May 13, 2009
You might think it would be hard for one of the world’s largest fish to hide for months at a time. But the whereabouts of the 32-foot (10-meter) long basking shark for half the year have long been a mystery to humans.
The massive sharks, aka Cetorhinus maximus, are a fairly common sight along the East Coast of the U.S. in summer and fall. But then they practically vanish.
Researchers assumed the sharks, which peacefully feed on plankton near the sea surface much of the year, were simply hibernating offshore. Not so, it turns out.
Sharks tagged off the coast of Massachusetts headed south—way south—for the winter. Most cruised down to the Caribbean, and some ventured as far as Venezuela and the mouth of the Amazon River, says a study published earlier this month in Current Biology.
Mar 2, 2009 | 11
A 300 million-year-old fossilized fish brain was discovered during a routine computed tomography (CT) scan, according to a study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Until now, scientists assumed that brains rarely—if ever—turned into fossils. Other soft tissue fossils, such as muscles and kidneys, have been found that date back longer than 350 million years ago, but because the brain is delicate and consists mostly of water, it's much less likely to be preserved in fossil form, says study co-author John Maisey, a curator in the paleontology division of the American Museum of Natural History in New York. But "It's more than just a curiosity," he says. "Modern technology has revealed a fossil that we really didn't know about before." High-powered scans using x-ray synchrotron microtomography (which, like a CT, uses x-rays to image cross-sections of an object) allowed scientists to peer into the rock-solid skull to see the 0.06-by-0.28-inch (1.5 by 7 mm) brain.
Oct 10, 2008
An Atlantic blacktip shark spontaneously reproduced without the company of a mate, scientists report in the second documented case of the phenomenon.
Five-foot-long (1.5-meter) Tidbit, the ironically named resident of the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center in Virginia Beach, Va., spawned on her own — no male assistance involved, according to Reuters. Sadly, Tidbit died in May 2007 during a veterinary checkup, before birthing her until-then unknown 10-inch-long shark pup. The case is published in the new issue of the Journal of Fish Biology.
Scientists last year wrote about an asexual hammerhead shark that reproduced on its own, a process called parthenogenesis in which unfertilized eggs divide. Bony fish, reptiles, birds, lizards and Komodo dragons also can reproduce asexually.
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