January 21, 2014

The mysterious creature in question.     Photo: Courtesy of Stewart Fraser

Fisherman Captures Mystery Creature

Large, translucent shrimp-like animal caught off New Zealand

What manner of abomination hath the ocean wrought?

This was just one of many thoughts that were likely rocketing through New Zealand fisherman Stewart Fraser's head when he pulled a bizarre, translucent, shrimp-like creature from the water.

Fraser was fishing with his sons 43 miles from New Zealand's Karikari Peninsula when he saw the gelatinous alien form. "I was in two minds whether to haul it in, but curiosity got the better of me, and I decided to take a closer look," Fraser told Mail Online. "It felt scaly and was quite firm, almost jelly like, and you couldn't see anything inside aside from this orange little blob inside it."

Although Fraser and his friends were stumped, scientists who have seen the photos believe the creature might be a salpa maggiore. "Little is known about these salps," says National Marine Aquarium Director Paul Cox. "However, they are often found in colder seas, with the most abundant concentration found in the Southern Ocean."

Salps tend to roam the upper layers of the ocean where sunlight can still penetrate. They move by straining water through their gelatinous bodies, feeding on phytoplankton and other small bits of organic matter. The ghostly appearance is believed to be a form of camouflage for the otherwise defenseless creature.

They are also known for their unique life cycle, during which they will exist both as individuals and part of an aggregate organism. In the group portion of their cycle, salps will form a massive chain, moving, feeding, and growing together. It's during this phase that the salps, sequential hermaphrodites by nature, reproduce, with an older male chain fertilizing a younger female one.

What else waiting for us deeper down in the dark?

A salp chain in the Red Sea.   Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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The U.S. will not take chances on security in Sochi     Photo: Purestock/Thinkstock

U.S. To Send Warships to Sochi

Contingency plan for American athletes and staff

After months of security concerns surrounding the Sochi Olympics, the U.S. will send several warships and aircraft to Russia as a contingency plan for American athletes and officials.

The announcement comes shortly after a recently released terrorist video that references an attack during the games. A militant group from North Caucasus has reportedly been linked to the video, which has sparked an enormous security response from Russia. More than 100,000 police, army, and other security officials have been sent to Sochi, where restrictions are already tight.

With President Vladimir Putin’s leadership, Russian officials will have drones in the sky, a missile defense system, and even a computer-monitoring program to track every call and email within the limits of Sochi, according to ABC News.   

Meanwhile, Putin has guaranteed snow, and lots of it. In addition to the 500,000 cubic meters of natural snow that's been stockpiled under special tarps, Sochi now has one of the most advanced snow-making systems on the planet, complete with 450 snow-machines.  

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Sjinkie Knegt flips the double bird at the Russian victor of the 5000-meter relay race last weekend.     Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Skater Flips Double Bird at Rival

Disqualified from race

Dutch speed skater Sjinkie Knegt might well be the angriest athlete on ice.

Knegt vented his frustration last weekend after losing the 5,000-meter relay to Victor Ahn, a three-time gold medalist from Russia, by flipping the double bird. The Dutch team was disqualified from the ISU European Short Track Speed Skating Championships due to his actions, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

The middle-finger salute also cost Knegt the bronze medal at the event, which is the final major tournament before the athletes head to Sochi.

“Of course I'm sorry," he told Dutch media after returning home, adding that it was done "out of emotion and frustration.”

The double bird could appear again when Knegt and Ahn face off next month during the Winter Olympic Games.

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Downtown Los Angeles choked in smog.     Photo: Matt Gush/iStockphoto

China's Pollution Taints U.S. Air

Study measures bad air blowing across Pacific

Second-hand pollution wafting from China leads to at least one extra day per year of ozone smog for Los Angeles residents, and accounts for as much as a quarter of the sulfate pollution on the West Coast, according new scientific research.

The paper, co-authored by Chinese, British, and American earth scientists, was published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday. The study is the first to quantify how emissions produced in the manufacturing of cell phones, televisions, and other consumer items in China reach the American West Coast.

Annual average percent of black carbon pollution related to Chinese exports.   Photo: Courtesy of University of California, Irvine

Ironically, American's affinity for cheaply-produced Chinese products is directly responsible for Chinese pollutants breathed on U.S. soil. The study estimates that exported goods contribute to as much as one-third of the air pollution in China.

"When you buy a product at Wal-Mart," study co-author and UC-Irvine associate professor Steve Davis said in a statement, "it has to be manufactured somewhere. The product doesn’t contain the pollution, but creating it caused the pollution.”

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Strong winds will keep surfers off of unusually large waves.     Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Surfers Miss Out on Big Waves

Tournament postponed due to strong winds

This week, the biggest waves since 2004 will hit Hawaiian shores, but surfers won't be anywhere near them.

Forecasters predict 40-to-50-foot-high waves on Oahu's north shore tomorrow, which coincides with the Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau big wave invitational. Organizers, however, have postponed the competition because they expect strong winds to interfere with the quality of the unusually large waves.

Organizers pledge to wait for "just one day of quality surf" with 40-foot waves before the end of the event, which covers a three-month window spanning December to February.

The invitational is not annual, having occurred eight times since its creation in 1984. Greg Long took home the top prize in December 2009, the last time the event was held. It honors Eddie Aikau, an Oahu lifeguard and big wave surfer who disappeared in 1978 while canoeing from Hawaii to Tahiti.

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