The Underwater Vacuum Cleaners

By Anupum Pant

If you didn’t know, most white sand you see on some beaches around the world, has at some point in time, passed through a fish called the parrot fish. It’s an amazing ecological role the parrot fish plays.

An interestingly similar ecological role is served by a marine animal with a very leathery skin called the sea cucumber. Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg explains why these organisms have such an important role in the marine environment.

Basically, while scavenging for algae or minute aquatic animals, sea cucumbers ingest a lot of sand. As it passes through their bodies, the digestive system increases the pH of the sand, making it more basic. When this comes out, the sand is clean and turned basic. This way it plays a chief role in countering the negative effects of ocean acidification.

It also helps coral reefs survive by supplying them with calcium carbonate (a by product of its digestion process) and helping them maintain a net inflow of calcium carbonate.

The ammonia that comes out also makes the bed more fertile, making it much more suitable for coral reefs to grow.

Watch these underwater vacuum cleaners in action below.

Crickets – Nature’s Weather Reporters

By Anupum Pant

Background

An annoying Cricket’s treet-treet-treet noise is really unbearable sometimes, especially when a house cricket ends up under your bed and treets all night long. To others, it’s pleasing, they associate it with the night time, and it makes them go to sleep.

Whatever it is for you, there’s one interesting thing universal about that noise they make. If you can count the number of chirps, you can almost accurately estimate the atmospheric temperature using a simple formula! Good ‘ol farmers used to do this.

I know all of us have smartphones these days, so counting cricket chirps to estimate temperature probably makes no sense to you. Still, I’ve said it back then and I say it again, it’s never bad to know anything.

Here’s how you do it

For doing it, you somehow should be able to measure 14 seconds. In those 14 seconds, count the number of times a single cricket chirps. Suppose there are 35 chirps heard, you save that number and add it to 40 (always 40). And this gives you the present temperature in Fahrenheit.

35 chirps + 40 = 75 degrees Fahrenheit

Now, since only a handful of countries use Fahrenheit to measure temperature, you might want to convert it into Celsius scale. I personally am comfortable with only the Celsius scale. But you don’t have to go through the trouble of converting because, to measure the temperature in Celsius scale using the cricket’s treet, this is what you have to do.

Simply count the number of chirps it makes in 25 seconds. Now divide the number by 3 and add 4 to it. There you have your ambient temperature in Celsius scale. Suppose the cricket chirps 50 times…

(50 chirps/3) + 4 = 20.67 degrees Celsius 

Why it works

To know that it is first important to understand how a cricket makes that sound. Remember only male crickets of a few species make this sound. They do this by a process called stridulation – rubbing 2 body parts to make a sound. Rubbing the underside of one wing with the upper side of the other wing does this trick – as they have rough and hard structures over there.

To move these wings it requires a particular chemical reaction to happen in their muscles. The speed of this chemical reaction is dependent on how hot or cold it is. The hotter it is, the faster the reaction happens and the faster it is able to move its muscles to produce more sounds in those 14/25 seconds…

via [Scientific American] and  [Howstuffworks] and [Farmer’s Almanac]

Blood Falls – A Strange Place Home to Strange Creatures

By Anupum Pant

Red colored water, which gives it name blood falls, emerges continually from the edge of a glacier in east Antarctica. The source of this red-colored-water is said to be a lake that is buried 400 meters under a glacier. The water of this lake is extremely salty and is about 3 times saltier than sea water. It is so salty that even at temperatures that Antarctica experiences, it doesn’t freeze. The lake is estimated to be around 5 million years old!

5 million years ago, this part of Antarctica was under sea water. Gradually glaciers started collecting around and over the lake. This made the water body isolated from the main sea and it became a lake eventually. Over time, as it got separated – like the Taal lake – it grew saltier (Taal lake got isolated too, but it turned less saltier). With this lake, the organisms living in it got trapped in this natural time capsule too.

What gives it the color red?

The falls are not red due to some mysterious spores that were found in the red rains of Kerala. What gives it that color, is a popular chemical phenomenon – iron rust.

The lake gets its supply of iron from the bedrock below it. As the water leaks out from the edge, the iron present in water gets oxidized. This oxidized or rusted iron gives the water its red color.

And since the lake has almost no supply of oxygen from around it, the water underneath is probably still like…water – not red (I’m not sure about it).

But that isn’t even anything interesting I’ve talked about the blood falls yet. The most incredible thing is the creatures that have been found living in those waters.

For millions of years, in the extremely salty waters of the lake with almost no oxygen or sun light, scientists have found a kind of micro-organism that has survived there. The kind of process they use to live has dazed scientists.

The microbes living there have been surviving on iron and sulfur! By breaking sulfates to get oxygen. And iron has been restoring the sulfates. It is a beautiful cycle that has never been seen anywhere else. This strange cycle has widened our view on how life could exist on other planets without oxygen in native state.

Source – SciShow by Hank Green.

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