Category Archives: Animals

Jules Verne was Right Again!

Jumbo squid attack submarine

Squidimage.jpg

Screen shot from a Vine video. (Greenpeace USA)

It is like a scene from an old wives’ tale about the giant, tentacled kraken dragging shipping vessels to their doom — two Humboldt squid, flashing an angry red, attack a Dual Deep Worker submersible containing two Greenpeace USA divers on an expedition in the Bering Sea. In a Vine video shot by one of the divers, the two large cephalopods, also commonly referred to as “jumbo squid” or “red devils,” rush at the submersible while spewing vision-obscuring clouds of ink.

The video feeds the perception that the large mollusks – smaller than the elusive giant squid, but still weighing up to 100 pounds and measuring as long as 6.2 feet — are aggressively violent and dangerous to humans. The creatures typically range from 660 to 2,300 feet below the surface of the water, and roam off the coasts of British Columbia all the way down to Chile. In fact, its name is derived from the Humboldt Current off the western coast of South America.

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Much feared by fishermen and divers alike, the animals are said to be more aggressive than many of their calmer mollusk brethren like the octopus. The color-producing chromatophores in their skin generate a brilliant color display – switching from white to blood red — and many scientists believe the changes in hue are how the squid communicate with one another. Adding to their fearsome image, the animals possess over 100 suckers on their tentacles, each lined with sharp “teeth” used to dig into their prey.

The creatures have long inspired writers and explorers alike. In a 2006 article for Outside Magazine, Tim Zimmermann describes an underwater encounter with the squid.

To watch the video:

https://v.cdn.vine.co/r/videos/C06A9455921132360196870787072_238cb91db02.5.1.9942513653753261824.mp4?versionId=dSSVIK7ZPjbl0809eIMwlUCucSX5xa1m

“I see a jig rising past me, and the hooked squid is flashing red and white like a neon sign. It’s a stunning display, and another extraordinary aspect of Humboldt squid behavior,” Zimmermann writes of a just-caught squid. “You can almost feel the squid’s emotion being transmitted through the water. In this case, it appears to be fear – or at least a vain plea for mercy,”

As with Zimmerman’s description of the ocean dwellers, many scientists believe that the animals are not necessarily aggressive until provoked. The squids’ response in the video might have been instigated by the submarine’s bright lights. While Greenpeace has not released any more information on the encounter, the video has been making the rounds on social media. On Twitter, some users reveal their fear of the animals like @logan607 who writes, “this is why I never leave #Manhattan,” while others share their fascination with the creatures, with @crave even tweeting that the squid are “pretty cute actually.”

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Cute Dogs for Your Monday Blues!

Cute dog pictures to cheer up the start of your work week…

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Ancient Virus Revived From 700-Year-Old Caribou Feces

Sounds like something stupid to start a zombie apocalypse movie…

October 28, 2014 | by Janet Fang

photo credit: An ice core containing ancient caribou feces. Caribou DNA, digested plants, and viruses were frozen within layers of ice for thousands of years, enabling researchers to detect the genomes of ancient viruses / Brian Moorman

Researchers have reconstituted a viral genome from centuries-old caribou feces frozen in the subarctic, and they’ve used the ancient viruses to infect lab plants. The findings, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week, offer a rare glimpse of viral evolution.

Ancient viruses provide snapshots of past diversity and a way to trace viral evolution, but their concentrations are low and intact samples are rarely successfully isolated from the environment. Cryogenically preserved samples in nature may be an untapped repository of preserved ancient viral genetic material.

A team led by Eric Delwart from the University of California, San Francisco, analyzed viral genetic material contained in an ice core obtained by drilling through layers of accumulated caribou feces up to 4,000 years old in a permanent ice patch in the Northwest Territories of Canada. Caribou gather on ice patches to escape pesky flying insects and heat in the summertime. After eating nearby veggies, they deposit feces that contain their DNA, partially digested plant material, as well as viruses—which can remain frozen for millennia. Here’s an aerial photograph of one such caribou congregation:

From a 700-year-old layer of the ice core, the team isolated the complete small circular genome of a DNA virus that was distantly related to plant and fungi-infecting viruses today. They named it aCFV, for ancient caribou feces associated virus. They also isolated a partial viral RNA genome that was related to an insect-infecting virus. They call this one Ancient Northwest Territories cripavirus, or aNCV.

These never-before-seen viruses either originated in plants eaten by caribou or insects attracted to fecal matter, and they were preserved at constant freezing temperatures within protective viral capsids.

The team used a “reverse genetic approach” to reconstitute the genome of the DNA virus. Then, to confirm that the virus infects plants, they inoculated the tobacco relative Nicotiana benthamianawith the ancient viral DNA. The inoculated plants displayed evidence of infection: The DNA virus replicated and systemically spread in the inoculated leaves (orange arrow) as well as their newly emerging leaves (white arrow).

As far as Delwart can tell, these viruses aren’t dangerous, NPR reports. But as the climate warms and more ice melts, more caribou poo infected with ancient viruses might be making its way into the modern ecosystem.

Images: Brian Moorman (top), Glen MacKay (middle), Li-Fang Chen (bottom)

 

 

 

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Cute Dog Pictures for Your Monday Blues!

Hopefully, these cute dogs will cheer you up for the start of the week.

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Cute Dogs for Your Monday Blues

Cute dogs for your Monday Blues…

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Cute Dogs For Your Monday Blues!

Here are some cute doggies to cheer you up!

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World’s Largest Spider Found – Ack!

Goliath encounter: Puppy-sized spider surprises scientist in rainforest

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The South American Goliath birdeater (Theraphosa blondi) is the world’s largest spider, according to Guinness World Records. Its legs can reach up to one foot and it can weight up to 6 oz.. (Piotr Naskrecki)

Piotr Naskrecki was taking a nighttime walk in a rainforest in Guyana, when he heard rustling as if something were creeping underfoot. When he turned on his flashlight, he expected to see a small mammal, such as a possum or a rat.

“When I turned on the light, I couldn’t quite understand what I was seeing,” said Naskrecki, an entomologist and photographer at Harvard University’s Museum of Comparative Zoology.

A moment later, he realized he was looking not at a brown, furry mammal, but an enormous, puppy-size spider.

Known as the South American Goliath birdeater (Theraphosa blondi), the colossal arachnid is the world’s largest spider, according to Guinness World Records. Itsleg span can reach up to a foot (30 centimeters), or about the size of “a child’s forearm,” with a body the size of “a large fist,” Naskrecki told Live Science. And the spider can weigh more than 6 oz., about as much as a young puppy, the scientist wrote on his blog. [See Photos of the Goliath Birdeater Spider]

Some sources say the giant huntsman spider, which has a larger leg span, is bigger than the birdeater. But the huntsman is much more delicate than the hefty birdeater comparing the two would be “like comparing a giraffe to an elephant,” Naskrecki said.

The birdeater’s enormity is evident from the sounds it makes. “Its feet have hardened tips and claws that produce a very distinct, clicking sound, not unlike that of a horse’s hooves hitting the ground,” he wrote, but “not as loud.”

Prickly hairs and 2-inch fangs

When Naskrecki approached the imposing creature in the rainforest, it would rub its hind legs against its abdomen. At first, the scientist thought the behavior was “cute,” he said, but then he realized the spider was sending out a cloud of hairs with microscopic barbs on them. When these hairs get in the eyes or other mucous membranes, they are “extremely painful and itchy,” and can stay there for days, he said. [Creepy-Crawly Gallery: See Spooky Photos of Spiders]

But its prickly hairs aren’t the birdeater’s only line of defense; it also sports a pair of 2-inch-long  fangs. Although the spider’s bite is venomous, it’s not deadly to humans. But it would still be extremely painful, “like driving a nail through your hand,” Naskrecki said.

And the eight-legged beast has a third defense mechanism up its hairy sleeve. The hairs on the front of the spider’s body have tiny hooks and barbs that make a hissing sound when they rub against each other, “sort of like pulling Velcro apart,” Naskrecki said.

Yet despite all that, the spider doesn’t pose a threat to humans. Even if it bites you, “a chicken can probably do more damage,” Naskrecki said.

Bird eater or mostly harmless?

Despite its name, the birdeater doesn’t usually eat birds, although it is certainly capable of killing small mammals. “They will essentially attack anything that they encounter,” Naskrecki said.

The spider hunts in leaf litter on the ground at night, so the chances of it encountering a bird are very small, he said. However, if it found a nest, it could easily kill the parents and the chicks, he said, adding that the spider species has also been known to puncture and drink bird eggs.

The spider will eat frogs and insects, but its main prey is actually earthworms, which come out at night when it’s humid. “Earthworms are very nutritious,” Naskrecki said.

Birdeaters are not very common spiders. “I’ve been working in the tropics in South America for many, many years, and in the last 10 to 15 years, I only ran across the spider three times,” Naskrecki.

After catching the specimen he found in Guyana, which was female, Naskrecki took her back to his lab to study. She’s now deposited in a museum.

 

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