News roundup, starting with sort of a “Where are they now?” for past Scribble posts:
The Alfred Wegener Institute’s ship Polarstern is back in port after riding along to the scene of the collapse (of the Larsen B ice shelf). Scattered along a seafloor uncovered for the first time in perhaps 12 millennia, the researchers found lots of new, if smallish, species, including an unassuming invertebrate with a towering name: Shackletonia (pictured).
Those Japanese scientists who found (Captain) Nemo (i.e., videotaped a live giant squid for the first time) have already been upstaged. After “giant,” the next squid size up is the improbably named and even rarer “colossal” squid. A team fishing Antarctica for Patagonian toothfish pulled up a colossal squid weighing half a ton. News reports delicately avoided mentioning that Patagonian toothfish is the same thing as the overfished and bottom-trawled Chilean seabass, so popular at upscale though clueless restaurants.
The Society for Conservation Biology keeps an eye out for cool science headlines on their new blog Journal Watch. Among recent offerings, eradicating rats from Ohinau, off New Zealand, let geckos bounce back much faster than researchers expected. Another reason to ask for your island without so much rat in it.
The folks at RealClimate found this funny site: cheatneutral. Their premise: If you just can’t stay faithful, now you can pay someone to be faithful for you while you keep on producing infidelity at an industrial clip. They’re hoping putting the problem this way will change your attitude about buying and selling carbon offsets.
My sister, Sophie, recently went to see an amusing display of dodo art by Harri Kallio. Slate, always one step behind the avant garde (here represented by my sister), has now written about the work and posted a slideshow. Check it out. Dodos may be dead, but they’re adorable in a hopeless sort of way.
The practice of DNA barcoding – or sequencing anything with a mitochondrion – is turning up new species faster than you can say “phylogenetic species concept.” Recent results suggest 15 new species of birds are hiding in plain sight – there may be more species of commonplaces like ravens and chickadees than we ever suspected. This story has been covered in several venues, but Scientific American gets a mention here for the sheer hopelessness and complacency of their coverage. They misspell the name of the gene under study (that’s “oxidase” with an “i”, folks) and then announce that “Some fish differ by just one arrangement of the various amino acids in the DNA….” That’s a train-wreck of an error, as most high-school science-fair participants could tell you. DNA uses bases to code messenger RNA to tell ribosomes to assemble amino acids into proteins. For a magazine that charges you six bucks a copy to read stories written to be as stuffy as possible, that’s inexcusable.
Icing on the cake? The article never actually tells us what the 15 new species are. C’mon folks, there’s a public out there that we’re supposed to be informing. Grrr.