Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Good News & Fascinating News Today

Every Tuesday, the New York Times has a Science section.  And it can be fascinating.  Today, it is both fascinating and full of (happily) good news.

Last year I believe I may have written about the odd Saiga Antelope of Kazakhstan.  It is an almost prehistoric looking creature that suffered a lose of about 60% of their population and no one knew why.

The good news from today (link) is that they still aren't sure why it happened (they think it was the evolution of an old virus) - but it hasn't happened this year.  Either the bug wiped out all the at risk population or, like many human flus, it ran it's course.

In any case, the Saiga numbers are growing again.

Yay.

The piece of fascinating news is about Coral and reproduction.  So corals occupy that weird borderline area between plants and animals.  They are organisms that grow and eat.  But they attach to other corals into a reef so they don't really "move" after attachment.

Well, this article is fascinating about how the release eggs and sperm to procreate.  Apparently they have to release the sperm and another coral releases the eggs within a couple of minutes of each other - or no conception.  When they do get together, the coral(ettes?) float on the tides until they find an appropriate reef to attach to.

Scientists have been trying to understand when this occurs (better to grow new corals).  It turns out it depends on the latitude of the reef, the temperature and the phase of the moon (but not so much the tides).  This last one freaked out the Scientists because corals have no eyes, so how can they tell a full moon.

Turns out (get this) well - I will let them explain:

The breakthrough came after Oren Levy, a young Israeli scientist, traveled to Australia to study at the University of Queensland. Dr. Levy was fascinated by a class of photoreceptors known as cryptochromes. Originally found in plants, they had also been identified among insects and mammals. Dr. Levy wondered if corals might possess the complex molecules as well.
In 2007, he and six other scientists from Australia, Israel and the United States reported in Science that corals do have primitive photoreceptors, if not true eyes. In experiments, they found that the photosensitive chemicals responded to moonlight as admirably as, well, human lovers.

Cool huh?

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