One of my, and the internet’s, favorite animals.
[Photo credit: Wikipedia]
B. giganteus, or the giant isopod, is a deep-sea benthic, carnivorous, scavenging crustacean that can grow to a length of 79cm, (30in). As you can see from the photo, it sort of resembles a massive wood louse/pill bug - unsurprising, as wood lice are also isopods, and are considered something of a “cousin” to the sea-dwelling varieties. In fact, like terrestrial isopods, the giant isopod can curl up into a ball when disturbed or threatened.
[Photo credit: SeaPics.com]
B. giganteus is found worldwide, typically from the sublittoral zone, (170m/550ft), to the lightless bathypelagic zone, (2,140m/7,020ft). Its impressive size - most isopod species, marine or otherwise, rarely grow larger than 5cm - is an example of a phenomenon known as abyssal or deep-sea gigantism, the tendency of deep-sea dwellers to grow to much larger sizes than their shallower-dwelling relatives, the reasons for which are still not fully understood.
[Photo credit: Wikipedia]
Giant isopods are described as being pale lilac in color - a surprisingly delicate hue for something that a lot of people consider to be high octane nightmare fuel. Maybe the innocuous color just makes it more unsettling? I don’t know. Personally, every time I see one of these, I am struck by an overwhelming urge to pet it. If you feel the same way, the internet offers countless ways to show your isopod love, (though my favorite one is no longer in production).
And I’d be remiss if I didn’t include this:
Oh, it’s real.
ScienceDaily (Oct. 4, 2011) — A study into the muscle development of several different fish has given insights into the genetic leap that set the scene for the evolution of hind legs in terrestrial animals. This innovation gave rise to the tetrapods — four-legged creatures, and our distant ancestors — that made the first small steps on land some 400 million years ago. [full story]
(Credit: Cole et al., PLoS Biology, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001168)
Discovery News, Tim Wall, August 8, 2011 -
A North Sea wind farm may be beneficial to wildlife while producing clean energy for humans. The wind farm created new marine habitat as well as a sanctuary from shipping traffic, said researchers studying the offshore wind farm near Egmond aan Zee off the coast of the Netherlands. [full story]
Image credit: www.thesun.co.uk
- Jennifer Vieges, Discovery News; Friday, June 24
“According to multiple media reports, a 55-foot-long marine animal recently washed up dead on a beach at Guangdong, China. You can see its decaying body in the above image. Now the question is: What’s this species that beach goers are calling a ‘sea monster?’
Live Science showed the photo to three marine biology experts: Scott Baker of Oregon State University Marine Mammal Institute, Bill Perrin, senior scientist for marine mammals at the National Marine Fisheries Service, and Bob Brownell, senior scientist for international protected resources with NOAA’s Fisheries Service.
All three said they think it’s a whale. As to the exact species, they’re not certain, but Live Science quoted Baker as saying, ‘it’s a balaenopterid.’”
From Discovery News
- Kieran Mulvaney, Wed Jun 15, 2011 12:01 PM ET
Japanese officials have announced that at least two minke whales caught by whalers off the coast of Hokkaido have been found to contain levels of radioactive cesium, likely as a result of the accident at Fukushima nuclear plant that was set in motion by the March 11 tsunami.
The whales were caught, not by the “research” fleet that recently returned to the North Pacific, but by vessels conducting so-called small-type whaling, which operate closer to shore and which this year pursued a self-assigned quota of 100 minke whales…
…Either way, the discovery of any level of radioactivity in whale meat, and the fact that the government has elected to release the contaminated meat into the marketplace*, is hardly likely to inspire consumer confidence, or revive demand for a food that has been less and less attractive to the Japanese populace in recent years. Whale meat stockpiles in the country were reported to have reached a record 6,000 tonnes last year; this latest news seems unlikely to help reduce those those stockpiles any time soon. [full story]
* emphasis mine
So, in this equation,
(Whale meat is radioactive) + (people no longer want to eat whale meat, anyway) surplus of whale meat already rotting away, uneaten = CONTINUED WHALING
ScienceDaily (June 3, 2011) — Think “mass extinction” and you probably envision dinosaurs dropping dead in the long-ago past or exotic tropical creatures being wiped out when their rainforest habitats are decimated. But a major mass extinction took place in North America in the first half of the 20th century, when 47 species of mollusk disappeared after the watershed in which they lived was dammed. Now, a population of one of those species — a freshwater limpet last seen more than 60 years ago and presumed extinct — has been found in a tributary of the heavily dammed Coosa River in Alabama’s Mobile River Basin. [full story]
By Ó Foighil et al. / PLoS ONE [CC-BY-2.5 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons, (resized)
Full research article: “Conservation Genetics of a Critically Endangered Limpet Genus and Rediscovery of an Extinct Species,” published in PLoS ONE, a Public Library of Science open-access journal, on May 31, 2011.
By Linda Moultan Howe, May 27, 2011.
Includes an interview with Sean Van Sommeran, executive director of the Pelagic Shark Research Foundation, Santa Cruz and Capitola, CA. The gist of it is that they still don’t know anything. Oh, and apparently bat rays may have also been affected.
“Richardson Bay north of Sausalito (top red circle), Coyote Point near Burlingame, then Foster City and Redwood City are the main locations of the unexplained leopard shark die-off since January 2011. A few bat rays were also found washed up in same areas.”
Image and all associated content behind the link courtesy of Earthfiles.
Other areas of California are now reporting numbers of dead leopard sharks - the still-mysterious affliction would seem to be the same one observed in the sharks of Redwood City, (see my initial post on this issue).
By Mark Prado, The Marin Independent Journal, 5/19/2011:
…Starting May 2, Richardson Bay Audubon Center and Sanctuary researchers began to scour beaches along Richardson Bay after high tide. Since then, more than 20 have turned up dead.
“The leopard sharks are here this time of year anyway, but we don’t know if that’s why we are seeing dead ones or if they are being washed here,” Wilcox said. “There are all sorts of questions.”
Last week, Liz Beers and her mother were walking near Greenwood Cove near the Cove Apartments in Tiburon and saw five leopard sharks that had beached themselves.
“Three of the leopard sharks were already dead and the other two were floundering about, trying to free themselves from the mud,” she wrote via email. “It was a very sad sight.”
More than 100 of the sharks have washed ashore in San Mateo, San Francisco and Marin counties over the past month.
The sharks need a certain amount of salinity to survive, but with all the rain that has fallen this year there may be too much freshwater in the bay. A similar die-off occurred in 2006 after heavy rains, said Carrie Wilson, biologist with the state Department of Fish and Game.
“Based on history, that is one thing we are looking at,” she said.
But the evidence for that theory is not conclusive. Another theory is that there is a lack of oxygen in the water. Samples of the dead sharks have been taken for analysis. Those results will come back in a few weeks and could provide more details. [full story]
SEEN A SHARK?
Workers at the Richardson Bay Audubon Center are asking the public to notify them with any sightings of dead or dying leopard sharks. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 388-2524.
This story has me really, really upset, so I’m going to be following it closely and posting updates about it whenever I can. Here’s a more detailed article from X-Ray Mag. See if you can spot the red flag in this description of the behavior of the species.
“The leopard shark occurs in the cool to warm-temperate continental waters of the northeastern Pacific Ocean, from Coos Bay, Oregon to Mazatlán, Mexico, including the Gulf of California. It favors muddy or sandy flats within enclosed bays and estuaries, and may also be encountered near kelp beds and rocky reefs, or along the open coast. Numbers have been known to gather near discharges of warm effluent from power plants.”
Wow, what an interesting friggin’ coincidence. [full story]
The poor little guys.
Photo credit: Matthew Field, www.photography.mattfield.com
Discovery News - Analysis by Jennifer Viegas
Thu May 12, 2011 01:28 PM ET
Dozens of leopard sharks have been washing up dead in California since April, and now a necropsy shows at least one of the sharks died of massive internal bleeding, such that blood was even coming out of the shark’s skin, according to a Daily News report…
…A key question then clearly remains: What is causing the internal bleeding?
As of now, that’s still a mystery. A statement released by the Silicon Valley city mentioned, “The…pathologist is not drawing any conclusions until more examinations and all tests are performed.” [full story]
(Photo credit: Upsilon Andromidae)