s announcement is only a statement of intent, but it recognises the significance of the problem and the urgent need for a solution. There is a long way to go, but hopefully this is the beginning of the end for single-use plastic.” [said Greenpeace campaigner Tisha Brown.]

To stunt the growth of an annual 12 million tons of plastic waste, U.K. stores began pricing plastic bags at 5p. In just 6 months, the move reduced usage by 85%. Suddenly, the tax proposal makes a lot more sense.

“Any action to tackle single-use plastic is a good thing, but we must ensure any action is truly ambitious if we want to make the real difference needed to help save the planet.”

Plastic may be convenient, but the millions of marine animals killed each year will beg to differ. Plastic tax — two thumbs up from me!

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Orcas Can Now Imitate Human Speech

Animals will never cease to amaze us. Whether they’re solving pollution or producing alcohol, our wonder hardly falters. As technology remains on the rise, animals are calling out for attention — literally. Killer whales are showing parrots the real deal, imitating their trainers’ speech.

“We found that the subject made recognizable copies of all familiar and novel conspecific and human sounds tested and did so relatively quickly (most during the first 10 trials and three in the first attempt),”

Star pupil Wikie is a marvel at the Marineland Aquarium in southern France. Whereas most mammals use the larynx to vocalize, whales and the like use a nasal passage. And yes, that makes it all the more impressive.

“Human sounds are easily recognizable by us and if they could produce a human sound that is not in their normal repertoire, that would mean that the only way they could learn it is by listening to it and reproducing it. And that’s what we did,” [said professor Josep] Call.

So far, Wikie has learned to greet guests with “hello” and “bye bye” as well as count (up to two, anyway). Now, excuse me while I binge reruns of Free Willy!

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Biodegradable Six-Pack Beer Holders Are A New Fad

At present, contemporary breweries have moved out of beer houses and into labs. To make up for scant resources, many sustainable groups are crafting tasty drinks from bread and other waste. While revamping recipes is a success in itself, we can’t yet say the same for packaging. Six-pack holders are often 100% plastic, but that isn’t the case for Mexican Startup E6PR. Eco Six Pack Rings’ holders are made with compostable materials that are completely biodegradable.

“With the help of E6PR, we would like to inspire the entire beer industry to follow our lead… Our goal is to transition all of the packaging in our facility to this six-pack ring alternative that goes beyond recycling and strives to achieve zero waste.” [said Chris Gove of SaltWater Brewery.]

The rings dissolve in water and are safe for marine animals to ingest. E6PR hopes to produce the holders for all types of cans and bottles along with their standard size.

“If most craft brewers and big beer companies implement this technology, we will potentially be saving hundreds of thousands of marine lives as a result,” said Francisco García, the engineer behind the project

It’s quite the genius party trick, and while it won’t harm any animals, we do hope you reach for a rubbish bin before making the ocean yours.

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