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Uncategorized - 8 March 2021

Marine Biology: Five positive scientific discoveries of the week

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Emma Marine Biology

@marinebiologynews

1. COVID-19 has been positively impacting Mammals

The British non-profit organisation, The Mammal Society, has recently published a study which analyses the indirect effects of Covid-19 on mammal populations in touristic destinations. Since the beginning of the pandemic, numerous studies have been published of the viruses impacts on human populations. However, mammals – who’s lives can be closely linked to humans – have been left aside.

 

They have made some very interesting discoveries, which can be read in the results section of their publication. But I wanted to talk about the surprising discoveries they made related to marine mammals. 

Penguin the Explorer

In the Chicago (USA) aquarium, the Aptenodytes sp. penguins were allowed to roam freely on the premises, replacing the usual tourists during the COVID-19 outbreak. The neighboring animals seemed to be very intrigued by the presence of the unusual visitor. This video which shows the encounter between the penguin and belugas is very cute!

Returning Back Home

This study also found that marine mammals have been returning to their natural home environments. These are environments which where either too polluted with the noise and presence due to human activity. Endangered species such as dugongs have been spotted in some spots of Thailand which were commonly occupied with boats and tourists before the crisis.

A similar trend has been observed in Croatia, where dolphins have been coming back in high numbers to visit the coastal waters, which was something slightly more rare when tourists where present in mass numbers.

Read More Here

2. Kelp could become a promising Biofuel

Using biofuel can be a great alternative to using the common natural gas, diesel and gasoline. However, most of the biofuels we use today are mass produced from land-farmed crops such as corn. This is slightly problematic because even if the biofuel end-product is a more environmentally-friendly option than fossil fuels, it still requires pesticides and fresh water which create adverse environmental impacts.

 

Scientists from the University of Southern California, have been looking into the brown algae Kelp as an alternative to mass-produced land crops. They have worked with a private industry to propose a new aquaculture farming technique called the ‘kelp elevator’ which is optimized for the growth of kelp, even in the open ocean.

 

The ‘Kelp elevator’ is promising as it would create low-carbon fuel with fewer environmental impacts such as reduced pollution due to fertilizers and reduced fresh water necessity. Furthermore, land does not require to be cleared in order to farm such algae – which is highly encouraging! Go Kelp!

 

Read more about Kelp here

3. Natural Product found in sea sponges could help fight cancer cells

Scientists from Far Eastern Federal University in Russia have been studying isolated bioactive compounds which could help fight cancer cells. Last week they released a publication which seems promising about a new marine drug that could be elaborated from a sea sponge. What is even more promising, is that their experiments seemed to show that this compound could kill many cancerous cells, including those resistant to already-existing drugs.

The next step is to examine how this compound affects non-cancer cells and are aiming to produce a conclusive report sometime in 2021. But even if this drugs seems promising, it won’t be before 10-15 more years until such a drug could be found on the shelves of our pharmacies. But until then, how much more useful compounds could our oceans be hiding?

 

Read more here

4. Wildlife tourism is good for Conservation

Wildlife tourism strikes a lot of heated debates, some people say it is a nuisance while others say it is a necessity. This newly published Australian paper suggests more evidence to back up those in favor of wildlife tourism.

 

The scientists based their study on cage-diving with great white sharks in South Australia, and found that with regulations and the input of conservationists – such tourism may be one of the keys to enhancing marine wildlife conservation. Monitoring while touring can lead to great amounts of collections of scientific data but can also discourage illegal fishing in areas.

 

Read more here

5. We finally understand more on why Fairy Wrasses are so colorful

Fairy wrasses is an extremely popular and beloved coral reef inhabitant. They come in numerous colors, ranges and forms. A recently published study from the University of Sydney has employed a novel genome-wide dataset to try and understand why these fishes are the way they are.

 

Firstly, it was found that all this divergence happened rapidly and over a short period of time. The driving force for such diversity in males is driven by the need to court females and chase off other male competitors. Variation also occurred because some populations became isolated due to sea level changes, which allowed groups to evolve separately to others. This phenomenon happened repeatedly and acted as a ‘species pump’.

 

Coming back to female courtship, colors play an important role in this alongside a little dance that the fish will do. Fun fact: there are 61 species of fairy wrasses today, but new ones are continually discovered!

 

Read more here