Sword-slashing sailfish hint at origins of cooperative hunting

Cooperation makes it happen. Sailfish that work together in groups to hunt sardines can catch more fish than if they hunt alone, even without a real coordinated strategy.

To catch their sardine dinner, a group of sailfish circle a school of sardines – known as a baitball – and break off a small section, driving it to the surface.

They then take turns attacking these sardines, slashing at them with their long sword-like bills, which account for a quarter of their total length of up to 3.5 metres. Knocking their prey off-balance makes them easier to grab.

These attacks only result in a catch about 25 per cent of the time, but they almost always injure several sardines. As the number of injured fish increases, it becomes ever easier for everyone to snag a meal. Read more in New Scientist.

Chimps and bonobos interbred and exchanged genes

Chimpanzees and their relatives bonobos are closer than we thought. Bonobos seem to have donated genes to chimps at least twice in the roughly two million years since they last shared an ancestor.

The two closely related apes have occasionally interbred in captivity, and bonobos are renowned for their free and easy sex life. But the finding that they interbred in the wild was unexpected. Read more in New Scientist.

Is This the Year Governments Protect Antarctica’s Seas?

The odds world governments will finally agree to establish marine protected areas in the Southern Ocean are looking better than ever.

The Southern Ocean around Antarctica is one of the most diverse, fragile, and poorly studied ocean ecosystems on Earth. But as far as marine protection goes, it’s the Wild West. That could soon change, as representatives from 24 countries plus the European Union sit down this week to discuss the establishment of three marine protected areas (MPAs) in the waters off Antarctica. If the proposed protections go through, they will be the first of their kind for Antarctica’s marine environment. Read more in Hakai Magazine.

Building better borders in Latin America

Illegal trading and the violence that can accompany it is a scourge along Latin America’s borders, but researchers from across the region are working together to find ways to combat the problem.

Throughout much of Latin America, borders can be dangerous places. Smuggling, drug running and human trafficking are lucrative businesses — the United Nations estimates that the illegal drug trade in the region is worth $450 billion a year — and those that control it are not afraid to use violence to protect their investment.

It’s the people who live near borders that have to deal with the consequences of this violence, says Fernando Carrión, a researcher at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences in Quito, Ecuador. “Border towns suffer from murder, robbery and insecurity, which hinders local development and integration between countries,” he says. Read more in Canadian Geographic.

Islands to lose fresh water as rising seas sink them from within

Small island nations are among the countries most at risk from climate change, as rising sea levels threaten to swamp them and make their fresh water salty.

But they face another danger – the rising seas will cause them to lose their fresh water by pushing it above ground, where it gets evaporated. Read more in New Scientist.

Making Monster Waves in the Lab

Rogue waves are rare in nature, but new research is making them perfectly common.

They seem to come from nowhere, walls of water towering above the sea, and then disappear without a trace. Rogue waves can swamp huge ships, lighthouses, or offshore structures without warning, and are among the most terrifying threats facing people at sea.

Rogue waves—waves that are more than twice the height of the surrounding waves—have been blamed for many wrecks. Read more in Hakai Magazine.

Keeping Track of Deep-Sea Mining

A new website uses ship location data to track deep-sea mining exploration.

Mining companies have claimed more than a million square kilometers of ocean around the world and soon—maybe sooner than you think—will begin sending huge robotic diggers to grind up the seafloor and extract gold, copper, manganese, and other metals to feed our growing hunger for raw materials. Read more in Hakai.

Endangered frog recovers thanks to resistance to deadly fungus

For decades a deadly fungus has been slaughtering amphibians around the world, driving many to the brink of extinction or even beyond.

But now one frog’s recovery shows that, with a little luck and habitat preservation, some amphibians may be able to evolve resistance to the fungusRead more in New Scientist.

Physiology or Medicine Nobel Goes to Discovery of Cell’s Recycling Process

Yoshinori Ohsumi revealed workings of autophagy, a routine biological process implicated in many diseases.

The 2016 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine has been awarded to Japanese cell biologist Yoshinori Ohsumi of the Tokyo Institute for Technology for his discovery of how cells break down and recycle their own proteins and organelles, a process called “autophagy.” Read more in Inside Science.

Surfing on a turtle’s tail makes swinging crabs monogamous

Surfing the world’s oceans on the back of a turtle may sound like a life of luxury, but for a small crab it also means restricting itself to a single mate.

A species of small oceanic crab, Planes minutus often makes its home on the shells of loggerhead turtles. They tuck themselves into a tiny space above the turtle’s tail and below the shell, just the right size for a pair of crabs – a male and a female living in a simple monogamous relationship.

But these crabs will also make their homes on floating debris, where they nestle among stalked barnacles, and often enjoy a more swinging, polyamorous lifestyle. Read more in New Scientist.

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