One of the most Amazing, Magical things i have ever experienced happened last night!
Me and a few friends were walking down to the beach after a few drinks at the bar. There’s an estuary that flows into the beach at one end, to get to the beach we have to cross a bridge, normally it’s just plain murky water with some eels and other little creatures but not tonight. tonight it was glowing. the whole thing was glowing blue. It was Amazing. I wanted to go scoop up some of the water, just ‘cause i could, really, but as i got close the grass around it started glowing!
It was touch sensitive, like avatar. Exactly like avatar. you tough 1 piece of grass and it would send a ripple of light through the surrounding area, you drop a stone into the water and it would light up the waves.
We didnt know what it was at first. There was That-Science-Bitch (a biology student,) RampantMosquito (a Biochemistry student,) and me, (a physics/chemistry student) and our first guess was that it was some bacteria washed up stream from the high tide. (this was just after midnight, the tide had just started receding.) However when we started walking down the beach we found a problem with that theory. about 500 meters down there were still some of the bacteria in rock pools which at first supported the theory, but further down they started to disappear. This seemed to suggest that it came from the estuary itself and then was just washed down shore a bit as it reached the ocean.
Going with that theory we didnt know of any sources of bioluminescent bacteria that could have come from the estuary, so we started thinking some sort of chemical wash off, but then again that didnt explain the touch sensitivity so we were back to square one.
As we’re 3 science students we took samples of course. 3 separate samples from different locations, 1 without a lid to see if that would change anything, and 2 with a lid. we kept all 3 in a cupboard over night in case it was photosensitive but with no luck, by morning there was nothing left but murky water.
The whole time i was hoping for something special. something unique. but just before writing this i did some research and found that its a very plain explanation for such a extraordinary event - phytoplankton washing up on shore. It’s happened before in Australia and the Maldives, the picture below is from the Maldives. We tried taking pictures but no one had a good enough camera on hand.
Here i was hoping for some alien organisms that would give me super powers :(
However that still doesn’t explain why it only occurred in the estuary and down stream of the estuary instead of along the entire beach. So who knows… Super powers…? please…?
This was actually one of the coolest things i have ever experienced! It was so amazing and rather beautiful (were going back again tonight to see if its there again!)
Calcified animals found washed up on the shores of Lake Natron in Tanzania and posed as they would be found in real life. The animals become “calcified” as their bodies become encrusted in sodium carbonate or bicarbonate when the water level of the lake drops.
This deadly lake receives its harsh composition from the neighboring volcano, Ol Doinyo as alkali-rich natrocarbonatites from the volcano enter the rainwater run-off, polluting the water. There is no calcium in the lake, however there are inflowing freshwater channels that precipitate and mix with the high pH alkaline water which also contributes to its very unique composition.
There is a British boutique ice cream company Lick Me I’m Delicious that have been working with Jellyfish bioluminescent proteins to produce ice cream that glows in the dark!
How it works? The proteins of the jellyfish are activated by calcium and due to a difference in pH levels the more neutral pH of the ice cream reacts with the higher acidity of your mouth causing the ice cream to glow in the dark when licked. The ice cream is entirely edible and is ~$220 per scoop!
The Marvellous Spatuletail (Loddigesia mirabilis) is a medium-sized hummingbird Endemic to Peru. This unique bird has only four tail feathers. The male has two longer outer tail feathers that it is able to move independently! These birds are small in population size and only occupy a limited rage, classified as an endangered species.
Ophiocordyceps sinensis (The caterpillar fungus)Is a type of fungus that grows in the larvae of Ghost Moths, it does this in a parasitic relationship where it germinates within the living larvae and slowly mummifies it until eventually the stalk-like fruiting body emerges from the corpse.
The Rafflesia arnoldii is the largest individual flower on earth. Spanning a diameter of 3 foot (1 meter) and weighing about 11 kg it lives as a parasite on the Tetrastigma vine which is found primarily in undisturbed forests. This vascular plant actually lacks chlorophyll, stems, leaves and even roots! It grows as thread-like strands of tissue embedded within the hosts cells where it obtains nutrients and water. It is only visible when it is about to reproduce.
Its nicknamed the corpse flower as it produces a disgusting odor that resembles decaying flesh, this is to attract flies and insects which pollinate the rare plant.
Look Familiar? Its also the inspiration behind the pokemon Gloom and its evolution Vileplume (if it wasn’t cool enough!)
Ever wonder how male and female parts dont fertilize themselves when they are on the same plant? To reduce sexual interference on hermaphroditic angiosperms (both sex flowering plants) a process called Herkogamy is in place. This is a strategy to reduce interactions between the anthers (male) and stigmas (female) of the same plant by supplying spatial separation of these males and female parts.
Two forms of this are the most common Pin and Thrum:
Pin or Approach Herkogamy is the presentation of the stigma above the anthers. This arrangement of sex organs causes floral visitors to first contact the stigma, before removing pollen from the anthers.
Thrum or Reverse Herkogamy is displayed when the stigma is located below the anthers. This arrangement causes floral visitors to first contact the anthers before the stigma.
The swim bladder is evolutionarily homologous to the lungs, an internal gas-filled organ which controls bouyancy and stabilisation of a fish. It can also be used as a resonating chamber to produce and receive sound.
So how does the swim bladder work? The gas-filled sacs have flexable walls that contract and expand on pressure. The walls are lined with guanine crystals enabling them to be impermeable to gas. To increase the volume of the swim bladder (for it to become buoyant) the fish has to introduce gas, typically oxygen. The gaseous glad excretes lactic acid which later produces carbon dioxide.
The resulting acidity causes the haemoglobin of the blood to loose its oxygen (thus how it obtains its gas) this them diffuses into the swim bladder. The blood flowing back to the body first enters a rete mirabile where excess carbon dioxide and oxygen produced in the gas gland diffuses back to the arteries supplying the gas gland. Thus a high gas pressure of oxygen can be obtained providing the fish with the buoyancy they need to stay afloat.
The Rhizocephalan Barnacle is an anomaly in nature possessing some of the most repulsive and sadistic behaviours in existence rivalling the worst of fictional monsters! With the ability to perform mind-control and induce vegetative (but still living) state on its host.
The larvae do not settle on rocks like other species, Instead, the females settle on other crustaceans, typically crabs. (usually on the gills, where the crab’s exoskeleton is thinnest)
After this the larvae begins to inject its innards into the crab, this is usually done by its hypodermic needle like antennae.
The barnacle then beings to grow inside the hosts fluid-filled cavities and branching out through the entirety of its body (but focusing on the digestive track) even infiltrating its nervous systems. It has a mechanism that enables it to avoid being attacked by the hosts immune system.
Once the now mature Rhizocephalan has taken over the host it beings to secrete pheromones to attract male larvae. The male then injects themselves in the host aswell and fuses with the female, the eggs are fertilized and released and the cycle begins again.
The host species generally stores its eggs under a tail flap (such as the crab) Some species of Rhizocephalans actually chemically castrate the crab, and then perform “mind control” compelling the host to take care of the parasites eggs as if it were their own! This is so powerful that it even works in males who lack the reproductive structures and behaviours need for this.
The host will never grow, molt, produce offspring or be in-control over its own actions for the rest of its life. It will spend the remainder of its existence in a zombie like state eating food that will then be sucked out of its digestive tract by the parasite!
Some animals posses the ability to control the flow of their blood through their veins! This is called Selective Vasoconstriction, they can do this to warm up or cool down important regions of the body in temperatures that extend outside of their ideal conditions.
The First diagram refers to selective vasoconstriction in a cold environment. Adrenaline causes the constriction of the blood vessels which causes the majority of the animals blood to be shunted directly back to the core of the body.
The second diagram refers to selective vasoconstriction in a warm environment. Noradrenaline causes the relaxation of the blood vessels, increasing the flow of blook to the periphery and increasing the animals loss of heat.
The Sky Blue Mushroom (Entoloma hochstetteri) is a strikingly colored blue mushroom only found in two places of the world New Zealand and India. Its bizarre coloring is caused by the pigment Azulene which is found in nature as a constituent not only of pigments in mushrooms but of some marine invertebrates. Its cap is relatively tiny only reaching about 4cm in diameter!
How do eggshells form? The egg actually grows the shell around itself.
The process of this formation of this everyday structure is rather remarkable. Before the shell forms the egg is surrounded by a membrane. Evenly spaced on the outside of this membrane are points where columns of calcite (a variation of calcium carbonate) form. These columns stack together side by side to form the shell. Minerals then deposit as particles of aragonite with a random orientation of the crystal planes. The columns of orientated crystalline calcite begin to grow apart.
The calcite is basically floating in solution around the shell, and it deposits on the shell like a forming crystal. The egg growing its own shell!
There are an estimated 1,000,000 species of Insect that have been discovered and its estimated that there are actually around 100,000,000 including the species that havent been discovered yet. What about individual insects? A rough estimate predicts that there are a billion billion, 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 insects in the world!
So how are they so diverse and so successful? Historically the most popular explanation is that they co-evolved with Angiosperms, flowering plants. (by far the most diverse plant group) stating that they have developed a high degree of adaptations due to their mutually beneficial relationship where the plant supplies food and the insect pollinates the plant. But, is this true?
Insects first appear in the fossil record in the Devonian Period and the radiation of insects began in the Carboniferous period about 325mya. Angiosperms however established about 100mya after insects, thus angiosperms have no influence on the diversification of insects, they began to diversify before they even existed!
Insect diversity appears to be the result, not from high rates of cladogenesis but rather from low rates of extinction. This is because of their small size, rapid geographical dispersal, adaptability of the arthropoda body plan (the ability to “mix and match” segments and appendages) and a wide range of feeding mechanisms that enable insects to adapt to new diets.
The Cambrian Explosion is a period of time where a sudden diversification of organisms was observed in most animal phyla of our fossil record around 542 million years ago. Almost all phyla present today occurred within this time period.
This occurrence opens much scientific debate as to the reason of the apparent rapid increase of complexity out of seemingly nowhere. Three key points have been formulated to help make sense of this:
1. Whether there really was a mass diversification of complex organisms over a relatively short period of time during the early Cambrian
2. What might have caused such rapid change; and what it would imply about the origin and evolution of animals.
3. Interpretation is difficult due to a limited supply of evidence, based mainly on an incomplete fossil record and chemical signatures remaining in Cambrian rocks.
Two primary scientists have been greatly involved in the interpretation of the event, Simon Conway Morris who proposes that disparity increased rapidly in the Cambrian, and after that increased gradually and Stephen Jay Gould who suggests that maximum disparity occurred in the Cambrian, and only a fraction of this disparity survived to the present day. They both have credible hypotheses however in most cases the opinions formulated by Simon Conway Morris are more accurate.
The Burgess shale (depicted in the picture above) is another point of interest, this is a fossil bed of marine organisms that existed around this time, these creatures are all incredible and exquisite. This links closely to the Cambrian explosion as it potentially explains the lack of diversification since this time period. These creatures exhibit all the features of living phyla examined today and like all things in life there is a limit to how much we can do. The burgess shale represents a maximum arrangement of internal and external animal features i.e. all possible diversification.
Typical household margarine is actually created through a complicated chemical process involving various catalysts and Hydrogen gas! The process is called Hydrogenation.
This is to convert vegetable oils to more spreadable and accessable products. A catalyst (usually nickel) and hydrogen are added to the vegetable oil which activates it, adding to the C=C double bond which then get broken causing the molecule to be saturated. Trans-fats arise during the conversion of vegetable oil (this is why margarine is so bad for you!)
To remove the Nickel catalyst form the solution it is absorbed into a subsbtabce such as silicone gel however small traces can leak into the finished margarine product.