The tiny shells at the bottom of Lake Nakaumi in southwest Japan may contain the secrets of the East Asia Summer Monsoon. This rainy season is fairly predictable, ushering in air and precipitation conducive to growing crops, but - sometimes without any hint - the pattern fails. Some areas of East Asia are left without rainfall, and their crops die. Other areas are inundated with rain, and their crops and homes flood.
A chimera: a monster out of Greek mythology with a lion's head, a goat's body, and a snake's tail. That was what came to mind when University of Alberta paleontologists discovered a new--and bizarre--species of 90-95 million-year-old crab fossil with features of many different marine arthropods.
New Haven, Conn. - The crab family just got a bunch of new cousins -- including a 95-million-year-old chimera species that will force scientists to rethink the definition of a crab.
Coral reefs worldwide are threatened by a variety of human impacts. Fishing is among the most pressing threats to reefs, because it occurs on most reef systems and fundamentally alters food webs. Meanwhile, observing coral reefs, particularly remote, hard-to-access locations such as the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI), remains notoriously difficult and expensive. But a University of Hawai'i (UH) at Mānoa researcher and her collaborators may have found a mysterious natural phenomenon that can help us observe coral reef health from space. Patches of coral reef are often surrounded by very large 'halos' of bare sand that are hundreds to thousands of square meters. Beyond these halos lie lush meadows of seagrass or algae. Two recently published studies and a third feature story led by Elizabeth Madin, assistant research professor at the Hawai'i Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB) in the UH at Mānoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, shed light on these enigmatic features that are visible from space. Scientists have observed reef halos for decades and explained their presence as the result of fish and invertebrates, who typically hide in a patch of coral, venturing out to eat algae and seagrass that cover the surrounding seabed. But the fear of predators keeping these smaller animals close to safety has long been thought to explain why the cleared area is circular. Madin's recent work reveals there is more to the story, and further that these features may be useful in observing aspects of reef ecosystem health from space. In one of Madin's new studies, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, her team of scientists found that no-take marine reserves, where fishing is prohibited, dramatically shape these seascape-scale vegetation patterns in coral reef ecosystems, influencing the occurrence of the prominent 'halo' pattern. This means that marine reserves may have even greater impacts on coral reef seascapes than previously known. The team hypothesized that if the "formation of the halos was driven by small fish's fear of being eaten, so the number of predators around should be linked to whether these bare patches appear and how big they are," Madin explained in an article published recently in New Scientist. "With fewer predators, you would expect the grazing fish to be less fearful and so venture further from the reef, resulting in wider halos." But to Madin and her team's great surprise, using freely-available satellite imagery they saw no difference in size of the halos inside versus outside of no-fishing marine reserves. However, they did find that the halos are significantly more likely to occur in no-take marine reserves, demonstrating novel landscape-scale effects of marine reserves. In the second study, published in Frontiers, Madin and colleagues found that a more complex set of species interactions than previously assumed likely influence these halos. Using a combination of very high definition remote underwater video camera traps and traditional ecological studies on coral reefs within Australia's Great Barrier Reef, Madin observed that in addition to the plant-eating fishes known to play a role in halo formation, invertebrate-eating fishes that dig in the sand for prey were disrupting the algae out to the halos' edges and making them bigger. Another piece of the puzzle had been revealed. Collectively, Madin's work shows that the presence of halos may serve as an indicator of aspects of reef ecosystem health, because halos are suspected to be the indirect result of healthy predator and herbivore populations. Madin's ongoing studies of halos have shown that they can appear and disappear over time and change significantly in size, a phenomenon that suggests environmental factors also influence halos. "We urgently need more cost- and time-efficient ways of monitoring such reefs," said Madin. "Our work couples freely-available satellite imagery, with traditional field-based experiments and observations, to start to unravel the mystery of what the globally-widespread patterns of 'halos' around coral reefs can tell us about how reef ecosystems may be changing over space and/or time due to fisheries or marine reserves. This will, therefore, pave the way for the development of a novel, technology-based solution to the challenge of monitoring large areas of coral reef and enable management of healthy reef ecosystems and sustainable fisheries."
The precious chemistry of a plant used for 2000 years in traditional Chinese medicine has been unlocked in a project that raises the prospect of rapid access to a wide array of therapeutic drugs.
COLUMBUS, Ohio - The tube-dwelling anemone is an ancient sea creature that resembles a prehistoric flower. The animals live slow, long and predictable lifestyles and look fairly similar from species to species.
MIAMI--A study from scientists at the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation and the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science offers a new way to accurately map coral reefs using a combination of Earth-orbiting satellites and field observations.
Cognitive impairment associated with cancer, also known as "chemobrain", has gained recognition as a complication of the disease and its treatment, as it can negatively affect the daily lives of cancer patients and survivors.
Ithaca, NY--There appears to be an underlying selection mechanism at work among Gouldian Finches--a mechanism that allows this species to produce and maintain individuals with red heads, black heads, and yellow heads.
If you've ever spent some time in the Caribbean, you might have noticed that humans are not the only organisms soaking up the sun. Anoles - diminutive little tree lizards - spend much of their day shuttling in and out of the shade
The new study is first to show how two types of sand can behave like light and heavy liquids, shedding light on geological processes from mudslides to volcanos and potentially enabling new technologies from pharmaceutical production to carbon capture
Annapolis, MD; A simple change in the choice of grass varieties for many lawns in the United States could be a key tool for fending off fall armyworm infestations, according to new research.
A new and greatly improved version of an electronic tag, called Marine Skin, used for monitoring marine animals could revolutionize our ability to study sea life and its natural environment, say KAUST researchers.
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) scientists have developed a sustainable way to demonstrate a new genetic modification that can increase the yield of natural oil in seeds by up to 15 percent in laboratory conditions.
Sometimes, it's really easy for scientists to tell species of animals apart--they'll be obviously different shapes or colors. Other times, different species will look nearly identical to the naked eye. In those cases, scientists need to turn to techniques like DNA analysis to tell them apart. Or, like researchers at the Field Museum discovered when studying some near-identical millipedes, you can sometimes just shine a black light on them, and under the ultraviolet light, parts of the different species' genitals will glow different colors.