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Bartholomew Says Hello June 22, 2010

Posted by Mrs Weird Scientist in Animals, Brain Power, Deep Sea, Easy As Pie, Environment, Evolution, Ocean.
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6 comments

If this blobfish could talk, I think it would ask for us humans to give it some space. Maybe then it would have reason to smile. Credit: Greenpeace

Okay well, I made up the name Bartholomew and this interesting creature can’t really speak.  But if it could, I imagine it might say something like “Please leave me alone!”  So, just what is this odd, slimy thing and why would it want us to stay away?

Meet A Blobfish

With the formal name of Psychrolutes marcidus, the blobfish is definitely not the world’s prettiest fish.  It is, however, on the verge of extinction according to researchers at the University of York in England.  For blobfish, home is 800 meters into the ocean, just off the southeastern coast of Australia.

But unfortunately, excessive fishing with nets along the bottom of the ocean has jeopardized the well-being of the blobfish.  It starts with overfishing at less deep and murky depths.  After reducing populations up there, not much is left.

To compensate, we do something called bottom trawling, which takes us even deeper into the ocean.  Here, we are fishing along the sea floor.  It’s bad news for Bartholomew and all the other blobfish down there.  No wonder poor Bartholomew looks so sad.

These blobfish may look like your grumpy Great Aunt Martha but they're probably unhappy for another reason. Overfishing is threatening their livelihood. Credit: NOAA Alaska Fisheries Science Center.

A Day In The Life Of Bartholomew

Just humour me here and let’s keep the name.  So what’s life like for Bartholomew?  You won’t see it for yourself because Bartholomew lives deep in the ocean, far away from our eyes.

That peculiar body serves a purpose, letting Bartholomew sort of float above the sea floor.  Instead of using a bunch of energy to move, Bartholomew keeps movement easy and light.

How big is this body?  A blobfish usually grows to approximately 12 inches (30 centimeters).  In fact, I just picked up a comic book I will soon be reviewing here on the blog, and it’s about the same length as a blobfish.

A Floating Feeder

And boy oh boy, feeding is an interesting activity for the blobfish.  While you or I take an active role in eating – we open our mouths and put food inside – the blobfish does it another way.  When Bartholomew feeds, it means just drifting along, swallowing food particles that float in its mouth.

Ugliness Comes In Many Forms

Bartholomew is yet another example of the consequences from overfishing.  Without adequate regulations around deep sea trawling, our ‘hello’ to Bartholomew may soon be a ‘goodbye’ instead.  While his appearance may be ugly, some might say that the actions of humans are far uglier.

A Computer Generated Shark Bite August 1, 2007

Posted by Mrs Weird Scientist in Deep Sea, Easy As Pie, Marine Life, Ocean, Technology.
2 comments

A group of scientists in Australia have a plan. It involves sharks and computers. Weird combination? Actually, it makes perfect sense! They want to test out the biting power of the Great White shark. To accomplish this goal, they’re building a three-dimensional (3-D) computer model to help them figure it out. Stephen Wroe of the University of New South Wales is leading the team of researchers. Together, they are also working with researchers from the University of Newcastle as well as the University of Tampa, which is located in Florida. They are using data from a shark that was previously caught using beach nets. The shark is 7.8 feet long and the scientists are looking at the shark’s jaw and facial muscles.

Great White Shark

Credit: Encyclopaedia Britannica.

It’s Useful Information

Shark bites can cause a lot of damage and I’m not just talking about bites to humans. Dan Huber-a shark biologist working with the Australian team-is investigating whether sharks caused damage to submarine cables and communication systems on U.S. Navy submarines.

Researchers Have A Plan

Using 3-D computer simulations, the researchers are hoping to figure out the bite force, feeding behavior and cranial mechanics of the Great White shark. It seems like a logical and safe way to do it. Researchers had already tried to figure out the shark’s bite force by using underwater experiments. These experiments, however, were unsuccessful. It’s because sharks have bitten through stuff with more force than what researchers have seen in underwater experiments. What we observe in a limited time-period and a restricted space underwater isn’t always an accurate representation of what really happens throughout the ocean depths.

Bite Proof Materials

If researchers can attain their goal of figuring out the Great White shark’s bite force and related mechanics, this information can then be used to create stronger, shark bite resistant materials for submarines and similar projects. The Great White shark may have sharp teeth and a powerful jaw, but if the researchers can figure this one out, the shark’s teeth won’t be able to sink too far into the new bite resistant materials!

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Deep Sea Creatures June 27, 2007

Posted by Mrs Weird Scientist in Deep Sea, Easy As Pie, Evolution, Marine Life, Ocean.
16 comments

Deep Sea 1

Deep, deep, deep into the dark icy waters around Antarctica is a lively and peculiar bundle of marine life. Carnivorous sponges, crustaceans and wiggling worms all bring life into these shivering depths. Researchers have recently discovered nearly 700 new sea creatures. It’s a surprising find because around these desolate and freezing parts, the conditions are really aggressive. Scientists hadn’t anticipated that all of these strange and interesting life forms would exist.

Undiscovered Species

The discovery of these magnificent sea creatures is part of ANDEEP, which stands for Antarctic Benthic Deep Sea Biodiversity Project. It’s a bit of a long name for a project but it’s certainly a fitting one! ANDEEP is one of the first studies that really looks at marine life in Antarctica.

Expeditions!

Between 2002 and 2005, three research expeditions took place and tens of thousands of samplings from the ocean were taken. They managed to find over 1000 species, with most being new, previously undiscovered life forms.

deepsea4.jpg deepsea2.jpg deepsea3.jpg

Leading the whole expedition was Angelika Brandt from the University of Hamburg in Germany. She was curious to uncover the mysteries of the Southern Ocean. Although Angelika and her team had expected to find some interesting new species, they hadn’t expected to find such a diverse range of deep sea creatures!

It’s Cool But Is That It?

Not quite. Sure it’s exciting to find new life forms, especially when they just plain old look nifty but there’s more to it than that. Finding new species can tell us a lot about evolution. Scientists can now look at the species surviving in the shallower waters around Antarctica to learn how the weather and environment led to evolutionary changes.

Not For Your Home Aquarium

If only I could have these curious swimmers in my home aquarium! I think, however, that these deep sea species will happily remain in their cold, shady home in the Southern Ocean. For now, I will have to make do with my little goldfish.

Credits: Images are from the British Antarctic Survey and Wiebke Brokeland as shown online in New Scientist.

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