RECENTLY IN SCIENCE: Killer Sponges, Ancient Shrimp And A Super Tiny Fossil Galaxy

I missed the blood moon.

Apr 18, 2014 at 5:00pm | Leave a comment

I have a dream, my babies. My dream is to one day find an article about life on Mars that isn't super lame. THEN, and only then, will I title an article "IS THERE LIFE ON MAAAAAAAAAAAAAARS???" and make a million Bowie references. But that day is not today, for the most recent "life on mars" article was pretty lame.

Oh well. 

In the mean time, here are bunch of science stories that I didn't think were lame at all:

Did any of you see the Blood Moon?

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Photo by Alex Scott

I was going to watch it, but then I watched a documentary and forgot all about it and now I'm sad. It looks like it was really pretty.

Fossil galaxy may be the oldest galaxy in the universe

A super tiny galaxy circling the Milky Way may be the oldest galaxy ever. How tiny you ask? Tiny like "on Orion's belt" tiny?

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Not that tiny. Image Credit: Sony Pictures

No. Not that tiny. The galaxy known as Segue 1 possesses a few hundred stars. For comparison, the Milky Way is comprised of hundreds of billions. SUCK IT Segue 1.

So why do scientists think this galaxy is so old? For one thing, it's extremely metal poor. When researchers led by Anna Frebel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology collect detailed information on six of the brightest stars in the galaxy, they found that they were mostly comprised of hydrogen and helium, with some trace amounts of metals such as iron. Because complex atoms are forged by the nuclear fusion of more basic atoms (such as hydrogen and helium) the lack of other metal indicates that this is a very unevolved galaxy.

"Segue 1 is so ridiculously metal-poor that we suspect at least a couple of the stars are direct descendants of the first stars ever to blow up in the universe," says study co-author Evan Kirby of the University of California, Irvine.

Something about "the first stars to ever blow up in the universe" gives me chills! Can you imagine??

Ancient shrimp has the oldest known cardiovascular system

 According to Reuters, a 520-million year old shrimp has been found to have possessed the oldest cardiovascular system scientists have ever seen. Named Fuxianhuia protensa, this ancient arthropod was found in the Yunnan province of southwestern China and dates from the "Cambrian Explosion," a period noted for the rapid appearance of most major animal phyla.

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 Dorsal view of the shrimp in question. Photo credit: REUTERS/XIAOYA MA/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS

Why do we care? For one, it is rare to find more delicate, soft-tissue systems so well preserved: 

"It is an extremely rare and unusual case that such a delicate organ system can be preserved in one of the oldest fossils and in exquisite detail," study researcher Xiaoya Ma, a paleontologist at the Natural History Museum in London, told Reuters. "However, under very exceptionally circumstances, soft tissue and anatomical organ systems can also be preserved in fossils."

And of course, it's interesting from an evolutionary standpoint:

"It shows that already 520 million years ago, such a system had evolved considerable complexity, particularly with respect to the rich vascularization in the head. This suggests that the brain of this species required a good supply of oxygen for its performance," said University of Arizona neuroscientist Nicholas Strausfeld, another of the researchers.

Hopefully this discovery will help scientists nail down when exactly systems such as the circulatory system first developed. 

This cool video lets you SEE SOUND without synesthesia (something I have always wanted)


Neat!

Biologists have discovered and detailed four new "killer sponges."

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Murderous sponge Image: © 2006 MBARI

These carnivorous sponges are twig-like in appearance and seem to be covered in tiny hairs. These "hairs" are actually bundles of microscopic hooks that can trap smaller sea creatures such as poor little baby shrimps. Once the poor unfortunate soul is trapped, the sponge's cells begin to engulf and digest it. Days later, our shrimp is a literal shell of its formal self.

Saturn is expecting a moon

According to new findings by NASA’s Cassini-Huygens space probe just published in the journal Icarus, baby moon 63 may be on its way. It is currently nicknamed "Peggy."

Saturn's rings, made of ice, rock and dust, are thought to be a kind of "moon nursery" where little moon fetuses coalesce and clump until they have enough mass to break out of the rings and become moons.

We have not seen anything like this before,” said astronomer Carl Murray, the lead author of the Icarus study, in a statement. “We may be looking at the act of birth, where this object is leaving the rings and heading off to be a moon in its own right.

But Peggy might be the last of the line, as Saturn's rings are believed to now be mostly depleted of moon-forming material. It's apparently enough to keep the ring system going, but not enough for any more moons. Sixty-three is probably enough though, right?

What science-y things did you read this week? Did you get any good pics of the Blood Moon?