Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Hidden sponges determine coral reef's nutrient cycle?

No it is not about Tampax. "Marine organisms hidden in caves, such as sponges, play an extremely important role in the nutrient cycle of coral reefs. Indeed they probably play the most important role of all, says Dutch biologist Sander Scheffers. And that is valuable information for nature conservationists who want to preserve the coral reefs." This information was published in a doctoral thesis this September which I am sure presents high quality research. I did not get to read the thesis yet, but was puzzled by this news release of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research. The research was carried on the Caribbean island of Curaçao, probably because there are no outstanding ecological issues around Dutch flatlands. (Wait, the island IS Dutch and is in the Netherland's Antilles off the coast of Venezuela. Together with Aruba which has separated itself from the Netherlands Antilles, they form part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands). Reading further: "The films shot revealed that sponges were the most important inhabitants,  followed by animals such as tube worms, tunicates and bivalves. Together they fill more than 60 percent of the cavities ... [skipped] ... According to Scheffers, these hidden organisms play a key role in the marine nutrient cycle due to their incredible capacity to convert enormous quantities of organic plankton into inorganic material." Now this is groundbreaking (is this not what corals and pretty much any other marine animals do?).

It could be my black bile, or the cold weather OUTSIDE of Antilles. Rather, it's the dumbed-down style of the newsflash.      

Late necrologue for Kaiko

I did not know this, but Japanese deep-sea ROV Kaiko is lost. Was lost as far back as 2003.

"With a typhoon bearing down, the operators of the ship Kairei made what seemed the sensible decision: they hauled in their lines and planned to leave the area. Only these were no ordinary fishing lines, but a kilometres-long stretch of cable leading to the world's deepest-diving submersible. And when Kairei's crew winched up the last of the cable, something was missing — the vehicle on the end, whose line had apparently snapped. The future of deep-sea exploration darkened a bit on that stormy day in 2003. The Kairei's submersible, Kaiko, was the star not only of the Japan Agency for Marine−Earth Science and Technology but of the world's entire deep-diving fleet. In 1995, Kaiko had touched down on the bottom of the Challenger Deep in the Marianas Trench, 11,000 metres beneath the waves. It was only the second time a submersible had visited the legendary deep, and a first for a robotic craft."

Nature News' "Marine technology: Back to the bottom" uses Kaiko as a vehicle for discussing the future of HROVs - Hybrid Remotely Operated Vehicles. Just read it.