Scientists discover shark nursery in New York waters

Sand tiger shark (Credit: Julie Larsen Maher)

Sand tiger shark (Credit: Julie Larsen Maher)

Let’s call it summer camp–for baby Jaws.

The waters just off the shore of Long Island’s Great South Bay have revealed a nursery where young sand tiger sharks swim up from the south and bask in New York waters each summer.

Related: Tiny shark that glows discovered in the deep ocean

According to the Wildlife

Originally available here

Dad pulls boy from water after shark attack

An 11-year-old boy has been injured after being bitten by a shark off Australia’s Heron Island.

The child was wading in knee-high water when he was attacked by the black-tipped reef shark which gave him a “significant” bite on his right leg, according to Queensland medical staff.

The boy was recovered from the water by his father and flown to Gladstone hospital where he is in a stable condition.

A Queensland Ambulance spokesman said his wounds are not life threatening.

The attack comes two days after a 31-year-old man was bitten by a shark off Miall Island near Rosslyn Bay, 420 miles north of Brisbane.

The victim survived the attack by apparently fighting off the animal but was left with extensive injuries to his arms.

In November, 20-year-old Sam Morgan’s left thigh was mauled by a shark off East Ballina, New South Wales.

Some 22 shark attacks were recorded in Australia last year, according to Sydney’s Taronga Zoo.

Four of those took place in Queensland while another 14 occurred in New South Wales, including an attack in which a Japanese surfer was killed.

Experts say attacks are increasing as water sports become more popular and bait fish move closer to shore, but fatalities remain rare.

Last year authorities put a range of shark-prevention measures in place to reduce encounters during the busy 2015-16 summer season, including testing aerial drones to track shark movements.

The surfer, who has a World Surf League junior ranking of 33, swam to shore and was helped onto the beach by onlookers.

Click for more from Sky News.

Originally available here

Male bass are experiencing unwanted sex changes

 

A new study found 85% of male smallmouth bass in the Northeast are undergoing a sex change.

A new study found 85% of male smallmouth bass in the Northeast are undergoing a sex change. (AP Photo/Idaho Statesman, Roger Phillips)

Male bass are experiencing unwanted sex changes, apparently thanks to the “chemical soups” that pass for waterways in the Northeast. The Washington Postreports 85% of male smallmouth bass surveyed in the region have “characteristics of the opposite sex”—specifically eggs where their testes should be.

The same is true of 27 percent of area largemouth bass, Vice adds. For a recently published study, researchers tested bass near 19 wildlife refuges in the Northeast, according to a US Geological Survey press release.

Researchers didn’t do a chemical analysis of the water where the intersex fish were found, so they can’t be sure specifically what is causing the sex changes.

But they suspect the problem is things that get dumped down drains and into US waters. Researchers believe the likely culprits are birth control pills, pesticides, hormones in livestock manure, and other chemical-heavy products, according to the press release.

Vice reports those products contain estrogen, which can produce dramatic effects even at very low levels. But this isn’t just a problem in the Northeast. Up to 90 percent of male smallmouth bass in parts of West Virginia are intersex, and increasing sex changes have been noted in nearly 40 fish species around the world going back 20 years, according to the Post.

Study author Luke Iwanowicz calls these fish “the canary in the coal mine.” “We are looking at fish but, of course, there is that concern that, if this stuff is in the water, it can be affecting other wildlife,” he tells Vice.

(A hermaphrodite cat got gender assignment surgery this year.)

This article originally appeared on Newser: Drugs We Dump May Be Causing Sex Changes in Fish

More From Newser

 

Originally available here

Humpbacks Are Late in Hawaii

IT COULD BE A SIGN OF SUCCESS, EXPERTS SAY

By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 4, 2016 4:33 AM CST

(NEWSER) – December usually marks the start of humpback whale season in Hawaii, but experts say the animals have been slow to return this year. The giant whales are an iconic part of winter on the islands and a source of income for tour operators. But officials at the Humpback Whale Marine Sanctuary said they’ve been getting reports that the whales have been difficult to spot so far. “This isn’t a concern, but it’s of interest. One theory was that something like this happened as whales increased. It’s a product of their success,” says Ed Lyman, a Maui-based resource protection manager and response coordinator for the sanctuary.

“What I’m seeing out there right now I would have expected a month ago,” says Lyman, who was surprised by how few of the animals he saw while responding to a call about a distressed calf on Christmas Eve. “We’ve just seen a handful of whales.” Lyman says the whales’ absence could just mean they’re spending more time feeding in northern waters, possibly because of El Nino disruptions—or because their population has gone up, causing more competition for the food they need to store for energy for the 2,000-mile migration to Hawaii. (When the whales were in Hawaii last year, a crew had to use a knife with a pole on it to free a 45-ton whale that had been entangled in fishing line for a week.)

A humpback whale jumps out of the waters off Hawaii.
A humpback whale jumps out of the waters off Hawaii.   (AP Photo/NOAA Fisheries)

Tasmanian devils’ mysterious cancer may come in two varieties

This is a photograph of a Tasmanian Devil with facial tumor. (Gregory Woods, Menzies Institute for Medical Research, University of Tasmania)

This is a photograph of a Tasmanian Devil with facial tumor. (Gregory Woods, Menzies Institute for Medical Research, University of Tasmania)

The Tasmanian devil has long been known to suffer from an unusual type of cancer that can spread from animal to animal, but now researchers say the endangered species is plagued by at least two kinds of infectious cancer.

The finding suggests that Tasmanian devils are especially prone to the emergence of contagious tumors, and that transmissible cancers may arise more frequently in nature than previously thought, scientists added.

Tasmanian devils (Sarcophilus harrisii) are marsupials, like kangaroos and opossums; females have pouches to carry and suckle newborns. The furry, dog-size mammals are found only on the island of Tasmania, which sits about 150 miles (240 kilometers) south of Australia. Fossil evidence suggests that Tasmanian devils were once spread across the Australian mainland, but disappeared from the area about 400 years ago. [Fun Facts About Tasmanian Devils]

Devils are known for their offensive smell, disturbing screeches and viciousness while eating. These creatures became the largest living carnivorous marsupial in the world after another species, called the thylacine, or Tasmanian tiger, went extinct in 1936.

Farmers considered the devils pests to livestock, and many of the animals were killed before the species became officially protected in 1941. The Tasmanian devil is not only a key tourism icon for Tasmania, but also ecologically critical to the island’s native ecosystem.

Now, the devils are bedeviled by contagious facial tumors that kill the animalswithin a year of reaching maturity. The disease was first reported in 1996 at a site in northeast Tasmania. By 2007, the disease had spread across more than half of the devils’ home range. Some populations of the animal have lost up to 89 percent of their members because of this epidemic. Researchers say extinction of devils is possible unless officials can find a way to eradicate the disease.

The disease is spread through biting during fights over food and during mating. (The only other known infectious cancer that can spread through bites occurs in dogs and is known as canine transmissible venereal tumor.)

Previous research suggested that the cancer, which is called devil facial tumor disease (DFTD), originated from a genetic mutation in nerve cells in a single, female Tasmanian devil. In devils that have the disease, cancerous lesions around the mouth, face and neck grow to the point that they prevent the animals from eating, and eventually starving them to death. There are no treatments for the cancer, and it is currently 100 percent fatal.

In the new research, scientists discovered that devils are actually suffering from at least two different transmissible cancers.

“Transmissible cancers are extremely rare, but for two [to occur] in the one species, astonishing,” said study co-author Gregory Woods, an immunologist at the University of Tasmania. “Maybe transmissible cancers are more common than we believe.”

This second type of transmissible cancer in devils, known as DFT2, has been detected in eight devils in southeast Tasmania. It causes facial tumors just like the disease seen before, now dubbed DFT1.

However, DFT2 is genetically distinct from DFT1. For instance, DFT2 possesses a Y chromosome, which means it came from a male and not from a female, as DFT1 did.

The researchers made the discovery when they were growing DFTD1 cells in lab dishes in order to study them, and noticed the cells were behaving slightly unusually, Woods told Live Science. “When we discovered and confirmed the second case, we were absolutely astonished. We almost didn’t believe our own work.”

It remains uncertain why devils are especially susceptible to such cancers. Previous research suggested one culprit is the extremely low level of genetic diversity in the devil population, which is due to  their small numbers. Since all living devils are so genetically similar, their immune systems may not easily recognize invading tumor cells as foreigners.

Scientists are seeking to develop a vaccine to help the devils fight against DFT1, but those plans may now need an update, researchers said. “Our vaccine research may have to include this new cancer,” Woods said.

Future research investigating whether transmissible cancers are more widespread than currently thought should analyze “species that are frequently in physical contact,” Woods said.

The scientists detailed their findings online Dec. 28 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Originally available here

A giant ‘sea monster’ emerges from the deep

This giant squid made a surprise appearance in Japan's Toyama Bay. (TV Asahi)

This giant squid made a surprise appearance in Japan’s Toyama Bay. (TV Asahi)

Huge sea creatures steeped in ancient lore don’t often hang out by the shore with spectators—but one did in Japan this Christmas Eve. People on a pier in Toyama Bay saw a giant squid swim up near the surface, slip under boats, and tangle harmlessly with a local diver before being ushered out to sea, CNNreports.

“My curiosity was way bigger than fear, so I jumped into the water and go close to it,” says diver Akinobu Kimura, who owns a local diving shop.

The Wall Street Journal reports the water depth at the marina is about 10 feet, a far cry from the 2,100- to 3,000-foot depths the giant squids inhabit.

“This squid was not damaged and looked lively, spurting ink and trying to entangle his tentacles around me,” Kimura adds. Kimura guided his roughly 12-foot-long visitor (which was captured by underwater video) several hundred yards from the shore and let it slip away.

But this wasn’t Japan’s first encounter with a giant squid. In fact, the first footage of a giant or Architeuthis squid was revealed by Japan’s National Science Museum in 2013, CBS News reported at the time.

A museum team ventured underwater 100 times in a submarine to film one with a specialized camera below the reach of light; the squid was seen a third of a mile down.

Most giant squids are found dead, or trapped in fishing nets, so a live one in its natural habitat made headlines. Researchers believe they grow up to 43 feet long and inspired the northern European myth of the Kraken sea monster.

But how is it they remain so hidden? “We’ve only explored about 5% of our ocean,” says squid expert Edie Widder in a 2013 Ted talk about the giant-squid video.

Originally available here

Tiny shark that glows discovered in the deep ocean

 

An image of the recently discovered species of lantershark named Etmopterus benchleyi. (Douglas J. Long and D. Ross Robertson)

An image of the recently discovered species of lantershark named Etmopterus benchleyi. (Douglas J. Long and D. Ross Robertson)

Scientists have discovered a shark that glows in the deep ocean and is so tiny that it might even fit in your hand.

Named Etmopterus benchleyi in honor of shark conservationist and “Jaws” author Peter Benchley, the jet-black lanternshark with glass-like teeth and emerald eyes was caught in 2010 as part of an expedition off the Central American coastline on the Pacific Ocean side.

With only eight specimens to go by, very little is known about this shark which spends most its time in the darkest parts of the ocean at depths ranging from 2,742 feet to as much as 4,734 feet. Scientists still don’t know what it eats, what threats it faces and even how widespread it is.

“It is probably living in an environment where it might, even though it is really small compared to other sharks, be one of the larger things there,” said Victoria Elena Vasquez, a grad student at the Pacific Shark Research Center in California and part of the team that made the discovery along with David Ebert of the center and Douglas Long of the California Academy of Sciences.

“We’re not totally sure what this one is eating but other lantersharks are eating smaller fish, crustaceans,” she said. “It’s likely that it’s eating the same things or something similar.“

But the scientists behind the discovery can say for sure this pint-sized shark wouldn’t send beach goers into a tizzy – as the famous great white shark did in “Jaws.”

Related: Pro surfer fights off shark in incredible encounter

“I’ve seen a few reports alluding to how dangerous and scary this shark might be, which is pretty funny to me since the largest one we found (a full grown adult) was 515 mm long (20 inches) from head to tail,” Vasquez said.

“Since we don’t have a lot of specimens we can’t confirm if they grow larger, but since it lives in the deep sea, it would be too challenging for people to have a chance encounter in the water without a submersible,” she told FoxNews.com.  “So I just wanted to clarify that there is no danger to people with this new species.”

Although this shark has the characteristic glow of most lanternsharks, they believe it uses that skill much less – hence its common name, the Ninja Lanternshark. That name was suggested by several cousins of Vasquez ranging in ages 8 to 14 and inspired by its black appearance.

“The idea is that they would be stealthier than other lanternsharks,” Vasquez said, adding they found fewer of the photophores or dots that emit light on this species than on other lantersharks.

Related: Rare ‘sofa shark’ stuns scientists

“In a lot of the other lantersharks, these photophores are clustered in these really obvious black markings,” she said. “So, you can imagine how difficult it is to look for black markings on an already very black shark. But under a microscope, you can actually see the dots themselves. They were there. We just didn’t see any of these really obvious clusters that you see in other sharks.”

And like other lantersharks, the glowing isn’t so much a way to attract attention but is a “form of camouflage.”

“The term is called counter-illumination,” Vasquez said. “The way you can picture it is if you were on a boat and you looked down and you saw a silhouette of something. You didn’t know what it was but you saw a shadow in the water. The idea here is that these sharks are trying to glow just enough to eliminate that shadow.”

Related: Study finds more sharks than ever swimming in waters along the East Coast

The discovery of this shark is part of a growing trend, with new finds increasing in recent years. From 1970 to 1999, scientists only discovered nine new species of sharks and their relatives each year, Vasquez said. But from 2000 to 2009, those discoveries doubled to 18-a-year before declining of late to 14-a-year.

“A lot of this is happening because we’re getting to the deep sea a lot more,” she said. “As deep exploration increases whether that be through science or commercial fishermen, we’re discovering more of these animals.”

Originally available here

10 strangest animal discoveries of 2015

A male of the peacock spider species Maratus jactatus, which is nicknamed Sparklemuffin, lifts its leg as part of a mating dance. (Jürgen Otto)

A male of the peacock spider species Maratus jactatus, which is nicknamed Sparklemuffin, lifts its leg as part of a mating dance. (Jürgen Otto)

Every year, scientists wade into jungles, deserts and museum collections to examine animals and, if they’re lucky, discover a new species.

For instance, in 2015 researchers identified a ruby-red sea dragon off the coast of Australia, a new species of giant tortoise in the Galápagos Islands and an ancient spikey worm with 30 legs in China. As these newfound creatures are uncovered, it’s important to protect them from pollution, habitat loss and the havoc caused by invasive species, especially as Earth enters its sixth mass extinction, experts say.

In the meantime, scientists are busy learning about these new animals, and whether these critters can inspire new materials, robots and medicines. Here’s a look at 10 newly identified ─ and exceptionally strange ─ animals, both living and extinct.

1. Sneezing monkeys

“Snubby,” the sneezing monkey, is nicknamed for its upturned nose that collects rainwater on wet days. The unusual white-and-black monkey lives in northern Myanmar, and can be heard sneezing off its “nose puddles” when it rains.

But the animal has a trick up its sleeve (or should we say nose?). It often tucks its head between its knees when it rains, so it won’t spend all its time sneezing, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Researchers announced the sneezing monkey (Rhinopithecus) to the world in 2010, but it’s one of 211 new species discovered in the eastern Himalayas between 2009 and 2014, according to a new 2015 WWF report.

2. Smallest snail on Earth

A tiny snail in Borneo edged out a species in China for title of world’s smallest snail. The teeny champion (Acmella nana) has a shiny, translucent white shell that measures about 0.027 inches (0.7 millimeters) tall, and it lives on limestone hills on the tropical island.

The pipsqueak is so small, researchers couldn’t see it with their naked eyes in the wild. So they took a few shovels of dirt from the tropical rainforest and looked at the contents under a microscope. A. nana likely feeds on films of bacteria and fungi that grow on wet limestone, they told Live Science in November.

The tiny mollusk is one of 48 snail species the researchers identified in the study.

3. Terror Bird

Want to be terrified? Imagine a 10-foot-tall (3 meters) flightless bird chasing prey with its hooked beak. These giants, aptly named terror birds, lived in South America from about 50 million to 1.8 million years ago, and likely sent any animal they chased into a stricken panic.

In April, researchers announced they had discovered a new species of terror bird (Llallawavis scagliai) off the eastern coast of Argentina. The 3.5-million-year-old specimen is the most complete terror bird fossil on record, with about 90 percent of its bones intact.

An analysis of its inner ear structures suggests L. scagliai heard low-frequency sounds, meaning it could hear the low rumble of its prey’s footsteps hitting the ground from far away, the researchers told Live Science in April.

4. Dementor Wasp

Researchers named a newfound wasp Ampulex dementor, or “dementor wasp” for short: The name was inspired by Harry Potter’s dementors, ghostlike creatures that suck away a person’s happy thoughts (and soul, if they’re feeling ravenous).

The wasp eats cockroaches in an impressively scary way. It injects venom into the cockroach’s belly, turning its prey into an immobile “passive zombie,” the researchers told Live Science in May. But the venom doesn’t actually kill it, meaning the cockroach gets eaten alive by the dementor wasp afterward.

5. Hippo-size vacuum cleaner

It might not help clean the living room, but about 23 million years ago a hippo-size mammal used its long snout as a vacuum cleaner, suctioning up tasty morsels of marine algae and sea grass along the coast.

The newly identified extinct animal (Ounalashkastylus tomidai) belongs to the order Desmostylia, the only known order of marine mammals to go completely extinct, the researchers told Live Science in October.

The scientists found four O. tomidai skeletons, including one baby, on the Aleutian Islands’ Unalaska.

“The baby tells us they had a breeding population up there,” said study co-author Louis Jacobs, a vertebrate paleontologist at Southern Methodist University in Texas. “They must have stayed in sheltered areas to protect the young from surf and currents.”

6. “Skeletorus” and “Sparklemuffin”

It’s worth overcoming arachnophobia to get a good look at these two beauties, endearingly dubbed “Skeletorus” and “Sparklemuffin.”

Both are peacock spiders, named for their bright colors and dancelike courtship rituals, Live Science reported in February.

Skeletorus (Maratus sceletus) looks like a cartoon skeleton with its black-and-white markings, whereas Sparklemuffin (Maratus jactatus) has red-and-blue coloring. Both are found in Australia, and showcase the diversity (and colors) of the peacock spider group.

7. Enormous sea scorpion

Iowa has a lot more than cornfields. During an excavation of an ancient meteorite impact crater in the Upper Iowa River, researchers uncovered the fossilized remains of human-size sea scorpions with both pointy and paddle-shaped limbs.

The sea scorpions (Pentecopterus decorahensis) likely ate bivalves and squishy eel-like creatures during their day, about 460 million years ago, theresearchers told Live Science in September.

P. decorahensis are ancient arthropods that are closely related to horseshoe crabs and arachnids, making it an incredibly ancient relative of Skeletorus and Sparklemuffin.

8. Four-legged snake

Modern snakes slither around on their bellies, but 120 million years ago their ancestors sported four feet, each with five digits. [Photos: Weird 4-Legged Snake Was Transitional Creature]

The new species was serendipitously discovered in a museum exhibit of fossils from the Crato Formation in northeastern Brazil. The Solnhofen Museum in Germany had labeled it “Unknown fossil,” but David Martill, a paleobiologist at the University of Portsmouth in the United Kingdom, gave it a long look. His jaw dropped when he realized it had four legs, Martill told Live Science in July.

Researchers named the 7.8-inch-long (20 centimeters) snake Tetrapodophis amplectus, literally, four-legged snake.

9. Pig-nosed rat with vampire teeth

An elusive rodent from the Indonesian island of Sulawesi is a newly identified species, and a weird one at that. The critter (Hyorhinomys stuempkei) has a hoglike nose and oversize upturned teeth that would make a vampire jealous.

“I had never seen a rat with a nose like that,” Jacob Esselstyn, curator of mammals at Louisiana State University’s Museum of Natural Science, told Live Science in October. “When I took it out of the trap, I knew it was a new species. There was never any doubt in my mind.”

10. T. rex’s vegetarian cousin

Tyrannosaurus rex is known for its bone-crushing bite and knifelike teeth, but the beast’s lust for meat wasn’t shared by its cousin, the newfound Chilesaurus diegosuarezi.

Diego Suárez, the 7-year-old son of a paleontologist, discovered a C. diegosuarezi fossil during a 2010 excavation in southern Chile. A thorough dig yielded more than a dozen individuals ranging in size from a turkey to one that was nearly 10 feet (3 m) long. They were also strict plant-eaters.

The 145-million-year-old dinosaurs are oddballs, with characteristics belonging to theropods (mostly meat-eating, bipedal dinosaurs) and plant-eaters.

“It just shows that we really don’t know much about dinosaurs at all,” said Thomas Carr, an associate professor of biology at Carthage College in Wisconsin and a vertebrate paleontologist, who was not involved in the study.

Giant ‘Sea Monster’ Finally Surfaces

12-FOOT SQUID GETS OGLED IN JAPAN’S TOYAMA BAY

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 28, 2015 6:17 PM CST

(NEWSER) – Huge sea creatures steeped in ancient lore don’t often hang out by the shore with spectators—but one did in Japan this Christmas Eve. People on a pier in Toyama Bay saw a giant squid swim up near the surface, slip under boats, and tangle harmlessly with a local diver before being ushered out to sea, CNN reports. “My curiosity was way bigger than fear, so I jumped into the water and go close to it,” says diver Akinobu Kimura, who owns a local diving shop. “This squid was not damaged and looked lively, spurting ink and trying to entangle his tentacles around me.” Kimura guided his 12-foot-long visitor (which was capturedby underwater video) several hundred yards from the shore and let it slip away. But this wasn’t Japan’s first encounter with a giant squid.

In fact, the first footage of a giant or Architeuthis squid was revealed by Japan’s National Science Museum in 2013, CBS News reported at the time. A museum team ventured underwater 100 times in a manned submarine to film one with a specialized camera below the reach of light; the squid was seen a third of a mile down. Most giant squids are found dead, or trapped in fishing nets, so a live one in its natural habitat made headlines. Researchers believe they grow up to 43 feet long and inspired the northern European myth of the Kraken sea monster. But how is it they remain so hidden? “We’ve only explored about 5% of our ocean,” says squid expert Edie Widder in a 2013 Ted talk about the giant-squid video. “There are great discoveries to be made down there, fantastic creatures representing millions of years of evolution.” (One man says he knows the Loch Ness Monster’s true identity.)

In this image made from video recorded in the summer of 2012, provided by NHK and Discovery Channel, a giant squid takes bait in the deep sea off Chichi island, Japan.
In this image made from video recorded in the summer of 2012, provided by NHK and Discovery Channel, a giant squid takes bait in the deep sea off Chichi island, Japan.   (AP Photo/ NHK/NEP/Discovery Channel)

Extinction looms for Charles Darwin’s finches, and humans are to blame

A female medium ground finch, one of at least 14 species of Darwin’s finches in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador. (Jennifer Koop, University of Utah)

A female medium ground finch, one of at least 14 species of Darwin’s finches in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador. (Jennifer Koop, University of Utah)

Charles Darwin’s finches of the Galapagos Islands—renowned as a poster child for speciation (that’s “the process by which new species arise,” explainsSmithsonian)—may not be able to evolve fast enough to stave off extinction, according to a study published last week in the Journal of Applied Ecology.

The medium ground finches of Santa Cruz Island are having their newly hatched babies decimated by Philornis downsi, a parasitic nest fly humans brought to the islands half a century ago.

The flies lay their eggs inside the birds’ nests, and the hatching maggots feed on the young birds. “This is like a really bad horror flick,” study author Dale Clayton says.

“The babies can’t withstand even one night with these parasites.” According toDiscovery News, the flies were first spotted in the finches’ nests in 1997.

Since then, the population has been growing, and none of the Galapagos Islands is free of the flies. Researchers looked at five years of field research on the medium ground finches specifically on Santa Cruz and came up with three scenarios—good, bad, and neutral—based on breeding, weather, and food supplies, Discovery News reports.

In both the bad and neutral scenarios, the finches have less than 100 years before they’re extinct. According to Smithsonian, the same fate is likely facing some of the other 14 species of Darwin’s finches.

“If Darwin’s finches go extinct, it will be because people brought this fly to the islands,” Clayton says. “If the fly had gotten to the island more gradually, perhaps, maybe the birds would have had more time to adapt.” Researchers believe a 40% reduction of nest infestations could save the finches and are looking at options to accomplish that, Discovery News reports.

(A frog named for Darwin has already gone extinct.)

This article originally appeared on Newser: Charles Darwin’s Finches Could Soon Be Extinct