Scientists Have Found a Weird Purple Orb on the California Seafloor

From scampering octopuses to disco clams, marine biologists have gotten pretty good at parsing all the absurdity the ocean has to offer. Which is why we’re so delighted by the above video from the Nautilus Exploration Program, in which seasoned scientists greet the sight of a luminous purple blob with “What is that?!” 

The Ocean Exploration Trust’s Nautilus research vessel has just wrapped up a trip to California’s Channel Islands, an area commonly known as the Galapagos of the North for its remote location and ecological richness. The islands are part of a national marine sanctuary, yet very little is known about the topography of the surrounding seafloor, how the region is weathering climate change, or the creatures who live there. 

Case in point: the purple thing. The vessel’s cameras zoomed in on the unidentified object, which seemed to be made of two distinct pieces. But even at close range, the blob was no more willing to reveal its secrets. The researchers aboard began to throw out guesses: “It looks like an egg sac of some sort.” “I reckon its some kind of cnidarian?” “It looks like a disco ball.” “I’m stumped. I couldn’t even hazard a guess.” 

While there was some dramatic tension when it seemed that a curious crab might snatch the mystery orb before the team could collect it with a vacuum tube on a robotic arm, in the end they successfully hoovered it up. The crew turned the gummy candy–looking thing over to experts at the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology. At the moment, their best guess is that it’s a type of knobbly, globular sea slug called a pleurobranch, but they’re still far from certain. 

[h/t Smithsonian]

Header image from YouTube // EVNautilus

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A Same-Sex Penguin Couple Has Adopted an Egg at a Berlin Zoo

LisaStratchan/iStock via Getty Images
LisaStratchan/iStock via Getty Images

At first glance, king penguins Skip and Ping don’t appear to be too remarkable a sight when viewed by spectators at their enclosure at Germany's Zoo Berlin. But look closer and you may see one of them nurturing an egg under one of their skin folds. Skip and Ping, a same-sex penguin couple, have effectively adopted an egg and hope to raise it as their own baby.

A story by writer Liam Stack in The New York Times details their pursuit of parenthood. According to Stack, the penguins arrived at Zoo Berlin in April and were observed to have a degree of baby fever, trying to coddle everything from a rock to a fish. Taking note of their coupling, zookeepers passed on an unhatched egg laid by a female at the zoo. They immediately took to it, taking protective measures and growing ornery when employees got too close. Ping has taken to sitting on the egg in the hopes it will hatch.

That’s not guaranteed. Zookeepers aren't certain whether the egg was fertilized. If it is, it’s likely to crack open in early September, giving Skip and Ping an opportunity to expand their family.

Earlier this year, a same-sex penguin pair named Sphen and Magic began rearing a chick in Australia’s Sea Life Sydney Aquarium. The doting parents sang to and fed their adoptive offspring.

[h/t The New York Times]

Airlines Are No Longer Allowed to Ban Service Dogs Based on Breed

chaivit/iStock via Getty Images
chaivit/iStock via Getty Images

As the species of service and emotional support animals have become more diverse, airlines have had to make some tough decisions. Birds, monkeys, and snakes have been barred from boarding airplanes with passengers, but even more conventional pets like dogs have been rejected based on their breed. A new rule from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) aims to change that. As Travel + Leisure reports, the agency now forbids airlines from discriminating against service dogs of particular breeds, including pit bulls.

Last year, Delta banned all pit bulls from flying, regardless of whether or not they were certified therapy animals. United Airlines also banned pit bulls last year, along with 20 other dog breeds, including pugs, bulldogs, mastiffs, and shih tzus.

Under the new DOT guidelines, these policies are no longer legal. The statement reads: "The Department’s Enforcement Office views a limitation based exclusively on breed of the service animal to not be allowed under its service animal regulation. The Enforcement Office intends to use available resources to ensure that dogs as a species are accepted for transport."

The new rule applies specifically to service animals, or animals that have been trained to perform a job that's essential to their owner's wellbeing. Emotional support animals, which don't require special training and aren't covered by the Americans With Disabilities Act, don't qualify.

Even if a pet is a certified service animal, airlines still have the right to reject them in certain cases. Air travel companies can request documents related to an animal's vaccination, training, or behavior history. If they find anything in the papers that indicates they're not safe to fly, airlines can turn them away on that basis.

In the same statement, the Department of Transportation clarifies which species of service animals should be allowed on flights. Miniature horses are now included on the list of service animals airlines must allow to fly, while ferrets, rodents, snakes, reptiles, and spiders are the only species airlines can ban outright.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]