Peter Ward via University of Washington

Rare Fuzzy Nautilus Spotted for the First Time in Decades

Peter Ward via University of Washington

Even within the quirky class of cephalopods, nautiluses are an outlier. These sole members of the Nautilaceae family, which first appeared 500 million years ago, are often called living fossils thanks to the fact that they haven't changed much in millions of years. There may have once been many different kinds of externally-shelled cephalopods populating the oceans, but these days, there are only seven known nautilus species—the rarest of which was just seen again for the first time in 30 years.

University of Washington biologist Peter Ward and a colleague discovered Allonautilus scrobiculatus off of Ndrova Island in Papua New Guinea in 1984. The species, which Ward described in 1997, was distinguished by significantly different gills, jaws, shell shape, and male genitalia as compared to other nautiluses. Additionally, it was covered in slime. "It reminds me of half a swimming ear muff," Ward told The Seattle Times. "It’s just a shaggy dog." Researchers had hoped that the distinguishing features would illuminate the long, slow process of nautilus evolution, but following that initial sighting, A. scrobiculatus effectively disappeared—until just recently.

Ward went back to study nautiluses in the South Pacific this summer. He and his colleagues baited the scavenging cephalopods by placing chicken or fish meat in cages, which they lowered 500 and 1300 feet below the surface and filmed for 12 hours at a time. One night, while reviewing the footage, Ward caught sight of the distinct slimy hair of an A. scrobiculatus. A second soon showed up, and the two jostled for the bait with the more common chambered nautilus before being overpowered by an 8-foot-long sunfish. But the important thing was that after 31 years, one of the rarest creatures on the planet had been spotted was again available for study.

Using the same baited traps, Ward's team was able to capture several A. scrobiculatus specimens, carefully bringing them to the surface and taking small tissue, shell, and mucous samples. Four of the animals were fitted with radio tags, after which they were all re-released.

It's the limitations presented by nautilus' natural habitats that create small but distinct populations that can evolve independently, as appears to have been the case with A. scrobiculatus. They can only exist within a very narrow depth range, creating isolated pockets of animals. "They swim just above the bottom of wherever they are," Ward told the University of Washington. "Just like submarines, they have ‘fail depths’ where they’ll die if they go too deep, and surface waters are so warm that they usually can’t go up there. Water about 2600 feet deep is going to isolate them."

This also means that as habitats are destroyed, entire species—like A. scrobiculatus—could be wiped out. "Once they’re gone from an area, they’re gone for good," Ward told the University of Washington.

To prevent this, especially in the face of rampant nautilus mining for their valuable shells, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will discuss designating nautiluses as a protected species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wildlife Fauna and Flora next month.

[h/t io9]

Martin Wittfooth
The Cat Art Show Is Coming Back to Los Angeles in June
Martin Wittfooth
Martin Wittfooth

After dazzling cat and art lovers alike in 2014 and again in 2016, the Cat Art Show is ready to land in Los Angeles for a third time. The June exhibition, dubbed Cat Art Show 3: The Sequel Returns Again, will feature feline-centric works from such artists as Mark Ryden, Ellen von Unwerth, and Marion Peck.

Like past shows, this one will explore cats through a variety of themes and media. “The enigmatic feline has been a source of artistic inspiration for thousands of years,” the show's creator and curator Susan Michals said in a press release. “One moment they can be a best friend, the next, an antagonist. They are the perfect subject matter, and works of art, all by themselves.”

While some artists have chosen straightforward interpretations of the starring subject, others are using cats as a springboard into topics like gender, politics, and social media. The sculpture, paintings, and photographs on display will be available to purchase, with prices ranging from $300 to $150,000.

Over 9000 visitors are expected to stop into the Think Tank Gallery in Los Angeles during the show's run from June 14 to June 24. Tickets to the show normally cost $5, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting a cat charity, and admission will be free for everyone on Wednesday, June 20. Check out a few of the works below.

Man in Garfield mask holding cat.
Tiffany Sage

Painting of kitten.
Brandi Milne

Art work of cat in tree.
Kathy Taselitz

Painting of white cat.
Rose Freymuth-Frazier

A cat with no eyes.
Rich Hardcastle

Painting of a cat on a stool.
Vanessa Stockard

Sculpture of pink cat.
Scott Hove

Painting of cat.
Yael Hoenig
Tony Karumba, AFP/Getty Images
How a Pregnant Rhino Named Victoria Could Save an Entire Subspecies
Sudan, the last male member of the northern white rhino subspecies, while being shipped to Kenya in 2009
Sudan, the last male member of the northern white rhino subspecies, while being shipped to Kenya in 2009
Tony Karumba, AFP/Getty Images

The last male northern white rhino died at a conservancy in Kenya earlier this year, prompting fears that the subspecies was finally done for after decades of heavy poaching. Scientists say there's still hope, though, and they're banking on a pregnant rhino named Victoria at the San Diego Zoo, according to the Associated Press.

Victoria is actually a southern white rhino, but the two subspecies are related. Only two northern white rhinos survive, but neither of the females in Kenya are able to reproduce. Victoria was successfully impregnated through artificial insemination, and if she successfully carries her calf to term in 16 to 18 months, scientists say she might be able to serve as a surrogate mother and propagate the northern white rhino species.

But how would that work if no male northern rhinos survive? As the AP explains, scientists are working to recreate northern white rhino embryos using genetic technology. The San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research has the frozen cell lines of 12 different northern white rhinos, which can be transformed into stem cells—and ultimately, sperm and eggs. The sperm of the last northern white male rhino, Sudan, was also saved before he died.

Scientists have been monitoring six female southern white rhinos at the San Diego Zoo to see if any emerge as likely candidates for surrogacy. However, it's not easy to artificially inseminate a rhino, and there have been few successful births in the past. There's still a fighting chance, though, and scientists ultimately hope they'll be able to build up a herd of five to 15 northern white rhinos over the next few decades.

[h/t Time Magazine]


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