Thursday, October 21, 2010

New Deep-Sea Pictures: Snailfish, Eels Found in Trench

Image courtesy Oceanlab, University of Aberdeen

It's no apparition—this new species of ghostly white snailfish was photographed swimming at depths of 4.3 miles (7 kilometers) during a recent expedition to the Peru-Chile trench in the southeastern Pacific Ocean.

The deepest dwelling vertebrates on Earth, snailfish have been discovered inocean trenches in other parts of the Pacific. The deepest known fish, found at 4.8 miles (7.7 kilometers), are snailfish filmed in the Japan trench in 2008.

"The tantalizing thing is we've got a very clear photo of the species," said Monty Priede, director of Oceanlab at Scotland's University of Aberdeen, which co-sponsored the expedition. "No one has ever seen this before, and it's never been captured before."

Living so far underwater, the newfound, 6-inch-long (15-centimeter-long) snailfish can withstand pressures equal to 1,600 elephants standing on the roof of a Mini Cooper, according to Oceanlab.

"If you saw that fish in the aquarium you wouldn't say, Wow that's weird," Priede said. "But at a molecular level, in the details of its biochemistry, it is highly adapted in order to survive the high pressure."

Christine Dell'Amore

Published October 14, 2010

Photo in the News: Star Explosion Highlights "Purple Rose of Virgo"

March 29, 2007—Lightning may never strike twice in the same place, but star explosions apparently can.

For the second time in 11 years, the galaxy known as NGC 5584 is garnering attention as the brightly colored home of a brilliant supernova.

Located about 75 million light-years away in the direction of the constellation Virgo, NGC 5584 is slightly smaller but similar in shape to our own galaxy, the Milky Way. Scientists suspect that, like the Milky Way, the "purple rose" galaxy houses an energetic and supermassive black hole at its center.

Now that center is being outshined by SN 2007af, the brightest supernova seen so far the year. Visible as a white dot below and to the right of NGC 5584's center, the explosion was detected on March 1 by the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope.

Supernovas of this kind—called Type 1a—usually occur in binary systems, when a compact star called a white dwarf draws matter away from its companion. When it gains enough mass, the white dwarf collapses under the pressure—setting off a cosmic fireworks show and sending matter hurtling off in excess of 9,300 miles (15,000 kilometers) a second.

Type 1a supernovas are rare, but researchers know enough about them to use the explosions as cosmic yardsticks for measuring distance and studying the early expansion of the universe.

The explosion 11 years ago, however, was a much more puzzling type of supernova, and scientists remain baffled by what caused that explosion.

There may be more discoveries ahead for this busy galaxy, however. The luminous patches dotting NGC 5584's disk are stellar nurseries, where new stars are being formed at a prodigious rate, astronomers say.

—Aalok Mehta

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sea Pig - One of the Ugliest Sea Creature |

Sea Pig - One of the Ugliest Sea Creature |

To the common man sea pigs may look like sea creatures produced from a cross between a pig and a slug. To some others it appears to be human fingers growing out of the creature’s mouth. But scientifically, these ugly sea pigs are scotoplanes or sea cucumbers belonging to the genus of the deep sea Holothurians.

sea pig 1

These Holothurians are marine animals that inhabit the deep sea floor. Some other examples of deep sea marine life include Sea squirt, sea stars, sea slugs, corals, clams, sponges and sea urchins. The Sea pigs may look like slugs. Their body wall skeleton is clearly visible as spiny C shaped rods and are clear cucumbers measuring2-4 inches in length. They have tentacles and large tube feet. The tube feet may appear like two antennas, while the other tube feet are arranged in a row around the rim at the bottom.

Sa pigs thrive best on the abyssal plain of the ocean floor and behave like slugs do above sea level. The sea cucumbers feed on deep ocean mud and thrive on the organic material present there. The sea pigs feed by using their tentacles to push the food into their mouth. They tread deep sea waters using their tube feet. Other sea organisms present here are starfish, sea urchins, clams and other members of the echinodermata family.

Mills and colleagues from the New Zealand’s National Institute of water and atmospheric pressure collected 30,000 deep sea animals including the sea pigs during a marine census of southern Antarctica. The sea pigs are available in abundance all over the world except the northern part of the Atlantic Ocean and eastern part of Pacific Ocean, and in central and South America.

sea pig 5

The sea pigs feed and reproduce in the depths of the ocean and form the majority of deep sea marine population. The sea pigs are not considered as a threat to humans and they are not an endangered species.

sea pig 6