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Marine Flatworms Colors Send a Warning

Flatworms are some of the most colorful marine creatures. Their spectacular colors and patterns can be eye popping. Scuba divers and tide-poolers love to take pictures of them for good reason; they are dazzling.

These ferocious predators are found in all habitats, feeding on tunicates, small crustaceans, worms, and molluscs. Some species have coloration that mimics other animals or acts like camouflage. But most are very colorful and easy to see. This is an example of warning coloration (called aposematism), advertising that the flatworms are poisonous to eat. Some species contain tetrodotoxin: the same poison found in a number of other poisonous creatures, including puffer fish, some species of  frogs and the blue-ringed octopus.

Early Multicellular Animal

We always wonder where and when animal life began. Now, scientists in Scotland have found  microfossils in a primeval dry lake bed that might provide a clue. Those microfossils are truly ancient, dated to about one billion years ago. The fossils show two distinct types of cells, suggesting a link between unicellular organisms and multi-cellular animals.

It’s CODE RED For Our Ocean Planet

Catastrophic wildfires, destructive floods, intensifying hurricanes, heat waves, and drought. No matter where we live, we all know that climate change is happening. More than 200 of the world’s most influential climate scientists issued the 6th IPCC (United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) Report in August 2021 summarizing the science on the effects of climate change happening now.

Marine Creatures Die-Off In Heat Wave

The extreme heat wave that hit the Pacific Northwest in July wasn’t just brutal on us it also killed an estimated billion coastal marine animals. It’s hard to grasp the extent of the mass die-off of mussels, oysters, sea cucumbers, sea stars, and many other species.

The ‘heat dome’ brought unprecedented high temperatures during some of the lowest tides of the year, exposing animals living along the shore to hours of sun and heat. What did those shores filled with dead animals mean for that ecosystem? All of the ecosystem services – like filtering of seawater, providing food for other species, including humans, and habitat for other species – disappeared.

Most intertidal animals are resilient and will likely recover. However, the climate crisis we’re in now means extreme weather will become more frequent and intense around the globe, making it harder for recovery. How extreme these kinds of events become is up to us. The time to act is NOW.

Disappearing Wild Bees

All wild bees, not just honey, are essential for good crop pollination providing up to two thirds of all pollination and they continue to disappear. Wild insect pollinators are key to maintaining biodiversity where they enable the reproduction of the majority of wild plants.

There are over 20,000 species of bees worldwide. In a recently published article, scientists reported that about a quarter of wild bee species haven’t been seen since the 1990’s when there was a dramatic increase in agricultural pesticide use.

The causes of the worldwide decline are many and mostly revolve around climate crisis and toxins. To learn more about bee culture check out our Buzzed on Bees feature where you’ll find lots of resources.

 

DID YOU KNOW? These KIDS ROCK!

We received lots of positive feedback on our annual Website Visitor Survey. While there were many adults respondents, there were also a handful of middle school students who responded while trying to make it through the home stretch of a very challenging year.

We'll definitely be tracking these kids who are passionate about science.

(Not photographed are Brooke and David).

Did You Know: The Ocean Got Quieter During the Pandemic

When the world went on lockdown in early 2020, economic activity slowed and there was a steep decline in shipping traffic. The ocean is filled with animal sounds – whistles, songs, bellows, clicks, and more – and the sounds of storms and earthquakes. Added to that is noise pollution from ships.

Our friends at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), study all aspects of the ocean and part of a nation-wide team trying to better understand underwater sound within the National Marine Sanctuary System. They have an underwater microphone (hydrophone) deep in the ocean in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary that streams and records ocean sounds. Listen to orcas and Pacific white-sided dolphins.

Did You Know: Purple Comes from Snail Slime?!

Purple has always been a ‘royal’ color that originally came from snail slime. You heard right: snail slime!

Archeologists have dated “royal” purple garments dyed with snails to as old as 1,000 B.C and only three species produce this dye.

The marine snails from the genera Murex, Thais and Plicopurpura produce slime, a secretion from their mucus gland—like other snails. But in their slime is a compound, which in the presence of light and oxygen, is purple.

People Have Shaped Nature for Thousands of Years

The idea of “natural” or “wild” lands is a myth. Scientists released a study showing that about three quarters of terrestrial nature has been shaped over 12,000 years by the land use of Indigenous and traditional peoples. Those land use practices included burning, hunting, species propagation, domestication and cultivation.

The cause of the current biodiversity crisis is a result of intensifying and new uses of the biodiverse landscapes shaped and sustained by traditional societies. “[This study] shows that high biodiversity is compatible with, and in some cases a result of, people living in these landscapes,” says Yadvinder Malhi at the University of Oxford. “Working with local and traditional communities, and learning from them, is essential if we are to try to protect biodiversity.”