The ocean is teeming with viruses — billions and billions of them

A new study has identified 12 times as many viral populations as previous research.

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  • New research suggests that there are nearly 200,000 different viral populations in the ocean.
  • Surprisingly, the Arctic appears to be a viral hotspot.
  • Viruses play an important role in the ocean's food chain and carbon cycle, making research such as this potentially valuable to future climate change work.
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Surprising Science

Remembering Peregocetus pacificus — modern whales' otter-like ancestor

The new fossil offers insight into when whales returned to the oceans millions of years ago.

Reconstruction by A. Gennari in Lambert et al., 2019
  • Researchers discovered a fossil of a four-legged, amphibious whale off the coast of Peru.
  • The fossil is among the oldest of its kind at 42.6 million years old, and its skeletal structure offers insights into the transition of whales back into the ocean.
  • One of the more exciting findings is that this species suggests that these ancient whales came to South America by swimming across the Atlantic Ocean from Africa and spread across the globe from there.
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Surprising Science

Why the ocean you know and love won’t exist in 50 years

Can sensitive coral reefs survive another human generation?

  • Coral reefs may not be able to survive another human decade because of the environmental stress we have placed on them, says author David Wallace-Wells. He posits that without meaningful changes to policies, the trend of them dying out, even in light of recent advances, will continue.
  • The World Wildlife Fund says that 60 percent of all vertebrate mammals have died since just 1970. On top of this, recent studies suggest that insect populations may have fallen by as much as 75 percent over the last few decades.
  • If it were not for our oceans, the planet would probably be already several degrees warmer than it is today due to the emissions we've expelled into the atmosphere.
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Videos

Herodotus’ mystery vessel turns out to have been real

Archeologists had been doubtful since no such ship had ever been found.

(Christoph Gerigk © Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation)
  • In 450 BCE, Greek historian Herodotus described a barge that's never been found.
  • When the ancient port of Thonis-Heracleion was discovered, some 70 sunken ships were found resting in its waters.
  • One boat, Ship 17, uncannily matches the Herodotus' description.
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Surprising Science

How a wee Scottish village is shining a light — literally — on rising seas

At high tide each night, bright lights predict the underwater future.

(Niittyvirta/Aho)
  • Lochmaddy is a seaside village sitting at the encroaching edge of the North Atlantic.
  • Artists dazzling lights depict the town's submerged future as the oceans continue rising.
  • It's an unsettling visualization of global warming's impact.
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Technology & Innovation