September 10, 2015 | David F. Coppedge

Underwater Marvels

Check out these amazing creatures that inhabit the liquid universe of planet Earth’s oceans and rivers. Only the first one is a fish.

Aquatic hunger games: Archerfish spit the distance for food (Science Daily): “Described as nature’s sharpshooters or water pistols, archerfish inhabit the mangroves of southeast Asia and northern Australia.” Experiments show they can shoot distant targets, but prefer the closer ones.

Amazing FactsMarine animal colony is a multi-jet swimming machine, scientists report (PhysOrg): Tiny jellyfish that hang together are inspiring multi-engine underwater propulsion systems. The jellyfish, called siphonophores, use a propulsion mechanism that is “relatively rare in the animal kingdom”—squirting from multiple identical orifices. It allows them to “turn on a dime, very rapidly.” Science Daily adds, “This is a highly efficient system in which no developmental stage is wasted…It’s a quite sophisticated design, for what would seem like a simple arrangement.”

Giant sea scorpion found in Iowa (Science Magazine): Fragmented fossils of a human-size sea scorpion were dug up in northeastern Iowa, presenting a conundrum for evolution: “Either eurypterids diversified quickly during the early stages of the Ordovician period (which began about 485 million years ago), or their lineage, including yet-to-be-discovered ancestors and kin, evolved more slowly and originated even further back in time during the Cambrian period—possibly during the Cambrian explosion, a period of evolutionary diversification sometimes called ‘life’s big bang,’ which began about 542 million years ago.” Euryptids are arthropods like trilobites.

First cephalopod genome contains unique genes involved in nervous system, camouflage (PhysOrg): The genome of a California octopus surprised scientists with its complexity, comparable to the human genome. A one-minute video clip in the article shows the octopus undergoing rapid color changes to match its surroundings, even creating half-and-half patterns.  See also Evolution News & Views on the findings; also here.

Rare nautilus sighted for the first time in three decades (Science Daily): The beautiful chambered nautilus (another cephalopod) once graced the seas in large numbers and huge sizes. Now, they are rare. Peter Ward (U of Washington, co-author of Rare Earth) was glad to find a couple of them in the South Pacific after 3 decades without any sightings. “This could be the rarest animal in the world,” he commented.

Do whales get the bends? (National Geographic): There’s no reason they wouldn’t, except that they have specialized fat that can absorb the nitrogen bubbles that naturally form when a mammal rises to the surface too quickly. “Researchers from the University of North Carolina Wilmington investigated how marine mammals’ tissues—specifically, fat deposits in the jaws of toothed whales that are used in echolocationabsorb nitrogen gas, one of the gases that contributes to the bends. They found that the makeup of the fat affected how much nitrogen gas dissolves in it—and that different species had different fat compositions.”

If you haven’t yet seen Living Waters: Intelligent Design in the Oceans of the Earth, by all means obtain a copy. It’s available on DVD (click the link) and will be coming out in Blu-ray this month. This film delights the viewer with great stories and facts about sea creatures while simultaneously demolishing Darwinian explanations. Filmed in Bermuda, Honduras, Canada, California and other locations, it is loaded with spectacular imagery (including great overhead drone shots), beautiful music and cutting-edge science.

 

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