Scientists investigating the icy waters of Antarctica said on Feb 22 that they have discovered some mysterious creatures in the murky depths, including giant sea spiders and huge worms.

The scientists collected specimens from up to 6,500 feet (2,000 metres) beneath the surface of the Southern Ocean as part of an international project to take a census of Antarctic marine life. [Nationalgeographic]

Strange turnicates among weird sea creatures found in Antarctica
Tunicates which look like glass tubes (Image via Dailymail)

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A new study finds that the chemicals from sunscreen that we use to protect our skin are also killing coral reefs worldwide.

Four commonly found sunscreen ingredients can awaken dormant viruses in the symbiotic algae called zooxanthellae that live inside reef-building coral species.

The chemicals cause the viruses to replicate until their algae hosts explode, spilling viruses into the surrounding seawater, where they can infect neighboring coral communities.

Zooxanthellae provide coral with food energy through photosynthesis and contribute to the organisms’ vibrant color. Without them, the coral “bleaches”… turns white… and dies.

Think twice before applying sunscreen on the next beach visit? [Nationalgeographic]

A one-tonne “fossil rat” has been discovered in South America.

Giant rodent found in South America
The giant rodent in comparison with a ‘normal’ rodent (Image courtesy of Xinhuanet)

The megarodent lived in lowland rain forests between two and four million years ago and weighed about 1,000 kilograms, based on an analysis of its 53-centimetre-long skull.

The newfound species, called Josephoartigasia monesi, is reported on Jan 16 in a study led by Andrés Rinderknecht of the National Museum of Natural History and Anthropology in Montevideo, Uruguay. [National Geographic]

A new species of giant spitting cobra, measuring nearly nine feet and possessing enough venom to kill at least 15 people, has been discovered in Kenya.

Naja Ashei, new species and world largest spitting cobra
Naja Ashei

WildlifeDirect said the cobras were the world’s largest and had been identified as unique. The species has been named Naja Ashei (Ashe’s Spitting Cobra) after James Ashe, who founded Bio-Ken snake farm on Kenya’s tropical coast where the gigantic serpents are found.

The aggressive reptile was previously identified as a brown-colored variant of the black-necked spitting cobra, though researchers had long suspected that it merited its own species. Now blood and tissue analysis have confirmed this theory to be true.

The snake dwells in the dry lowlands of north and east Kenya, as well as in Uganda and Ethiopia.

[Nationalgeographic and Reuters]

Red Tide is a common name for a phenomenon known as an algal bloom, an event in which estuarine, marine, or fresh water algae accumulate rapidly in the water column, or “bloom”. These algae, more specifically phytoplankton, are microscopic, single-celled protists, plant-like organisms that can form dense, visible patches near the water’s surface.

Certain species of phytoplankton contain photosynthetic pigments that vary in color from green to brown to red, and when the algae are present in high concentrations, the water appears to be discolored or murky, varying in color from white to almost black, normally being red or brown.

Red tide at La Jolla California
Red Tide caused by Dinoflagellates off the Scripps Institution of Oceanography Pier, La Jolla California (Image courtesy of P. Alejandro Díaz)

Not all algal blooms are dense enough to cause water discoloration, and not all discolored waters associated with algal blooms are red. Additionally, red tides are not typically associated with tidal movement of water, hence the preference among scientists to use the term algal bloom. [Wikipedia]

Young chimpanzees can beat adult humans in a task involving remembering numbers, reveals a new study by Tokyo researchers. It is the first time chimps have outperformed humans at a cognitive task.

The chimps had previously been taught the ascending order of the numbers. Using an ability akin to photographic memory, the young chimps were able to memorise the location of the numerals with better accuracy than humans performing the same task. [Newscientist]


Video – a chimp performing the task (Hat tip to Tokyomango)

A clam dredged from icy Arctic waters is being hailed as the world’s longest-lived animal. Climate researchers at Bangor University in the United Kingdom recently counted 405 annual growth rings in the shells of a quahog clam, which was found in the deep waters off the northern coast of Iceland.

Quahog clams are known for their longevity. A 220-year-old taken from American waters in 1982 holds the official Guinness Book of World Records oldest animal title. Unofficially, the record belongs to a 374-year-old Icelandic clam housed in a German museum. [Nationalgeographic]

405-year-old quahog clam
405-year-old quahog clam (Image courtesy of Bangor University)

Female giant panda Taotao celebrates her 35th birthday at Jinan Zoo, in eastern China’s Shandong province on Sunday (Oct 28).

Taotao is the eldest giant panda bred in captivity in China. The average life span of giant panda is about 25 years old; zoologists say Taotao’s age is equal to that of a 100-year-old human being. [Cri]

Eldest giant panda celebrates 35th birthday at Jinan Zoo
Taotao enjoying her birthday cake

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