Havre Daily News - News you can use

By Pam Burke 

View from the North 40: Newsflash: Nature does not disappoint


This has been a completely weird decade so far this year, even if you only look at what nature has given us: A viral pandemic, murder hornets, 18 inches of snow in June, a major waterway failure in our state, a broken dam elsewhere, a lunar eclipse, a solar eclipse coming, some sort of alignment with the moon, and a couple planets or with its reiki chakrahs in the seventh house or something, killer tornadoes and several earthquakes centered in Yellowstone.

I was trying to just be thankful that at least I don’t live in the Middle East where people have been dealing with a locust swarm or Africa with its Ebola outbreak, but still, there had to be good news involving nature somewhere.

In fact, scientists have been studying a small deep sea creature to discover how its natural body functions make itself a house-like structure as often as once a day.

The Associated Press said last week that researchers at Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute have been studying to see how the tadpole-like giant larvacean, which grows up to 4 inches long, builds its complex architectural structure. Researchers said they want to further human construction science and methodology, maybe even for NASA building a structure on the moon.

It’ll be interesting to see how bioengineers translate the giant larvacean’s building techniques for human use because their structures, which are the equivalent to a complex, five-story home, into use by humans since the sea creatures’ homes are made entirely out of snot.

I kid you not.

Snot, the article says. Mucus when they’re quoting the scientists.

These so-called “snot palaces” — AP’s quotes, not mine — protect the sea creature from predators, funnel and filter food for them, and do some environmentally friendly carbon collection.

The giant larvaceans and their snot houses “are like an alien life form, made almost entirely out of water, yet crafted with complexity and purpose. They remind me of a cross between a living veil and a high-tech filter pump,” said Dalhousie University marine biologist Boris Worm, who wasn’t part of the study.

And, no, I did not make that up, but I had to use the quote because a marine biologist named Worm is priceless. Right?

The carbon and any bits and bobs, like microplastics, stuck in the snot just get shed like a dirty shirt on laundry day, and, Worm said, the ocean bottom dwellers eat the discarded snot shell.

So there’s that.

Kakani Katija, a bioengineer on the research team at Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, said they’re using remote cameras and lasers to study the creatures, which live in their opulent snot mansions from 650 to 1,300 feet deep off Monterey Bey in Northern California. The structures, Katija said, could be the most complex animal-made structure out there.

They do it by secreting mucous from cells on their heads, which they expand like a balloon to more than 3 feet wide. It’s hard to decide which factoid in that last sentence to emphasize. Let’s just go with the implied information that the creature happily, usefully, swims around in a big wad of its snot all day.

So far the scientists have had to study the animals in their ocean environment rather than the lab because the slimy gunk- and water-filled, five-story palatial homes are too fragile to pick up.

My prediction, though, is that they will get a giant larvacean with its precious snot palace intact into a lab before 2020 is out.

The way this year is going, the wimpiest, nerdiest geek on the research team will be staying late one night. And just as that scientist bends over their perfect specimen, an earthquake will jostle the scientist who will lose his or her footing, then fall face first into the snot balloon. Just as the researcher’s forehead bumps against the giant larvacean’s mucus-maker, lightning will strike, fusing the two together on a microscopic level.

Our first real-life fusion of beings will then roam the earth mindlessly sucking humans — and some nasty carbon — into its snot filters and dumping its self clean every day. The first superhuman will be a giant snot machine.

Sounds about right for 2020.


You know what I’m talking about. Most of you just nodded your head and said, “Oh yeah, that makes sense,” at http://www.facebook.com/viewfromthenorth40 .


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