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Blizzards of the Deep — Part 1

Which would we rather — more electric cars or more octopuses? What do we do when reversing climate change conflicts with preserving biodiversity?

Aliens of the Ocean

The octopus is a most unusual deep dweller. Its large brain and sophisticated nervous system, camera-like eyes, flexible body that can squeeze through very small openings, and ability to instantaneously switch color and shape are just a few of the striking features that appeared suddenly on the evolutionary scene and are not found together in any other creature. We know that octopusses (not octupi) come from the same biological line as nautilus, cuttlefish and squid, but they are so genetically different that it has opened some interesting questions about their origins. In June 2016, a number of web sites reported that researchers had examined octopus DNA and discovered it was either “alien” or “from space.” This was a bit overstated. The source, an article in the journal Nature, actually said that octopuses have a genome that yields an unprecedented level of complexity, composed of 33,000 protein-coding genes. This number is well beyond the number that can be found in a human being, so one scientist humorously compared it to an alien, which started the rumor.

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Snow

What we have come to call marine snow is actually tiny bits of dead plants and animals, feces and plastic that fall like snowflakes from the surface and upper layers of the ocean. Some animals, like jellyfish, vampire squid, and sea urchins rely on this snow for food. Others rely on whalefalls, which is literally what it sounds like. When a whale or other large fish or mammal dies near the surface, its carcass drifts to the bottom where it becomes food for thousands of bottom dwellers, sometimes for many years. If there are more deaths of marine animals now from climate change, poisons, oil spills, radioactivity and other human-caused disasters, it stands to reason these are banquet years at the bottom of the sea. But then what?

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Written by

Emergency Planetary Technician and Climate Science Wonk — using naturopathic remedies to recover the Holocene without geoengineering or ponzinomics.

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