Monday, October 22, 2018

Enipniastes Eximia, The "Headless Chicken Monster" from the Deep

New underwater camera technology developed by Australian researchers is shining a light on previously unseen species in the Southern Ocean to help improve marine conservation.

For the first time, a deep-sea swimming sea cucumber, Enypniastes eximia, also known as a “headless chicken monster”, has been filmed in Southern Ocean waters off East Antarctica.

The unusual creature, which has only ever been filmed before in the Gulf of Mexico, was discovered using an underwater camera system developed for commercial long-line fishing by the Australian Antarctic Division.

Enipniastes eximia, the "headless chicken monster" 
Photo: NOAA

Australian Antarctic Division Program Leader Dr Dirk Welsford, said the cameras are capturing important data which is being fed into the international body managing the Southern Ocean, the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).

“The housing that protects the camera and electronics is designed to attach to toothfish longlines in the Southern Ocean, so it needs to be extremely durable,” Dr Welsford said.

“We needed something that could be thrown from the side of a boat, and would continue operating reliably under extreme pressure in the pitch black for long periods of time.”

“Some of the footage we are getting back from the cameras is breathtaking, including species we have never seen in this part of the world.”
Credit: Australian Antarctic Division

“Most importantly, the cameras are providing important information about areas of sea floor that can withstand this type of fishing, and sensitive areas that should be avoided.”

Dr Welsford said other CCAMLR nations, such as Chile, France, and the United Kingdom are now also using the super-strengthened devices, which are fabricated at the AAD’s headquarters in Tasmania.

“It’s a really simple and practical solution which is directly contributing to improving sustainable fishing practices,” Dr Welsford said.

The data collected from the cameras are being presented at the annual CCAMLR meeting starting in Hobart tomorrow.

Australia’s CCAMLR Commissioner, Ms Gillian Slocum, said Australia will continue to lead on the most pressing issues facing the Southern Ocean, including biodiversity conservation, climate change and science-based fisheries management.

“Australia will again be seeking support for the creation of a new East Antarctic Marine Protected Area,” Ms Slocum said.

“We will also support two other new Marine Protected Areas being proposed this year which will contribute to CCAMLR’s commitment of a representative system of MPAs in the Southern Ocean.”

These proposals are among a number of measures Australia will put forward during the 10-day meeting, including proposals to improve the way CCAMLR responds to the impacts of climate change.

“The Southern Ocean is home to an incredible abundance and variety of marine life, including commercially sought-after species, the harvesting of which must be carefully managed for future generations,” Ms Slocum said.

Contacts and sources: 
Australian Antarctic Division

Humans and Neanderthals Share Rock Art Gallery in The Cave Las Ventanas

Humans and Neanderthals may have interacted in Spain in southwest Europe, according to the art on the cave wall. 

A paper has just been published in PLOS ONE which confirms an age of 35,000 years for the oldest engravings found in The Cave Las Ventanas located in Granada (Spain)

According to the authors, "The south of Iberia conserves an important group of Palaeolithic rock art sites. The graphisms have been mostly attributed to the Solutrean and Magdalenian periods, while the possibility that older remains exist has provoked extensive debate. This circumstance has been linked to both the cited periods, until recently, due to the transition from the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic in the extreme southwest of Europe as well as the non-existence of some of the early periods of Palaeolithic art documented in northern Iberia"

The Solutrean toolkit includes the world's earliest identifiable sewing needles.

Their study presents the results of interdisciplinary research conducted in Las Ventanas Cave. These results enabled us to identify a new Palaeolithic rock art site. The technical, stylistic and temporal traits point to certain similarities with the range of exterior deep engravings in Cantabrian Palaeolithic rock art. Ventanas appears to corroborate the age attributed to those kinds of graphic expression and points to the early arrival of the Upper Palaeolithic in the south of Iberia. 

Importantly, the results provide information on the pre-Solutrean date attributed to trilinear hind figures. These findings challenge the supposed Neanderthal survival idea at one of the main late Middle Palaeolithic southern Iberian sites (Carigüela) and, due to the parallels between them and an engraving attributed to this period in Gibraltar, it raises the possibility of interaction between modern humans and Neanderthals in the extreme southwest of Europe.

The Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre la Evolución Humana (CENIEH) has participated in a study led by the Universidad de Sevilla and published in the journal PLOS ONE, on the Paleolithic engravings in the cave Las Ventanas , one of the highest sites (at 1015 meters) where rock art has been found in the Iberian Peninsula.

Landscape of Andalusia, view from the caves of Las Ventanas, Pinar.
File:Landscape andalusia pinar.jpg
Credit: Jebulon / Wikimedia Commons

The Uranium Series Laboratory of the CENIEH has collaborated in establishing the chronological framework, and an age of 35,000 years has been confirmed for the oldest rock art found in this cave in the province of Granada, situated in the Sierra de Arana (Píñar).

“The dates we have obtained at the CENIEH, using multi-collector plasma source mass spectrometry, confirm the results of the carbon-14 analysis, using accelerator mass spectrometry, helping to underpin the ages calculated", comments Fernando Jiménez Barrido, from the Uranium Series Laboratory.

Fernando Jiménez Barredo a the URanium Series Laboratory

Credit: CENIEH

Specifically, two groups of engravings of different ages have been found: one dating from between the end of the Pleistocene and the start of the Holocene (8,500 – 15,000 years ago), and another going as far back as 35,000 years.

The technical and thematic “proximity” between the hundreds of engravings in this cave may open up, with all due caution, a way of identifying possible interactions between modern humans and Neanderthals.

Contacts and sources:     .

Citation:   Pre-Solutrean rock art in southernmost Europe: Evidence from Las Ventanas Cave (Andalusia, Spain)
Cortés-Sánchez M, Riquelme-Cantal JA, Simón-Vallejo MD, Parrilla Giráldez R, Odriozola CP, et al. (2018) Pre-Solutrean rock art in southernmost Europe: Evidence from Las Ventanas Cave (Andalusia, Spain). PLOS ONE 13(10): e0204651.   .