Nightvision Eye Drops

By Anupum Pant

A deep sea dragonfish, or specifically Malacosteus niger, has a special pigment in its eyes which helps it see better in the deep  dark sea. This pigment, isolated from the eyes of this dragonfish, in the year 1990, was found to be a derivative of Chlorophyll.

The marine biologist Ron Douglas of City University London, who was able to isolate it then, found that the pigment gave this fish an ability to absorb red light. Of course It did seem abnormal to find a chlorophyll derivative inside an animal’s eye. Moreover, the animal had learned to use it to enhance its vision! At that time it was conjectured that the chlorophyll came to the fish through some bacteria, and it somehow found a way to put it to good use.

A couple of years later (in 2004) an ophthalmic scientist at Columbia University Medical Centre read about it and started testing the derivative on other animal’s eyes. Recently, by using it on mice and rabbit eyes, the researcher has been able to enhance their night vision, by enhancing their eye’s ability to absorb red light.

It is highly possible that, in the near future, the pigment could somehow be made safe for human eyes, and be used to enhance their nightvision. Soon a better nightvision could be as easy as ingesting a pill, or using eye drops made out of this derivative. How great would it be for the special ops team! Of course, the U.S. Department of Defence is very interested, and has started funding his research now.

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Evolution of Eggs

By Anupum Pant

Eggs come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours. Birds, a major group of creatures that descended from reptiles have, for several years, continued to evolve the design of their eggs for millions of years now (not consciously, through natural selection).

Eggs could have been cube shaped. In that case they would have been very difficult to lay. Also, they would have been weakest at the centre points of a face of the cube. Hence, eggs didn’t end up being squarish.

While most eggs have evolved to, well, an egg-shape, some eggs like those of some owls are nearly spherical in shape. But oval and pointy eggs do have an advantage of sort.

Spherical eggs tend to roll easily, and if laid somewhere near a cliff, they’d roll away, never to be seen ever again. Oval eggs normally tend to roll in circles. Usually, they roll in big circles. Still dangerous for birds who perch on cliffs most of the time.

Of all the eggs, the egg of a common guillemot bird is probably the most incredible – in the sense that it has a design that doesn’t let it roll down cliffs very easily.

Common guillemots are sea birds and they normally like to perch on cliffs. To add to the danger of their precarious perching places, they usually perch on such cliffs with a huge group. Also, they don’t even make nests.

Had their eggs been shaped like those of owls, they would have easily gotten knocked by someone from that huge group of perching birds, perching on precarious cliffs. So, their eggs have evolved to survive these conditions.

This is how their eggs look like. They are very awkwardly shaped. But when it rolls, thanks to natural selection, it rolls in very small circles! They don’t fall off cliffs easily. Wonderful!

common guillemot egg

First seen at [io9]

Bizarre Starfish Wasting Syndrome

By Anupum Pant

Up in the Washington state a videographer and also a diver, Laura James noticed a couple of  dead Starfish on the coast one day. The dead bodies looked like something mysterious had happened. There were broken bodies and splats all over the place as if the fish had been zapped by a laser.

Laura videographed some of the tens of thousands of starfish bodies all over the north america’s pacific coast. No one was sure what was actually happening. And then there were reports of these mysterious starfish deaths from all over the west coast of North America.

For some time, only the sunflower starfish were thought to be affected by this. However, on further investigation, it was found that almost 12 different species of starfish were dying mysteriously all over the west coast (and some on the east coast too). When this was confirmed to be an epidemic of some sort, they started calling it the sea star wasting syndrome and notified the scientists.

Ben minor, a western Washington university professor of biology started collecting sea stars at the coast. They found a number of normal sea stars. Later when the search continued a pile of sea star arms and twisted parts of them were found at different places. Some of the live starfish were collected and were studied in the laboratory.

It was confirmed that the starfish which were affected by this epidemic experienced twisting arms and lesions first and then the arms crawled away in different directions, tearing the body of a starfish apart. All of it in under 24 hours. This bizarre disease then left a spill of inside parts of the fish and broken body parts all over the place.

No one knows for sure what causes this bizarre disease among the sea stars.