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Hoving and Haddock, Scientific Reports (2017)

Giant Seven-Arm Octopus Might Use Jellyfish as a (Tasty) Weapon

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Hoving and Haddock, Scientific Reports (2017)

The giant deep-sea octopus Haliphron atlanticus does not mess around when it comes to dinner. Scientists have observed several of these cephalopods eating jellyfish in a way that indicates they could be using their stinging prey as tools to capture other snacks, according to New Scientist.

The researchers, writing in Scientific Reports, observed three H. atlanticus using remotely operated submarines from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Institute, as well as by studying the stomach contents of already-caught octopuses. They encountered two that seemed to be holding something gelatinous in their arms, though the researchers couldn’t be certain what the objects were. A third was definitively holding an egg-yolk jelly in its arms by the bell. The octopus was swimming with the jelly’s tentacles still hanging out, but it had bitten through the bell with its beak.

Giant deep-sea octopuses like H. atlanticus—commonly known as the seven-arm octopus because it keeps one arm permanently tucked away, and which can grow to more than 13 feet—are so rare to observe that scientists don’t entirely know what they eat, making these sightings particularly exciting. Other octopus species have been known to dine on fish or crustaceans, but H. atlanticus apparently targets gelatinous creatures.

Based on their observations and previous records of other cephalopods, such as the palmate octopus, the researchers speculate that beyond using jellies as a food source, H. atlanticus could be using them as weapons to catch other prey. “Haliphron may target the stomach contents of the [jellyfish], or even use the [jellyfish] as a tool to obtain more nutritious prey that are captured by the fringe of tentacles clasped within the octopus arms,” they write.

However, using their food as a tool might not be the only reason the seven-armed octopuses eat jellies the way they do. The researchers note that fish and sea turtles also target the oral arms and gonads of jellies for eating, since those are energy-dense areas of the jelly body. This study doesn’t settle the case of what these octopus do with those jellies, exactly, but it provides tantalizing evidence that they could be using their food to catch other food. It wouldn't be their only scary-smart skill.

[h/t New Scientist]

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All That Glitters Is Not Good: Why Glitter Is Bad for You—and the Environment
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If you're worried about the fish, you probably ditched your exfoliating face wash long ago. Microbeads, the little scrubby bits that did the exfoliating, are made of polyethylene plastic that doesn't degrade, meaning that when you flush it down the drain, trillions of those tiny beads end up in your local waterways. In 2015, Congress passed the Microbead-Free Waters Act, banning companies from manufacturing rinse-off cosmetics (like face washes) with them.

Unfortunately, as AlterNet informs us, face washes and other products covered by the law aren't the only problem. There are microplastics in glitter, too. Yes, your eyeshadow and trendy highlighter is killing the environment. And we all know how hard glitter is to get rid of.

Glitter is usually made by bonding some sort of reflective metal like aluminum foil to plastic. When you scrub those teeny pieces of plastic glitter off your skin in the shower, those microplastics end up in rivers, lakes, and oceans, where they pile up—and are eaten by fish and shellfish. (That said, a controversial 2016 study that said that fish prefer microplastics to natural food was retracted in 2017.)

The small fish eat the plastic, the big fish eat the small fish, and we, in turn, eat the big fish. A UN report in January 2017 found that microplastics make it back onto your plate, infiltrating the tissues of the fish you buy at the supermarket. And the plastic itself isn't even the whole problem—when plastic sits in the ocean, it's "a sponge for chemicals already out there," as marine ecologist Chelsea Rochman told NPR in 2013. The toxic chemicals in our waterways make it up the food chain on the backs of those glittery microplastics.

So yes, it's probably time to put away your highlighter and reconsider your New Year's décor. But, as with most environmental problems humans have wrought, that won't make the problem go away, since microplastics also come from [PDF] beach trash that degrades in the sunshine, from industrial sanding products, from tiny pieces of tires and fabrics, and more. But, as a baby step, go ahead and quit with the sparkly stuff.

[h/t AlterNet]

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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
Satellite Images Show Mysterious Nan Madol Ruins From a Brand-New Perspective

The ancient complex of Nan Madol on the island of Pohnpei in Micronesia has fascinated visitors for centuries. Now, thanks to satellite technology, researchers have captured the ruins from a perspective that's rarely seen.

As Yahoo 7 reports, the new aerial footage debuted on an episode of the Science Channel series What on Earth? In the recent installment, experts discussed Nan Madol, a chain of intricate, human-made islands that is sometimes called the "Venice of the Pacific" and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Nan Madol means "spaces between," a reference to the network of canals connecting the ruins.

The 100-odd blocky stone structures were built atop coral reefs in a lagoon off a remote island in the western Pacific Ocean. The walls of the artificial islands can reach up to 25 feet tall and are 17 feet thick in some parts. In total, the rocks that make up the site weigh nearly 827,000 tons. Archaeologists believe that portions of the city have been there for more than 1000 years, and that the site once served as the ceremonial, political, and residential hub for the native Saudeleur people. Little is known about how its builders were able to move such massive amounts of stone without levers, pulleys, or metal. 

Today, the Micronesian island of Pohnpei is home to 36,000 people, and even among locals, the landmark is notorious. Legends of spirits haunting the area have earned it the nickname "Ghost City." The ruins give off such an eerie vibe that H.P. Lovecraft used them as inspiration for the home of Cthulhu in a short story.

[h/t Yahoo 7]

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