Forget slow and steady. For the cone snail, it’s fast-acting chemistry that wins the race.Researchers have now shed light on the structure of a speedy insulin that cone snails use to paralyse prey. You don’t want to mess with cone snails. These undersea predators stun prey with a harpoon-like appendage that injects venom, or they release immobilising venoms into nearby water. For decades scientists have … Continue reading Cone Snail Venom Could Inspire Fast-Acting Insulin For Diabetes
We’ve all seen movies of humpback whales playing in the sea. The most obvious feature is a nice symmetrical tail slapping the water as it dives. But we also see an awkward-looking flipper emerging as it breaches the water. That flipper fin has white lumps along its edge – lumps called tubercles. Still, it seems so crudely made. But it’s not what it seems. It’s actually a highly mobile … Continue reading Humpback Whale flippers solve helicopter air flow problems
Ocean Currents The sea is subject to the transport of enormous masses of water moving continuously in one set direction. These large ‘rivers’ of water in the sea are ocean currents so important to the navigation of ships, the climatic conditions of continents and the fisheries of the maritime countries. The current systems of the sea may be grouped into (a) those produced by … Continue reading The Great Benguela Current
Amongst tidal debris there sometimes appears a thin papery shell, bearing on its white surface a ribbed pattern like that which shore currents impress upon sand. It is the shell of the paper nautilus or Argonaut, an animal distantly related to an octopus and like it , having eight arms. The Argonaut lives on the high seas, in both Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The “shell”is … Continue reading The Argonaut or the Paper Nautilus.
Van Gogh clouds! Like breaking ocean waves. They are called Kelvin Helmholzt clouds, aka billow clouds or shear-gravity clouds It’s widely believed that these waves in the sky inspired the swirls in Van Gogh’s masterpiece Starry Night. Here’s a special kind of cloud known to scientists as a Kelvin Helmholtz cloud. These clouds look like breaking ocean waves, with the rolling eddies … Continue reading Clouds that look like ocean waves. What is it?
The Oyster-catcher ( AFR: Swattobie) is one of those birds that cannot be confused with any of its neighbors, for its brilliant black plumage and red-orange beak, eyes and legs tells you immediately who they are. The first oyster-catcher I ever saw was a baby bird, not long out of its shell, but already able to toddle about. In fact it toddled too far and … Continue reading Cheerful and chirpy Oystercatchers
Red tides, which often contain harmful algal blooms , are caused by chemical reactions that occur between algae and other substances. Red by day, blue by night, this colorful ocean phenomenon is a relatively rare natural occurrence that has spawned a number of imitations in movies and literature, the most recent example being a rather striking scene in the visually-driven movie Life of Pi. Although naturally occurring, … Continue reading Red Tide, Blue Tide: Bioluminescence in the Ocean
New research shows how mussels find the perfect match. For mussels, fertilization occurs between eggs and sperm that have been released into the water. Up until now, it seemed the pairings were random limiting the ability to choose mates and diminishing the chance for successful fertilization due to genetic mismatches. However, recent research shows that the eggs actually release chemicals to attract the most compatible … Continue reading Mussel matchmaking and the glue that holds them
Billions upon billions of attached animals like barnacles, mussels and oysters owe their very lives to the sweep of the tides for the tides bring food which they cannot go in search for. But the most remarkable thing about some of these creatures that live between the tides is their time of spawning. It is adapted to fit in with the phases of the moon … Continue reading Barnacles – Bravehearts of the surfzone
At the turn of the century the Cape Whale Coast as it is known today, has played home to abundant enough whale species to justify a lucrative whaling station at Betty”s bay. Today, Southern Right Whales, Humpback Whales and Bryde’s Whales are the only visitors returning to our coasts. The numbers were drastically reduced by 200 years of whaling, when whales were hunted and killed for … Continue reading Why you should care about whale poo