Archive for July, 2010

Aliens in the deep

Imagine yourself exploring a world, where everything is surrounded by darkness and mystery. Suddenly, a kind of round white spaceship approach to you, it doors open and you find yourself face to face with an ghostly alien creature with transparent body, many arm finished by big claws, a greek helmet like head, and four huge composed eyes looking at you.

This is the Phronima. A crustacean of the family of Amphipods, which has adapted itself to survive in the dark world of the deep seas. Phronimas are predators, each specie specialized for hunting jelly animals like jellyfish, slaps, or ctenophores (comb jellies). Some of them life in the bottom and some other swims looking for they preys, using a really amazing strategy

After catching a prey enough big for their purposes, they eat only the inner part of it leaving the external part intact and finally they make holes as entrance and exit of the structure. Now they have their own floating ship for traveling the oceans, where they can just worry about propelling it time to time, and wait in the entrance for any unsuspecting prey.

But, despite their aspect and macabre habits, they really love their children. Once the new floating house is ready, the females use it as nest for their eggs and hatchery for their larvae. There, the little ones are save, and their mother can bring them food until they could survive for their own.

Which other amazing mysteries can be seen in this dark deep world?


The Bacteria Hunter Virus

Since ancient times. People told stories about miraculous waters of specific pound and rivers with the ability to cure many kinds of sickness, but it was just until the twentieth century when the cause of this miracle was discovered.

If a virus was a tennis ball, a bacteria would be the entire tennis field. Formally called as Bacteriophages (bacteria eaters), these are an entire order or viruses with many identified species, al of them with the same goal: survive, multiply, and spread. But, as all the viruses, they can’t replicate by themselves. They need to use the reproductive systems of other living beings to do it. Some viruses chose animal cells for this purpose, other chose plants, fungus or protozoa. They, chose bacterias.

Bacteriophages are among the most common living beings on earth. They are everywhere bacterias are and each specie has specialized itself for invading an specific type of cell. When they find a bacteria of the kind they are specialized for. They land on it as a spaceship on a new planet and inject their DNA (or ARN)  through the cell wall. The genetic material replaces a part of the bacterial genes, making the victim to replicate the different parts of the virus as many times as possible. Finally, the new viruses assemble themselves and burst the bacteria from inside, getting free to to search new victims to invade.

Despite some successful research was made on this creatures as a cure for diseases, the discovery of antibiotics eclipsed this part of medical science just until some years ago, when bacterias started becoming more and more resistant. However while the west countries focused themselves in the research of antibiotics, the Soviet Union continued looking for new uses of bacteriophages and even using them on their armies as medicine. Is just now that these old archives of the cold war are being opened once again.

Could be this creatures the next phase of our fight against dead?

Version en espanol (spanish version)

The worm from the abyss

From 1500 meters to much deeper in the sea, where there is just darkness, high pressures and almost no oxygen, there also exist some impressive geological formations which comes from the deep of the earth. These formations are called Hydrotermal Vents. Geysers like natural chimneys which bring extremely hot water from inside earth, full of minerals and toxic gases like hydrogen sulfide (H2S).

But, here, there is life, lots of it. The high pressures here don’t allow the hot water to boil, and the minerals and gasses give living supplies for and amazing creature: the Riftia worms. These animals have no mouth or even a digestive system but they manage to get food for living. They born having a digestive system, which they use just to let enter and store and special kind of bacteria inside their bodies, and then, it modifies itself, to give these bacteria a friendly environment where to live. Then, the worm replace its mouth for a feather like organ which it uses to absorb the gases and minerals from the geiser. These minerals are transported by its blood to where the bacterias are, and finally, these tiny inhabitants transform the toxic elements into nutritive molecules which the worm can feed on. This is a symbiotic relation, where the worm gives protection and some of the molecules for the chemical reaction, and the bacteria provides food both.

These Riftia worms live in one of the most extreme environments known. But, they are notoriously successful here. They swarm by thousands, grow up to three meters and have no predators. The only thing they have to do if disturbed, is just to hide their feathers inside their protective tubes, made on chitin. This is why they are a meaningful example of why live is always exploring new habitats.

But the most important, the discovering of creatures like them, changed dramatically the known concepts of live.

Version en espanol (spanish version)