Tag Archives: South Pacific

Scientists Identify Core Skin Bacterial Community in Humpback Whales

Results Could Aid Future Efforts to Monitor Health

Bacteria are invisible to the naked eye, but they reside on nearly every surface humans encounter—including the skin.  Uncovering the role these microorganisms play in human health is a major focus of research in skin microbiology, but little is known about the identity or function of skin bacteria in other mammals.

In a paper published in the open access journal PLOS ONE, researchers at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and colleagues identified a core skin bacterial community that humpback whales share across populations, which could point to a way to assess the overall health of these endangered marine mammals. (more…)

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Rainfall in South Pacific Was More Variable Before 20th Century

AUSTIN, Texas — A new reconstruction of climate in the South Pacific during the past 446 years shows rainfall varied much more dramatically before the start of the 20th century than after. The finding, based on an analysis of a cave formation called a stalagmite from the island nation of Vanuatu, could force climate modelers to adjust their models. The models are adjusted to match the current levels of climate variability that are smaller now than they were in the recent past for this region.

“In this case, the present is not the key to the past, nor the future,” says Jud Partin, a research scientist associate at The University of Texas at Austin’s Institute for Geophysics who led the study. The institute is part of the Jackson School of Geosciences. “Instead, the past is the key to what may happen in the future.” (more…)

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First global atlas of marine plankton reveals remarkable underwater world

Under the microscope, they look like they could be from another planet, but these microscopic organisms inhabit the depths of our oceans in nearly infinite numbers.

To begin to identify where, when, and how much oceanic plankton can be found around the globe, a group of international researchers have compiled the first ever global atlas cataloguing marine plankton ranging in size from bacteria to jellyfish. The atlas was published on July 19, 2013, in a special issue of the journal Earth System Science Data. (more…)

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UW Nautilus Expedition May Have Spied New Species

A University of Washington research team has captured color photographs of what could be a previously undocumented species of chambered nautilus, a cephalopod mollusk often classified as a “living fossil,” in the waters off American Samoa in the South Pacific.

“This is certainly a new taxon, but we are not sure if it is a new species, subspecies or variety,” said UW paleontologist Peter Ward, who led the expedition to Samoa and Fiji.

“The Samoan nautiluses are large for the genus, brightly colored, and very, very rare,” he said. (more…)

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Flies of the World Embrace Vegetarianism

Microbe-eating flies from at least three different locations around the world recently have evolved into herbivores, feeding on some of the most toxic plants on Earth. Fly detectives and UA evolutionary biologists Noah Whiteman and Richard Lapoint are trying to find out what genetic pathways led the flies to such a major change of lifestyle.

For millennia, they buzzed through the woods, contentedly munching yeasts off the surfaces of leaves, bracken and rotting duff on the forest floor. But now, flies in the family Drosophilidae, whose disparate members dwell in areas all across the planet, have evolved into all-out vegetarians with a wicked diet of plants that are deadly to most other organisms.

What, University of Arizona scientists would like to know, has caused these flies, yeast-feeders for nearly 80 million years, to independently go cold turkey with respect to their formerly meaty diets? (more…)

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Genetic Patterns of Deep-Sea Coral Provide Insights into Evolution of Marine Life

Patterns Also Shed Light on How Environmental Disturbances Affect Aquatic Organisms

The ability of deep-sea corals to harbor a broad array of marine life, including commercially important fish species, make these habitat-forming organisms of immediate interest to conservationists, managers, and scientists. Understanding and protecting corals requires knowledge of the historical processes that have shaped their biodiversity and biogeography.

While little is known about these processes, new research described in the journal Molecular Ecology helps elucidate the historical patterns of deep-sea coral migration and gene flow, coincident with oceanic circulation patterns and events. The investigators propose a scenario that could explain the observed evolutionary and present-day patterns in certain coral species. The findings can help scientists determine how climate change and other global processes have affected ocean habitats in the past and how they might do so in the future. (more…)

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The Original Twitter? Tiny Electronic Tags Monitor Birds’ Social Networks

If two birds meet deep in the forest, does anybody hear? Until now, nobody did, unless an intrepid biologist was hiding underneath a bush and watching their behavior, or the birds happened to meet near a research monitoring station. But an electronic tag designed at the University of Washington can for the first time see when birds meet in the wild.

A new study led by a biologist at Scotland’s University of St. Andrews used the UW tags to see whether crows might learn to use tools from one another. The findings, published last week in Current Biology, supported the theory by showing an unexpected amount of social mobility, with the crows often spending time near birds outside their immediate family. (more…)

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MU Researcher Works to Save One of the World’s Most Endangered Birds

COLUMBIA, Mo. ­— The Tuamotu Kingfisher is a multicolored, tropical bird with bright blue feathers, a dusty orange head, and a bright green back. The entire population of these birds – less than 125 – lives on one tiny island in the south Pacific, and without serious intervention, they will no longer exist. One University of Missouri researcher is trying to stop the birds’ extinction by working with farmers and residents on the island inhabited by the kingfishers.

“If we lose these birds, we lose 50,000 years of uniqueness and evolution,” said Dylan Kesler, assistant professor in fisheries and wildlife at the University of Missouri’s School of Natural Resources in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. “Because it has lived in isolation for a very long time, it’s unlike any other bird. There is no other bird like this on the planet.” (more…)

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