Chinese fishery installs immense floating solar farm for extra income

February 6, 2017 by  
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A fishery in eastern China now doubles as a solar power station. An immense array of photovoltaic panels has been installed across 300 hectares to generate not only clean electricity , but additional money for the fishery. Lines of solar panels stretch over the waters of a fishery in Cixi City, which is in the Zhejiang Province in eastern China . People’s Daily Online reports with a 200 megawatt (MW) capacity, it is the biggest solar power station constructed on a fish farm in the country. The panels will be connected to the state grid and will provide the fishery with an annual income of 240 million RMB, which is around $34 million. Fish should still be able to thrive in the waters underneath the panels; People’s Daily Online says the panels will provide shade, but PV Magazine also noted they were intentionally spaced out to allow sunlight to filter through, which is necessary for the fish to grow. Related: $11 million floating solar testbed in Singapore will be the largest in the world The huge station can generate enough power for 100,000 households, and could maybe even replace 7.4 tons of coal, according to People’s Daily Online. The solar panels should generate an impressive 220 million kilowatt-hours of electricity every year. PV Magazine reports there’s a similar 120 MW installation in China in the Jiangxi Province, but clearly the Cixi City project is much larger. The new solar system certainly wasn’t cheap; it cost 1.8 billion RMB, or $260 million. But Electrek reports the floating solar farm will pay for itself in about seven or eight years. The fishery turned renewable energy plant could offer a model for other fisheries or coastal areas around the world; PV Magazine reports construction just finished in late 2016, so it’s time to see how the fish farm functions with solar panels atop their pond. Via Electrek , People’s Daily Online , and PV Magazine Images via Max Pixel and screenshot

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We might be descended from this horrifying sea creature with no anus

February 1, 2017 by  
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If you’re looking for new nightmare fuel beyond, oh we don’t know, the dissolution of democracy as we know it, meet Saccorhytus , a tiny H.R. Giger-esque monstrosity that scientists say could be our earliest-known ancestor. Going back some 540 million years, it’s also believed to be the most primitive example we have to date of a deuterostome — a member of a broad category of animals that includes everything from sea urchins to vertebrates like us. The species, which comprised an elliptical body no more than a millimeter long, a large mouth, and apparently no anus, is new to science. We were only made aware of this lurking horror in our evolutionary past because a group of academics unearthed about 45 microfossils in central China’s Shaanxi Province. While the original finds, which look like they’re frozen in mid-scream, are pretty horrifying in and of themselves, the artist’s reconstruction is the gift that keeps on giving. “We think that as an early deuterostome this may represent the primitive beginnings of a very diverse range of species, including ourselves,” Simon Conway Morris, a professor of evolutionary palaeobiology at the University of Cambridge and a member of the team, said in a statement. “To the naked eye, the fossils we studied look like tiny black grains, but under the microscope the level of detail is jaw-dropping. All deuterostomes had a common ancestor, and we think that is what we are looking at here.” Related: Four-legged prehistoric snake offers clues about the reptile’s evolution Saccorhytus , the researchers speculate in the journal Nature , lived in what would have been a shallow sea during the early Cambrian period. It was so small that it probably lived between individual grains of sediment on the sea bed, where it hoovered up food with its capacious maw. Cone-shaped spouts on its body may have allowed it to disgorge any water it swallowed, much like gills on the fish we see today. If the creature had an anus, the scientists were unable to find it. Conceivably, Saccorhytus’s mouth went both ways. “If that was the case, then any waste material would simply have been taken out back through the mouth, which from our perspective sounds rather unappealing,” Conway Morris said. As long as it doesn’t show up to any family reunions, we’ll be OK. + University of Cambridge

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We might be descended from this horrifying sea creature with no anus

Aquarium Zebra shark learns how to reproduce without her male partner

January 17, 2017 by  
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A female zebra shark ( Stegostoma fasciatum ) in Australia has learned to live, and reproduce, without a male counterpart. The shark, which lives in an aquarium , is one of only three animals documented that once reproduced sexually – she had a male partner for around 13 years – and then switched to reproducing asexually. Now scientists are now wondering if this phenomenon is more common than we thought. Leonie the zebra shark had a male partner from 1999 to 2012 at a Townsville, Australia aquarium, and they had over two dozen babies. When her partner was moved to a different tank, Leonie spent around four years by herself, until she gave birth to three surprise baby sharks in 2016. She’d lacked contact with any males for those four years. Scientists initially thought perhaps she’d saved sperm from the former male partner, but genetic testing revealed the three babies only had DNA from their mother. Related: Researchers record fish “singing” choruses at the break of dawn in Australia Sharks can reproduce asexually when an adjacent cell called a polar body fertilizes an egg, and it could be that is what happened with Leonie. The mechanism isn’t optimal, as it can lead to inbreeding, but could be employed by sharks when there aren’t any males around. Lead author on a study published by Scientific Reports , Christine Dudgeon of The University of Queensland , told New Scientist, “It’s not a strategy for surviving many generations because it reduces genetic diversity and adaptability. It might be a holding-on mechanism. Mum’s genes get passed down from female to female until there are males available to mate with.” Some species such as other sharks, snakes, rays, turkeys, and Komodo dragons are capable of reproducing both asexually and sexually, but asexual reproduction usually happens in females that have never reproduced sexually. The only other female animals recorded switching from sexual to asexual reproduction are a boa constrictor and an eagle ray; both lived in captivity. But it could be this anomaly actually occurs more frequently than we realized. Dudgeon said perhaps we just haven’t been looking. Via New Scientist Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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Aquarium Zebra shark learns how to reproduce without her male partner

Researchers record fish "singing" choruses at the break of dawn in Australia

September 23, 2016 by  
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Fish don’t just sing in cartoons or picture books – it turns out their choruses can also be heard in the coastal waters of Western Australia , especially at dawn or sunset. Curtin University researchers captured seven distinct melodies, and say the fish songs could help us better understand their ecosystems . Four researchers from Curtin University’s Centre for Marine Science and Technology wrote a research article published this month in the journal Bioacoustics . They recorded fish sounds near Port Hedland for 18 months. Sorting through sounds of ships and humpback whales, they managed to extract the fish choruses, which happened mostly between ” late spring and early autumn ,” the area’s wet season. Related: 400-year-old Arctic shark is the oldest living vertebrate animal in the world The songs swell as each fish repeats a noise over and over, and the sounds layered over one another create the chorus. The fish even sing at daybreak, at sunset, or at both times as birds might. The information on patterns and locations of these fish calls could give us deeper insight into their intricate ecosystems. Noises like these are important to fish as they feed, stake out their territory, or reproduce. Scientist Robert McCauley who is a co-author of the paper told New Scientist, “I’ve been listening to fish squawks, burble, and pops for nearly 30 years now, and they still amaze me with their variety. We are only just beginning to appreciate the complexity involved and still have only a crude idea of what is going on in the undersea acoustic environment.” You can listen to the fish choruses here . The sounds you’ll hear come from the Black Jewfish, which makes a “foghorn” sound; a Terapontid species making a sound like the “buzzer in the Operation board game” according to co-author Miles Parsons; and the “ba-ba-ba” sound of a batfish. Via New Scientist Images via gjhamley on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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Researchers record fish "singing" choruses at the break of dawn in Australia

Fish with "human-like teeth" spotted in Michigan lakes

August 18, 2016 by  
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The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recently reported finding fish with “human-like teeth” in southeastern Michigan lakes. Anglers spotted red-bellied pacu in Lake St. Clair and near Port Huron. While the sight of these unusual fish may be good for a giggle or a gasp, their presence in Michigan lakes points to a deeper issue. These unusual fish sport teeth eerily reminiscent of humans’ so they can eat seeds and nuts. While they’re not native to Michigan, DNR said they’re not invasive. They’re imported from South America, and their presence in Michigan lakes likely means aquarium owners dumped their pet fish into the lakes. Related: This friendly fish has visited a Japanese diver for 25 years The DNR took the opportunity to remind aquarium owners it’s illegal to release their fish without a permit, and that pet release of any kind is rarely the humane option. Aquatic Species and Regulatory Affairs Unit manager Nick Popoff said in a press release, “Pets released from confined, artificial environments are poorly equipped to fend off predators and may be unable to successfully forage for food or find shelter. Those that do succeed in the wild can spread exotic diseases to native animals. In the worst-case scenario, released animals can thrive and reproduce, upsetting natural ecosystems to the degree that these former pets become invasive species .” In the wild, the pacus probably wouldn’t survive frigid Michigan winters, but DNR said climate change could “increase the possibility” of their survival through the winter. The pacus may have been dumped because they outgrew their tanks or started to eat other aquarium fish, said Paige Filice, who works with the Reduce Invasive Pet and PLant Escapes (RIPPLE). She suggested that rather than dumping the fish in lakes, pacu owners could donate their fish to a zoo, aquarium, environmental learning center, or another hobbyist. She said some pet stores might take the fish back if an owner can no longer care for the pacu. + Michigan Department of Natural Resources Images via Michigan Department of Natural Resources , Henrik Carl, Natural History Museum of Denmark, and Wikimedia Commons

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Tiny birds nest tearoom roosts on a 300-year-old Camphor tree

August 18, 2016 by  
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Architect Hiroshi Nakamura drew inspiration for the Bird’s Nest Atami from crows that build their nests using clothes hangers, an approach he describes as “flying deftly across the dichotomy of natural and artificial…creating a functional and comfortable environment.” Those observations were applied to the design of the freestanding building that minimizes impact by avoiding contact with the 22-meter-tall camphor tree. Since the building site was set on a difficult steep slope, the treehouse was carefully inserted 10 meters off the ground using a combination of manpower, 3D modeling , and light structural elements that could be easily assembled and structurally sound. Related: Hiroshi Nakamura’s Nasu Tepee home features a cluster of timber-clad peaks mingling with the trees “It is architecture assembled by intertwining components small enough to carry,” writes Nakamura. “The architecture can adapt flexibly to the tree form (as opposed to “site form”) and melts into the forest crowded with dark branches.” The final result comprises a support structure made of wood and steel that culminates in the cozy Bird’s Nest Atami, mortared into the shape of a swallow’s nest with a cozy interior. A series of activities and other sprawling built spaces surround the raised teahouse, including a coffee stand, picnic area, and even zip lines . + Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP Via Colossal Images via Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP , by by Koji Fujii / Nacasa and Partners Inc.

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Tiny birds nest tearoom roosts on a 300-year-old Camphor tree

400-year-old Arctic shark is the oldest living vertebrate animal in the world

August 12, 2016 by  
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There’s a new contender for the oldest living vertebrate animal on Earth. 11 scientists from institutions around the world used radiocarbon dating to determine that a Greenland shark is roughly 400-years-old – blowing previous records out of the water. According to the IUCN Red List , Greenland sharks are near threatened. They’re found in the Arctic Seas, and the scientists described them as an ” iconic species .” Mystery shrouds the sharks; for example the IUCN assessment says we don’t know how often they can reproduce or the duration of their gestation period. Related: Airbnb is offering a night in an underwater bedroom surrounded by 35 sharks Shark expert Steven Campana of the University of Iceland told The Guardian, ” Fish biologists have tried to determine the age and longevity of Greenland sharks for decades, but without success. Given that this shark is the apex predator (king of the food chain) in Arctic waters, it is almost unbelievable that we didn’t know whether the shark lives for 20 years, or for 1,000 years.” The scientists were able to approximate the staggering ages of these majestic predators with a unique method. They applied radiocarbon dating to protein in the eyes of 28 female Greenland sharks, caught during 2010 to 2013. The journal Science published the scientists’ research today. The scientists considered atomic bomb testing, which raised carbon-14 levels in Earth’s atmosphere, when making their calculations. The 1950’s carbon-14 jump acts as a “time-stamp” to help the scientists determine the age of the sharks. Two of the sharks caught were likely born after the 1960’s, but all the other sharks appeared to have been born before that date. Based on the carbon dating and approximations of the growth of Greenland sharks, the scientists determined age ranges for the old sharks. The oldest, a shark over 16 feet long, is about 392 years old, but could be as young as 272 or as old as 512. Via The Guardian Images via screenshot

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Microplastics are killing fish faster than they can reproduce

June 8, 2016 by  
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There are 5 trillion pieces of plastic floating around in the Earth’s oceans, many of which are microplastics no larger than 5 mm large. These tiny particles are being gobbled up by fish and killing them faster than they can reproduce . A new study found that consuming the plastic pieces also slows fish down and interferes with their natural abilities to sense oncoming predators. The study , published in Science , observed perch larvae and their eating habits. When in the presence of microplastics, such as microbeads , the little guys actually preferred eating these harmful morsels over their usual meals of plankton. Ingesting the plastics slowed down development and interfered with the chemical signals the fish rely upon to sense when deadly predators are near. When pike were introduced into habitats where perch had been munching on microplastics, the perch were four times more likely to be eaten than those in a more natural environment. Related: Sea turtles face growing danger due to plastic trash in Australian waters Not only does ingesting plastic impede digestive systems with the fish, as well as with seabirds and other creatures, it seems there are longer-lasting effects on how the fish behave. All of these effects combined lead to increased mortality rates. In fact, all of the fish exposed to microplastics in the study were dead within 48 hours. Oona Lönnstedt, one of the study’s authors, told The Guardian , “If early life-history stages of other species are similarly affected by microplastics, and this translates to increased mortality rates, the effects on aquatic ecosystems could be profound.” Via  The Guardian Images via Flickr ( 1 , 2 )

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Microplastics are killing fish faster than they can reproduce

Microplastics are killing fish faster than they can reproduce

June 8, 2016 by  
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There are 5 trillion pieces of plastic floating around in the Earth’s oceans, many of which are microplastics no larger than 5 mm large. These tiny particles are being gobbled up by fish and killing them faster than they can reproduce . A new study found that consuming the plastic pieces also slows fish down and interferes with their natural abilities to sense oncoming predators. The study , published in Science , observed perch larvae and their eating habits. When in the presence of microplastics, such as microbeads , the little guys actually preferred eating these harmful morsels over their usual meals of plankton. Ingesting the plastics slowed down development and interfered with the chemical signals the fish rely upon to sense when deadly predators are near. When pike were introduced into habitats where perch had been munching on microplastics, the perch were four times more likely to be eaten than those in a more natural environment. Related: Sea turtles face growing danger due to plastic trash in Australian waters Not only does ingesting plastic impede digestive systems with the fish, as well as with seabirds and other creatures, it seems there are longer-lasting effects on how the fish behave. All of these effects combined lead to increased mortality rates. In fact, all of the fish exposed to microplastics in the study were dead within 48 hours. Oona Lönnstedt, one of the study’s authors, told The Guardian , “If early life-history stages of other species are similarly affected by microplastics, and this translates to increased mortality rates, the effects on aquatic ecosystems could be profound.” Via  The Guardian Images via Flickr ( 1 , 2 )

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Microplastics are killing fish faster than they can reproduce

White Arkitekter wins bid to design Swedens tallest timber building

June 8, 2016 by  
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Located just below the Arctic Circle, the city of Skellefteå is surrounded by dense forests and renowned for its wooden buildings and timber construction techniques that range from traditional methods to modern technology. The 76-meter-tall Kulturhus i Skellefteå celebrates that heritage and will be built of locally sourced wood treated to withstand the harsh elements. The building’s lower, publicly accessible levels will be home to “Västerbottensteatern,” the county theater of Västerbotten; the City Library; the Anna Nordlander Museum; and “Konsthall,” Skellefteå’s art gallery. A hotel will occupy the top sixteen floors. Related: Vienna set to build the world’s tallest wooden skyscraper “A cultural centre in Skellefteå just has to be built using wood!” Said Oskar Norelius, lead architect at White. “We’re paying homage to the region’s rich tradition and we’re hoping to collaborate with the local timber industry. Together we will create a beautiful venue, open for everyone, which will both have a contemporary expression and age with grace.” The tower will be built with prefabricated glue-laminated timber modules reinforced with concrete slabs and steel trusses. Glazing will wrap around the building to offer stunning views of the landscape. The building will also be topped with a green roof and integrated with bicycle and pedestrian pathways. The building is slated for completion by 2019. + White Arkitekter Via Dezeen Images via White Arkitekter

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White Arkitekter wins bid to design Swedens tallest timber building

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