Archive for 08/18/2011

RT –

A second shark attack in two days has rocked Russia’s Primorye region, with the deadly fish savaging a 16-year-old on Thursday.

­The incident occurred in daytime on Zheltukhin island in the Khasanky district of Primorsky Region, Interfax news agency reported.

The teenager managed to fight the shark off and escape with his life, but suffered several laceration wounds to the hip, with an artery being severed.

The victim received first aid on the beach and was transferred to hospital in the region’s main city, Vladivostok, by boat.

The teenager’s life is not currently in danger, and no further details of the circumstances of the attack or the species of shark have been released.

It was the second shark attack in Primorye within the last 24 hours. On Wednesday evening, the predator ripped the hands from a 25-year-old man.

Officials have banned swimming along the entire coastline of Khasanky district as an emergency measure.

Several types of man-eating shark inhabit the Sea of Japan, including the hammerhead and blue shark, but they are rare visitors to Russian shores.

Natalie Muller –

An early ancestor of the blue whale hoovered up its prey rather than using baleen plates to filter feed.

The fossilised jaw of a 25-million-year-old baleen whale is shedding light on how the mouths of Earth’s largest ever animals evolved.

The 30cm fossil, found in the coastal town of Torquay, Victoria, shows the earliest of these marine mammals had vastly different feeding habits to its modern descendants. Museum Victoria palaeontologist Dr Erich Fitzgerald says that the jaw of this early whale, Janjucetus hunderi, shows that ancient baleen whales didn’t have the flexibility to gulp and filter enormous volumes of seawater and krill, as living baleen whales do.

Janjucetus was a relatively small species and was likely no longer than 3m in length, says Erich.

In a paper published today in the journal Biology Letters, he argues the Janjucetus’ rigid lower jaw joints and wide mouth were better suited to sucking up individual prey in the fashion of a vacuum cleaner.

“These new fossils are really the clincher in showing that they could not filter feed,” Erich says. “Many scientists have argued that filter-feeding is really one of the key distinguishing features of all baleen whales. Now it seems that is not the case, and that it evolved later.”

He says ‘suction-feeding’ was most likely an evolutionary precursor to the filter-style of feeding that baleen species such as the humpback whale and blue whale are known for today. A huge mouth, loose lower jaw and baleen (a hair-like structure inside the mouth that serves as a sieve) are vital for species such as the blue whale to be able to strain sea water and consume as much as 3000kg of krill per day.

The first baleen whales had a wide upper jaw, but they didn’t have baleen. Erich argues that while this huge mouth may have evolved millions of years ago, it wasn’t necessarily part of the evolutionary trend towards adapting to filter-feeding. Rather, it allowed early baleen whales to hoover up prey such as squid, large fish, sharks or even penguins, into their mouths.

Full story…

The Chronicle –

About 28,000 kilograms of pesticides enter the Great Barrier Reef annually, a new report shows.

The overall health and water quality of the reef has been rated as moderate in the federal and Queensland governments’ first report card into the reef’s health.

The report, released on Friday afternoon, is based on 2008 to 2009 data and does not include the effects of Cyclone Yasi and Queensland’s floods.

Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke said it’s an important step to monitoring the impact of runoff and sediment on the reef.

The report found 14 million tonnes of sediment from human activities wash into the world’s largest coral reef every year.

The greatest amount of sediment comes from cattle farms in the Burdekin and Fitzroy regions in central and north Queensland.

But the majority of the 28,000 kilograms of pesticide runoff comes from the Mackay and Whitsunday sugarcane farming region in north Queensland.

Full story…