Biology

Cetaceans have developed mechanisms against diseases such as cancer

Why whales don't seem to get cancer

Cetaceans were not limited by gravity in the buoyant marine environment and evolved multiple giant forms, exemplified today by the largest animal that has ever lived: the blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus).

There are tradeoffs, however, associated with large body size, including a higher lifetime risk of cancer due to a greater number of somatic cell divisions over time.  The largest whales can have ∼1,000 times more cells than a human, with long lifespans, leaving them theoretically susceptible to cancer. 

Clam lived to be over 500 years old

This makes the otherwise unassuming Arctica islandica clam the longest lived animal species on record, though some corals are probably much older. The clam was initially named Ming by Sunday Times journalists, in reference to the Ming dynasty, during which it was born.

Researchers from Bangor University in North Wales – unaware of the animal’s impressive age – determined the age by drilling through and counting rings on its shell (a technique known as sclerochronology). In the process the clam died.

Staghorn coral
The staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis) is a branching, stony coral with cylindrical branches ranging from a few centimetres to over two metres in length and height.

Coral restoration projects show promise in Florida Keys

Reef-building staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis) was abundant and widespread throughout the Caribbean and Florida until the late 1970s.  The fast-growing coral formed dense thickets in forereef, backreef, and patch-reef environments to depths over 20 m. 

The ridged cactus coral, relatively uncommon but striking in its beauty, had reproduced in a lab for what the aquarium says is the first time.

Scientific breakthrough could save Florida’s Reefs

The corals were rescued by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and NOAA Fisheries after an outbreak of Stony Coral Tissue Loss disease commenced 2014. Previously, little was known about ridged cactus coral reproduction, as no photos, videos, or published studies were ever done on the species' reproductive biology.

Researchers find deep-sea coral gardens off Western Australia

Widely known as a biodiversity hotspot for marine animals, Australia’s Bremer Canyon Marine Park has been found to also host rich, diverse ecosystems within the canyon’s cold waters.

This discovery was made during a scientific expedition after researchers used a deep-sea remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to collect samples of deep-sea corals, associated fauna, seawater and geological samples from the abyssal depths to the continental shelf.

Many species of whales and dolphins have supersensitive hearing because they use sound to navigate

Whales and dolphins naturally muffle loud sounds

Instead of wearing earplugs at a rock concert, imagine you could simply tune a dial inside your ears to lower the volume and protect your hearing. In a new report published in Integrative Zoology, researchers have discovered four whale species and dolphins can do just that. This could potentially shield the animals from navy sonar and oil drilling, linked to at least 500 marine mammal deaths since 1963.

More than half a billion years ago the first split in the family tree separated one lineage from all other animals. Traditionally, scientists have thought it was sponges but DNA research shows it was comb jellies
More than half a billion years ago the first split in the family tree separated one lineage from all other animals. Traditionally, scientists have thought it was sponges but DNA research shows it was comb jellies

Comb jellies are our oldest cousins, not sponges

The phylogenetic relationship of ctenophores (comb jellies) to other animals has been a source of long-standing debate.

Until recently, it was thought that Porifera (sponges) was the earliest diverging animal lineage, but recent reports have instead suggested Ctenophora as the earliest diverging animal lineage.

For the past 30 years, researchers have used whole-genome sequencing of organisms to advance their understanding of evolution.

Electron micrograph of Bacteriophages (vira) in the process of infecting a cell. This is not the virus or bacteriophage in question but a generic photo

A vaccine for corals

White syndrome' is a name given to a number of diseases exhibiting similar symptoms, such as such as white pox, white band and white plague disease. The causes of white syndrome are in many cases unknown. White syndrome has increased in abundance 20-fold in the last five years, with increases on inner, mid-shelf and outer-shelf reefs along the length of the Great Barrier Reef. It also had a major impact on Caribbean reefs. In areas of the Great Barrier Reef surveyed, white syndrome, along with skeletal eroding band, was the most common disease.

Deep sea crabs are sensible to blue and ultraviolet light
Deep sea crabs are sensible to blue and ultraviolet light

Deep sea crabs see in colour

Investigating deep waters off Bahamas, US-based researchers recorded the glow of tiny bioluminescent species using a submersible vehicle.

Descending to sites between 600 and 1000m down, the scientists observed flashes of bioluminescence where plankton collided with boulders and corals.

The team also studied how crustaceans react to this light, and found previously unknown sensitivities to blue and ultra violet wavelengths.