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.

Sea Glass – Is It Trash or What?

By Anupum Pant

In the Glass Beach, a beach in MacKerricher State Park near Fort Bragg, California, like the name tells you, you’d normally find too many glass pieces on the beach. These glass pieces that people often find in beaches like these, aren’t exactly those sharp shards of glass that are sharp enough to harm you. Rather they are physically and chemically weathered pieces of glass –  round and small.

sea glass 4

This type of glass is called sea glass and has been a fancy of those hobbyists who like collecting these pieces to make beautiful adornments.

This kind of glass, often found on some beaches usually starts as shards of broken glass from dump or other such sources. In about a span of 1-2 years, the tumbling and weathering makes these pieces smooth and rounded. And then they are collectively known as “genuine sea glass

At this particular beach in California, the beach glass that has formed over the years, first started coming in when residents who lived close to the beach started dumping garbage into the beach. Local clean up services tried to clean up the mess, but most of it had already gone in for natural weathering by that time.

Soon after the clean-up services came around, the beach became a great place for hobbyists to collect these naturally weathered beautiful glass pieces. All the trash that was first thought to be a mess, now became a tourist attraction – Naturally weathered genuine sea glass was a thing of natural beauty now. And then this smuggling of sea glass by tourists had to stop. First the mess had to stop, now the mess being taken away by tourists had to stop.

And once the glass has started to go away, now there is a move to replace all the glass – that was once considered garbage!

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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]