AWESOME Recent Science Stories!

(c) mccort.org

(c) mccort.org

Sometimes – you just get a week of amazing science discoveries! Let’s chit chat about some of those amazing instances, shall we??

SQUID EATS A BOMB

1) A squid was caught off the coast of China with a BOMB found inside of it. Yes, a bomb. The 18-inch live bomb was found inside a 3-foot squid being sliced open at a Chinese fish market in Jiaoling county. Perhaps the bomb resembled a small fish or prawn, but who knows how long the squid swam around for with live ammo in its tummy!? Local police suspect that the bomb was dropped by a fighter jet…it was rusty so it’s hard to tell exactly how long it has been floating (in the ocean/in the stomach of the squid) for. This is not the first instance of a bomb being found inside a marine animal – in 2007, the remains of a 19th century timer bomb was found inside a bowhead whale.

ACTIVE MICROBIAL COMMUNITY FOUND IN THE DEEPEST PART OF THE OCEAN

2) Imagine living in a place with 1,000 times the pressure placed upon your entire body at normal sea level..no thank you! But, researchers have discovered that microbes, found at the Mariana’s Trench, thrive on the falling detritus (dead animal remains) that fall to the depths of the ocean floor even under the intense pressure! The microbes are an important component of the carbon cycle in the ocean – keeping the process going by digesting organic matter and thus releasing CO2.

GIANT SQUID FROM ACROSS THE GLOBE ARE A SINGLE SPECIES

3) Giant squid bodies have been found spanning the globe, and it’s been confirmed that the DNA from 43 squid found around the world, in all actuality vary surprising little. The lack of genetic diversity is quite astounding knowing that Giant Squid span across all oceans with a relatively large population size. Some researchers think that this could because squid mitochondria may have evolved unusually slowly, or they could have recently expanded from a small to large population size.

FISH BRAIN ACTIVITY CAPTURED ON FILM

4) Researchers have visualized and recorded the activity of almost every individual neuron in the larval zebrafish brain in REAL TIME! This is an amazing feat! “It allows a much better view of the dynamics through the brain during different behaviors and during learning paradigms,” states Joseph Fetch, a neurobiologist  from Cornell University. The researchers were able to capture more than 80% of the 100,000 neurons in the brain of the larval zebrafish, snapping high-res pics every 30 milliseconds.

Yours truly doing larval research on the Great Barrier Reef!

Women in Science

CSUMBcommercial2

California State University Monterey Bay – That’s me!

Imagine a tall, skinny, beautiful New York City professional ballet dancer telling you anything and everything about neuroscience. Pretty hard to imagine right? Now imagine a short, nerdy, conservative, glasses wearing girl explaining the theory of evolution detail by detail. Pretty easy to picture in your head, huh? The media portrays ‘scientists’ as nerdy-socially awkward-not ‘attractive’-etc- which has caused widespread stereotyping across movies and televisions shows.

Larvalmicroscope

Doing larval research on the Great Barrier Reef.

It’s a sad but true statement that women don’t get the respect or acknowledgment for their accomplishments nearly as much as men in almost every job field. I have personally witnessed this sexist concept whilst studying in the scientific field of marine biology. Yes, it’s true that men and women are very different – but that doesn’t mean at all that one sex is better/smarter/more advanced than the other. We are all human. We all have a brain. It’s just how you use it that makes us all unique.

I’ve loved science since I was little. And I can bet you that if you took a poll, I wouldn’t fall into the normal ‘nerd’ spectrum that the media portrays. If you watch the Big Bang Theory, I’d probably be placed into the same category as the ‘dumb’ southern blonde girl across the hall than the neuroscientist Cal Tech girl who is socially awkward, dresses frumpy, and wears glasses. If you judge a book by its cover – you will never know the great novel that lies inside.

I fell in love with Chemistry in college – and I even got an A+ in my classes! Who does that?! –> This girl :) Learning how the world works and why makes my brain do cartwheels with excitement. I used to get self conscious for some reason when people called me a nerd – but now I embrace it and wear the title proudly with a smile on my face.

One of the coolest things about science is that : WE ARE ALWAYS DISCOVERING NEW THINGS! Thus, my thirst for knowledge never runs dry – thanks SCIENCE!

I’d like to share with you the inspiration for this post : a great TEDxCal Tech talk about the Myths of Scientists. (You go girl!)

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Dear 20-Somethings : You’re Not Alone!

It’s very common that the majority of my friends who graduated college moved back in with their parents. I know it’s not the most ideal thing after you’ve had your freedom for 4 years in college, but everyone’s essentially doing it. The economy and job market aren’t that great for college grads, thus the money-saving thing to do is move back home and find a job in/around your hometown. Fortunately, I was one of the few that got my own place after college and kept a steady job for over a year and half now. Although, when I first moved away from college I did bounce around my close friends’ family homes before I found a steady job and apartment (took me about 3 months to find a job). The age when we decide to get married has changed with our generation as well. It’s true that myself and all my peers (for the most part) are waiting to get hitched until our late twenties. We are the 20-somethings.

20-somethings are taking a longer time to finish school, leave home, start a career, get married and settle down, and reach other key milestones of adulthood. This fact has been proven by sociologists and psychologists who obtained the supporting data I’m going to discuss below.

One-third of people in their 20s move to a new residence every year. Forty percent move back home with their parents at least once. They go through an average of seven jobs in their 20s, more job changes than in any other stretch. Two-thirds spend at least some time living with a romantic partner without being married. And marriage occurs LATER than ever. The Median age at first marriage in the early 1970s, when the baby boomers were young, was 21 for women and 23 for men,; by 2009 it had climbed to 26 for women and 28 for men, give years in a little more than a generation. – Marantz Henig

The stage between late teens through mid twenties is now a distinct stage of life deemed as “emerging adulthood,” according to Jeffrey Arnett. Guess that’s where I fall at the moment… This phase only relates to about 18% of the global population in developed countries such as the US, Canada, Western Europe, Australia, and Japan.  Generally speaking, people living in the rest of the developed countries of the world are much more likely to finish a formal education on time and get married by their early 20’s. I have to say that I’ve seen this occur with my friends who live in Europe and Australia- many have graduated from a University and got married right afterwards.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Delayed Development:20-Somethings Blame the Brain, the author pretty much suggests that parents “chill out” when worrying about their 20-something child. The author concludes that scientists suggest, “recent research into how the brain develops suggests that people are better equipped to make major life decisions in their late 20s than earlier in the decade. The brain, once thought to be fully grown after puberty, is still evolving into its adult shape well into a person’s third decade, pruning away unused connections and strengthening those that remain.”

One piece of information I found quite intriguing was that between the ages of 12-25, the brain changes its structure in a couple prevalent ways. LET’S TALK SCIENCE- neurons in the early adolescent brain become bushier- like a quickly growing jungle planets in the movie Jumanji that overtake the house- growing fast and overlapping branches whose twigs reach toward each other. They are almost touching, but as we all learned in biology class they need to leave a tiny space known as synapses for electrical pulses to transmit chemical messages. As time passes, depending on how teens keep their mind busy, the less used synapses wilt and wither away, while twigs gaining the most chemical action grow strong like a redwood. It’s important to understand that this is new in terms of what we thought of human brain development. We are still growing and changing past our pubescent years!

Overall, this concept about the 20-somethings of this generation is kind of a big deal. We are experiencing new situations with society, culture, and the economy unlike previous generations. Our parents can’t simply compare theirs lives growing up to ours any longer. Times are a changing people… the mold has been broken and the 20-somethings are on the loose to conquer the world!

Fish Now Have Skin Cancer Too…

The black spots on this Coral Trout are melanomas.

For the first time in history, a wild marine fish species has been identified with skin cancer off the coast of Australia.

Caught on the Great Barrier Reef, coral trout have been discovered with large black spots on their skin, now identified as cancerous melanomas. One researcher documented that 15% of these fish found on the reef show signs of skin cancer. The percentage may even be higher due to the fact that some fish may have died due to illness or consumed by predators.

Researchers state that melanomas on the skin of these fish were likely due to the UV radiation and the closeness of the fish species to the hole in the ozone layer over parts of Antarctica and Australia. (No wonder I got “surfer’s eye” induced by extreme sun exposure in my year abroad in Australia..the sun really is MORE intense there!) Hence it is no wonder that Australia has the highest occurrence of skin cancer in the entire world. That boils down to the fact that 2 out of 3 Australians will be diagnosed before that age of 70. Very unfortunate…wear your sunscreen Aussies!

Coral trouts are normally orange all over… but not with melanomas. (Michelle Heupel, Australian Institute of Marine Science / August 1, 2012)

Alright back to the fish- the researchers from the Australian Institute of Marine Science were on the reef doing a survey of shark prey, i.e. coral trout. They saw the discoloration on the fish and after examining it under a microscope, discovered  it was cancerous tumors.

“Studying disease in wild fish populations is very time-consuming and costly so it’s hard to say how long the disease has been around. However, what we do know is that it is now widespread in the coral trout population effecting three different species of this type of fish and we would not be surprised to find it in other species as well.” -Dr. Sweet

The fish were caught off of Heron Island (where I did research on tube worm larvae!) and One Tree Island – which make up the southern portion of the Great Barrier Marine Park. 136 fish were caught, resulting with 20 (15%) showing signs of skin cancer.

Even though this is just the first published report about fish with skin cancer, I’m sure the occurrence isn’t new. Some fishermen trace it back to as early as the 1980’s. The diagnosed fish didn’t show signs of illness, but that also doesn’t mean that many of them have already died from the cancer once it got invasive. Questions and answers are still yet to be answered pertaining to skin cancer in fish- I’ll try and keep you posted as best as I can on this issue.

WHAT IS NEXT?!

Squid Ink is Prehistorically Perfect.

Credit: National Geographic

HOORAY- A story on SQUID! One of my favorite marine creatures. (Please no chit chat about how delicious you think calamari is…)

A recent study concluded that squid ink samples from a 160-million-year-old giant squid is EXACTLY the same as the ink found in squid today. WOW. With no evolution to be concluded from this evidence for the components of squid ink… I guess that means their ink has been doing the trick the right way for millions of years. Good job cephalopods!

The ink sacs of 2 giant squid fossils found in England 2 years ago was compared to today’s squid ink components. Melanin, a substance that gives hair, skin, and certain other things color, is the primary ingredient of squid ink- explaining why their ink is so dark in color.

John Simon, a chemistry teacher and executive vice president and provost at the University of Virginia stated,

“Though the other organic components of the squid we studied are long gone, we’ve discovered through a variety of research methods that the melanin has remained in a condition that could be studied in exquisite detail.”

It’s pretty amazing that those ink sacs remained intact for millions of years. Phenomenal actually! This is such a fantastic scientific discovery. It’s very rare that animals don’t evolve in one way or another over millions and millions of years- guess their escape ink system was right on the dot when they were created. From the Jurassic age until now…high five to squids for doing something right!

Cyclops Shark- Eye Love You!

So I’m sure many of you have seen the latest news articles about the 1-eyed shark anomaly. It’s quite an intriguing little creature to look at..still looks extremely fake to me. But I’d totally love to have one!

Credit: Pisces Sportfishing

Found in the stomach of her mother in the Sea of Cortez, this 22-inch-long dusty shark looks like something out of a cartoon than a real life shark. But National Geographic confirms that 2 scientists from the Interdisciplinary Center of Marine Sciences (in La Paz) have studied the shark and determined that the fetal shark does actually have 1 functional eye at the front of its head.

If only the fishermen who “legally” caught the pregnant dusty shark wasn’t catching and killing sharks, or else we might have been able to see this little cyclops in the wild! But to be quite honest the shark’s fate was pretty well determined even if it was born. Kittens and puppies born with the disorder cyclopia die within a day or so after being born. Poor little fellas.. No other cyclops sharks have been caught before- further insinuating that they die soon after birth.

The scientists who studied the shark took X-rays which will be released in their research report  coming out soon (hopefully). Comparing these X-rays to previous cases of cyclopia (which has actually been found in humans) can possibly present some interesting comparisons.

Do you think it’s really REAL or REALLY FAKE? Comment and let me know!

Sunscreen Lotion OUT = Sunblock Pill IN (Thanks to Coral Reefs!)

Corals are fascinating organisms. When I traveled to Australia and went scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef- this was one of my favorite pictures of the corals and fish that I captured. It was sooo gorgeous there and full of life.

Great Barrier Reef Corals: Chanel Hason: 2009

So leading up to my topic of today: Corals and a sunblock pill!

I can definitely concur that sunscreen lotion is a pain in the butt to put on every couple of hours, when all you want to do is relax, and smell nice, not like a sunscreen ad. Plus you feel all greasy and gross, then when you jump into the water- it all washes off and you have to start the whole process over again!

Well research scientists may have found the jackpot to get rid of those lotions and replace it with a PILL- yes I said it, a little old pill. Corals produce a natural compound that protects their bodies from harmful UV rays from the sun (if only we could do that..). The scientists could manufacture this product for public use within 5 years! That would be pretty amazing to see happen for sure. I’d just hope that no corals have to die because of it…then I wouldn’t be happy.

Coral UV Protection Background: Corals have a symbiotic relationship with photosynthetic (needs sunshine to live) algae that lives within their skeleton. This algae produces a UV protection chemical that gets transported throughout the coral. Researchers have found that this protection passes on to the fish that feed upon the coral – so it’s transferred biologically throughout the food chain. Scientists figured out from this information that we could biosynthetically develop the chemical in the lab to make a pill for humans to consume from the sun’s harsh UV rays ( YEAH NO KILLING LOTS OF INNOCENT CORALS :D)

Check out the video from King’s College of London whose researchers are the ones who discovered this:

Well I guess this isn’t the first time that there was ever such an idea of a sunscreen pill.. there are a couple you can actually buy in grocery stores. But they are poorly researched, and not very effective. So don’t use those because you still have to put sunscreen on anyways…what’s the point in taking the pill right?

So maybe in 5 years or so..we’ll be giving our family, friends, and children a little pill to protect our bodies from the inside out from that harsh sunshine. PROTECT YOUR SKIN PEOPLE! And give a BIG thank you to the coral reefs, instead of continuing to destroy them.

Corals are COOL!: Chanel Hason: 2009