Biology

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.

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.

Sharks can raise their scales to create tiny wells across the surface of their skin, just like the dimples on a golf ball
Sharks can raise their scales to create tiny wells across the surface of their skin, just like the dimples on a golf ball

Shark skin adds speed like golf ball

The minute scales, which are just 200 micrometres long, are made from tough enamel, such as that found on teeth, giving the skin a rough texture like sandpaper. Lying flat, they had previously been found to reduce drag as the shark swims. Some reports had also suggested that sharks can bristle their scales, causing them to stand up on end.

Experiments have now revealed that tiny vortices or whirlpools formed within the cavities between the scales.