Category Archives: Animals

Deep Sea Explorers Stumble Upon A Creature They Can Hardly Believe Is Real

July 8, 2014 | by Stephen Messenger

photo credit: Nautilus Live

While there are no shortage of wacky ideas in science fiction about what creatures from other planets might look like, many weird and remarkable creatures can actually be found right here on Earth.

Recently, a team from the Nautilus Live expedition piloting a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) happened upon one of the most fascinating-looking lifeforms in the world: a rare, purple siphonophore roving through the ocean’s depths. Even the experienced deep sea explorers, well-acquainted with the marine animals, had a hard time accepting that what they were seeing was really real.

“Wow. Okay, that’s awesome,” says one ROV operator. “I can’t believe that’s a living thing.”

Amazingly, although this appears to be a single jellyfish-like animal, it is in fact a roving colony made up of thousands of individual organisms, called zooids, each contributing to the whole. However, more than just its otherworldly shape, this specimen’s purple coloring is said to be rather unusual as well.

Deep Sea News writer R.R. Helm calls it a “shocking shade”, remarking that this footage truly stands out.

“To me, the best part of science is stuff like this: seeing something that completely takes my breath away. Even after studying animals like this for the last five years, this video has me in awe. The animal captured in this footage, simply put, is stunning,” wrote Helm.

This article was provided by our partners at thedodo.com. To read the original article, gohere. Follow them on Facebook here and check out their website here.

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Dog Shaming for Your Monday Blues…

As a favor for my friend Diane, this week we are focusing on dog shaming pictures.  Enjoy!

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Brain Scans Reveal What Dogs Really Think of Us

We love our dogs.

In the 30,000 years humans and dogs have lived together, man’s best friend has only become a more popular and beloved pet. Today, dogs are a fixture in almost 50% of American households.

From the way dogs thump their tails, invade our laps and steal our pillows, it certainly seems like they love us back. But since dogs can’t tell us what’s going on inside their furry heads, can we ever be sure?

Actually, yes. Thanks to recent developments in brain imaging technology, we’re starting to get a better picture of the happenings inside the canine cranium.

That’s right — scientists are actually studying the brains of dogs. And what the studies show is welcome news for all dog owners: Not only do dogs seem to love us back, they actually see us as their family. It turns out that dogs rely on humans more than they do their own kind for affection, protection and everything in between.

Dogs gathered around MRI scanner MR Research Center in Budapest. Image Credit: Borbala Ferenczy

The most direct brain-based evidence that dogs are hopelessly devoted to humans comes from a recentneuroimaging study about odor processing in the dog brain. Animal cognition scientists at Emory University trained dogs to lie still in an MRI machine and used fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) to measure their neural responses to the smell of people and dogs, both familiar and unknown. Because dogs navigate the world through their noses, the way they process smell offers a lot of potential insight into social behavior.

The scientists found that dog owners’ aroma actually sparked activation in the “reward center” of their brains, called the caudate nucleus. Of all the wafting smells to take in, dogs actually prioritized the hint of humans over anything or anyone else.

These results jibe with other canine neuroimaging research. In Budapest, researchers at Eotvos Lorand University studied canine brain activity in response to different human and dog sounds, including voices, barks and the meaningful grunts and sighs both species emit. Before this study, we had no idea what happens inside canine brains when humans make noise.

Among other surprising findings, the study revealed marked similarities in the way dog and human brains process emotionally laden vocal sounds. Researchers found that happy sounds in particular light up the auditory cortex in both species. This commonality speaks to the uniquely strong communication system underlying the dog-human bond.

In short: Dogs don’t just seem to pick up on our subtle mood changes — they are actually physically wired to pick up on them.

“It’s very interesting to understand the tool kit that helps such successful vocal communication between two species,” Attila Andics, a neuroscientist and lead author of the study, told Mic. “We didn’t need neuroimaging to see that communication works [between dogs and people], but without it, we didn’t understand why it works. Now we’re really starting to.”

Dog waiting to be scanned at MR Research Center in Budapest. Image Credit: Borbala Ferenczy.

Behavior research supports the recent neuroscience too. According to Andics, dogs interact with their human caregivers in the same way babies do their parents. When dogs are scared or worried, they run to their owners, just as distressed toddlers make a beeline for their parents. This is in stark contrast to other domesticated animals: Petrified cats, as well as horses, will run away.

Dogs are also the only non-primate animal to look people in the eyes. This is something Andics, along with other researchers, discovered about a decade ago when he studied the domestication of wolves, which he thought would share that trait. They endeavored to raise wolves like dogs. This is a unique behavior between dogs and humans — dogs seek out eye contact from people, but not their biological dog parents.

“Bonding with owners is much more important for dogs than other pets,” said Andics.

Image Credit: Getty

Scientists have also looked at the dog-human relationship from the other direction. As it turns out, people reciprocate dogs’ strong feelings. In a study published in PLOS One in October, Massachusetts General Hospital researchers measured human brain activity in response to photos of dogs and children. Study participants were women who’d had dogs and babies for at least two years. Both types of photos sparked activity in brain regions associated with emotion, reward, affiliation, visual processing and social interaction. Basically, both furry and (typically) less-furry family members make us equally happy.

Dog-lovers have committed a few notable gaffes in interpreting dogs’ facial expressions, e.g., assuming the often-documented hangdog look signifies guilt, an emotion that, most behavior experts agree, requires a multifaceted notion of self-awareness that dogs probably don’t have.

But, as with family, our instinctive hunches about dog behavior are often correct.

“Sometimes our intuition about what’s going on inside dogs’ heads is dead-on,” said Laurie Santos, the lead researcher at Yale’s Canine Cognition Center. “Like, that dogs are seeking out help from us — and that’s true based on studies — which is different from even their closest relatives, wolves.”

The precise wish or worry lurking in a dog’s doleful look may not always be clear. But we can relish the fact that we know our pets love us as much as we hoped, maybe even more. Even if they’re not full-fledged children, they see us as family. And to us? Well, they’ll always be our babies.

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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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