How oceanic evolution took a left turn 170 million years ago

New research reveals a major shift in what pressures life used to face.

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash
  • For the vast majority of the evolutionary history of ocean life, sudden changes in climate and oceanic chemistry had a huge impact on what life could flourish and what life could not.
  • But about 170 million years ago, this changed. The ocean became more stable, and things like predator-prey relationships started to dominate how life evolved.
  • The reason for this sudden change? Calcifying plankton came to dominate the oceans.
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Surprising Science

Study explains exactly why captivity is bad for orcas

A comprehensive interdisciplinary paper removes any doubt that orcas don't belong in marine parks and zoos.

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  • Researchers present a detailed catalogue of the hardships captive orcas face and the damage done to them.
  • The study draws parallels between known human chronic stresses and entertainment and research facility conditions.
  • The evidence offers a damning response to perplexed apologies offered by proprietors of such parks, aquariums, and zoos when an orca dies.
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Surprising Science

Climate change may bring acidic oceans full of jellyfish

One often-neglected result of climate change is ocean acidification. If this process continues, we may start to see fewer fish and more jellyfish.

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  • Since the beginning of the industrial era, humanity has been pumping out unprecedented levels of CO2 into the atmosphere.
  • A significant portion of this CO2 is sucked back into the ocean, where it reacts with water to produce carbonic acid.
  • Most species fair poorly in the newly acidic ocean. Jellyfish, however, seem to resist ocean acidification more than others.
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Surprising Science

Scientists map great white shark genome, revealing clues about cancer and healing wounds

Can learning about the great white shark help protect us from cancer?

(Photo: Lalo Saidy / Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
  • Scientists have mapped the entire genome of the great white shark.
  • The team found genetic adaptations that seem to help the fish preserve and repair its genome, clues that may help us better understand why sharks rarely get cancer.
  • The team also identified several gene pathways that might also help explain the fish's extraordinary wound-healing capabilities.
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Surprising Science

Behold, close-ups of the sand from around the cosmos

Think you've seen sand? You haven't seen sand.

Image source: Evil Minion on Shutterstock
  • Microscopic photography exposes the beauty and strangeness of sand.
  • Water wave action produces a startling variety of sand grains.
  • That stuff between your toes is a lot more interesting than you might think.
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