Free Diving Photographer Captures Beautiful Underwater Shots

When photographer Michaela Skovranova moved from landlocked Slovakia to the coast of Australia, she was intrigued by the vast ocean. "One early morning during a swim I could hear soft clicks of a dolphin and suddenly she appeared right beneath me," Skovranova explained to the Instagram Blog. "She looked at me with the most curious eye—and just as quickly she was gone. I was left breathless and from then on I wanted to feel that every single day—and perhaps let other people feel that too through my work.” 

The 27-year-old has since been taking amazing photographs of the many majestic creatures that roam the sea. To get the best possible shots, Skovranova dives with as little equipment as possible. Some areas don't allow swimmers in diving equipment to interact with humpback whales, so free diving lets Skovranova get closer to them. Patience and proper preparation are the best tools for getting a great shot. 

"The adult whales weigh 40 tons, and only take a breath every 30 minutes, so when they do come up, which can be at high speed, it can be a heart-stopping moment—one that’s worth the wait," she explains. "The baby whales breathe every few minutes and they can be wonderfully playful too, which makes them a little easier to photograph!"

The lack of diving equipment or heavy camera gadgets help keep the photographer free-moving and flexible. She uses a fixed focal length lens and will preset the exposure and pre-focus her camera before diving. "Seeing all the wonderful things that the ocean creates, all I need to do is respond to it, and sometimes hold my breath for a little while.” 

Scientists Capture the First Footage of an Anglerfish’s Parasitic Mating Ritual

The deep sea is full of alien-looking creatures, and the fanfin anglerfish is no exception. The toothy Caulophryne jordani, with its expandable stomach and glowing lure and fin rays, is notable not just for its weird looks, but also its odd mating method, which has been captured in the wild on video for the first time, as CNET and Science report.

If you saw a male anglerfish and a female anglerfish together, you would probably not recognize them as the same species. In fact, in the video below, you might not be able to find the male at all. The male anglerfish is lure-less and teeny-tiny (as much as 60 times smaller in length) compared to his lady love.

And he's kind of a deadbeat boyfriend. The male anglerfish attaches to the female's belly in a parasitic mating ritual that involves biting into her and latching on, fusing with her so that he can get his nutrients straight from her blood. He stays there for the rest of his fishy life, fertilizing her eggs and eventually becoming part of her body completely.

Observing an anglerfish in action, or really at all, is extremely difficult. There are only 14 dead specimens from this particular anglerfish species held at natural history museums throughout the world, and they are all female. Since anglerfish can't live in the lab, seeing them in their natural habitat is the only way to observe them. This video, shot in 2016 off the coast of Portugal by researchers with the Rebikoff-Niggeler Foundation, is only the third time we've been able to record deep-sea anglerfish behavior.

Take a look for yourself, and be grateful that your own relationship isn't quite so codependent.

[h/t CNET]

Cockroach DNA Shows Why They're Basically Indestructible

Most people are all too aware that cockroaches are horrifyingly resilient beings. Yes, they can and have survived nuclear blasts, and surely stand to inherit the Earth after we all succumb to the apocalypse. Why is this creature able to thrive in the face of pesticides, the loss of limbs, disgusting conditions, a range of climates, and even nuclear fallout, in urban kitchens across the world? As Inside Science reports, a new study on the genome of the American cockroach shows that certain genes are key to its wild evolutionary success.

In an article published in Nature Communications, researchers from South China Normal University in Guangzhou, China report that they sequenced and analyzed the genome of Periplaneta americana, and in the process they discovered just how indestructible this scourge is. They found that the cockroach (native to Africa, despite its American moniker) has more DNA than any other insect whose DNA has been sequenced except the migratory locust. The size of its genome—3.3 billion base pairs—is comparable to that of humans.

They have a huge number of gene families (several times the number other insects have) related to sensory reception, with 154 smell receptors and 522 taste receptors, including 329 taste receptors specifically related to bitter tastes. These extra smell and taste receptors may help cockroaches avoid toxic food (say, your household pesticide) and give them the ability to adapt to a multitude of different diets in different environments.

They also have killer immune systems able to withstand pathogens they might pick up from the rotting food they eat and the filth they like to live in. They have many more genes related to immunity compared to other insects.

The genome analysis might give us more than just a newfound respect for this revolting pest. The researchers hope to find a way to harness this new knowledge of cockroach immunity to control vermin populations—and create an eradication method slightly more effective than just stomping on them.

[h/t Inside Science]


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