Tag Archives: Cave

Genetics help fish thrive in toxic environments, collaborative study finds

Atlantic Molly, extremophile.

In my underground wanderings I have on one occasion stumbled upon what we believed to be hydrosulfuric acid.  It is pretty nasty stuff. The room, deep in a mine, was eerily decorated with odd formations and crystalline growths, and had pools of blood red liquid on the floor. We discovered several dead bats and decided to get out of there, though our gas detector was not reading anything out of the ordinary.

A 10 year study has just discovered some answers about how organisms can live in these harsh conditions. For example, the Atlantic Molly.

The tiny Atlantic molly can live in small puddles of toxic or nontoxic water. Using genomic tools, the researchers compared gene expression of the mollies living in toxic hydrogen sulfide environments with those mollies living in nontoxic environments just a few yards away.

They found that the fish have a two-pronged approach to survival: They become inert to the toxins that enter the body and they are able to detoxify hydrogen sulfide more efficiently.

Hydrogen sulfide shuts down energy production in cells by interfering with specific proteins. The fish combat this challenge by using anaerobic metabolism, which is an alternative — although much less efficient — way to produce energy and does not involve oxygen.

The scientists found that about 170 of the fish’s 35,000 or so genes were turned on, or upregulated, to detoxify and remove the hydrogen sulfide. The poison invades the fishes’ bodies, but their changed proteins help the fish break down the hydrogen sulfide into nontoxic forms and excrete it.

Want to learn more? Head on over to Kansas State University’s website. Pretty interesting findings.

Sterkfontein Caves produce two new hominin fossils

Bones found in the Sterkfontein Caves. Photo by Witts University.
Bones found in the Sterkfontein Caves. Photo by Witts University.

From Wits University:

Two new hominin fossils have been found in a previously uninvestigated chamber in the Sterkfontein Caves, just North West of Johannesburg in South Africa.

The two new specimens, a finger bone and a molar, are part of a set of four specimens, which seem to be from early hominins that can be associated with early stone tool-bearing sediments that entered the cave more than two million years ago.

“The specimens are exciting not only because they are associated with early stone tools, but also because they possess a mixture of intriguing features that raise many more questions than they give answers,” says lead researcher Dr Dominic Stratford, a lecturer at the Wits School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental studies, and research coordinator at the Sterkfontein Caves.

– See more at: http://www.wits.ac.za/news/latest-news/research-news/2016/2016-02/sterkfontein-caves-produce-two-new-hominin-fossils.html#sthash.dNY2KWcH.dpuf

Kayaking in a Cave

Drones, kayaks, and caves. A great combo in this recently released video by Ryan Deboodt. He says:

Shot during a two day kayaking trip, this film takes you on a journey through Tham Khoun Xe on the Xe Bang Fai River.

Tham Khoun Xe is a river cave carved by the mighty Xe Bang Fai River and is located in Hin Nam No National Protected Area in central Laos. At 7 km long and with an average width and height of 76m and 56m respectively, it is considered one of the largest active river caves in the world.

From the Adventure Journal:

The cave is more than four miles long and averages about 250 feet wide and 120 feet tall. Locals have fished near its entrance for centuries and climbed the walls to gather eggs from bird’s nests. Paddling it isn’t new, either—the first Europeans came in 1904 and the first raft journey came just a year later. Tham Khoun Xe was then closed to outsiders for nearly a century, until opening to kayaking 10 years ago.

Tham Khoun Xe from Ryan Deboodt on Vimeo.