.

.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Ancient Climate Change Influenced Modern Octopus Evolution


Download Squid Girl via Cosmo Bells.
Many of the world's deep-sea octopuses evolved from species that lived in the Southern Ocean, according to new molecular evidence. Octopuses started migrating to new ocean basins more than 30 million years ago as Antarctica cooled and large ice-sheets grew.

These huge climatic events created a 'thermohaline expressway' - a northbound flow of deep cold water, providing new habitat for the animals previously confined to the sea floor around Antarctica.

Isolated in new habitat conditions, many different species evolved. Some octopuses lost their defensive ink sacs because there was no need for the defence mechanisms in the pitch black waters more than two kilometres below the surface.


Megaleledon setebos, the closest living relative of the octopuses' common ancestor. Photo: Census of Marine Life

"It is clear from our research that climate change can have profound effects on biodiversity, with impacts even extending into habitats such as the deep oceans which you might expect would be partially protected from it. "If octopuses radiated in this way, it's likely that other fauna did so also, so we have helped explain where some of the deep-sea biodiversity comes from."

The findings form part of the first Census of Marine Life (CoML), set to be completed in late 2010. It aims to assess and explain the diversity, distribution and abundance of marine life in the oceans, past, present and future. link
The thermohaline expressway: the Southern Ocean as a centre of origin for deep-sea octopuses. 2008. J. M. Strugnell et al. Caldistics, published on-line Nov. 11, 2008

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Sea Urchin Hold Secret of Biomineralization


Used to crush food, for structural support and for defense, the materials of which shells, teeth and bones are composed are the strongest and most durable in the animal world, and scientists and engineers have long sought to mimic them.

A new study describes how the lowly sea urchin transforms calcium carbonate — the same material that forms "lime" deposits in pipes and boilers — into the crystals that make up the flint-hard shells and spines of marine animals. The mechanism, the authors write, could "well represent a common strategy in biomineralization."

The sea urchin larval spicule is a model system for biominerals, and the first one in which the amorphous calcium carbonate precursor was discovered in 1997 by the same Israeli group co-authoring the current PNAS paper. A similar amorphous-to-crystalline transition has since been observed in adult sea urchin spines, in mollusk shells, in zebra fish bones and in tooth enamel. The resulting biominerals are extraordinarily hard and fracture resistant, compared to the minerals of which they are made.

"The amorphous minerals are deposited and they are completely disordered," Gilbert explains. "So the question we addressed is 'how does crystallinity propagate through the amorphous mineral?'"


“We found that at 40-100 nanometer amorphous calcium carbonate particles aggregate into the final morphology. One starts converting to crystalline calcite, then another immediately adjacent converts as well, and another, and so on in a three-dimensional domino effect. The pattern of crystallinity, however, is far from straight. It resembles a random walk, or a fractal, like lightning in the sky or water percolating through a porous medium," explains Gilbert.