Shrimp in Rural England Have a Cocaine Problem

iStock.com/Aukid
iStock.com/Aukid

It turns out that becoming shrimp scampi or part of a shrimp cocktail is no longer the only threat looming for these crustaceans. Through no fault of their own, England’s freshwater shrimp are trying to kick a drug habit. A new study has demonstrated that shrimp found in bodies of water in rural Suffolk are consistently testing positive for cocaine as well as other controlled or prohibited substances.

Researchers at King’s College London and the University of Suffolk published the paper in the journal Environment International after taking samples from 15 different locations across five river catchments in Suffolk. Drugs like cocaine and ketamine were found in the shrimp, along with pesticides and other micropollutants. Researchers also found lidocaine, a local anesthetic used to “cut” cocaine.

The levels are low, researchers say, but potential damage to these tiny Tony Montanas will need to be assessed with further study. This research does raise the question of how shrimp are testing positive for illegal drugs in the first place. When a human ingests drugs, their urine can contain trace metabolites that enter the wastewater system. One theory is that nearby wastewater treatment plants have discharged this type of contaminated waste into the Suffolk's rivers, though their filtration processes should prevent pharmaceuticals or their metabolites from getting through. It’s possible that sewer overflow or improper system connections are to blame.

While the shrimp don’t appear to be affected, that hasn't been true of all animals. In the UK, a study of the effects of cocaine in eels demonstrated that it can accumulate in their brains, muscles, skin, and gills, causing swelling and hormone disruption that could affect their migrations and reproductive processes. Water contaminated with antidepressants can also influence behavior. Crabs exposed to Prozac, for example, became more aggressive.

[h/t BBC]

2624-Year-Old Cypress Tree Discovered in North Carolina Swamp

iStock/earleliason
iStock/earleliason

National Love a Tree Day on May 16 is a day to appreciate all the world's trees, but a bald cypress recently identified in North Carolina is especially deserving of recognition. As Live Science reports, scientists date the tree to 2624 years old, making it one the oldest living non-clonal trees on Earth.

For their study, recently published in the journal Environmental Research Communications, a team of researchers studied the rings of trees in North Carolina's Black River swampland to learn more about climate history in the eastern United States. Bald cypresses are known to have impressive lifespans, but after analyzing specimens in the Black River's Three Sisters Swamp, an area that's notable for its long-lived trees, the scientists discovered that cypresses can grow to be even older than previously believed. The 2624-year-old cypress tree they found predates the Great Wall of China and the Roman Empire. Other remarkably old trees, including a 2088-year-old cypress, were also identified in the same grove.

The North Carolina cypresses are old, but there are other types of trees that can grow to be much older. Clonal tress are genetically identical plants that reproduce asexually from a single ancestor. Old Tjikko, a clonal tree in Sweden, has a root system that dates back 9550 years.

Despite all that North Carolina's bald cypress trees have endured, their lives are under threat. The swamp where the 2624-year-old tree stands is located just 6.5 feet above sea level, which means that floods driven by climate change could damage its habitat. And though the grove is in a protected area, industrial runoff and logging that's happening nearby could impact the trees' health. North Carolina is considering establishing a Black River State Park where the trees grow to further protect the ancient natural wonders.

[h/t Live Science]

This Beverage Maker Lets You Enjoy Carbonated Drinks Without Hurting the Environment

Sparkel
Sparkel

Whether you're preparing breakfast before you head off to work or looking for something to wash down lunch, procuring the perfect beverage is vital. If it's a carbonated drink, though, with that comes the carbon dioxide emissions that arise every time you hear that classic "fssst" sound from cracking one open. These emissions are actually quite harmful to the environment.

But thanks to the newly unveiled Spärkel, curating carbonated drinks can be done without using CO2 or any artificial ingredients.

"If you walk into any grocery store, the explosion in the popularity of sparkling drinks is plain to see with more choices and flavors than ever before, but why buy off-the-shelf when it is healthier, cheaper, and more fun to create your own drinks at home?" Darren Hatherell, CEO of Spärkel, said in a press release. "With Spärkel, we created a system that lets people use the freshest ingredients and convenient carbonation process to experiment and unleash their creativity in a way that is kind to their wallet and the environment."

Users can place any kind of ingredients they wish—berries, citrus, cucumbers, etc.—along with their drink of choice—water, tea, cocktails—into the 25 oz. (750 mL) bottle and choose what level, from one to five, of fizz they'd like to have added to their drink. The sealed chamber generates CO2 naturally from a sachet of Spärkel Carbonator powder, which is "made of a special granulation of citric acid and sodium bicarbonate." The CO2 bubbles are cycled through the liquid, and within a couple of minutes, you have a completely personalized sparkling drink.

On top of all that, the beverage maker is suitable for any number of usages from water and juices to cocktails. It also comes in nine different colors—black, white, gray, yellow, orange, red, blue, green, and pink—so it can match up with whatever kitchen palette you have.

To get your hands on the Spärkel, check it out on Indiegogo, where it's available for a pre-sale price of $59.

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