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A Computer Generated Shark Bite August 1, 2007

Posted by Mrs Weird Scientist in Deep Sea, Easy As Pie, Marine Life, Ocean, Technology.
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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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Attack Of The Jumbo Squid July 24, 2007

Posted by Mrs Weird Scientist in Easy As Pie, Environment, Marine Life, Ocean.
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Credit: New Scientist Video.

On California’s central coast, enormous and hungry jumbo squid are gobbling up the local fish. Their true name is Dosidicus gigas and they initially appeared near Monterey, California after an El Niño heated up the waters in 1997. Since 2002, they have been permanent fixtures in these waters where they are threatening the fish populations. According to Bruce Robison of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California, United States-who is studying these giant squid-global warming and overfishing are the culprits behind it all.

Global Warming

From the tropical waters of Central America and Mexico, these squid would typically head north, following the warm ocean currents during an El Niño. After satiating their massive appetites on fish, they would then head back to the tropics once the water cooled again. The effect of global warming, however, means they have taken up residence in the consistently warmer waters.

Overfishing

Overfishing shows how our actions on one type of fish can affect other ocean dwelling creatures. Because tuna have been overfished in the tropics, the number of squid has increased. Why? The tuna and squid both eat the same types of small fish. So, when the tuna are eating up some of these fish, there are less for the famished squid. Since some of the squid then go hungry, they die. Also, the tuna eat the young squid, which keeps the squid population from getting too big. By overfishing tuna, the squid populations have spiralled out of control.

According to Robison:

They are aggressive, pugnacious, voracious predators.

Yikes! Apparently, they are also known to eat their own kind. Fortunately, Robison also says:

I don’t think they consider humans fair game.

Well, that’s good news! Considering that the squid grow to approximately two meters in length, I can’t say that I’d want to battle it out with one the next time I hit up the California beaches and head for a swim.

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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.
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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.

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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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