A collection of Tunicates: Polycarpa aurata (purple), Atriolum robustum (green), Rhopalaea (blue)
Although they may not look much like us superficially, tunicates are among the very closest relatives of the vertebrates.
Find out more here.
(photo: Nick Hobgood via Wikimedia Commons)
(via: Encyclopedia of Life)
Cup corals (Desmophyllum) grow around an anemone on a mud-covered ledge. During the Deepwater Canyons 2013 expedition, scientists collected cup coral specimens to help them understand the factors that influence the distribution of this species and perhaps even solve the mystery of differences observed between the deep and shallow populations.
Learn more: http://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/explorations/13midatlantic/logs/may17/may17.html
(via: NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research)
I’ll just leave this quote from writer Salman Rushdie right over here…
(via: The Richard Dawkins Fdn. for Reason and Science)
Goliath grouper (Epinephelus itajara)
… can grow as big as a Volkswagen and live more than 35 years! But as slow and curious swimmers in shallow water, they are easy prey for fishermen.
After nearing extinction, a catch ban helped them recover. Now, Florida is considering reopening the fishery and we believe it’s too soon. Take a moment to help this iconic Florida fish return to full abundance by taking this public opinion survey. Your voice can help make the difference… http://ocean.ly/13tLwaj
(via: Ocean Conservancy)
Roseate Spoonbills (Platalea ajaja) near Harlingen, South TX, USA. No matter how many times one sees it, giant pink birds taking off is always a thrill.
photo by M. Fuller
(via: Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival)
Why Most Snails Do Coil to the Right?
by Jennifer Carpenter
When plucking a snail from the beach you’d be lucky to snag a left-coiling shell.That’s because only 5% of all snails are “lefties,” new research shows. Shell enthusiasts have long marveled at the lack of sinistral (left-coiling) snails among their collections, especially when other shelled mollusks, such as clams and the now-extinct ammonites—nautiluslike creatures that sported dozens of tentacles inside spiraled shells—are just as likely to be left- as right-coiling.
Now, in the largest survey of its kind, researchers inspected more than 55,000 snail species—representing two-thirds of all gastropods—to reveal that left-coiling has arisen more than 100 times, and yet few of the species that have made the switch have been particularly successful. In the rare cases where left-coiling took off, it was almost always on land, the team reported here in a presentation last week at the annual meeting of the Canadian Society of Zoologists.
The researchers don’t know why sinistrality is so rare underwater, but the most likely explanation, they say, is that unlike land snails that tend to hang around where they hatch out, the microscopic young of sea snails are carried on ocean currents that make the chance of meeting and reproducing with another left-coiling nest-mate slim. Without such a meeting, the left-coiling lineage goes extinct.
(via: Science NEWS/AAAS) (photo: Yang Hao)
Why Do Penguins Fly Not?
by Traci Watson
Long, long ago, O Best Beloved, the ancestor of the penguins could soar through the air. So why did the penguin give up flight? Rudyard Kipling never wrote a Just So story with an answer, but now scientists have one: The penguin doesn’t fly because it would rather swim.
A new study of murres, penguinlike seabirds that retain the ability to take wing, shows just how costly and inefficient it is to be both a diver and a flyer. The new findings back the long-held hypothesis that penguins gave up the heavens more than 70 million years ago to become kings of the waves.
“This study contributes a lot by putting hard numbers on the energy costs of moving through both the aerial and aquatic realms,” writes Daniel Ksepka of North Carolina State University in Raleigh, who studies penguin evolution and was not involved with the research, in an e-mail…
(read more: Science News/AAAS)
(photo: Kyle H. Elliott; (inset) Samuel Blanc)
Scissor-tailed Flycatchers (Tyrannus forficatus)
Female Scissor-tailed Flycatchers select males to pair with, based on the male’s ornate tail plumes. Males will perform elaborate aerial courtship displays to females, showing off their tails, to try to encourage her to mate. Longer tail feathers are more energetically costly to grow and maintain, so a male with very long tail feathers must therefore be in top physical shape. Males with longer feathers are typically snatched up sooner than those with shorter tails. Scissor-tailed Flycatchers are kingbirds, members of the flycatcher genus Tyrannus, along with the closely-related Fork-tailed Flycatcher.
photo by Ken Slade - TexasEagle | Flickr
(via: Peterson’s Field Guides)
Moor frogs (Rana arvalis) temporarily turning blue at the Ljubljana Marshes, Slovenia.
It is thought that males turn blue during the mating season so they can quickly distinguish males from females among the dense frog populations
image by Luka Esenko
Sea Turtles on the South Texas Coast
20 sea turtle nests have so far been found on South Padre Island and Boca Chica Beach! The first nest is estimated to hatch the week of June 9th. For more information about attending a public sea turtle hatchling release…
visit: www.seaturtleinc.org or
(Photo: Kemp’s ridley sea turtle hatchlings released into the Gulf of Mexico, South Padre Island, summer of 2006)
(via: Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge)