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11 animals more likely to kill you than sharks

Sharks are kinda scary. In the water they're faster than us, can appear from what seems like out of nowhere in an instant, and pack a pretty solid bite. It's easy to get nervous when you're in the dark ocean and unsure of who is swimming by with a toothy grin. But sharks aren't the animals you should be most afraid of. Here are some that are much more likely to cause your demise.
 
Mosquitoes
mosquito
655,000 people killed each year, primarily in Africa, through the little buggers spreading malaria left and right.
 
Hippos
Hippo with mouth open
2,900 people are killed by these moody mammals annually in Africa. That roly-poly exterior is just to lure you in.
 
Deer
deer at night
130 people killed across the U.S. by deer, almost exclusively because drivers hit the deers with their cars. That saying "a deer in the headlights" came about for a reason.
 
Bees
close-up of bee
53 people die each year in the U.S. because of an allergic reaction from being stung.
 
Dogs
snarling dog
30-35 people are killed each year in the U.S. Fido isn't always your best friend.
 
Ants
ant close-up
20-50 people are killed each year in Africa from ants. They may be small but dozens, hundreds, even thousands of stinging ants can really add up.
 
Jellyfish
jellyfish
20-40 people per year die in the Philippines alone from the anaphylaxis caused by the stings.
 
Cows
placid cow
22 people are killed in the U.S. every year from these seemingly docile creatures. They're fun to pet, but getting kicked in the head by one ... not as fun.
 
Horses
bucking horse
20 people die each year thanks to our equine friends.
 
Spiders
black widow spider
6.5 people die in the U.S. every year from spider bites.
 
Rattlesnakes
rattlesnake
5.5 people die from rattlesnake bites each year in the U.S., which isn't a whole lot considering how common they are in popular hiking and camping areas.
 
Sharks
silhouetted sharks
<1 person is killed each year in the U.S. and fewer than six worldwide are killed by sharks. From 2006 to 2010, there were just three fatalities from shark attacks in the U.S.
 
Granted if you're swimming with bull sharks, you're more likely to die by shark attack at that moment than a cow. But most of us aren't in the water with sharks as often as we find ourselves next to a cow on a visit to a farm or at a petting zoo. And we certainly are around bees and ants a whole lot more often than sharks. But if you find yourself swimming in the ocean — or even some rivers — you're probably nearer to sharks than you realize. With millions upon millions of beach-goers and surfers taking to the water every day, only a small handful are ever bitten or killed by sharks. So if you find yourself harboring feelings of fear or even hatred of sharks, you might want to take a step back and gain a little perspective. They aren't nearly as deadly as you might think.
 
This story was originally written for Treehugger. Copyright 2012.


Read more: http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/animals/stories/11-animals-more-likely-to-kill-you-than-sharks#ixzz34RQq7rCx
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7 top American scuba diving destinations

7 top American scuba diving destinations

Barrier islands, North Carolina

The barrier islands of North Carolina are a playground for in-the-know travelers looking for a quiet beach destination. Unlike many major tropical destinations, these islands remain relatively uncrowded for most of the year. Like the best seaside destinations in the Caribbean, the barrier islands are rich in water-based attractions. This is a wreck-diver's paradise. Hundreds (more than 600 by some counts) of ships have disappeared off the islands over the past few centuries. The oldest wrecks date back to the 16th century, while a host of more recent wrecks from World War II are also on the menu. Highlights include a German U-boat, sunk during the WWII. Unlike the Caribbean destinations mentioned previously, the dives of the Barrier Islands are not ideal year-round. Wintertime dives are still possible, though a heavy wet suit is required. This is a great destination for people who want to combine diving with all the other nature-themed attractions the islands of North Carolina have to offer. 


Read more: http://www.mnn.com/lifestyle/eco-tourism/photos/7-top-american-scuba-diving-destinations/barrier-islands-north-carolina#ixzz34RC8gMOn
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7 top American scuba diving destinations

7 top American scuba diving destinations

Barrier islands, North Carolina

The barrier islands of North Carolina are a playground for in-the-know travelers looking for a quiet beach destination. Unlike many major tropical destinations, these islands remain relatively uncrowded for most of the year. Like the best seaside destinations in the Caribbean, the barrier islands are rich in water-based attractions. This is a wreck-diver's paradise. Hundreds (more than 600 by some counts) of ships have disappeared off the islands over the past few centuries. The oldest wrecks date back to the 16th century, while a host of more recent wrecks from World War II are also on the menu. Highlights include a German U-boat, sunk during the WWII. Unlike the Caribbean destinations mentioned previously, the dives of the Barrier Islands are not ideal year-round. Wintertime dives are still possible, though a heavy wet suit is required. This is a great destination for people who want to combine diving with all the other nature-themed attractions the islands of North Carolina have to offer. 


Read more: http://www.mnn.com/lifestyle/eco-tourism/photos/7-top-american-scuba-diving-destinations/barrier-islands-north-carolina#ixzz34RC8gMOn
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Ancient jawless fish may be ancestor of nearly all living vertebrates

A stunningly preserved, soft-bodied fish that is more than 500 million years old could be the ancestor of almost all living vertebrates.
 
The fossilized fish, called Metaspriggina, sports characteristic gill structures that later evolved into jawbones in jawed vertebrates, according to a new study.
 
"For the first time, we are able to say this is really close to this hypothetical ancestor that was drawn based on a study of modern organisms in the 19th century," said study co-author Jean-Bernard Caron, a paleontologist at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Canada.
 
The primeval creature lived during a period from 543 million to 493 million years ago known as the Cambrian Explosion, the evolutionary "big bang" when almost all complex life appeared. [Cambrian Creatures Gallery: Photos of Primitive Sea Life]
 
Father fish
Jawed vertebrates — such as fish, birds and humans — make up about 99 percent of the vertebrates on Earth, but scientists don't agree on how and when jaws first evolved. Scientists think that the common ancestor of jawed vertebrates was similar to eyeless, boneless, jawless fishes such as hagfish and lampreys, which diverged from their immediate ancestors about 360 million years ago and haven't changed much since.
 
But that wasn't always the dominant theory. In the 1870s, naturalist Karl Gegenbaur noted that living fish such as sharks have five or six pairs of bars that support the gills, and that these so-called gill bars bear a striking resemblance to jawbones. Based on that similarity, he proposed a theory, called the serial homology hypothesis, that jawbones in modern fish gradually evolved from an earlier pair of gill bars in some long-lost "father fish," from which all jawed vertebrates would have evolved.
 
Yet nobody had ever found evidence of this ancestral fish, and eventually, the hypothesis fell out of favor.
 
Primitive creatures
Then, in 2012, Caron and his colleagues uncovered dozens of fossilized fish, many of which were exquisitely preserved, in Marble Canyon in Canada's Kootenay National Park. The mud at the bottom of the Cambrian sea had likely cemented them in place 514 million years earlier, preserving many internal structures such as the heart, gut and muscles.
 
It turned out that the creature was very similar to a poorly known specimen called Metaspriggina walcotti that was found in sediments in the Burgess Shale nearby in Canada, as well as to other fossils found in China, Caron said.
 
The primeval creature was the size of a man's thumb, with a flattened head and single-lens, or so-called camera eyes, at the top of its head that could peer forward or up, Caron said.
 
"The direction of the eyes would have allowed them to see what was happening above them, which means they were probably living at the bottom," and may have even been able to evade the large predators of the day, such as the bizarre shrimplike sea monster anomalocaridid, Caron told LiveScience.
 
Ancestor found?
The team was intrigued by seven pairs of structures on either side of the cavity at the back of the mouth, known as the pharynx. The first pair of these bars looked just like those Gegenbaur predicted in the hypothetical ancestor to jawed vertebrates.
 
In contrast, lampreys, hagfish and other jawless fishes have a more complicated basket-shaped series of gill structures, which suggests they evolved from a side branch of the vertebrate evolutionary tree that diverged long after Metaspriggina lived, said Jon Mallatt, an evolutionary biologist at Washington State University in Pullman, who was not involved in the study.
 
Other lines of evidence — such as the fact that jaws and gill bars develop from similar structures in shark embryos — also support Gegenbaur's notion, he told Live Science.
 
But the case for the Gegenbaur hypothesis isn't airtight, said Philippe Janvier, a paleontologist at the Museum National de l'Histoire Naturelle in Paris, who was not involved in the study.
 
Yet the fossil does have a spectacular feature: its well-preserved eyes, which resemble those found in other similar fossils "but provide much better evidence for camera eyes; that is, indisputable vertebrate eyes," Janvier told Live Science.
 
Metaspriggina was described on June 11 in the journal Nature.


Read more: http://www.livescience.com/46262-fossil-ancestor-jawed-vertebrates.html#ixzz34R6Y9HYc
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Melting Arctic opens new passages for invasive species

Two new shipping routes have opened in the Arctic: the Northwest Passage through Canada, and the Northern Sea Route, a 3000-mile stretch along the coasts of Russia and Norway connecting the Barents and Bering seas. While new opportunities for tapping Arctic natural resources and interoceanic trade are high, commercial ships often inadvertently carry invasive species. Organisms from previous ports can cling to the undersides of their hulls or be pumped in the enormous tanks of ballast water inside their hulls. Now that climate change has given ships a new, shorter way to cross between oceans, the risks of new invasions are escalating.

"Trans-Arctic shipping is a game changer that will play out on a global scale," said lead author Whitman Miller. "The economic draw of the Arctic is enormous. Whether it's greater access to the region's rich natural resource reserves or cheaper and faster inter-ocean commercial trade, Arctic shipping will reshape world markets. If unchecked, these activities will vastly alter the exchange of invasive species, especially across the Arctic, north Atlantic and north Pacific oceans."

The first commercial voyage through the Northwest Passage -- a carrier from British Columbia loaded with coal bound for Finland -- occurred in September 2013. Meanwhile, traffic through the Northern Sea Route has been rising rapidly since 2009. The scientists project that at the current rate, it could continue to rise 20 percent every year for the next quarter century, and this does not take into account ships sailing to the Arctic itself.

For the past 100-plus years, shipping between oceans passed through the Panama or Suez Canals. Both contain warm, tropical water, likely to kill or severely weaken potential invaders from colder regions. In the Panama Canal, species on the hulls of ships also had to cope with a sharp change in salinity, from marine to completely fresh water. The Arctic passages contain only cold, marine water. As long as species are able to endure cold temperatures, their odds of surviving an Arctic voyage are good. That, combined with the shorter length of the voyages, means many more species are likely to remain alive throughout the journey.

Though the routes pose major risks to the north Atlantic and north Pacific coasts, the Arctic is also becoming an attractive destination. Tourism is growing, and it contains vast stores of natural resources. The Arctic holds an estimated 13 percent of the world's untapped oil and 30 percent of its natural gas. Greenland's supply of rare earth metals is estimated to be able to fill 20 to 25 percent of global demand for the near future. Until now the Arctic has been largely isolated from intensive shipping, shoreline development and human-induced invasions, but the scientists said that is likely to change drastically in the decades to come.

"The good news is that the Arctic ecosystem is still relatively intact and has had low exposure to invasions until now," said coauthor Greg Ruiz. "This novel corridor is only just opening. Now is the time to advance effective management options that prevent a boom in invasions and minimize their ecological, economic and health impacts."

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The largest place on the planet is in trouble

The largest place on the planet is in trouble

The largest place on the planet is in trouble.

Oceans cover 71% of the Earth’s surface, and ocean ecosystems generate at least US$ 21 trillion in economic benefits each year.

fisherman in Benin

A fisherman casts a net in Benin. (© Art Wolfe/ www.artwolfe.com)

But a perfect storm of massive challenges, from collapsing fisheries to plastic pollution to ocean acidification, is threatening the integrity of marine ecosystems. These threats put at risk the essential benefits people receive from healthy oceans: sustainable fisheries, coastal protection, carbon sequestration, coastal economies and livelihoods, tourism and recreation and many others.

This week, I was one of 700 leaders from governments, business, civil society and communities attending the Global Oceans Action Summit in The Hague, Netherlands. I am encouraged by the fact that many countries and businesses attending the summit have moved beyond the point of talking about problems to taking immediate action for ocean health and begin the transition toward a more sustainable society.

 

More than 27 years ago, I founded the organization Conservation International (CI) to take on the most urgent and important issues of our time. Today, I believe ocean health is one of those issues. We simply cannot survive — let alone prosper — if we do not reverse the destruction of the ocean’s natural capital.

Ocean health is a complex challenge. In order to achieve sustainable solutions, all sectors of society must come together and contribute their unique skills and perspectives. Governments and financial institutions need to accelerate efforts to bring stakeholders together to develop shared vision, goals and measures of ocean health and provide the financing necessary to deliver on these ambitious plans. It is also essential that this is done rapidly in effective and practical ways.

We need to be impatient. We cannot wait for everybody around the world to sign on to one consensus plan. Instead, we must partner with those who are committed to immediate action to improve ocean health.

Here’s some good news: Some of the groundwork is already done. Tools like the Ocean Health Index are already allowing scientists to define the baseline for ocean health against which to evaluate the success of future actions and interventions. We need to recognize that our measures are only as good as the accuracy and resolution of the data they are based upon. Therefore, countries need to adopt the Ocean Health Index and compile the necessary data to guide the identification of priorities and tracking of progress.

While the initial cost (in time and money) of creating tools like the Ocean Health Index and the required data may seem high, they should not be viewed as “costs” per se; in fact, they represent sound investments. The true cost would be if we continued to mismanage our most valuable global resources.

cargo ship, Pacific Ocean

Cargo ship in the Pacific Ocean. (© Dan Barnes)

For example, the World Bank estimates the losses from poor fisheries management to total US$50 billion worldwide.

We cannot afford to ignore the management of our oceans. The well-being of our society — indeed, our very survival — depends on their health. This is particularly true for the 40% of countries that have larger ocean areas than land, and even more so for the 18% of nations that have 10 times more ocean than land. Clearly, the path for the development aspirations of these countries goes through ocean health.

From the Global Oceans Action Summit, it is clear to me that businesses are increasingly aware of their supply chains’ dependence on healthy oceans. Companies present at the summit emphasized their commitment to innovation and best practices, including finding ways to reduce the need for feed in aquaculture and to eliminate illegally caught fish from their supply chains.

Throughout the last couple of years, I have seen a growing number of businesses begin to measure their carbon and freshwater footprints and to use the information to improve their performance. Next, we need companies to report on their impacts on ocean health — positive and negative — and demonstrate that performance can improve and will ensure continued return on investments, both economically and ecologically.

Non-governmental organizations, including CI, play a key role in innovating and developing new ocean sustainability tools and solutions. These organizations can often take greater risks to develop new innovations than what governments and businesses are willing to accept, thereby accelerating new approaches and action.

The most immediate opportunity for action and results that I saw at the summit is the importance of rewarding the governments, companies and organizations who are already leading the way to improve marine health. All sectors of society need to stand behind leaders who have demonstrated political will and courage by embracing ambitious ocean initiatives and targets.

A perfect example is the Pacific Oceanscape, an initiative led by 15 nations in the Western and Central Pacific who aim to accelerate collaboration for ocean health.

At the summit, Prime Minister Henry Puna of the Cook Islands spoke of his country’s contribution to the Pacific Oceanscape by creating the Cook Islands Marine Park, the largest marine managed area in the world extending a staggering 1.1 million square kilometers (about 425,000 square miles — an area almost as large as Ethiopia).

The rest of the world should support these nations — technically, financially and politically — to deliver on their bold vision and aspirations for a healthy ocean that can continue to benefit people economically, nutritionally, socially and environmentally. I invite the international community to work with us in partnering with these nations to demonstrate to the world that action and progress are possible, and that ocean health really is human health.

- See more at: http://blog.conservation.org/2014/04/ocean-health-is-human-health/#sthash.w2kWAr28.dpuf

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Coral Reef of Cabo Pulmo

Coral Reef of Cabo Pulmo
The Cabo Pulmo Reef has eight fingers of hard coral reef, providing a safe haven for many of the 800 species of marine animals found throughout the Sea of Cortez. The rich biodiversity of the area is unparalleled and as a result was targeted by overzealous sport and commercial fisherman during the 80’s. Abusive over fishing and a tremendous decline in fish population caused great concern in the local community, who subsequently lobbied the government to protect the region. Moreover, a series of studies at UABCS were directed by lead biologist Oscar Arizpe to provide strong evidence supporting the biological relevance of Cabo Pulmo to the Sea of Cortez. And on June 15, 1995, President Zedillo Ponce de Leon declared the 7,111 hectares and waters surrounding Cabo Pulmo, a National Marine Park.

Although conservation efforts are headed in the right direction, federal enforcement and financial aid remains scarce and the quest to protect Cabo Pulmo National Park falls heavy on the shoulders of the local community, just 113 residents. But the people here are positive and last year La Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas or CONANP appointed the first official Park Director, Carlos Narro to direct conservation efforts in the park. Citizens, local and international conservation groups and the park director are working together to implement programs such as Park Enforcement, Reef Monitoring, Nest Monitoring for Sea Turtles and Beach Clean-ups.

Scientists at the University of California, Riverside have published a report on the terrestrial biodiversity of the Cabo Pulmo region that shows the project is situated in an area of extreme conservation value, the center of which is Punta Arena, an idyllic beach setting proposed to be completely cleared to make way for 20,000+ hotel rooms.

"Until recently, the biological value of the lands adjacent to the coral reef of Cabo Pulmo had remained a mystery," said UC Riverside's Benjamin Wilder, who helped produce the report. "We now know that these desert lands mirror the tropical waters in importance. This desert-sea ecosystem is a regional biodiversity hotspot."

According to Wilder, if the Cabo Dorado project proceeds as planned, the regionally endemic plant species and vegetation of Punta Arena will be made extinct.

"Forty-two plants and animals on the Mexican endangered species list would lose critical habitat, two recently described plant species only known from Punta Arena would be lost entirely, and development of the sand dunes of Punta Arena would imperil the most diverse coral reef in the Gulf of California," he said.

The report resulted from a survey conducted in November 2013 that in just a week's time documented 560 plants and animals on the land surrounding Cabo Pulmo. The report highlights the unique and ecologically important habitats of the sand spit, Punta Arena, the core zone of the pending development proposal.

The 'bioblitz' and resulting report were organized by UCR alum Sula Vanderplank, a biodiversity explorer with the Botanical Research Institute of Texas, and Wilder, a Ph.D. graduate student in the Department of Botany and Plant Sciences, with their advisor Exequiel Ezcurra, a professor of ecology at UCR. The report represents a binational collaboration of 22 scientists from 11 institutions that participated in the expedition and are the top experts on the plants, birds, mammals, and reptiles of Baja California. The survey was organized using the Next Generation of Sonoran Desert Researchers network to assemble a 'dream-team' of field biologists.

Ezcurra, the director of UC MEXUS and an acclaimed conservationist, said, "We need to take a careful look at such large scale development projects. Far too many times along the coasts of Mexico we have seen the destruction of areas of great biological importance and subsequent abandonment. By incorporating the natural wealth of the region into development initiatives we can collectively pursue a vision of a prosperous future for our communities that matches the grandeur of the regional landscape."

In the early 1990s the local community of Cabo Pulmo saw that overfishing was greatly depleting the coral reef ecosystem. The community shifted its local economy to ecotourism and non-extractive livelihoods, and lobbied the Mexican government to make the reef a national park, which was realized in 1995. Since that time there has been a more than 460 percent increase in the total amount of fish in the reserve -- the most robust marine reserve in the world.

Wilder, Ezcurra and Vanderplank stress in the report that it is very important that development in this area take into account the inherent limitations of resources, especially fresh water, in a desert setting; the unique habitats found at Punta Arena and the coral reefs of Cabo Pulmo; and, perhaps most important, the local community of Cabo Pulmo.

"We were surprised to see that these desert lands mirrored the biological diversity of the adjacent coral sea," Wilder said. "Specifically we were not expecting to find such a concentration of rare and endemic taxa in the single region of Punta Arena. This unique biodiversity results from regional geologic forces that were previously un-investigated.

"The bottom line is that the scale of the proposed development, more than 20,000 hotel rooms, is completely disconnected from the ecology of this desert region," he added. "Any development in the area must account for and sustain the areas natural wealth as well as the local communities of Cabo Pulmo and the nearby town of La Ribera."

The research team has proposals pending to better understand the linkage between the desert-sea interface of this coastal area. Their aim is to further establish the value of the biological richness of Cabo Pulmo and Punta Arena.

The final report, which based on the scientific results recommends an extension of the Cabo Pulmo National Park to include Punta Arena, was delivered at a public hearing to SEMARNAT, the Mexican federal environmental department. SEMARNAT is expected to make a decision on the future of the Cabo Dorado project by June 15, 2014.

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New Caledonia is home to The largest nature park on earth

New Caledonia is home to The largest nature park on earth
Covering an area twice the size of the state of Texas, New Caledonia's 320 million acre marine park is without a doubt the planet's largest wilderness preserve, on land or sea. The Natural Park of the Coral Sea shares space with a quarter million people.
Harold Martin, the President of New Caledonia announced the establishment of the marine park this past week. New Caledonia, a dependency of France, is a relatively small island chain in the Southwest Pacific Ocean, about 2,000 miles east of Australia. The island chain includes the main island of Grande Terre, the Loyalty Islands, the Chesterfield Islands, the Belep archipelago, the Isle of Pines and a few small and remote islets. The island chain covers an area of about 7,172 sq miles.
Called Le Parc Naturel de la Mer de Corail, or "the Natural Park of the Coral Sea," the preserve is in its initial stage of development. The project manager of Global Ocean Legacy, Aline Schaffar, says "the creation of the national park just sets the legal frame for future work and the future work will be over the next three years to work on the management plan and on marine planning to identify which areas are the most important to protect and from that decide on different levels of protection for different areas."

The inspiration for the world's largest marine park comes from Global Ocean Legacy, which is part of Pew Charitable Trusts, The trust works with communities and governments to establish large, highly-protected marine reserves around the world. Schaffar explained that if the New Caledonia area is not protected, its biodiversity will be lost. The protection of this widely diverse ecosystem will also be a boon to eco-tourism for the islands.

And speaking of biodiversity, this unique sanctuary has the richest diversity of flora and fauna in the world. There are not only species, but entire genera and even families of fauna and botanicals found nowhere else in the world. Many of the plant and animal species come from species that became isolated when New Caledonia broke away from the southerly supercontinent Gondwana many tens of millions of years ago.

There are more than 1.1 million acres of coral reefs, 25 species of marine mammals, 48 shark species, 19 species of nesting birds and five species of sea turtles. The park's ecosystems also generate up to 3,000 tons of fish every year, from a small island fishing fleet of 20 boats, providing an important food source for New Caledonia's quarter of a million human inhabitants. The park covers all of New Caledonia's "exclusive economic zone," marine waters that extend from the islands coasts outward for up to 200 nautical miles.

Adding to nature's wonderful show are the island's clever tool-making New Caledonia crows, probably the islands most famous fauna. New Caledonia is home to the world's second largest double-barrier reef, after Australia's Great Barrier Reef, as well as the world's largest coastal lagoon, a UNESCO World Heritage site. From species of fish and crustaceans, to skinks and flightless birds, there are so many species needing protection, and "the Natural Park of the Coral Sea" is a good place to start.

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Over 100 new species discovered by team in drive to document biodiversity

5-million-year-old saber-toothed cat, the world's oldest grape and a bizarre hermit crab were among more than 100 new species discovered by University of Florida scientists last year.

Driven in part by the urgency to document new species as natural habitats and fossil sites decline due to human influences, researchers from the Florida Museum of Natural History, located on the UF campus, described 16 new genera and 103 new species of plants and animals in 2013, with some research divisions anticipating higher numbers for 2014.

An online search shows the only other major research institution reporting similar information is the California Academy of the Sciences, which described 91 new species in 2013 and has averaged 115 per year since 2009.

"Traditionally this isn't a number many research institutions have tracked," said Florida Museum Director Douglas Jones. "But the extra emphasis on biodiversity due to degradation of natural habitats and accelerating extinction rate of plants and animals worldwide has placed a higher emphasis on researchers documenting and describing new species before they disappear."

UF researchers discovered species from more than 25 countries on four continents, including 35 fossil crustaceans, 24 Lepidoptera, 17 plants (11 fossils), eight mollusks, two fossil mammals and one fossil bird, among others. Thirty-one additional species were identified in the museum's collections by visiting researchers.

Don Davis, curator of Lepidoptera at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History, said the Florida Museum has actively pursued the goals of all natural history museums, including discovering new organisms to better understand the current distributions and history of all life.

"The scientists there are providing not only new knowledge for a broad range of organisms, but also an excellent, well-documented specimen database for all future researchers in natural history," Davis said.

Scientists often happen upon new species while working in museum collections or exploring in the field, but recent museum biodiversity projects and collaborations have focused on discovering as many new species as possible.

Museum scientists utilized advanced taxonomic methods during recent biodiversity survey projects, including DNA bar coding, a process that uses a genetic marker to identify if an organism belongs to a particular species. Some of the new species discovered during these surveys prove rare discoveries still occur.

For example, during an international effort to document all animals and plants living on and in the waters surrounding the island of Moorea in French Polynesia, Florida Museum invertebrate zoology curator Gustav Paulay dredged from the deep sea a new hermit crab that exemplifies a rarely documented process in which hermit crabs move out of their shells and harden their bodies to resemble true crabs. Patagurus rex has a broad, armored body with pointy spines and long legs connected to large claws -- making it one of the most distinctive hermit crabs discovered in decades, Paulay said.

"There is this idea that we can grab a field guide and work out there as scientists," Paulay said. "But for large chunks of the world, those resources don't exist and the science that would support those resources is just not there."

This is especially true for museum scientists studying some of Earth's smallest species in remote jungles of the Congo and isolated areas of Hawaii.

Florida Museum assistant curator of Lepidoptera Akito Kawahara said new species of insects sometimes lead to powerful discoveries that affect other fields, including agriculture and medicine.

"Future research will include the investigation of a potential new species of moth in Hawaii that appears to delay plant aging by altering the process of plant senescence (aging) in leaves," he said. "This moth could have potential for improving agriculture and extending the shelf life of some foods."

Last year, many scientists looked for new species from the past. Museum scientists described 56 new species of fossil plants and animals. Among these, the world's oldest-known grape species, Indovitis chitaleyae, discovered in 2005 and described in 2013, pushed the record of the Vitaceae (grape) family into the Late Cretaceous, about 66 million years ago.

Florida Museum vertebrate paleontology collections manager Richard Hulbert described the 5-million-year-old fossils of Rhizosmilidon, a carnivorous saber-toothed cat from the same lineage as the famous Smilodon fatalis from the La Brea Tar Pits of Los Angeles.

"Today's species represent only about 1 percent of life that ever existed," said Bruce MacFadden, Florida Museum curator of vertebrate paleontology. "It is important to understand the other 99 percent of biodiversity that once inhabited the planet, because knowledge of the kinds of plants and animals that lived here in the past provide us with a framework for understanding today's ecosystems."

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Was Columbus's Santa Maria Found?

A shipwreck found off the north coast of Haiti could be the 500-year-old remains of the Santa Maria, which led Christopher Columbus's famed voyage to the New World, according to a team of marine explorers.

"All the geographical, underwater topography and archaeological evidence strongly suggests that this wreck is Columbus' famous flagship, the Santa Maria," Massachusetts marine investigator Barry Clifford said in a press release on Tuesday.

"I am confident that a full excavation of the wreck will yield the first-ever detailed marine archaeological evidence of Columbus' discovery of America," he added.

Clifford, who led a reconnaissance expedition to the site, will hold a press conference Wednesday morning at the Explorer's Club in New York City to announce the discovery.

The Santa Maria was one of a fleet of three vessels that departed Spain in 1492 looking for a shorter route to Asia. The ship, after arriving near the Bahamas, drifted into a reef and had to be abandoned. Columbus ordered sailors to build a fort nearby before taking the remaining two ships back to Spain to report his findings.

Clifford and his team first discovered the wreck in 2003, but were unable to identify the ship. Yet the discovery of Columbus' encampment on nearby Haiti and data from the explorer's diary appear to prove the heavily decayed vessel on the sea floor was the Santa Maria.

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Iconic Civil War-Era Steamer Located - Former slave piloted Planter to freedom

Iconic Civil War-Era Steamer Located - Former slave piloted Planter to freedom

NOAA has determined the probable location of the remains of the Civil War-era sidewheel steamer Planter, which gained national fame in 1862 when a group of enslaved African Americans commandeered the Confederate Navy transport ship in a daring escape to freedom.

The announcement was made in Charleston, South Carolina, where NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries released a report on its search for the Planter and plans for an interpretative sign and future exhibit dedicated to the Planter’s legacy. The effort to find the Planter supports NOAA’s Voyage to Discovery initiative, which seeks to highlight African-American maritime history through education, archaeology, science and underwater exploration.

Under the leadership of Robert Smalls, the ship’s steersman, crew members navigated the steamer out of Charleston Harbor on May 12, 1862, and delivered the vessel to the United States Navy. The New York Herald called the escape “one of the most daring and heroic adventures since the war was commenced.”

The notoriety generated by the escape and capture of the Planter led to Smalls eventually becoming the first African-American master in the U.S. Navy and a member of Congress representing South Carolina – the state where he was born a slave. NOAA’s report helps fill gaps in the largely untold story of Robert Smalls and the Planter, which wrecked on a beach in March 1876 while trying to tow a grounded schooner.

In an attempt to answer lingering questions about the Planter’s fate, NOAA researchers reviewed historical documents and analyzed oceanographic and meteorological conditions that may have existed at the time of the Planter’s loss. The likely site where the vessel came to rest, off Cape Romain between Charleston and Georgetown, South Carolina, was confirmed with magnetometer and hydro-probing surveys that detected the presence of large concentrations of iron consistent with the remains of a sunken ship. The vessel’s remains are buried under 10-15 feet of sand and water in an environmentally sensitive area.

“Our interest in finding the Planter is about more than just unlocking the past and secrets of the deep,” said Daniel J. Basta, NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries director. “This expedition is an opportunity to highlight African-American contributions to the country’s maritime heritage and inspire young people to consider careers in marine science to help expand the boundaries of ocean exploration.”

Following Smalls’ commandeering of the Planter on May 12, 1862, the ship continued to be used by the U.S. Navy as a dispatch and supply vessel with Smalls as pilot. However, by September of that year, the Navy transferred the craft to the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps, where it supported Army operations around Charleston, Port Royal and Beaufort.

News accounts suggest that after the war, Smalls and the Planter were well known among local African Americans. As the Planter’s captain, he transported many freed slaves to newly created farmsteads and communities at Hilton Head and Port Royal. With Smalls at the helm, the Planter was reported as the ship that carried black dignitaries and passengers to the ceremony of the symbolic raising of the Fort Sumter flag which had been lowered after the fort’s capture by the Confederates.

On March 25, 1876, while trying to tow a grounded schooner, Planter sprang a plank in the bow and began to take on water in the hold. The captain elected to beach the steamer and repair the plank, hoping to get off the beach with the next high tide. However, stormy seas battered the Planter as the tide rose and the ship was too badly damaged and had to be abandoned. Upon hearing of its loss, Robert Smalls was reported to have said that he felt as if he had lost a member of his family.

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New Research Discounts Conventional Titanic Theories

Academics at the University of Sheffield have dispelled a long-held theory that the Titanic was unlucky for sailing in a year with an exceptional number of icebergs and say the risk of icebergs is actually higher now.

Previously it had been suggested that the seas which sank the famous cruise ship – which set off on its maiden voyage 102 years ago today (Thursday 10 April 2014) – had an exceptional number of icebergs caused by lunar or solar effects.

But academics at the University have shown the ship wasn’t as unlucky as previously thought.

Using data on iceberg locations dating back to 1913 – recorded to help prevent a repeat of the Titanic – they have shown that 1912 was a significant ice year but not extreme.

Professor Grant Bigg who led the research, said: “We have seen that 1912 was a year of raised iceberg hazard, but not exceptionally so in the long term. 1909 recorded a slightly higher number of icebergs and more recently the risk has been much greater – between 1991 and 2000 eight of the ten years recorded more than 700 icebergs and five exceeded the 1912 total.”

He added: “As use of the Arctic, in particular, increases in the future with the declining sea-ice the ice hazard will increase in water not previously used for shipping. As polar ice sheets are increasingly losing mass as well, the iceberg risk is likely to increase in the future, rather than decline.”

The iceberg which sank the Titanic was spotted just before midnight on 14 April 1912 500m away. Despite quick action to slow the ship it wasn’t enough and the ship sank in just two and a half hours. The disaster saw 1,517 people perish and only 700 survive.

Funding for the research, published in the journal Weather, was provided by the National Environment Research Council (NERC).

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Treasure Hunters Recover $1.3M In Gold

A deep-ocean exploration company in Florida says it has recovered nearly 1,000 ounces of gold, worth $1.3 million at current gold prices, on a reconnaissance dive to an historic Atlantic Ocean shipwreck.

The dive confirmed that the ship had not been disturbed since 1991 when another company stopped recovery work, Tampa-based Odyssey Marine Exploration, announced on Monday. The ship's sinking in 1857 with 21 tons of gold aboard in a hurricane off the coast of South Carolina sparked a U.S. banking panic.

Recovered gold included five gold ingots and two $20 Double Eagle coins, an 1857 coin minted in San Francisco and an 1850 coin minted in Philadelphia. The gold ingots were stamped with the manufacturer's "assay-mark" and weigh from 96.5 to 313.5 troy ounces.

U.S. $20 Double Eagle coins fetch an average of $5,000 from collectors, Odyssey's chief operating officer Mark Gordon told Reuters last week.

In March, Odyssey won the rights to return to the shipwreck from a receiver who had been appointed by an Ohio court to represent the ship's first exploration company after a decades-long court battle over rights to the treasure and return for investors

More than $40 million in gold was recovered by the original team led by Tommy Thompson, an Ohio engineer who discovered the shipwreck in 1988 using sonar and robotic technology he developed. The recovery efforts were derailed by lawsuits and investors accused him of failing to pay them. He has been considered a fugitive since 2012 when he failed to appear in court for a hearing.

Only about 5 percent of the shipwreck site was explored in the late 1980s, Gordon said.

The two-hour reconnaissance dive in mid-April took place as the company's research vessel, Odyssey Explorer, was traveling from the U.K. to Charleston, the company revealed on Monday.

Odyssey Explorer left Charleston recently to begin the bulk of recovery work at the shipwreck 160 miles off the South Carolina coast and 7,500 feet (2.2 kilometers) deep.

The 280-foot (85 meters) sidewheel steamship carried as much as 21 tons of gold ingots, freshly minted gold coins and raw gold from the California mines, as well as the personal wealth and belongings of its 477 passengers, most of whom were lost when the ship sank.

Historians say the loss of the gold caused a banking panic that contributed to a larger U.S. economic crisis, called the Panic of 1857, that lasted several years.

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Invasive Lionfish On The Decline In Jamaica After National Campaign To Save Reefs

KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) —

KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) — Jamaica is reporting a big decline in sightings of lionfish, the voracious invasive species that has been wreaking havoc on regional reefs for years and wolfing down native juvenile fish and crustaceans.

Some four years after a national campaign got started to slash numbers of the candy-striped predator with a mane of venomous spines, Jamaica's National Environment and Planning Agency is reporting a 66 percent drop in sightings of lionfish in coastal waters with depths of 75 feet (23 meters).

Dayne Buddo, a Jamaican marine ecologist who focuses on marine invaders at the Caribbean island's University of the West Indies, attributes much of the local decrease in sightings to a growing appetite for their fillets. He said Sunday that Jamaican fishermen are now selling lionfish briskly at markets. In contrast, a few years ago island fishermen "didn't want to mess" with the exotic fish with spines that can deliver a very painful sting.

"After learning how to handle them, the fishermen have definitely been going after them harder, especially spear fishermen. I believe persons here have caught on to the whole idea of consuming them," Buddo said in a phone interview.

Lionfish, a tropical native of the Indian and Pacific oceans likely introduced through the pet trade, have been colonizing swaths of the Caribbean and Atlantic for years - from the U.S. Eastern Seaboard and the hard-hit Bahamas to the Gulf of Mexico. They have been such a worrying problem that divers in the Caribbean and Florida are encouraged to capture them whenever they can to protect reefs and native marine life already burdened by pollution, overfishing and the effects of climate change.

Across the region, governments, conservation groups and dive shops have been sponsoring fishing tournaments and other efforts to go after slow-swimming lionfish to try and stave off an already severe crisis. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration launched a campaign in 2010 urging the U.S. public to "eat sustainable, eat lionfish!"

But just because shallow waters hugging coastlines have seen declines, the fast-breeding species is hardly on the way out. Fat, football-sized lionfish are daily caught in fishing pots set in deeper waters that spear fishermen and recreational divers never see.

In Jamaica, targeted efforts to remove them are ongoing even as a national lionfish project financed by the Global Environment Facility and the U.N. Environment Program project recently ran its course after four-and-a-half years.

"I don't think we'll ever get rid of it, but I think for the most part we can control it, especially in marine protected areas where people are going after it very intensively and consistently," Buddo said.

It remains to be seen exactly how much impact fishing and marketing of lionfish meat can have. For now, it's the biggest hope around. Scientists are still researching what keeps lionfish in check in their native range. In the Caribbean and the Atlantic, they have no natural predators to keep their ballooning numbers in check.

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Lionfish invasion: FWC moves forward with management changes

Lionfish invasion: FWC moves forward with management changes

News Release

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The lionfish is an invasive species that threatens Florida’s native wildlife and habitat. With that in mind, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) on April 16 moved forward with steps to combat the spread of invasive lionfish.

Changes proposed by FWC staff at today’s meeting near Tallahassee will be brought back before the Commission at its June meeting in Fort Myers for final approval. Changes include:

  • Prohibiting the importation of live lionfish;
  • Prohibiting the development of aquaculture of lionfish;
  • Allowing the harvest of lionfish when diving with a rebreather, a device that recycles air and allows divers to remain in the water for longer periods of time; and
  • Increasing opportunities that will allow participants in approved tournaments and other organized events to spear lionfish or other invasive species in areas where spearfishing is not allowed. This will be done through a permitting system.

Staff has been working with the Florida Legislature on a bill in support of the initiatives to prohibit the importation of live lionfish and the aquaculture of lionfish.

“By targeting the importation of lionfish to our state, we can limit the number of new lionfish that find their way into Florida waters and, at the same time, encourage further harvest to reduce the existing invasive population,” said State Rep. Holly Raschein, sponsor of the House bill. “These fish pose a significant threat to Florida’s ecosystem, and I am proud to stand in support of the proposed ban. Anything we can do to limit new lionfish introductions and further facilitate the development of a commercial market for this invasive species is a step in the right direction.”

Changes like these will make it easier for divers to remove lionfish from Florida waters and will help prevent additional introductions of lionfish into marine habitats.

Lionfish control efforts, from outreach and education to regulatory changes, have been a priority for FWC staff. In 2013, they hosted the first ever Lionfish Summit, which brought together various stakeholders from the public as well as management and research fields to discuss the issues and brainstorm solutions. The changes proposed at today’s meeting came from ideas that were discussed at the Lionfish Summit.

To learn more about these changes, visit MyFWC.com/Commission and “Commission Meetings.” To learn more about lionfish, visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Lionfish.”

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New tool to aid in dolphin strandings

The cause of dolphin strandings has long been a mystery but a new study shows that clues about survival rates after release may be found in the sea mammal's blood.

Published online ahead of print in Marine Mammal Science, the study analyzed blood work and body condition values from stranded common dolphins and compared them with survival rates after release. Responders in the field are now using the blood and health data to make better release decisions and predict survival outcomes.

"The establishment of these blood values provides a window into the overall health of the dolphin and, for responders onsite, collecting blood in the field is relatively easy to do," said Sarah Sharp, the paper's lead author and a third-year D.V.M. candidate at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. "Now we have a way to predict which stranded dolphins have a better chance of survival after release and this can help triage care."

The paper's authors -- including Dr. Joyce Knoll, an associate professor at the Cummings School and Sharp's mentor, and researchers from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution -- analyzed blood samples and body condition scores of 26 common dolphins that were stranded alive on the beaches of Cape Cod, Mass., between January 2010 and June 2012, and found significant hematological differences between survivors and non-survivors. Since 2010, IFAW has been operating a satellite tagging program to evaluate the post-release success of stranded dolphins, and the authors used this data to assess survival rates.

Dolphins that didn't survive the stranding or a three week post-release period had anemia and lower levels of red blood cells. Some potential causes of anemia in dolphins are chronic disease, poor nutrition, blood loss, pregnancy or liver disease. When compared to survivors, failed dolphins also had an increased concentration of acid in their blood, were dehydrated and had leaner body mass relative to their length. These health indicators and blood values, in addition to necropsy findings, suggest that the dolphins may have had pre-existing illnesses, stranding-induced conditions such as capture myopathy (a metabolic muscle disease resulting from the physical stress of being stranded on land), or both.

"Our team is already utilizing this new information in our stranding response protocols," said Katie Moore, IFAW's Animal Rescue Program Director. "This study is the culmination of more than a decade of hard work for our staff and volunteers. I have no doubt that it will help us to improve our responses and the care of individual animals."

Prior to starting her veterinary studies, Sharp was the stranding coordinator for IFAW's Marine Mammal Rescue and Research Program on Cape Cod. During her seven years in the field, she responded to approximately 50 mass stranding events, oversaw response to more than 1,200 individually stranded marine mammals, pioneered IFAW's cetacean satellite tagging program, and trained stranding responders both domestically and internationally. She has experienced the challenges of assessing stranded dolphins' overall health, especially with mass strandings when multiple animals need care.

Sharp participated in the 2012 Student Summer Research Program at Tufts University and her research was funded by the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command. The John J. Prescott Marine Mammal Rescue Assistance Program provided support for stranding response efforts during the study period, and the Pegasus Foundation and Barbara Birdsey helped fund the IFAW Satellite Tag Program.

Dolphin strandings occur with consistency on Cape Cod, which has one of the highest cetacean stranding rates in the world. Over the 10-year period ending in 2011, common dolphins represented approximately one-third of the 1,300 cetaceans stranded in this area, making this research an invaluable tool in the rapid response and humane care of these mammals

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Treasure Hunters Return to Sunken Gold Ship

Treasure Hunters Return to Sunken Gold Ship

A deep-ocean exploration company is seeking to recover a lucrative haul of gold aboard the shipwreck of the SS Central America, nearly 160 years after it sank off the coast of South Carolina in a hurricane.

The work that began this week follows a long court battle over treasure salvaged from the shipwreck in the late 1980s by a pioneering young engineer whose efforts were detailed in a 1998 bestselling book, "Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea."

The 280-foot (85 meters) sidewheel steamship carried as much as 21 tons of gold ingots, freshly minted gold coins and raw gold from the California mines, as well as the personal wealth and belongings of its 477 passengers, most of whom were lost when the ship sank in September 1857.

The ship's gold that is thought to remain on the ocean floor was valued at $760,000 in 1857 but worth millions today, according to Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc, a Tampa, Florida-based company, which won the contract to revisit the shipwreck.

"There's no doubt in our minds that there's going to be an economic return," Mark Gordon, the company's president and chief operating officer, said on Monday.

Gold recovered from the ship by a team led by Ohio engineer Tommy Thompson, which discovered the Central America using sonar and robotic technology he developed, became the focus of an extended legal fight over rights to the treasure and return for investors. Thompson has been a fugitive since 2012 when he failed to appear in court.

Last year, a court in Ohio appointed a receiver who will distribute some of the profits from further exploration to the former investors. In March, the receiver awarded Odyssey the contract to revisit the shipwreck, which lies 160 miles (257.5 kilometers) offshore and about 7,200 feet (2.2 kilometers) below the surface.

"We know that the wreck was only partially excavated, only about 5 percent of the site," Gordon said.

The company's research vessel, Odyssey Explorer, sailed from Charleston, South Carolina, last week with 41 crew members for a project he estimated will cost between $5 million and $10 million.The Central America steamship ran between Panama and New York, carrying prospectors and their fortunes made in the California Gold Rush. On its last trip, it held tons of commercial gold valued at about $93,000 in 1857 and passenger gold valued at up to $1.2 million, court experts estimated.

Historians say the ship's sinking triggered a New York banking panic that was part of a larger U.S. financial crisis known as the Panic of 1857.

The worth of the gold found by the Odyssey team will depend on what form they find it in, Gordon said. For example, U.S. $20 Double Eagle gold coins fetch $5,000 apiece on average from collectors, he said.

The market price for pure gold bullion on Wednesday was around $1,300 per troy ounce.

Researchers will remain on site for up to five months, rotating crew around the clock and making occasional port calls on Charleston, Gordon said. The company expects to report in about 60 days what the wreck might yield.

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NOAA Expedition Discovers 200-Year-Old Chronometer

NOAA Expedition Discovers 200-Year-Old Chronometer

Using undersea robots, satellites and high-speed Internet to send live video from the seafloor to audiences ashore, a team of NOAA-led marine archeologists discovered a ship’s chronometer where time has stood still for about 200 years at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.

This was the latest discovery made as part of the Gulf of Mexico expedition by NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer. From an Exploration Command Center in Silver Spring, Maryland, Frank Cantelas, a marine archaeologist with NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, spotted a partly buried circular object on the live video.

When the ROV’s cameras zeroed in, scientists were amazed to see the ancient timepiece. An expedition a year ago had missed the ship’s chronometer. “Do you see a dial, and a hand inside the circle as well,” Delgado asked the team that day. As the camera zoomed in, a scientist in Galveston added, “You can see Roman numerals.” The chronometer’s hand appeared to be pointing to 6:30.

A large anchor and capstan were previously discovered on the same shipwreck where explorers discovered the chronometer.

In an Exploration Command Center at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, Jack Irion, a regional historic preservation officer with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, said the chronometer’s discovery was rare and significant. While other evidence from the wreck suggests the ship predates 1825, it was unusual for merchant ships to have such an expensive instrument. “For this to appear on a merchant ship in the Gulf of Mexico at this early date is extraordinary,” he said.

A British carpenter perfected the design for the chronometer in 1761, a clock that could keep accurate time on a rolling ship at sea, so that sailors could determine their position by measuring the angle of the sun relative to high noon in Greenwich, England. The devices were so expensive initially that few ships carried them. It wasn't until 1825 that British Royal Navy ships carried chronometers.

”This chronometer is an object worthy of scientific recovery, preservation treatment to reverse the corrosive effects of two centuries in the sea, detailed study and eventually, display in a museum,” said Delgado.

Some scientists conjectured that if sailors survived a crisis at sea, they would have taken the valuable chronometer with them, leading scientists to theorize there may have been no survivors.

NOAA explores the largely unknown ocean to obtain baseline information that is vital to informing decisions by ocean resource managers and policy makers. This includes investigating shipwrecks to determine if they may be significant national maritime heritage sites. Such sites require not only study, but protection in partnership with industry and other federal partners.

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Scientists identify source of mysterious sound in the Southern Ocean

Scientists identify source of mysterious sound in the Southern Ocean
Scientists have conclusive evidence that the source of a unique rhythmic sound, recorded for decades in the Southern Ocean and called the "bio-duck," is the Antarctic minke whale (Balaenoptera bonaerensis). First described and named by submarine personnel in the 1960s who thought it sounded like a duck, the bio-duck sound has been recorded at various locations in the Southern Ocean, but its source has remained a mystery, until now.

In February 2013, an international team of researchers deployed acoustic tags on two Antarctic minke whales in Wilhelmina Bay off the western Antarctic Peninsula. These tags were the first acoustic tags successfully deployed on this species. The acoustic analysis of the data, which contained the bio-duck sound, was led by Denise Risch of NOAA's Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) and was published April 23, 2014 in Biology Letters.

The bio-duck sound is heard mainly during the austral winter in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica and off Australia's west coast. Described as a series of pulses in a highly repetitive pattern, the bio-duck's presence in higher and lower latitudes during the winter season also contributed to its mystery. No one knew the minke whales were there. The identification of the Antarctic minke whale as the source of the sound now indicates that some minke whales stay in ice-covered Antarctic waters year-round, while others undertake seasonal migrations to lower latitudes.

"These results have important implications for our understanding of this species," said Risch, a member of the Passive Acoustics Group at the NEFSC's Woods Hole Laboratory. "We don't know very much about this species, but now, using passive acoustic monitoring, we have an opportunity to change that, especially in remote areas of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean."

The acoustic tags, which also recorded water temperature and pressure, were placed on the animals using a hand-held carbon fiber pole by researchers working from a rigid-hulled inflatable boat. Animals were visually tracked from the boat during daylight hours to identify behavior and group composition. No other marine mammal species were observed in the area when calls were recorded, providing further evidence that the recorded sounds were produced by the tagged whale or other nearby Antarctic minke whales.

The mysterious sounds were thought to be made by submarines, by some oceanographic phenomenon, or even by fish. They were eventually identified as the bio-duck through comparisons with sounds in the published literature. They also matched recordings on long-term, bottom-mounted recorders from several other locations in the Antarctic, including the Perennial Acoustic Observatory in the Antarctic Ocean (PALAOA), and near Dumont D'Urville and Ross Island. Germany's PALAOA is an autonomous observatory with underwater hydrophones, or microphones, located on the Ekström Ice Shelf in western Antarctica. Dumont d'Urville on Petrel Island is the main French scientific research station in Eastern Antarctica.

Findings from this study will allow researchers to interpret numerous long-term, acoustic recordings, and improve understanding of the distribution, abundance, and behavior of this species. Minke whales are the smallest of the "great whales" or rorquals, a group that includes the blue whale, Bryde's whale, and humpback, fin, and sei whales. Rorqual whales are relatively streamlined in appearance, have pointed heads and, with the exception of humpback whales, small pointed fins.

The authors note that identifying the bio-duck sound will allow for broader studies of the presence of minke whales in other seasons and areas. That ability to monitor minke whales is critical for a species that inhabits an environment that is difficult to access, has rapidly changing sea-ice conditions, and "has been the subject of contentious lethal sampling efforts and international legal actions."

The study was supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation's Office of Polar Programs and conducted under National Marine Fisheries Service Permit 14097, Antarctic Conservation Act Permit 2009-013, and Duke University Permit IACUCA49-12-02. Denise Risch's research was also supported by the U.S. Navy Environmental Readiness Division (N45).

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19th Century Shipwreck Found off Golden Gate Bridge

19th Century Shipwreck Found off Golden Gate Bridge

NOAA announced it has found the underwater wreck of the passenger steamer City of Chester, which sank in 1888 in a collision in dense fog near where the Golden Gate Bridge stands today. The announcement was made during a press event at Gulf of Farallones National Marine Sanctuary’s San Francisco headquarters at Crissy Field.


The story of City of Chester will be shared with the public in a future waterfront exhibit NOAA will place at the sanctuary office at Crissy Field. The office is the former U.S. life saving service station built in 1890 in response to the City of Chester incident.


The 202-foot long steamship City of Chester had just left San Francisco and was headed up the California coast to Eureka with 90 passengers on August 22, 1888, when around 10 a.m. it was struck by the steamer Oceanic. Impaled on Oceanic, which was arriving from Asia, City of Chester remained afloat for six minutes before sinking. Sixteen people died in the accident.


SS City of Chester. (Credit: San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park K01.2.571PL)


 


The rediscovery of the wreck restores an important historical link to San Francisco’s early Chinese-American community. Reports at the time initially criticized Oceanic’s Chinese crew in the racially charged atmosphere of the times. Criticisms turned to praise, however, when the bravery of the crew in rescuing many of City of Chester’s passengers was revealed. The wreck was then largely forgotten.


“Discoveries like this remind us that the waters off our shores are museums that speak to powerful events, in this case not only that tragic wreck, but to a time when racism and anger were set aside by the heroism of a crew who acted in the best traditions of the sea,” said James Delgado, director of maritime heritage for NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, whose past work has included documenting historic wrecks in California.


In May 2013, NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey Navigational Response Team 6 (NRT6), in a 28-foot boat equipped with sonar, rediscovered what they thought was the City of Chester while surveying another nearby shipwreck, the freighter Fernstream, which sank after a collision in 1952. Delgado asked the NRT6 team to extend their survey to try and find the sunken steamer.


2013 Multi-beam sonar profile view of the shipwreck SS City of Chester. (Credit: NOAA Office of Coast Survey NRT6)



After working with historic data provided by NOAA historians, the Coast Survey team conducted a multi-beam sonar survey and a sonar target the right size and shape was found. The team spent nearly nine months sorting through the data. A follow-up side-scan sonar survey confirmed that the target was City of Chester, sitting upright, shrouded in mud, 216 feet deep at the edge of a small undersea shoal. High-resolution sonar imagery clearly defined the hull, rising some 18 feet from the seabed, and the fatal gash on the vessel’s port side.


This NOAA team was not the first to find the shipwreck. It was 125 years earlier that the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, NOAA’s predecessor agency which was charged with responsibility for charting the nation’s coasts and harbors, believed it had located the City of Chester in early September 1888 by dragging a wire from the tugboat Redmond to snag the hulk.


A veteran salvage diver of the time, Capt. Robert Whitelaw, also claimed to have relocated the wreck, sending a hard-hat diver down more than 200 feet in 1890 to report City of Chester nearly cut in two, with the tide running through the cut “like a millrace.” No attempt was made to raise the wreck then and there are no plans to do so today.


“Connecting to the history of the Chester is sad in one way, but we were also connecting to scientific history on a different level," said NOAA NRT6 team leader Laura Pagano. "Using our high-tech multibeam echo sounder to re-discover a wreck originally found over a century ago – by Coast Surveyors dragging a wire across the seafloor – is immensely fulfilling. We are equally proud to have provided information on an important link to the rich heritage of the San Francisco Chinese American community.”


Today, it is a protected site and a grave belonging to the state of California. “Whether we see them or not, wrecks like City of Chester should be remembered today and in future generations,” said NOAA’s Delgado.

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U/W Bike Race

eventsiconJoin us on July 4th for this annual event benefitting the Children's Mile of Hope.

Lionfish Tournament

eventsiconWe need your help to make Carteret County's 6th Annual "If you Can't Beat 'em, Eat 'em" Spearfishing Tournament a success! This Tournament is a joint effort between Discovery Diving and Eastern Carolina Artificial Reef Association (ECARA).

Treasure Hunt

eventsiconFood, prizes, diving, and fun! Proceeds benefit the Mile Hope Children's Cancer Fund and DAN's research in diving safety.

ECARA Event

2013Join us in support of the East Carolina Artificial Reef Association.  Click here for more info on this great event and how you can help to bring more Wrecks to the Graveyard of the Atlantic.