#bone eating worms
Bone-eating worms have been munching on the skeletons of dead whales (and most likely the ancestors of whales) for tens of millions of years. But they were only discovered back in 2012. Robert Vrijenhoek was exploring the floor of Monterey Bay in a submarine when he came upon a whale carcass:
"One of the first things we noticed during that first dive were large white mats of bacteria that were decomposing tissue and other parts of the carcass. A little octopus had taken up residence in a ‘cave’ created by the hole in the back of the whale’s skull. Below the octopus’ lair was a pile of crab legs and other crab parts. He was having a great time picking off the bright red lithodid crabs that were crawling all over the carcass, bringing the crabs back to his home, and dropping the debris on his doorstep. So this dead whale had become a little self-contained ecosystem, complete with predators, decomposers, and bacteria."
"But the other thing we noticed was the proliferation of these little red worm-like creatures. They were all over the bones. They were growing like crazy, carpeting the remaining whale bones. The worms had short trunks topped by red plumes, and were about an inch or two in height. There were thousands of them waving in the current. It was really fascinating to watch."
A few of these worm species have been described now, all under the genus “Osedax” (which means bone-eater). They’re part of the final chapter in the after life of a whale — gathering up the last remaining nutrients and reducing the skeleton to dust.
One of my favorite animals. I got to write about them on Cracked!
Sadly, it’s thought to be quite likely that there used to be more species of them before whale populations were so reduced by hunting.
#you are made of star stuff!
This is StarStuff.
The cloudy, nebulousness of this vial are nanodiamonds, carbon molecules only a thousand atoms strong, bonded together. During the formation of our solar system a cloud of dust ballooned from the collapse of a massive molecular cloud and was circling around what would be our new, baby sun. These carbon atoms were trapped within larger molecules and compounds and became inclusions, embedded within meteorites which would become evidence of the earliest solids that condensed from the cooling of protoplanetary disks.
The Field Museum has part of the oldest known meteorite - the Allende meteorite - from which these carbon nanodiamonds were extracted through chemical processes developed by Philipp Heck, our Curator of Meteoritics. We know how old the solar system is by dating these inclusions from the Allende meteorite, giving us an estimate that our solar system is 4.567 billion years old. The carbon atoms I’m holding in the above photo are, in a sense, our greatest ancestor, and ultimately became the building blocks for all life on our planet.
TL;DR I’m holding our greatest ancestor in the palm of my hand.
"Men who want to be feminists do not need to be given a space in feminism. They need to take the space they have in society & make it feminist."
There is a culture of acceptance around mental health issues in academia →
#i am kind of scared to start grad school
#for exactly this reason
Important read in The Guardian
It’s time to end the academic culture that says working yourself to sickness means you’re just working hard enough. It’s time to end the culture that says taking time for yourself and your own health comes at the expense of doing good work. It’s time to end the culture that says sleep deprivation, anxiety attacks, and binge drinking are just part of the game. It’s time to end the culture that says if you’re not getting along with your mentor, then it’s all your fault. It’s time to end the culture that says advisors and faculty don’t have to take responsibility for the health of their students. It’s time to end the culture that says seeking help means you’re weak, or a bad researcher.
I’m not afraid to admit that this is an issue that touched my life during my Ph.D. Thankfully I had amazing friends and family outside my program to help me through tough times. But I know that not everyone has a support system like mine. I also watched in sadness when, after a fellow Ph.D. student committed suicide, our program, university, and health services did nothing to acknowledge that it happened, or that the culture of academia could have contributed to it, and (as far as any of us have been able to tell), has done little if anything to stop it from happening again.
Some graduate programs are putting better student support systems in place, and for every bad advisor we can find an exception that cares and helps their students to the utmost of their ability. But academia, overall, still possesses a culture of acceptance and ignorance when it comes to mental health issues, especially in graduate programs.
It’s time to end that culture.