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May 27, 2020

Dying Coral Reefs Turning Neon


From msn.com:

For years, coral reefs around the world have been devastated by mass bleaching events as the oceans continue to warm due to climate change.

Corals stand little chance of bouncing back from these events — but a new study suggests they have an unusual survival method: taking on a vibrant neon color. 

When bleaching events occur, extended heat spikes cause corals to turn a ghostly white, often leading to their death.

But "colorful bleaching" has the opposite effect: the dying corals gain more pigment, and glow in shades of bright pink, purple, and orange.

Screen Shot 2020-05-26 at 8.34.19 AM

Scientists first spotted the mysterious neon coral a decade ago, but they had been unable to figure out why it occurred.

A new study, published last week in the journal Current Biology, suggests the corals change color as a last-ditch effort to survive.

Coral animals symbiotically coexist with tiny algae, providing them with shelter, nutrients, and carbon dioxide in exchange for their photosynthetic powers.

Even slight increases in annual ocean temperatures can wreak havoc on this relationship, expelling the algae from the coral's tissue and exposing its white skeleton.

After the coral is exposed, it often breaks down and dies, altering the ecosystem for the diverse array of life that relies on it.

Researchers at the University of Southampton's Coral Reef Laboratory studied 15 colorful bleaching events worldwide between 2010 and 2019 — including one in the Great Barrier Reef, the world's largest coral reef system — and recreated those ocean temperatures in a lab.

They found that colorful bleaching events occur when corals produce "what is effectively a sunscreen layer" on their surface to protect against harmful rays and create a glowing display that researchers believe encourages algae to return.

They describe the process as a "chilling, beautiful, and heartbreaking" final cry for help as the coral attempts to grab the algae's attention.

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"Our research shows colorful bleaching involves a self-regulating mechanism, a so-called optical feedback loop, which involves both partners of the symbiosis," lead researcher Professor Jörg Wiedenmann of the University of Southampton said in a press release.

"The resulting sunscreen layer will subsequently promote the return of the symbionts. As the recovering algal population starts taking up the light for their photosynthesis again, the light levels inside the coral will drop and the coral cells will lower the production of the colorful pigments to their normal level."

Coral reefs support more species per unit area than any other marine environment, including about 4,000 species of fish, 800 species of hard corals, and potentially millions of other undiscovered species, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Disruptions to coral reefs have far reaching implications for ocean ecosystems. 

It's not just warming oceans that cause colorful bleaching. 

Researchers say changes in nutrient levels within coral reefs due to fertilizer run-off from farms also lead to bleaching events — a problem that can be fixed at the local level. 

Experts believe only coral that has faced mild or brief disturbances, rather than extreme mass bleaching events, can attempt to save itself using this process.

These corals can still undergo some of their normal functions for a short period of time as they hope their algae come back — whereas drastic changes in ocean temperature almost always lead to coral death. 

Reports of colorful bleaching during the most recent mass bleaching event in the Great Barrier Reef in March and April gave scientists hope that patches of the system have a chance to recover. 

Bleaching is not always a death sentence for corals, the coral animal can still be alive," said Dr. Cecilia D'Angelo, a molecular coral biology lecturer at the University of Southampton. "If the stress event is mild enough, corals can re-establish the symbiosis with their algal partner."

Bleaching events used to be few and far between, but they now occur nearly every year.

In 2017 alone, nearly half the corals on the Great Barrier Reef died — and experts say we are running out of time to save them. 

"Unfortunately, recent episodes of global bleaching caused by unusually warm water have resulted in high coral mortality, leaving the world's coral reefs struggling for survival," D'Angelo said. 

Scientists emphasized that while colorful bleaching is a good sign, only a significant reduction of greenhouse gases globally — in addition to improvement in local water quality — can save coral reefs beyond this century. 

"Now that we know that nutrient levels can affect colorful bleaching too, we can more easily pinpoint cases where heat stress might have been aggravated by poor water quality," researchers said. "This can be managed locally, whereas the ocean heat waves caused by climate change will need global leadership. Together, these actions can secure a future for coral reefs."

Below, the abstract of the scientific paper describing reporting the findings above.

Optical Feedback Loop Involving Dinoflagellate Symbiont and Scleractinian Host Drives Colorful Coral Bleaching

Coral bleaching, caused by the loss of brownish-colored dinoflagellate photosymbionts from the host tissue of reef-building corals, is a major threat to reef survival. Occasionally, bleached corals become exceptionally colorful rather than white. These colors derive from photoprotective green fluorescent protein (GFP)-like pigments produced by the coral host. There is currently no consensus regarding what causes colorful bleaching events and what the consequences for the corals are. Here, we document that colorful bleaching events are a recurring phenomenon in reef regions around the globe. Our analysis of temperature conditions associated with colorful bleaching events suggests that corals develop extreme coloration within 2 to 3 weeks after exposure to mild or temporary heat stress. We demonstrate that the increase of light fluxes in symbiont-depleted tissue promoted by reflection of the incident light from the coral skeleton induces strong expression of the photoprotective coral host pigments. We describe an optical feedback loop involving both partners of the association, discussing that the mitigation of light stress offered by host pigments could facilitate recolonization of bleached tissue by symbionts. Our data indicate that colorful bleaching has the potential to identify local environmental factors, such as nutrient stress, that can exacerbate the impact of elevated temperatures on corals, to indicate the severity of heat stress experienced by corals and to gauge their post-stress recovery potential.


Read the paper in its entirety here.

May 27, 2020 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)


May 27, 2020 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sutton Hoo Helmet


Below, the introduction to a detailed Wikipedia article about this iconic object.

The Sutton Hoo Helmet is a decorated and ornate Anglo-Saxon helmet found during a 1939 excavation of the Sutton Hoo ship burial.

It was buried around 625 C.E. and is widely believed to have belonged to King Rædwald of East Anglia; its elaborate decoration may have given it a secondary function akin to a crown.

The helmet was both a functional piece of armor that would have offered considerable protection if ever used in warfare, and a decorative, prestigious piece of extravagant metalwork.

It is described as the "most iconic object from "one of the most spectacular archaeological discoveries ever made," perhaps the most important Anglo-Saxon artifact.

The visage contains eyebrows, a nose, and mustache, creating the image of a man joined by a dragon's head to become a soaring dragon with outstretched wings.

It has become a symbol of the Dark Ages.

It was excavated as hundreds of rusted fragments, and was first displayed following an initial reconstruction in 1945–46, and then in its present form after a second reconstruction in 1970–71.

The helmet and the other artifacts from the site were determined the property of Edith Pretty, owner of the land on which they were found.

She donated them to the British Museum, where the helmet is on permanent display in Room 41.

May 27, 2020 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Call My Agent"

This is a welcome change of pace from my usual diet of thrillers and espionage.

A very sharply observed and written three-season series (six episodes apiece) set in a Paris-based actors' agency, featuring four wonderful lead characters and any number of other players none of whom I'd ever heard of nor seen before.

All manner of surprising plot twists and turns and a lot of very nasty and funny dialogue.

On Netflix.

May 27, 2020 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Limited-Edition Bell & Ross BR 03-92 HUD


From the Robb Report:

Even though it was founded in 1992, Bell & Ross cemented its place in the luxury watch industry in 2005, when it introduced the BR 01, a square, aviation-inspired mechanical watch designed to look as if it had been yanked out of a cockpit.

With its chunky case, spare dial design and signature sans-serif typeface — the emphasis always on readability — the BR 01 established the French brand as a serious contender in the world of Swiss watchmaking.

Now, 15 years later, Bell & Ross is embracing its roots as a maker of military instruments with a new take on its iconic old style.

Known as the BR 03-92 HUD, the automatic model is named for the Heads Up Display, or HUD, the transparent screen that displays mission-critical information to pilots within their line of sight.

The piece ups the ante on legibility thanks to its green-tinted details, including the ring around the sapphire crystal, the four brackets that evoke the corners of the computer-like display, green and black minute and second hands, and a green triangle marker that indicates the hours, rendered as rounded Arabic numerals.

To mimic the fluorescence of the HUD digital display, the model is coated — on its hour numerals, indices, and triangle — with a generous amount of Super-LumiNova C3, made all the more dramatic by the backdrop, a 42 mm anti-reflective matte black case.

The piece comes on a black rubber strap as well as an ultra-resilient black synthetic fabric strap.

The BR 03-92 HUD is available for pre-order in a limited edition of 999 pieces.

It retails for $3,990 and will be in stores as of early June.


Apply within.

May 27, 2020 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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