Boating is fun and relaxing, but even if you've never thought of it before, it is quite damaging for the hapless wildlife in the “Silent World” undersea. Since the year 2000, researchers have identified a myriad of environmental hazards associated with boating, which might have us re-appraising how we ride our boats in the water.
Sound is important for the survival of marine animals
Sound is the primary and the most efficient means of communication underwater. Most animals survive on the acoustic cues to hunt prey, find their mates and locate their homes, communicate, and warn each other of potential predators. On the other hand, sounds released by human activities and watercraft interfere with or mask the ability of marine animals to hear the natural or biotic sounds in the marine environment; thus, we call it oceanic noise pollution.
Over the past centennial, an increased rate of shipping, recreational boating, and deep-sea exploration along coasts and offshore environments has been fueled in parts by technology. And the sonorous noise from these activities travels a long way underwater.
Such noises adversely affect the abilities of marine animals to communicate with their mates, offspring, and other group members. There is no denying that this noise is masking not only the environmental cues vital for their survival but a concomitant change in ocean noise levels is also reported in several regions worldwide.
I will get over the impacts of boat noises on echolocation shortly. Let’s first familiarize ourselves with different sources of sound in the ocean or sea and how animals use these sounds to better understand the damage caused.
Sources of sounds in the marine environment
In a new study, Christine Erbe and her colleagues studied the effects of ship noise on marine animals. The team summarized different sources of sound undersea and the significance and impact of sound on marine organisms. Both biotic and abiotic sounds are present in the underwater environment.
Biotic sources include fish, invertebrates, marine mammals, and other marine organisms. These sounds are essential to communication and orientation, for finding mate and prey, and echolocation.
Abiotic sources, which provide important information about surrounding environments, can be categorized as natural background sound and anthropogenic sound.
Typical background sounds include the sound of sea waves crashing on the coast, currents moving over the reef, raindrops on the ocean surface, tides, oceanic turbulence, and the sound produced by seaquakes and submarine volcanoes eruptions.
The most used costume for any Halloween party is a spider. According to Google Trend stats, spider costumes are 87th most searched. These several leg creatures have been long used to make the audience believe that the darkroom on the big cinema screen is real and creepy. For several centuries spiders have been the symbol of creepiness. But hold that thought these spiders are so much more than just an epitome of horror.
What are spiders?
Belonging to arachnids, they are a special class of arthropods. Other members of this class are mites, ticks, and scorpions. With more than 45,000 known species of spiders, these arthropods have homes all around the world. They come in a variety of shapes and abilities. Some are cannibals that look like pelicans and some can even jump on demand. The tinnitus spiders are tiny samoan moss spiders and the largest one is goliath birdeater tarantula. It is big enough to feast upon frogs and rodents.
Oceans cover more than 70% of the earth’s environment. This fact makes understanding the habitual situations of the creatures that reside there all the more inevitable. We, humans, claim that we know so much about the world and the creatures that call this place home. But that is so not true. Our knowledge about our earth is insubstantial. We might have subdued the terrestrial ecosystems, but we are far from claiming that we know all of it.
Know about the Deep Sea more closely
The search for the unknown is deep-rooted inside the human brain. Deep-sea is one such region that is majorly unknown to the human race. This zone has always piqued the curiosity in humans and yet there is little to no information about this region.
The absence of sunlight, low temperatures, and painfully high water pressures are some of the highlights of how tough life is under the darkest shades of blue. At a depth of approximately 1000 m, when even the sunrays fail to penetrate the water column, the existence of life becomes questionable, but not for these creatures. Imagine a pressure of three subways being laid on you that is the type of pressure that we are talking about. Amazing, right?!
Today we will be taking a ride to one of the darkest, resilient, and largely absent from the human eye region that is still a mystery to the human mind.
Beavers, Castor canadensis, are semi-aquatic rodents who build dams. They are also the national animal of Canada. Beavers occur naturally in North America, where they have predators, including wolves and coyotes. And also, rodents were heavily hunted for their fur, which caused their number to dwindle rapidly. To prevent this, there was a ban imposed on hunting these creatures. Their number grew back to normal, but the fur industry took a big hit. In 1948, there was a need to boost the fur industry. So ten pairs were brought to Argentina and set free in Lake Fagnano. From there, they spread along the Beagle Channel, and now, a voracious beaver colony has been established on the Brunswick Peninsula in Chile, South America. While the pelt project for spurring trade never really took off, the beavers did. Since they were protected from hunting for the last 35 years and there were also no natural predators in South America, they sprouted rapidly. And the results are disastrous.
Beavers are the keystone species in South America
There are two types of beavers, one is present in Eurasia, Castor fiber, and the second the Castor canadensis, which is in North America was introduced in Canada in the 1940s. Beavers have been roaming North America for over 7 million years, a period long enough for native flora and fauna to know their teeth. Willow can now resprout its stems successfully, and Cottonwoods produce distasteful tannins to deter chewing.
In South America, beavers act as the keystone species, an organism that sustains the entire ecosystem. And, the presence or absence of that particular species would dramatically alter the food webs and affect the ecosystem.
No matter how much you want to believe that most species sleep when we do, they don't! Nocturnal species are animals that are active at night. They sleep during the day and wake up at night. Their rhythm is set according to the changes in the day and night. The behavioral and biological activities like sleep-wake cycles, hunting, predation, breeding, reproduction, migration, etc., in many nocturnal animal species, are regulated by cues from light from natural light. Thus, their life functions are greatly affected by the nighttime metropolitan lights.
We have already discussed the general impacts of artificial lighting on wildlife here, but we rarely consider the fact that we need to protect dark skies in order to conserve wildlife, particularly nocturnal species. In this piece, we are going to have a detailed look at the impacts of nighttime lighting on nocturnal species and what we can do to conserve dark skies.
For thousands of years, the moon and stars were the primary sources of nighttime illumination. Now we humans have built huge cities and metropolitans which bustle with nightlife. The rapid urbanization by man is the key source of light pollution. We have harnessed energy in various forms. One of those forms is to use electricity to light up our spaces. But as human encroachment increases, ecosystems are getting disrupted.
Conforming to the World Atlas of Artificial Night Sky Brightness and National Geographic, 83 percent of the world’s population lives under skyglow. And about 99 percent of the population in the world’s most industrialized regions, the United States and Europe, can’t enjoy a natural night.
This excessive artificial light has compromised the lives and, most importantly, the pattern of life of animals, mainly nocturnal species. Hunters have adapted and evolved to see in the lowest of light, or they have strengthened their other systems like the hearing to catch their prey. The animals who are hunted have befriended shadows and have learned to use them to protect themselves from getting eaten.
The people of the world get into accidents and other traumas, some of which affect their spine, leading to spinal cord injuries (SCI). This damage to the spine leads to other disabilities like paralysis and lifelong back pain. These people with spinal cord injuries are more likely to die early and have a very high chance of being bed-ridden with some other complication of the injury. As for the treatment options, there are not many by traditional conservative medicine. Spine injuries are usually fixed by surgeries, and they, too, don't have a high success rate. So scientists are always on the lookout for some out-of-the-book solution that will help them understand the healing process and resolve the issues patients have been suffering; a treatment with no severe long-term complications, minimal hospital stay, and even minimal chance of relapse of the condition.
From horseshoe crab blood to limb regeneration in Axolotls, many inspirations can be found in marine ecosystems where animals show remarkable healing capacities. Another such example in marine life is lampreys. Sea Lamprey is a non-mammalian model for spinal cord regeneration. Nature has demonstrated successful regeneration for centuries, and Morgan et al. tested this capability by experimenting on sea lampreys. The team discovered that humans share genes with eel-like species that, if activated, could help us reverse spinal cord damage, even paralysis!
The horrifying subject
The lamprey in Latin means “stone licker” because of their characteristic long funnel-shaped face, with a mouth that pays homage to horror movies. Sea Lampreys are part of a very ancient lineage of the order of jawless fishes and are placed in the superclass of Cyclostomata. But they are not fishes; they belong to an ancient group which means they do not have scales, fins, or gills. Morphological records of this living fossil indicate that its physical features (size, shape, and structure) have been largely unchanged for about 400 million years.
Boar, hog, pig, or swine; wild or feral!
Whatever you call it, they all wallow in mud and destroy vegetation. Though they are all biological descendants of Sus scrofa, they can be differentiated depending on their genetics and environment. A pig is usually referred to as the barnyard variety; a boar is a non-castrated male that lives in the wild, a hog is simply a large pig or boar, and a piglet is a juvenile swine. And what about the wild and feral acronyms? All wild pigs are generally known as wild boars, however, escaped domesticated pigs are strictly called feral pigs or feral swine. They're not true boars as they belong to the subspecies Sus scrofa domesticus. Now, coming to the wild boars of the United States, they are a mixture of domestic breeds and European wild boars. When these two races mix, they produce what's called super-pigs. And the problem with these hybrids is you get all of the best benefits of each breed.
Six million to nine million wild boars are wreaking havoc in at least 39 states and four Canadian provinces, half of them inflicting damages worth $400 million annually in Texas alone. They destroy recreational areas, frightening tourists in state and national parks occasionally and squeezing out other animals.
Radioactive pollution results from harmful radiations emitted from radioactive substances. The sources of radiation can be natural (82%) and anthropogenic (18%).
Radioactivity is not an alien concept. We are naturally exposed to radiation from radioactive minerals within the earth’s crust as well as from outside the earth, and from outer space (cosmic rays). Radioisotopes like carbon 14, potassium 40, radon 222, radium 224, uranium 235, and uranium 238 occur abundantly in rock, soil, and water. We breathe radiative gases, and we have radioactive substances in our bodies. We are exposed to various low levels of radiation from man-made sources in our homes, schools, and offices. The most common of these exposures is medical-X-rays; radiation used to diagnose diseases. On average, a person is exposed to about 350 millirems (US unit of effective dose) of nuclear radiation per year in the US.
According to the legend, oyster fishermen only, unwittingly, doubled their trouble by cutting and disposing of any starfish they dredged up back into the ocean. Why, because starfish can regenerate their lost limbs. So do salamanders, newts, and many other amphibians who sacrifice a part of their body or entire limb to escape predators. And, that too, without any trace of scar tissue.
Regenerative adaptations might seem oddly comical; much like Marvel’s superhero Wolverine, which can regrow its lost tissues and limbs after horrific battles. These biological traits are useful in the real world, particularly in the animal kingdom, where the resources are scarce and competition is intense. It can be quite a good idea to shed your skin or lop off a part of yourself, and then regrow it, rather than be eaten up by your predator.
Mammals, however, are not so fortunate. When any of us get injured or lose our body parts, we do so permanently. The only exception here is African spiny mice, Acomys, which can regrow its lost skin and seal small holes in its ears thanks to its unique gene expression. The study of Acomys might provide us with the means to better understand this incredible healing power.
No matter how many times you have heard it, we will say it anyway. Zero waste is the need of the hour and is the ultimate way to save both the human race and the environment. There is not a single day that goes without us witnessing or hearing something bad that is happening to the environment.
From wildfires to the extinction of species, the environment is going through some of the worst phases of its existence. But have you ever wondered about what productive steps you can take to do something valuable for your environment?
If you haven't, there is a blog for this thought. We will be discussing this revolutionary step towards the environment and its restoration that is Zero waste living in great lengths because the devil is in the details!
Zero waste… know about it a little more!