Friday, April 14, 2017

Week in Review: Whales Keep Carbon Out of Atmosphere, Octopuses Can Edit RNA to Influence Quick Evolution

1. Whale Activity Facilitates the Absorption of Carbon from Atmosphere - And That is Good

whale tail or fluke

Pacific Islanders realize that whales have strong economic value, attracting throngs of tourists to the area. Now there is evidence that healthy whales reduce greenhouse gas.   Whales help with carbon absorption by kicking oceanic photosynthesis into high gear by cultivating phytoplankton. Phytoplankton's photosynthetic process absorbs carbon. When whales dive they circulate the plankton, pushing it to the surface where it can absorb sun rays and their fecal matter fertilizes the plankton triggering essential carbon absorption.

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2. Octopuses Can Edit RNA to Influence Quick Evolution

Octopus Vulgaris or Common Octopus

Scientists have found that cephalopods, including squid, octopuses and cuttlefish, can edit their RNA on the fly, meaning they don’t have to wait for evolution to work on their DNA like the rest of us.  One scientist summarizes it by saying, “Mutation is usually thought of as the currency of natural selection, and these animals are suppressing that to maintain recoding flexibility at the RNA level.”  It may be why these short-lived creatures are so smart--learning how to open jars, camouflaging so well and communicating with one another.
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3. Last Chance for the Vaquita Porpoise

Vaquita Porpoise
The world’s most endangered marine mammal is the vaquita porpoise, which lives off Mexico's Gulf of California. It is believed there are only an estimated 30 still alive  Gill nets used to catch another endangered species, the totoaba fish are also mistakenly catching these porpoises as well. Totoaba fish bladders sell for $120,000 on the Chinese market. In a last ditch effort to save the vaquita porpoise, Navy trained dolphins are being used to round up the remaining vaquita into sea pens, where it is hoped they will be able to breed and increase the population.


4. The Newest Plastic Pollution Problem: Flip Flops

flip flops

Three billion people a year purchase new flip flops, with an average lifespan of two years. What happens to all those discarded flip flops? They end up in garbage dumps and in waterways that lead to the ocean.  Approximately ninety tons of flip flops end up on East Africa beaches due to currents from places such as Asia, India and China.
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5. Coral Reef Loss Due to Climate Change Could Cost $1 Trillion Worldwide

bleached coral

The loss of the Great Barrier Reef alone could cause the loss of 10,000 jobs, 1 million visitors, and $1 billion.  Worldwide coral reefs support 500 million people from 50 countries.  Over the next 2 to 3 decades, bleaching events are expected to become more frequent and severe.  Scientists say that the only way to protect the reefs is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions globally.
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6. Illegal Shark Fins Found Aboard Chinese Fishing Vessels

dried shark fins

In West Africa, shark fins were found on board several Chinese fishing vessels. West African fishing laws prohibit this type of activity, and each of the vessels were fined 250,00 euros. Among the carnage were the carcasses of hammerheads, and manta rays.
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7. Will the United States Mine Deep-sea Seabeds?

A rich deposit of rare earth elements including tellurium was found 300 miles off of the Canary Islands.  The tellurium, which is used in solar panels, found in the seabed was 50,000 times higher than land deposits.  The other rare earth elements found are used in wind turbines and electronics.  Will this start a rush to deep-sea mining soon?


8. Sardine Fishery Remains Closed

Sardine numbers remain low on the West Coast of the United States and the fishery is to remain closed.  This is the third year in a row that the fishery has been closed.  Sardine biomass is estimated to be 106,000 metric tons, below the cut-off levels of 150,000 metric tons for commercial fishing.



9. Three-quarters of Deep Sea Animals Are Bioluminescent

bioluminescent deep sea animal
Scientists at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute have found that three-quarters of all deep sea animals in Monterey Bay from the surface to 4,000 meters deep make their own light through bioluminescence.  During the study scientists counted all animals caught on video greater than one centimeter which totaled roughly 350,000 individuals on 240 different ROV (remotely operated vehicle) dives.

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Sea Save Foundation is committed to raising awareness of marine conservation. The Week in Review is a team effort produced by the Sea Save staff to provide a weekly summary of the latest in marine research, policy, and news.

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