23.06.2022
Oldest known ancestor of vampire squid was an active predatory hunter – unlike its descendant

Vampire by name, vampire by nature.

Scientists have discovered that the oldest known ancestor of the vampire squid had extra-strong suckers and hair-like strands known as ‘cirri’ on its arms that it may have used to trap its prey.

This differs from the modern-day vampire squid, which feeds only on organic drifting matter and is not built for active hunting, with less robust suckers.

The Vampyronassa rhodanica is an ancient species of cephalopod, related to octopus, squid and cuttlefish.

A research team from Sorbonne University in France used a three-dimensional imaging technique on a 164 million-year-old fossilised specimen of this cephalopod.

They found evidence of muscular suckers on the tips of two specialised, long dorsal arms, suggesting it was an active predatory hunter.

Palaeontologist Alison Rowe said: ‘We used synchrotron tomography at the ESRF in order to better identify the outlines of the various anatomical features.

‘We believe that the morphology and placement of V. rhodanica suckers and cirri in the differentiated arm crown allowed V. rhodanica increased suction and sensory potential over the modern form, and helped them to manipulate and retain prey.’

Vampyronassa rhodanica is thought to be one of the oldest relatives of the vampire squid, Vampyroteuthis infernalis.

The vampire squid lives in extreme deep ocean environments, away from the shoreline and often with little oxygen.

It is the only remaining living species of its family, and is also the only known living cephalopod that does not catch and eat live animals.

Instead, the vampire squid eats ‘marine snow’ – detritus that consists of bits of dead planktonic creatures and faecal pellets.

Not much is known about the physical characteristics and evolutionary history of its family or ancestor V rhodanica.

This is because their bodies are largely formed of soft tissue, so are rarely found fossilised.

However, three rare specimens of V rhodanica from La Voulte-sur-Rhône, dating to more than 164 million years ago, were able to be studied by the research team.

The eight-armed cephalopods were small, measuring around 10 cm in length, and had elongated oval-shaped bodies with two small fins.

The team used a non-destructive, three-dimensional imaging technique to reanalyse these specimens at the ESRF and the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle in Paris.

Vincent Fernández, scientist at the ESRF, said: ‘The fossils are on small slabs, which are very difficult to scan.

‘On top of that, soft tissues are preserved but we needed phase contrast imaging to visualise the faint density variation in the data.

‘The coherence of ESRF beamline ID19 was therefore very important to perform propagation phase-contrast computed-tomography and track all the minute details, such as the suckers and small fleshy extensions, called cirri.’

The images, published today in Scientific Reports, reveal evidence of muscular, untoothed suckers and strong ‘cirri’ on the tips of two of its dorsal arms.

Cirri are hair-like strands that are thought to play a role in feeding, potentially by creating currents of water that help bring food closer.

The configuration of the suckers and cirri on the longer dorsal arm pair was also different than on the rest of the arms.

They compared their data to that from an existing vampire squid specimen scanned at the American Museum of Natural History in New York and found that the suckers and cirri from the V. rhodanica were proportionately more robust.

The authors proposed that the Jurassic cephalopod used these suckers to create a watertight seal, producing a secure suction force.

They could have aided the manipulation and retention of prey, suggesting that the ancient animal may have been well-adapted to actively hunt in the open ocean.

It could have used the suckers alongside its sensory conical appendages that detected the presence of prey.

The strong suckers and cirri are not found on its vampire squid descendent, which has adapted to a low energy, deep ocean lifestyle of opportunistic feeding.

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    Megalodon — the biggest shark that ever lived — ate sperm whales because it was attracted by their huge noses, a new study claims.

    Measuring up to 65ft long and weighing an estimated 100 tonnes, the prehistoric predator was one of the most ferocious animals when it swam in oceans around the globe between 23 and 3.6 million years ago.

    The sperm whale’s enormous snout, which makes up a third of its body, was particularly appealing to megalodon because it is packed with oily saturated fats, according to researchers at the University of Zurich.

    Their findings are based on analysis of 7 million-year-old fossilised sperm whale skulls from southern Peru.

    A series of bite marks indicate that sharks consistently fed on them.

    Lead author Aldo Benites-Palomino, a palaeontology student at the University of Zurich, said: ‘These are concentrated along the nose, mouth and face.

    ‘In sperm whales, these regions receive most of their greatly enlarged nasal organs that are responsible for the sound production and emission system.

    ‘The main organs of this complex are the spermaceti and the melon, structures rich in fats and oils, but also heavily regulated by the facial muscles.

    ‘Most of the bite marks have been found on the bones that would be adjacent to these soft tissue structures, such as the jaws, or around the eye, thus indicating that sharks actively targeted this region.’

    The sharks that attacked sperm whales ranged from megalodon — meaning big-tooth — to species that are still around today, including mako sharks, sand sharks and the Great White.

    Megalodon even attacked prehistoric sea monster Leviathan melvillei — named after the author of Moby Dick, say scientists.

    Half a dozen skulls were unearthed at the Pisco Formation in the Ica Desert.

    It is famous for a treasure trove of Miocene shark and ray remains, bony fishes, turtles, marine crocodiles, seabirds, whales and seals.

    In the oceans, the Miocene was a time of changing circulation patterns, probably due to global cooling.

    It spanned 23 million to five million years ago. By the end of it, almost all modern groups of whales had appeared.

    Benites-Palomino said: ‘Sperm whales are a group characterised by their greatly enlarged, and rich in fat, nasal organs, which they use for sound production.

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    During the last 30 years, explorations carried out in the area have also unveiled aquatic sloths and even walrus-faced dolphins.

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    ‘During the last decade palaeontologists across the globe have been inquiring about the interactions between these two large groups of marine predators.’

    The researchers hope their study could shed light on the connections between them.

    Benites-Palomino said: ‘The overall shape, size and arrangement of the bite marks is greatly variable, suggesting more than one species of shark was targeting the sperm whales.’

    Today, sharks seek the carcasses of baleen whales with high concentrations of fats, such as the blubber.

    ‘During the Miocene baleen whales were small, but sperm whales would have constituted a perfect fat repository due to their greatly enlarged and lipid-rich nasal organs,’ Benites-Palomino added.

    Megalodon and Leviathan died out about three million years ago during the period of global cooling, but the reasons for their demise are still being debated.

    The new study has been published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

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    Scroll down for video

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    ‘This tower, from design to construction, took 13 months,’ Musk previously said during a SpaceX presentation.

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    SpaceX, which has conducted at least 24 successful launches this year and sent everything from Starlink satellites to classified payloads into orbit, has come a long way from the its past failures.

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    How to get Karaoke mode on Spotify

    There appears to be no way to get access to the feature, apart from waiting for an app update.

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  • 10 часов, 43 минуты назад 28.06.2022Science
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    Scroll down for video

    The mosaic measures 56 feet by 30 feet – quite massive.

    It features a collection of animals, including an African elephant, rhinoceros and giraffe.

    ‘It is very impressive in its artistic style, and its state of preservation was perfect,’ Avrahami said, adding that the mosaic details includes shadows of the animal images as well as blood dripping from a bull in one panel depicting a hunting or fighting scene with a lion.

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    An earthquake in the year 749 CE took down the entire villa.

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    The mosaics were displayed over the years at many institutions, including New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology, the Louvre Museum in Paris, Chicago’s Field Museum, and the the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia.

    Researchers are hopeful that it can become a major tourist attraction in a part of the world often riven with conflict.

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    ‘It’s also an opportunity to develop tourism based on circular economics: people will set up tourism-based businesses telling their stories to the world.’

    ‘That mosaic isn’t Jewish, Christian or Islamic. Everybody can love it.’

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    ‘This is the Rolls Royce,’ she said. ‘This is the most visually impressive mosaic we have found. This is the whole point of archaeology – not just the structures, but trying to understand the people who built them and lived in them, their social structure and environmental relations.’

    Shelby White, who helped to make the museum happen – along with the Leon Levy Foundation, the IAA and the municipality of Lod – called the new space a ‘dream come true.’

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  • 10 часов, 43 минуты назад 28.06.2022Science
    Invasion of the ‘rock snot’: Gooey algae that suffocates organisms are infecting Michigan waterways

    Gooey ‘rock snot’ that suffocates organisms living on the bottom of rivers and streams is invading Michigan waterways.

    Formally known as didymo, this algae creates a mat that can grow over six inches thick and some have been observed to be two-feet-long.

    While non-toxic, rock snot reduces habitat for macroinvertebrates that are an important food for the underwater ecosystem.

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    Didymo flourishes in cold water and sprout stalks ‘under really low-nutrient conditions,’ Ashley Moerke, Lake Superior State University (LSSU) professor and director of the new Center for Freshwater Research and Education (CFRE), told MLive.

    Despite its nickname, didymo does not feel slimy, but has a wet wool-like texture.

    But it appears like goop as it clings to rocks and underwater plants.

    Another issue of this invader is its ability to choke organisms that are food for other fish – specifically trout that are already threatened in Michigan.

    And although didymo was first spotted in 2015, scientists are still working to figure out what triggers its blooms.

    According to Michigan State ANR, researchers are still working to figure out what triggers didymo’s nuisance blooms.

    They speculate that it is a result of changing environmental conditions, or it could be didymo spreading to new waterways on fishing gear, which is the common way nuisance species spread.

    Researchers in Canada are connecting the large blooms to climate change; ice melting off the rivers earlier in the year and sooner springtime vegetation growth means fewer nutrients are naturally draining off into waterways.

    ‘That’s suggesting that if the land is holding the nutrients, there might actually be a decline in nutrients that’s causing these blooms. There’s some potential evidence for this in in the St. Marys River,’ Moerke said.

    LSSU officials are also researching how the algae blooms impact macroinvertebrates and fish populations as an organism that is ‘reengineering the habitat.’

    ‘There’s been a strong demonstration that macroinvertebrate communities have changed. What we haven’t been able to really determine well is the impacts on fish. There haven’t been nearly as many studies … because it’s much more difficult. Fish are very mobile. They can move out of a habitat,’ Moerke said.

    The Manistee River, located in the lower peninsula of Michigan, is currently infested with the gooey algae.

    Ann Miller, an aquatic biologist and avid Manistee River fly fisher, told 9and10news: ‘Right now, didymo is a big puzzle with a lot of people working to address it. We need to find out why it’s showing up where it is and more importantly, how best to decontaminate gear to prevent it from spreading.

    ‘Right now, many local fishing guides are doing their best to avoid the stretch of the Manistee where didymo is blooming but fishing is their livelihood.

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Science Oldest known ancestor of vampire squid was an active predatory hunter - unlike its descendant