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September 24, 2010

Sea Snot explosion may be wiping out all life in the Gulf

Sea Snot is a byproduct produced when certain phytoplanktons get agitated. Like when you dump 4 million barrels of oil on them. The snot sinks fast and is sticky, It traps all the other foody bits in the water and so creates a dead zone where nothing can survive. Happy Friday! "Sea Snot" Explosion Caused by Gulf Oil Spill?
The Gulf of Mexico oil spill sparked an explosion of sticky clumps of organic matter that scientists call sea snot, according to ongoing research. The boom likely precipitated a sea-snot "blizzard" in Gulf (map) waters, researchers say. And as the clumps sank, they may have temporarily wiped out the base of the food chain in the spill region by scouring all small life from the water column. In the weeks after the April 20 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion, scientists surveying the surface near the drill site spotted relatively huge particles—several centimeters across—of sea snot. These particularly slimy flakes of "marine snow" are made up of tiny dead and living organic matter, according to Uta Passow, a biological oceanographer at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Tiny plants in the ocean called phytoplankton produce a mucus-like substance when stressed, and it's possible that exposure to the Deepwater Horizon oil caused them to pump out more of the sticky stuff than usual.

September 21, 2010

Virus may be aiding obesity epidemic

Western surge in obesity may have been caused by a virus - Health News, Health & Families - The Independent
The obesity explosion that has swept the Western world over the past 30 years may have been caused by a virus, scientists have said. Researchers have discovered new evidence for an illness they have called "infectobesity" – obesity that is transmitted from person to person, much like an infection. The agent thought to be responsible is a strain of adenovirus, versions of which cause the common cold. It has already been labelled the "fat bug". There are more than 50 strains of adenovirus known to infect humans but only one, adenovirus 36, has been linked with human obesity.

September 20, 2010

Arctic bacteria has been hibernating for up to 100 million years

It's just been . . . waiting. Arctic bugs may have the longest life-cycle on Earth - life - 20 September 2010 - New Scientist
WITH a hibernation period of up to 100 million years, bacteria discovered on the Arctic sea floor may have longest life cycle of any known organism. Casey Hubert from the Geosciences Group at Newcastle University, UK, and colleagues came across the bacteria while studying biological activity in sediment samples from the sea floor off the Norwegian island of Svalbard. What the team expected to find were organisms that flourish in the cold, but are killed at higher temperatures. Sure enough there was a peak of microbial activity in the sediment at a warm 20 �C, but then the graph began to pick up again beyond 40 �C, and there was a second peak of biological activity at around 55 �C. A completely unexpected class of heat-loving microbes – thermophiles – had been embedded in the sediment as spores and only germinated as the temperature approached 50�C. A look at the genetic sequences of the heat-lovers revealed that they are most closely related to bacteria from ecosystems in the warm, oxygen-depleted depths of oceanic crust or subsurface petroleum reservoirs. So what were heat-loving organisms doing in the freezing sediment of the Arctic?

September 19, 2010

Ancient bird had seventeen-foot wingspan, terrifying teeth

This monster was found in Chile. Ancient Chilean bird had 17 foot wingspan and huge bony teeth
The newly identified ancient bird Pelagornis chilensis is one of the biggest birds ever discovered, with a gigantic 17 foot wingspan and spiny, teeth-like structures along its massive beak that it used to hunt fish and squid. Bird fossils are some of the most difficult for paleontologists to get their hands on, because bird bones are unusually soft and fragile. This makes them poor candidates for fossilization, and many bird fossils that do survive are badly crushed. In fact, the only other bony-toothed bird skeleton we had before this new discovery was a single, mostly crushed fossil. That's part of what makes the Pelagornis find so remarkable - it's 70% complete and in pristine condition, giving scientists incontrovertible proof of its immense size and unusual teeth. Discovered in northern Chile, the bird's great wingspan allows scientists to better understand the physics of winged flight, helping them set an upper limit for maximum wing size.