Chemicals banned in the 1970s have been found in the deepest reaches of the Pacific Ocean, a new study shows. Scientists were surprised by the relatively high concentrations of pollutants like PCBs and PBDEs in deep sea ecosystems. Used widely during much of the 20th Century, these chemicals were later found to be toxic and to build up in the environment.
An extraordinary fossil unearthed in southwestern China shows a pregnant long-necked marine reptile that lived millions of years before the dinosaurs with its developing embryo, indicating this creature gave birth to live babies rather than laying eggs. Scientists on Tuesday said the fossil of the unusual fish-eating reptile called Dinocephalosaurus, which lived about 245 million years ago during the Triassic Period, changes the understanding of the evolution of vertebrate reproductive systems.
Deep-sea dragonfishes, also known barbeled dragonfishes, open their mouths wider than any other fish, researchers now believe after studying the animal’s very unique head joint. The fish can open their mouths at least 120 degrees (a straight line measures 180 degrees) allowing them to eat extremely large prey relative to the size of these predators. Dragonfishes, described in the journal PLOS ONE, grow up to about one feet, six inches long.
Researchers have identified the first known example of one animal, a boxer crab, stimulating another animal, a sea anemone, to reproduce asexually. From the outside, it’s a bit of an abusive situation. The crabs and anemones have a symbiotic relationship.
Squid and their cephalopod brethren have been the inspiration for many a science fiction creature. Their slippery appendages, huge proportions, and inking abilities can be downright shudder-inducing. (See: Arrival.) But you should probably be more concerned by the cephalopod’s huge brain—which not only helps it solve tricky puzzles, but also lets it converse in its own sign language.
Scientists have described a new kind of sea creature in what’s now central China. It lived 540 million years ago, and the tiny, baggy organism could occupy a peripheral spot on our own evolutionary tree. When scientists like Simon Conway Morris discover a new animal, they get to name it. He and his colleagues in China don’t seem to give compliments where they aren’t deserved.
Researchers at Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station investigated the role of expanded marine protected areas (MPAs) on grey reef sharks and found that the aquatic no-fishing zones were an effective tool for protecting this near-threatened species. Originating 423 million years ago, sharks are a group of predators that span 490 species and still play crucial roles within their ecosystems. We often characterize these top predators as nearly indestructible monsters but, of course, that’s far from the reality: They mature slowly, they don’t have high numbers of offspring, and they’re under serious threat due to the value of their fins.
A highly toxic form of mercury could jump by 300 to 600 percent in zooplankton—tiny animals at the base of the marine food chain—if land runoff increases by 15 to 30 percent, according to a new study. And such an increase is possible due to climate change, according to the pioneering study by Rutgers University and other scientists published today in Science Advances.
To honor a collector whose species-finding skills bordered on the magical, biologists have named a newfound crab after characters from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books. The crab, dubbed Harryplax severus, lives in deep rubble beds, or patches of dead coral fragments, along the coasts of Guam, an island in the western Pacific Ocean. The milky-yellow creature appears to spend much of its time hiding in the shadows, with the shrunken, immobile eyes and pale coloration characteristic of living in murky habitats.
A female zebra shark in an Australian aquarium has astounded scientists by producing live offspring asexually, three years after being separated from her long-term mate. While scientists have previously observed “virgin births” in vertebrates such as sharks, rays and reptiles — a reproductive strategy thought to aid survival during periods of isolation — this is the first time a female shark has ever been observed reproducing asexually after previously mating with a male.
Only three known species go through menopause: killer whales, short-finned pilot whales, and humans. Two years ago, scientists suggested whales do this to focus their attention on the survival of their families rather than on birthing more offspring. But now this same team reports there’s another—and darker—reason: Older females enter menopause because their eldest daughters begin having calves, leading to fights over resources. The findings might also apply to humans, the scientists say.
Behold the hyolith — a bizarre Cambrian-period creature that dwelt on the ocean floor alongside other armored invertebrates like trilobites more than 500 million years ago. Its body was encased in a pair of shells that resembled an ice cream cone with a lid like a trap door. Two tusklike spines protruded from the soft tissue near the hinge, and on top of its mouth was a row of fluttering tentacles. Since its discovery in the 19th century, the hyolith has puzzled paleontologists. Some thought it was a mollusk, like a snail or clam. Others said it belonged to its own group of animals.