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January 31, 2015

Rare megamouth shark found dead in Pio Duran, Philippines

Rare megamouth shark found dead in Pio Duran, Philippines

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A megamouth shark was found dead in the Philippines on Wednesday. There have been only fifteen confirmed sightings in the nation and around 60 worldwide.

Preserved head of a megamouth on display in Australia.
Image: “saberwyn”.

The fifteen-foot male was found after reportedly becoming entangled with a fishing net near the Barangay Marigondon neighborhood of Pio Duran, Albay province. Its body was encased with ice pending a necropsy. The cause of death was not immediately clear.

Locals have nicknamed the dead shark ‘toothless’, a How to Train Your Dragon movie reference. In truth megamouths can have up to fifty rows of teeth.

Megamouths reach up to eighteen feet. Their name refers to its large head and mouth, used to filter plankton and other small food from the ocean. Occasionally the prey of other sharks and whales, megamouths are thought to live in the Pacific around Taiwan, the Philippines, and Japan based on previous sightings. Its true range and population size are however unknown. The first such shark identified was accidentally discovered by the US Navy off the coast of Hawaii when it became stuck in a ship’s anchor. Researchers theorise a white strip on the shark’s head illuminates to attract prey.



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April 25, 2014

UK announces £200 million polar research ship

UK announces £200 million polar research ship

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Friday, April 25, 2014

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UK Chancellor George Osborne today announced a new £200 million research ship to ply Arctic and Antarctic waters.

Cquote1.svg The new vessel will make Nerc’s entire fleet, ton for ton, the most advanced scientific fleet in the world Cquote2.svg

—Nerc boss Professor Duncan Wingham

“One of the final frontiers in the world where there is still much discovery to be done are the polar oceans” said Osborne, explaining “our two current polar exploration ships are nearing the end of their life and need replacing. So I am delighted that we are investing in a new polar research ship to carry cutting edge British technology to put British scientists at the forefront of research in both the Antarctic and the Arctic oceans”.

The icebreaking ship is to belong to the British Antarctic Survey and is funded from a £7 billion pot earmarked for science over the next six or seven years. Osborne told those gathered at Cambridge‘s Laboratory of Molecular Biology today he had “made it [his] personal priority in government to support [scientific] endeavour.”

RRS James Clark Ross, one of two aging ships currently filling the role.
Image: Tom L-C.

Funding body the Natural Environment Research Council (Nerc) says the current ships, RRS James Clark Ross and RRS Ernest Shackleton, are to carry on operating at least until 2020. They were built in 1990 and 1995 respectively; RRS Ernest Shackleton is a leased Norwegian vessel. The new vessel is intended to be able to stay in the field longer and, unlike RRS James Clark Ross, feature a helipad.

Other specifications include the ability to launch unmanned submarines and scientific gliders, devices towed behind ships to gather data, as well as power through 2m (6.6ft) thick ice at three knots.

Osborne also announced the start of consultations on how to spend the rest of the £7 billion. The announcements come shortly after Nerc completed upgrades to ocean-going ‘bluewater’ ships RRS Discovery and RRS James Cook. “The new vessel will make Nerc’s entire fleet, ton for ton, the most advanced scientific fleet in the world” according to Nerc head Professor Duncan Wingham, speaking to the BBC.



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January 21, 2014

Cold as ice: Wikinews interviews Marymegan Daly on unusual new sea anemone

Cold as ice: Wikinews interviews Marymegan Daly on unusual new sea anemone

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

In late 2010 a geological expedition to Antarctica drilled through the Ross Ice Shelf so they could send an ROV under it. What they found was unexpected: Sea anemones. In their thousands they were doing what no other species of sea anemone is known to do — they were living in the ice itself.

Edwardsiella andrillae and its habitat
Image: Daly et al.

Discovered by the ANDRILL [Antarctic Drilling] project, the team was so unprepared for biological discoveries they did not have suitable preservatives and the only chemicals available obliterated the creature’s DNA. Nonetheless Marymegan Daly of Ohio State University confirmed the animals were a new species. Named Edwardsiella andrillae after the drilling project that found it, the anemone was finally described in a PLOS ONE paper last month.

ANDRILL lowered their cylindrical camera ROV down a freshly-bored 270m (890ft) hole, enabling it to reach seawater below the ice. The device was merely being tested ahead of its planned mission retrieving data on ocean currents and the sub-ice environment. Instead it found what ANDRILL director Frank Rack of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, a co-author of the paper describing the find, called the “total serendipity” of “a whole new ecosystem that no one had ever seen before”.

The discovery raises many questions. Burrowing sea anemones worm their way into substrates or use their tentacles to dig, but it’s unclear how E. andrillae enters the hard ice. With only their tentacles protruding into the water from the underneath of the ice shelf questions also revolve around how the animals avoid freezing, how they reproduce, and how they cope with the continuously melting nature of their home. Their diet is also a mystery.

Cquote1.svg What fascinates me about sea anemones is that they’re able to do things that seem impossible Cquote2.svg

—Marymegan Daly

E. andrillae is an opaque white, with an inner ring of eight tentacles and twelve-to-sixteen tentacles in an outer ring. The ROV’s lights produced an orange glow from the creatures, although this may be produced by their food. It measures 16–20mm (0.6–0.8in) but when fully relaxed can extend to triple that.

Genetic analysis being impossible, Daly turned to dissection of the specimens but could find nothing out of the ordinary. Scientists hope to send a biological mission to explore the area under the massive ice sheet, which is in excess of 600 miles (970km) wide. The cameras also observed worms, fish that swim inverted as if the icy roof was the sea floor, crustaceans and a cylindrical creature that used appendages on its ends to move and to grab hold of the anemones.

NASA is providing funding to aid further research, owing to possible similarities between this icy realm and Europa, a moon of Jupiter. Biological research is planned for 2015. An application for funding to the U.S. National Science Foundation, which funds ANDRILL, is also pending.

The ANDRILL team almost failed to get any samples at all. Designed to examine the seafloor, the ROV had to be inverted to examine the roof of ice. Weather conditions prevented biological sampling equipment being delivered from McMurdo Station, but the scientists retrieved 20–30 anemones by using hot water to stun them before sucking them from their burrows with an improvised device fashioned from a coffee filter and a spare ROV thruster. Preserved on-site in ethanol, they were taken to McMurdo station where some were further preserved with formaldehyde.

This map shows the location of the Ross Ice Shelf in the Antarctic, and the two known localities for E. andrillae relative to McMurdo Station
Image: Daly et al.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png How did you come to be involved with this discovery?

Marymegan Daly: Frank Rack got in touch after they returned from Antarctica in hopes that I could help with an identification on the anemone.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png What was your first reaction upon learning there was an undiscovered ecosystem under the ice in the Ross Sea?

MD I was amazed and really excited. I think to say it was unexpected is inaccurate, because it implies that there was a well-founded expectation of something. The technology that Frank and his colleagues are using to explore the ice is so important because, given our lack of data, we have no reasonable expectation of what it should be like, or what it shouldn’t be like.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png There’s a return trip planned hopefully for 2015, with both biologists and ANDRILL geologists. Are you intending to go there yourself?

MD I would love to. But I am also happy to not go, as long as someone collects more animals on my behalf! What I want to do with the animals requires new material preserved in diverse ways, but it doesn’t require me to be there. Although I am sure that being there would enhance my understanding of the animals and the system in which they live, and would help me formulate more and better questions about the anemones, ship time is expensive, especially in Antarctica, and if there are biologists whose contribution is predicated on being there, they should have priority to be there.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png These animals are shrouded in mystery. Some of the most intriguing questions are chemical; do they produce some kind of antifreeze, and is that orange glow in the ROV lights their own? Talk us through the difficulties encountered when trying to find answers with the specimens on hand.

MD The samples we have are small in terms of numbers and they are all preserved in formalin (a kind of formaldehyde solution). The formalin is great for preserving structures, but for anemones, it prevents study of DNA or of the chemistry of the body. This means we can’t look at the issue you raise with these animals. What we could do, however, was to study anatomy and figure out what it is, so that when we have samples preserved for studying e.g., the genome, transcriptome, or metabolome, or conduct tests of the fluid in the burrows or in the animals themselves, we can make precise comparisons, and figure out what these animals have or do (metabolically or chemically) that lets them live where they live.

Daly explained how she obtained these images of the anemone’s anatomy.
Image: Daly et al.

Just knowing a whole lot about a single species isn’t very useful, even if that animal is as special as these clearly are — we need to know what about them is different and thus related to living in this strange way. The only way to get at what’s different is to make comparisons with close relatives. We can start that side of the work now, anticipating having more beasts in the future.
In terms of their glow, I suspect that it’s not theirs — although luminescence is common in anemone relatives, they don’t usually make light themselves. They do make a host of florescent proteins, and these may interact with the light of the ROV to give that gorgeous glow.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png What analysis did you perform on the specimens and what equipment was used?

MD I used a dissecting scope to look at the animal’s external anatomy and overall body organization (magnification of 60X). I embedded a few of the animals in wax and then cut them into very thin slices using a microtome, mounted the slices on microscope slides, stained the slices to enhance contrast, and then looked at those slides under a compound microscope (that’s how I got the pictures of the muscles etc in the paper). I used that same compound scope to look at squashed bits of tissue to see the stinging capsules (=nematocysts).
I compared the things I saw under the ‘scopes to what had been published on other species in this group. This step seems trivial, but it is really the most important part! By comparing my observations to what my colleagues and predecessors had found, I figured out what group it belongs to, and was able to determine that within that group, it was a new species.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png It was three years between recovery of specimens and final publication, why did it take so long?

MD You mean, how did we manage to make it all happen so quickly, right? 🙂 It was about two years from when Frank sent me specimens to when we got the paper out. Some of that time was just lost time — I had other projects in the queue that I needed to finish. Once we figured out what it was, we played a lot of manuscript email tag, which can be challenging and time consuming given the differing schedules that folks keep in terms of travel, field work, etc. Manuscript review and processing took about four months.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png What sort of difficulties were posed by the unorthodox preservatives used, and what additional work might be possible on a specimen with intact DNA?

MD The preservation was not unorthodox — they followed best practices for anatomical preservation. Having DNA-suitable material will let us see whether there are new genes, or genes turned on in different ways and at different times that help explain how these animals burrow into hard ice and then survive in the cold. I am curious about the population structure of the “fields” of anemones — the group to which Edwardsiella andrillae belongs includes many species that reproduce asexually, and it’s possible that the fields are “clones” produced asexually rather than the result of sexual reproduction. DNA is the only way to test this.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png Do you have any theories about the strategies employed to cope with the harsh environment of burrowing inside an ice shelf?

MD I think there must be some kind of antifreeze produced — the cells in contact with ice would otherwise freeze.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png How has such an apparently large population of clearly unusual sea anemones, not to mention the other creatures caught on camera, gone undetected for so long?

MD I think this reflects how difficult it is to get under the ice and to collect specimens. That being said, since the paper came out, I have been pointed towards two other reports that are probably records of these species: one from Japanese scientists who looked at footage from cameras attached to seals and one from Americans who dove under ice. In both of these cases, the anemone (if that’s what they saw) was seen at a distance, and no specimens were collected. Without the animals in hand, or the capability of a ROV to get close up for pictures, it is hard to know what has been seen, and lacking a definitive ID, hard to have the finding appropriately indexed or contextualized.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png Would it be fair to say this suggests there may be other undiscovered species of sea anemone that burrow into hard substrates such as ice?

MD I hope so! What fascinates me about sea anemones is that they’re able to do things that seem impossible given their seemingly limited toolkit. This finding certainly expands the realm of possible.



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October 9, 2012

Australian scientists develop culture to destroy reef-killing starfish

Australian scientists develop culture to destroy reef-killing starfish

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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

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Crown-of-Thorns starfish near Qamea Island in Fiji.
Image: Matt Wright.

Following a study linking poisonous crown-of-thorns starfish to 42 percent of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef destruction in recent decades, James Cook University Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies in Queensland has developed a culture to destroy the reef-killing starfish, announced yesterday. The researchers have carried out successful trials of the culture against the starfish.

The culture is a beef extract similar to Bovril, the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) reported.

The culture is expected to replace a manual treatment of the problem, involving a poison injection delivered by a diver to each starfish. One of the researchers, Jairo Rivera Posada, stressed urgency and scale of the threat: “In the current outbreak in the Philippines they removed as many as 87,000 starfish from a single beach”.

The researchers said the culture infects a starfish with bacteria that kill it within just 24 hours and spread by contact with other individuals of the species. This means divers would need to inject just one starfish to infect and destroy many individuals living close to each other.

The researchers recommended addressing the problems behind starfish outbreaks: “Any attempts to control these outbreaks will be futile without also addressing the root cause of outbreaks, including loss of starfish predators as well as increased nutrients that provide food for larval starfishes” referring to the agricultural run-off along the reef coast.

The researchers concluded the culture works and needs testing of its impact on other sea species.


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June 26, 2011

Scientists discover 300 new species on island of Luzon in the Philippines

Scientists discover 300 new species on island of Luzon in the Philippines

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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Location of Luzon
Image: Magalhães.

Scientists have identified more than 300 previously unknown species of land and sea creatures, according to a news release from the California Academy of Sciences. They were discovered on a six-week-long expedition that ended in early June, and focused on the Philippine island of Luzon.

The California Academy of Sciences, together with over two dozen Philippine colleagues, conducted the expedition that recorded the new terrestrial and marine life forms. Academy scientists who work in exotic places frequently discover new species, commonly only a few at one time. Finding 300 species that may be unknown on a single expedition is considered to be extraordinary, according to SF Gate.

The findings will be confirmed using microscopes and DNA sequencing. The identification, scientific description and classification of each specimen as new or old, could take many months or even years.

Cquote1.svg [W]e found new species during nearly every dive and hike as we surveyed the country’s reefs, rainforests, and the ocean floor. Cquote2.svg

—Terry Gosliner, Dean of Science, California Academy of Sciences

The expedition leader, Terry Gosliner, an invertebrate zoologist who is also Dean of Science at the California academy, said, “The Philippines is one of the hottest of the hot spots for diverse and threatened life on Earth. Despite this designation, however, the biodiversity here is still relatively unknown, and we found new species during nearly every dive and hike as we surveyed the country’s reefs, rainforests, and the ocean floor. The species lists and distribution maps that we created during this expedition will help to inform future conservation decisions and ensure that this remarkable biodiversity is afforded the best possible chance of survival.” He emphasized the need for scientists to gather in-depth information about the rare life forms there so they can be given a chance to survive.

On the 42-day expedition, academy officials said in the news release that the creatures found include “dozens of new insects and spiders, deep-sea armored corals, ornate sea pens, bizarre new sea urchins and sea stars, a shrimp-eating swell shark, and over 50 colorful new sea slugs.”



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June 23, 2011

Saturn moon Enceladus may have salty ocean

Saturn moon Enceladus may have salty ocean

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

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This mosaic was created from two high-resolution images that were captured by the narrow-angle camera when NASA’s Cassini spacecraft flew past Enceladus and through the jets on Nov. 21, 2009.
Image: NASA/JPL/SSI.

NASA’s Cassini–Huygens spacecraft has discovered evidence for a large-scale saltwater reservoir beneath the icy crust of Saturn’s moon Enceladus. The data came from the spacecraft’s direct analysis of salt-rich ice grains close to the jets ejected from the moon. The study has been published in this week’s edition of the journal Nature.

Data from Cassini’s cosmic dust analyzer show the grains expelled from fissures, known as tiger stripes, are relatively small and usually low in salt far away from the moon. Closer to the moon’s surface, Cassini found that relatively large grains rich with sodium and potassium dominate the plumes. The salt-rich particles have an “ocean-like” composition and indicate that most, if not all, of the expelled ice and water vapor comes from the evaporation of liquid salt-water. When water freezes, the salt is squeezed out, leaving pure water ice behind.

Cassini’s ultraviolet imaging spectrograph also recently obtained complementary results that support the presence of a subsurface ocean. A team of Cassini researchers led by Candice Hansen of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, measured gas shooting out of distinct jets originating in the moon’s south polar region at five to eight times the speed of sound, several times faster than previously measured. These observations of distinct jets, from a 2010 flyby, are consistent with results showing a difference in composition of ice grains close to the moon’s surface and those that made it out to the E ring, the outermost ring that gets its material primarily from Enceladean jets. If the plumes emanated from ice, they should have very little salt in them.

“There currently is no plausible way to produce a steady outflow of salt-rich grains from solid ice across all the tiger stripes other than salt water under Enceladus’s icy surface,” said Frank Postberg, a Cassini team scientist at the University of Heidelberg in Germany.

The data suggests a layer of water between the moon’s rocky core and its icy mantle, possibly as deep as about 50 miles (80 kilometers) beneath the surface. As this water washes against the rocks, it dissolves salt compounds and rises through fractures in the overlying ice to form reserves nearer the surface. If the outermost layer cracks open, the decrease in pressure from these reserves to space causes a plume to shoot out. Roughly 400 pounds (200 kilograms) of water vapor is lost every second in the plumes, with smaller amounts being lost as ice grains. The team calculates the water reserves must have large evaporating surfaces, or they would freeze easily and stop the plumes.

“We imagine that between the ice and the ice core there is an ocean of depth and this is somehow connected to the surface reservoir,” added Postberg.

The Cassini mission discovered Enceladus’ water-vapor and ice jets in 2005. In 2009, scientists working with the cosmic dust analyzer examined some sodium salts found in ice grains of Saturn’s E ring but the link to subsurface salt water was not definitive. The new paper analyzes three Enceladus flybys in 2008 and 2009 with the same instrument, focusing on the composition of freshly ejected plume grains. In 2008, Cassini discovered a high “density of volatile gases, water vapor, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, as well as organic materials, some 20 times denser than expected” in geysers erupting from the moon. The icy particles hit the detector target at speeds between 15,000 and 39,000 MPH (23,000 and 63,000 KPH), vaporizing instantly. Electrical fields inside the cosmic dust analyzer separated the various constituents of the impact cloud.

“Enceladus has got warmth, water and organic chemicals, some of the essential building blocks needed for life,” said Dennis Matson in 2008, Cassini project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

“This finding is a crucial new piece of evidence showing that environmental conditions favorable to the emergence of life can be sustained on icy bodies orbiting gas giant planets,” said Nicolas Altobelli, the European Space Agency’s project scientist for Cassini.

“If there is water in such an unexpected place, it leaves possibility for the rest of the universe,” said Postberg.



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March 19, 2011

Part of California highway near Big Sur falls into the sea

Part of California highway near Big Sur falls into the sea

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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Big Sur coast at Bixby Creek Bridge

A 40-foot section of scenic Highway 1 about 12 miles south of Carmel, California crumbled into the Pacific Ocean on Wednesday, preventing access to the popular tourist area of Big Sur from the north.

The collapse of the southbound lane of the two-lane highway, also known as the Pacific Coast Highway, follows several days of rain. The soil under the northbound lane is also in danger of giving way. Drivers heading north were blocked at the Bixby Creek Bridge; the rest of the road has been closed to traffic indefinitely. A long closure is expected to hurt the tourist business upon which Big Sur and and the tiny surrounding communities depend.

The California Highway Patrol (CHP) said no one was injured.

The section that collapsed is on a curve south of the Rocky Creek Bridge, where the highway clings to the scenic Santa Lucia Mountains, and near the Bixby Creek Bridge, one of the “iconic” arch bridges that make this stretch of the highway with its dramatic vistas such a well-known scenic drive.

The cause of the collapse was not apparent as the road surface looked new, and no seeping water was visible. “It’s basically just nature,” a CHP officer said.

With Highway 1 closed, drivers wishing to access Big Sur from the north could go inland on Highway 101 and pass through the Salinas Valley. To return to the coast drivers must pass over a steep, winding mountainous road. This route adds at least an hour to the journey.


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January 26, 2010

Marine scientist says Australia\’s blobfish faces extinction

Marine scientist says Australia’s blobfish faces extinction

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

File:Blobfish.jpg

The blobfish
(Image missing from commons: image; log)

Callum Roberts, a marine scientist with the Universtiy of York, has said he believes the blobfish to face extinction. The foot-long creature is under threat by bottom fishing trawlers off the southeastern Australian coast.

“The Australian and New Zealand deep trawling fishing fleets are some of the most active in the world so if you are a blobfish then it is not a good place to be,” said Roberts. The blobfish has never been observed outside of this small patch of ocean.

Blobfish, which are gelatinous, are rarely seen by humans owing to the depths they live at, going down as far as 800 metres. However, this area is shared by edible species such as crabs and lobsters and trawlers come in search of these. Inedible blobfish are dragged up with them.

Roberts, author of The Unnatural History of the Sea, explains that deep trawling is one of the world’s most destructive forms of fishing. He said that trawlers had destroyed large swathes of ocean at the 200 metre mark and were now “mov[ing] off those continental shelves and into the deep sea in areas a couple of thousand metres deep.” He described this as overfishing.

He went on to express concern for the worldwide effect of deep trawling, saying that the area of deep sea explored is “about the size of Paris, [deep seas]’s a really unexplored area, but we could be destroying it.”

He explained that previous efforts had been made to pass international law introducing regulations on deep trawling. “In 2006 conservationists came very close to achieving a global moratorium on restricting bottom trawling on the high seas.” Although activists “came within a whisker of that” they were thwarted by “Iceland [who] rejected it so the United Nations was charged with protecting the deep sea species.”

Roberts said that “Blobfish are very vulnerable to being dragged up in these nets.” The Daily Telegraph described the blobfish as “the world’s most miserable-looking fish,” and commented that the creature “ha[s] plenty to be miserable about.”



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November 5, 2009

New ocean forming in African desert

New ocean forming in African desert – Wikinews, the free news source

New ocean forming in African desert

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Thursday, November 5, 2009

The African Wikinews Portal has more African news:

Geologists have confirmed that the African continent is being torn in two, forming a new ocean. An international collaboration has shown that a 35 mile long rift in the Afar region of the Ethiopian desert, which opened in 2005, is likely to be the beginning of a new sea.

The recent study, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, brings together seismic data from the formation of the rift, showing that it is driven by similar processes to those at the bottom of oceans.

African and Arabian tectonic plates meet in the desert, and have been slowly pulling apart for roughly 30 million years. The same movement has also been parting the Red Sea. But this is only at a speed of less than 1 inch per year.

The sudden cracking in 2005, referred to by geologists as a “mega-dike intrusion”, opened up a rift over 20 feet wide in places. The study has found that this happened over only a few days. According to Cindy Ebinger, a co-author of the study from the University of Rochester: “We know that seafloor ridges are created by a similar intrusion of magma into a rift, but we never knew that a huge length of the ridge could break open at once like this.”

The investigation was led by Professor Atalay Ayele of Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia. As well as Rochester, other groups involved included Eritrea Institute of Technology; National Yemen Seismological Observatory Center; University of Leeds, United Kingdom; Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, France; and Columbia University, New York.

“The whole point of this study is to learn whether what is happening in Ethiopia is like what is happening at the bottom of the ocean where it’s almost impossible for us to go,” said Ebinger. “Because of the unprecedented cross-border collaboration behind this research, we now know that the answer is yes, it is analogous.”



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June 4, 2009

WHOI sub Nereus explores deepest area of Pacific Ocean

WHOI sub Nereus explores deepest area of Pacific Ocean

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Thursday, June 4, 2009

A Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) remotely operated vehicle touched down 10,902 meters (35,767 feet) in the Mariana Trench near the island of Guam.

Location of the Mariana Trench
Image: Kmusser.

On Sunday, May 31, Nereus dove into the Pacific Ocean and began its descent into Challenger Deep the deepest area of the Mariana Trench.

“It’s the deepest known part of the ocean. The trench is virtually unexplored, and I am absolutely certain Nereus will enable new discoveries,” said Andy Bowen, project manager of WHOI, “Reaching such extreme depths is the pinnacle of technical challenges. The team is pleased that Nereus has been successful in reaching the very bottom of the ocean to return imagery and samples from such a hostile world. With a robot like Nereus we can now explore anywhere in the ocean. The trenches are virtually unexplored, and Nereus will enable new discoveries there. Nereus marks the start of a new era in ocean exploration.”

However, this is not the first time that a mission was sent into the trench. In 1998, the Japanese robot Kaiko was launched. In 1960 a two man bathyscaphe vehicle, the Trieste descended 10,916 meters (35,813 feet) to the ocean floor.

Nereus can be operated remotely or it can run as an autonomous underwater vehicle AUV. It is currently attached to the mother ship via an optic tether the diameter of a human hair.

“Much of the ocean’s depths remain unexplored. Ocean scientists now have a unique tool to gather images, data and samples from everywhere in the oceans, rather than those parts shallower than 6,500 meters (4 miles). With its innovative technology, Nereus allows us to study and understand previously inaccessible ocean regions,” said Julie Morris, director of the National Science Foundation (NSF)’s Division of Ocean Sciences. NSF assisted with the US$8 million project funding.

Nereus will send videos and collect samples on the ocean floor at the trench’s subduction zone and area during its mission.

“The samples collected by the vehicle include sediment from the tectonic plates that meet at the trench and, for the first time, rocks from deep exposures of the Earth’s crust close to mantle depths south of the Challenger Deep. We will know the full story once shore-based analyses are completed back in the laboratory this summer. We can integrate them with the new mapping data to tell a story of plate collision in greater detail than ever before accomplished in the world’s oceans,” said geologist Patty Fryer of the University of Hawaii.



Sources

Wikipedia Learn more about Nereus, Challenger Deep on Wikipedia.
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This text comes from Wikinews. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 licence. For a complete list of contributors for this article, visit the corresponding history entry on Wikinews.
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