Stubby Purple Squid Just Chillin’ Off SoCal Coast

Scientists try to maintain their composure when conducting research. But researchers aboard the Exploration Vessel Nautilus couldn’t help but get excited when they happened upon a goofy-looking, googly eyed purple squid while mapping the seafloor off southern California last week.

The creature was a stubby squid, Rossia pacifica, a species that lives in the Pacific ocean from Japan to southern California. The creature was just sitting out in the open on the sea floor when the crew spotted it. “It looks so fake,” one of the researchers says in a video of the encounter. “It looks like some little kid dropped their toy.”

The creature does look strange, like its eyes were painted on its bright purple body by a child. But Samantha Wishnak, a science communication fellow aboard the E/V Nautilus, tells Kacey Deamer at Live Science that things only get weirder from there. “They actually have this pretty awesome superpower, they can turn on a little sticky mucus jacket over their body and sort of collect bits of sand or pebbles or whatever they’re burrowing into and make a really nice camouflage jacket,” she says. “When they go to ambush something and prey on something, they’re able to sort of turn off that mucus jacket.”

The researchers were lucky, says Wishnak, to see the little squid out in the open since the nocturnal predator typically hides in the sediment in its jacket waiting for prey. She also says most of the scientists watching the feed from the ROV were geologists and ecologists unfamiliar with deep sea species, so they were much more excited to see the crazy-looking creature than seasoned marine biologists. Biologists watching the video feed on shore identified the little squid … just gotta’ see what this stubby purple squid looks like?  Click here to read more, watch video —>   http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/…

You’ll Be Glad to Know What Possums Eat!

Posssum Diet, Ticks, OffGridQuest_com

At night, when you catch sight of an opossum in your car headlights, you are allowed to think, “That is one ugly little animal.”  But what opossums lack in looks, they make up in originality.

They’re America’s only babies-in-the pouch marsupial.  They’re a southern species — proper name Virginia opossum — that’s adapted to New England winters.

They’re one of the oldest species of mammal around, having waddled past dinosaurs.

They eat grubs and insects and even mice, working over the environment like little vacuum cleaners.

“They really eat whatever they find,” said Laura Simon, wildlife ecologist with the U.S. Humane Society.

And they’re an animal whose first line of defense includes drooling and a wicked hissing snarl — a bluff — followed by fainting dead away and “playing possum.”

“They are just interesting critters,” said Mark Clavette, a wildlife biologist with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

And now ecologists have learned something else about opossums. They’re a sort of magnet when it comes to riding the world of black-legged ticks, which spread Lyme disease.

“Don’t hit opossums if they’ve playing dead in the road,” said Richard Ostfeld, of the Cary Institute for Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, N.Y.

Ostfeld is forest ecologist and an expert on the environmental elements of infectious diseases like Lyme disease.

Several years ago, scientists decided to learn about the part different mammals play in the spread of the ticks and the disease.

They tested six species — white-footed mice, chipmunks, squirrels, opossums and veerys and catbirds — by capturing and caging them, and then exposing each test subject to 100 ticks.

What they found, is that of the six, the opossums were remarkably good at getting rid of the ticks — much more so that any of the others.

“I had no suspicion they’d be such efficient tick-killing animals,” Ostfeld said.

Indeed, among other opossum traits, there is this: They groom themselves fastidiously, like cats. If they find a tick, they lick it off and swallow it. (The research team on the project went through droppings to find this out. All praise to those who study possum poop.)

Extrapolating from their findings, Ostfeld said, the team estimated that in one season, an opossum can kill about 5,000 ticks.

What ecologists are learning is how complex the interaction of ticks and mammals can be.

For example, foxes probably serve as a host for ticks seeking a blood meal. But foxes are great at killing white-footed mice — the species in the environment credited with being the chief reservoir of the Lyme bacteria.

Likewise, Ostfeld said, opossums, waddling around at night, pick up lots of ticks. Some ticks end up getting their blood meal from the possum. But more than 90 percent of them ended up being groomed away and swallowed.

“They’re net destroyers of ticks,” Ostfeld said.

For Simon, of the U.S. Humane Society, the Cary Institute research is a welcome justification to just leave opossums be.

“People are so hard on them,” she said.

That’s in part because people think oppossums might be rabid when they drool and hiss and carry on when threatened. In fact, opossums are resistant to rabies.

Meanwhile, they are not particularly pretty. People who “ooh” and “aah” over fawns and bluebirds may not extend the same love to pokey animals with triangular heads, white faces and naked tails.

“I tell people ‘We can’t all be beautiful,’ ” Simon said.

courtesy of, see video:  http://www.offgridquest.com/wildlife/

 

What Happens When a Chameleon Looks in a Mirror?

Chameleon, NatGeo-crop

Female in the Mirror 

Females change color to communicate their sexual status to males, Hughes says. Female Mediterranean chameleons, for example, display yellow spots to signal sexual receptivity, according to a 1998 study.

Female social signals may be fewer “because they choose and males are competing to be chosen.”

And if she sees herself in a mirror? It would likely be more subtle than the male reaction, Hughes says—although there isn’t enough knowledge of female chameleons to know for sure.

“Female-female communication in chameleons is generally not well understood,” he says, and may be less obvious than interactions between males.

Color us humans envious of an animal who looks in a mirror and sees little that needs changing.

Male in the Mirror 

Chameleon colors aren’t just camouflage, says Eli Greenbaum, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Texas at El Paso—they also change due to temperature shifts or emotions.

And males get emotional when they see other males that could be rivals for females or habitat.

“Male chameleons will, in most cases, immediately change colors in response to seeing another male, and in this instance, to itself in a mirror,” says Daniel F. Hughes, a doctoral candidate in Greenbaum’s lab. (Related: “What Do Animals See in the Mirror?“).

To illustrate his point, he referred us to a YouTube video of a male panther chameleon, a species native to Madagascar, doing that very thing.

A male chameleon that sees a “rival” would get excited and change from its camo green to noticeable hues of yellow, orange, or even red, says Michel C. Milinkovitch, a biophysicist at the University of Geneva … read more –>   http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/06/…

Did You Know? Friday Was International Tiger Day

Tiger, Sumatran, NatGeo-crop

 

We have lost 97% of all wild tigers in a bit over 100 years.

Sumatran tigers are the last of the so-called island tiger subspecies, having outlived the Bali tigers (Panthera tigris balica) and the Javan tigers (Panthera tigris sondaica) that once roamed the Indonesian islands of Bali and Java, respectively.

Although more than a thousand Sumatran tigers are thought to have lived on Indonesia’s island of Sumatra in the 1970s, their numbers have declined by roughly half due to poachers and deforestation.

read more –>  http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/07/…

Discovering New Berardius In 2016

Whale, Beaked, New, Unknown, NatGeo

This whale washed up dead on Alaska’s St. George Island in June 2014.  Scientists say it is a newly discovered species of beaked whale.
Photograph by Karin Holser

Like many good mysteries, this one started with a corpse, but the body in question was 24 feet (7.3 meters) long.

The remains floated ashore in June of 2014, in the Pribilof Islands community of St. George, a tiny oasis of rock and grass in the middle of Alaska’s Bering Sea. A young biology teacher spotted the carcass half-buried in sand on a desolate windswept beach. He alerted a former fur seal researcher who presumed, at first, that she knew what they’d found: a Baird’s beaked whale, a large, gray, deep-diving creature that occasionally washes in dead with the tide.

But a closer examination later showed that the flesh was too dark, the dorsal fin too big and floppy. The animal was too short to be an adult, but its teeth were worn and yellowed with age.

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It’s just so exciting to think that in 2016 we’re still discovering things in our world—even mammals that are more than 20 feet long.

Phil Morin | NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center
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It turns out, according to new research published Tuesday, that this was not a Baird’s beaked whale at all, but an entirely new species—a smaller, odd-shaped black cetacean that Japanese fishermen have long called karasu, or raven.

“We don’t know how many there are, where they’re typically found, anything,” says Phillip Morin, a molecular geneticist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center. “But we’re going to start looking.”

It’s rare to uncover a new species of whale. Advances in DNA research have helped scientists identify five new cetaceans in the past 15 years but two were dolphins and most were simple category splits between fairly similar species. This animal, in the genus Berardius, looks far different than its nearest relative and inhabits an area of the North Pacific where marine mammal research has been conducted for decades … read more –> http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/07/new-whale-species/…

 

Mysterious Purple Orb?

Purple Orb1, New Unknown, NatGeo

Researchers Find Mysterious Purple Orb in the Channel Islands

Channel Islands National Park is a popular day trip from Los Angeles; hundreds of thousands of people make the venture every year. But the eight-island chain, dubbed the Galapagos of the North, still holds plenty of mysteries. In fact, during a recent trip to map the surrounding waters, the team aborad the Nautilus exploration vessel found a strange bright purple ball that looks like an unhatched Pokémon.

When the team stumbled on the blob, which is only a few inches across, they weren’t sure what to make of it. In a video recording of the find, one researcher speculates that it is a new type of tunicate, also known as a sea squirt. Other options include some type of sea slug or cnidarian, the group which includes jellyfish and coral …

… The team used a vacuum system to slurp up the creature. Once aboard the ship, it began to unfold into two distinct lobes and looked like it could be a new species of nudibranch, according to the team’s website. Known for their brilliant hues, nudibranchs are a type of sea slug that inhabit a range of environments.

The orb wasn’t the only awesome find from the trip. While surveying deep reefs in the Sanctuary to identify “essential fish habitats,” the Nautilus crew also found whelks building their unusual egg towers, groups of Pacific octopuses protecting their eggs, as well as interesting corals, sea stars and sea fans.

There are likely many more creatures to discover in this region. Less than half of the sea floor has been mapped within the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, which encompass 1,470 square miles of water around the islands. The Nautilus Exploration Program plans to peer into more of these nooks and crannies, mapping the area and collecting biological samples along their route. The goal is to pay particular attention to the deep sea habitat and deep coral beds in the area. The purple blob was found on their latest venture, which took place July 3 to July 21.

It may be a while before scientists figure out what the odd spiky orb truly is. But in the meantime, there’s so much more to find lurking in the ocean depths.

see video –>  http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/researchers-find-mysterious-purple-orb-channel-islands-180959933/#OcwU5fl0q5X7xYCx.99