Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Explosion kills one at Austrian gas distribution centre.

One person has died and at least 21 more have been injured following an explosion at a gas-processing plant at Baumgarten in Austria on Tuesday 12 December 2017. The incident happened at about 8.45 am local time, and triggered a fire which swept through the plant, which is operated by Austrian gas company Gas Connect, and caries natural gas supplied by Russia's Gazprom to Austria and countries to the south. The cause of the blast has not yet been established.

Column of fire over the Baumgarten Gas-hub following an explosion on 12 December 2017. Tomáš Hulik/Reuters.

The explosion has caused immediate concerns about gas supplies to southern Europe, with Italy declaring a state of emergency after retail gas prices rose 97% in twenty four hours, and supplies to Croatia, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia are also threatened. The incident has effected even parts of Europe not directly supplied through the Baumgarten plant, with gas prices up 35% in the UK, Europe's largest consumer of natural gas, though this partly due to technical problems interrupting supplies from both the British and Norwegian North Sea Oilfields.

See also...

http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2017/11/seven-dead-as-north-sea-storm-herwart.htmlhttp://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2017/09/understanding-deposition-of-suevites-in.html
http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2017/09/gaseous-emissions-kill-three-family.htmlhttp://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2017/08/earthquake-kills-two-in-italian-island.html
http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2017/08/eight-missing-after-landslide-in.htmlhttp://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2017/03/eight-injured-following-phraetic.html
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Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Magnitude 5.9 Earthquake in Kerman Province, Iran.

The United States Geological Survey recorded a Magnitude 5.9 Earthquake at a depth of 10.0 km about 56 to the northeast of the city of Kerman, the Iranian province of the same name, slightly before 12.15 pm local time (slightly before 8.45 am GMT) on Tuesday 12 December 2017. The was felt across much of Iran, and is reported to have destroyed more than 50 houses, as well as injuring at least 43 people, though none of those injured is described as being in a life-threatening condition.

The approximate location of the 12 December 2017 Kerman Earthquake. USGS.

Iran is situated on the southern margin of the Eurasian Plate. Immediately to the south lies the Arabian Plate, which is being pushed northward by the impact of Africa from the south. This has created a zone of faulting and fold mountains along the southwest coast of the country, known as the Zagros Thrust Belt, while to the northeast of this the geology is dominated by three large tectonic blocks, the Central Iran, Lut and Helmand, which move separately in response to pressure from the south, stretching and compressing the rock layers close to the surface and creating frequent Earthquakes, some of which can be very large.

The movement of the Arabian Plate and extent of the Zagros Thrust Belt. Rasoul Sorkhabi/Geo ExPro.

To the northeast of this the geology is dominated by three large tectonic blocks, the Central Iran, Lut and Helmand, which move separately in response to pressure from the south, stretching and compressing the rock layers close to the surface and again creating frequent Earthquakes.

The population of Iran is particularly at risk from Earthquakes as, unlike most other Earthquake-prone nations, very few buildings in the country are quake-resistant. The majority of residential buildings in Iran are made of mud-brick, a building material particularly vulnerable to Earthquakes as the bricks often liquefy, trapping people inside and quickly asphyxiating them with dust. This is particularly dangerous at night when the majority of people are inside sleeping.

 Section through the Zagros Fold Belt. Sarkarinejad & Azizi (2007).

Witness accounts of Earthquakes can help geologists to understand these events, and the structures that cause them. The international non-profit organisation Earthquake Report is interested in hearing from people who may have felt this event; if you felt this quake then you can report it to Earthquake Report here.
 
See also...
 
http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2017/08/magnitude-52-earthquake-in-hormozgan.html
http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2017/11/magnitude-73-earthquake-in-kermanshah.html
 
http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/twenty-one-confirmed-fatalities.html
http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/twenty-one-confirmed-fatalities.html
http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/magnitude-44-earthquake-in-khuzestan.html
http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/magnitude-50-earthquake-on-coast-of.html

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Parapercis altipinnis: A new species of Sandperch from Cebu Island, the Philippines

Sandperch, Pinguipedidae, are usually small, elongate, spiny fish in the Perch order. They are often brightly coloured and live close to the seafloor, where they feed on Crustaceans and other invertebrates. Male Sandperch are often territorial, defending a harem of females. Some forms excavate burrows.

In a paper published in the journal Zootaxa on 2 November 2017, Hsuan-Ching Mo of the  National Museum of Marine Biology & Aquarium in Pingtung, Taiwan, and the Institute of Marine Biology at the National Dong Hwa University, and Miranda Van Heden of Heusden in Belgium, describe a new species of Sandperch from Cebu Island in the Philippines.

The new species is placed in the genus Parapercis, and given the specific name altipinnis, meaning 'long-fin', in reference to the unusually high dorsal fin of this species. The species is described from a single specimen obtained by Miranda Van Heden from De Jong Marinelife, and initially confirmed as species by Hsuan-Ching Mo from a photograph sent to him. The specimen is 50.3 mm in length, reddish in colour above and black below, with a pattern of irregular deep coloured saddles, bars, dots and white patches. It was reportedly obtained at a depth of between 55 and 65 m. 

Living or fresh coloration of Parapercis altipinnis. Miranda Van Heden in Ho & Van Heden (2017).

Sandperch of the genus Parapercis are protogynous, which is to say individuals start out as female and become male as they mature. The single known specimen of Parapercis altipinnis is a female, but has no eggs in its ovaries, which Ho and Van Heden suggest is probably associated with either a juvenile yet to produce any eggs or a mature female which has just spawned.

See also...

http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2017/11/navigobius-kaguya-new-species-of.htmlhttp://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2016/11/opistognathus-ensiferus-new-species-of.html
http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2016/10/grammatonotus-brianne-new-species-of.htmlhttp://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/callionymus-alisae-new-species-of.html
http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/symphysanodon-andersoni-second-specimen.htmlhttp://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2015/04/philometrid-nematodes-from-perciform.html
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Ankalodous sericus: A new species of Mult-jawed Chaetognath from the Early Cambrian Chengjiang Lagerstätte of Yunnan Province.

The Chaetognaths, or Arrow Worms, are an enigmatic group of marine invertebrates, with a bodyplan which is not close to that of any other group. They are pelagic ambush predators, with torpedo-like bodies and large external jaw-structures comprising two prominent bundles of anterior grasping spines and associated teeth. Attempts to determine how Chaetognaths are related to other animals using molecular methods have met with limited success; Chaetognaths have consistently been recovered as members of the Protostomes (the group that includes Arthropods, Molluscs, Annelids and the Lophophorate groups), with some studies suggesting that they occupy a basal position within the Protostomes (i.e. they branched off from the rest of the Protostomes before all other groups diverged from one-another, closer to the base of the family tree), or that they occupy a basal position within the lophotrochozoans (Molluscs, Annelids and Lophophorate phyla). To make matters worse, the Chaetognaths have almost no fossil record, with only one fossil species described, Protosagitta spinose, from the Early Cambrian Chengjiang Lagerstätte of Yunnan Province, which appears to be essentially similar to living Chaetognaths.

In a paper published in the journal Palaeontology on 1 September 2017, Degan Shu of the Early Life Institute, Department of Geology, and State Key Laboratory of Continental Dynamics at Northwest University, Simon Conway Morris of the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Cambridge, Jian Han, also of the Early Life Institute, Department of Geology, and State Key Laboratory of Continental Dynamics at Northwest University, Jennifer Hoyal Cuthill, also of the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Cambridge, and of the Earth-Life Science Institute at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, Zhifei Zhang and Meirong Cheng, again of the Early Life Institute, Department of Geology, and State Key Laboratory of Continental Dynamics at Northwest University, and Hai Huang of the College of Petroleum Engineering at Xi’an Shiyou University, describe a second species of Chaetognath from the Chengjiang Lagerstätte, which may shed more light on the origin of the group.

The new species is named Ankalodous sericus, where ‘Ankalodous’ means ‘bundles of teeth’ and ‘sericus’ means ‘silk’, a reference to the medieval Silk Road, connecting China to the Mediterranean region, which started at Xi’an in Shaanxi Province, the location of both Northwest and Xi’an Shiyou universities. The species is described from a number of specimens collected from outcrops of the Qiongzhusi Formation in Jingning and Haikou counties of Yunnan Province. Only the jaws of these specimens are preserved, nothing of the rest of the animals, but the preserved parts conform to the Chaetognath pattern, of opposed pairs of bundles of bristles. However, unlike modern Chaetognaths, Ankalodous sericus appears to have not just one pair of opposable jaw bundles but a whole series. 

Multi-jawed Chaetognath Ankalodous sericus. (A)-(B) Specimen and interpretative drawing; bilaterally symmetrical assemblage of grasping spines, five bundles (A-E) on either side (L, left; R, right) of midline; up to six spines per bundle; some spines (Lc6, Rc2, 3) show basal apertures. (C)–(D) Part and interpretative drawing; assemblage of grasping spines; three bundles (A–C) from left (L) and right (R) sides, latter rotated; details from counterpart incorporated by reversal; cross-hatched areas oxides (originally pyrite), mostly as infills of internal cavities of spines. (E)–(F) Assemblage of grasping spines and interpretative drawing; assemblage of grasping spines is bilateral but right-hand array (RA–RC) somewhat displaced relative to left-hand array (LA–LC). (G)–(H) Part and interpretative drawing; left (L) and right (R) assemblages of grasping spines, separated by thick layer of sediment; left assemblage comprises five (A–E) bundles of spines, with up to six spines per bundle; right assemblage somewhat less clear, but at least four bundles discernible; drawing is combination of part and by reversal counter-part. In all drawings stippled areas represent sediment, hachured lines breaks in slope with hachures down-slope. All scale bars represent 1 mm. Shu et al. (2017).

Shu et al. suggest that the arrangement seen in Ankalodous sericus, with several pairs of opposed bristle-bundles, may have been used as part of an ambush strategy by a buried benthic animal rather than a free swimming one, with an attack something like that of an Ant-lion.

Reconstruction of Ankalodous sericus. Animal depicted here with feeding apparatus open prior to prey capture. Position of the plate-like structure suggests that it was located on a mouth-cone or similar protrusion. Details of region posterior to feeding apparatus are hypothetical. Shu et al. (2017). 

Shu et al. observe that the arrangement of bristles in Ankalodous sericus resembles that seen in an enigmatic group of early Cambrian fossils called Protoconodonts, suggesting that these may have been related to Chaetognaths. They suggest that the group could have evolved from a primitive Lophotrochozoan ancestor with a complex jaw arrangement that has become simplified as an adaptation to a pelagic lifestyle, and thatbthis might imply a close relationship with the Gnathifera, a subdivision of the Lophotrochozoans which includes the Gnathostomulids, Micrognathozoans, Rotifers and Acanthocephalans, which are united by their complex jaw apparatuses.

See also...

http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2017/11/siphusauctum-lloydguntheri-enigmatic.htmlhttp://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2017/02/ovatiovermis-cribratus-luolishanid.html
http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2016/10/utahcaris-orion-and-origin-of.htmlhttp://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2016/08/oesia-disjuncta-enigmatic-cambrian.html
http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/scathascolex-minor-palaeoscolecid-worm.htmlhttp://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2015/12/eokinorhynchus-rarus-kinorhynch-from.html
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Strombolian eruptions on Mount Pacaya, Guatemala.

The Instituto Nacional de Sismologia, Vulcanologia, Meteorologia, e Hidrologia in Guatemala reported a degassing event on Mount Pacaya, a 2552 m high active volcano roughly 30 km to the southeast of Guatemala City, on Tuesday November 2017, the latest in a series of such events that began around the beginning of the year. This began at about 8.00 am local time, and produced a small plume of gas and steam, which was accompanied by several audible explosions. On Tuesday 28 November the Institutio reported a series of Strombolian eruptions (eruptions consisting of regular explosions throwing lava bombs, incandescent cinders and small stones and ash a few hundred meters in the air) on the volcano, accompanied by a lava flow that ran about 30 m down the northwest flank of the volcano.

Lava flow and crater incandescence on Mount Pacaya. Le Chaudron de Vulcain.

Mount Pacaya is one of Central America's most active volcanoes, having erupted at least 23 times in the last 500 years. It is located 30 km southwest of Guatemala City on the rim of the ancient Amatitlán Caldera, a 14 by 16 km structure that was last active in the Pliocene, between 5.3 and 2.5 million years ago. The volcano forms a massif on the rim of the older caldera, comprising the Cerro Grande Lava Dome, the eruptive MacKenney Cone, and the Cerro Chino Crater, which was last active in the nineteenth century. Pacaya is visible from Guatemala City, and its frequent small Stombolian Eruptions (ejections of lava bombs and incandescent ash) make it a popular tourist attraction.

 The approximate location of Mount Pacaya. Google Maps.

The volcanoes of Guatemala, and Central America in general, are fed by the subduction of the Cocos Plate beneath the Caribbean Plate along the Middle American Trench, which runs roughly parallel to the southwest coast of the isthmus. As the Cocos Plate sinks into the Earth, it passes under Central America, which lies on the western margin of the Caribbean Plate. As this happens it is heated by the friction and the heat of the planet's interior, causing the sinking plate to partially melt. Some of the melted material then rises through the overlying Caribbean Plate as magma, fuelling the volcanoes of Central America.

Diagrammatic representation of the subduction of the Cocos Plate beneath the Caribbean Plate along the Middle American Trench. VCS Mining.

See also...

http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2017/06/magnitude-68-earthquake-off-south-coast.htmlhttp://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/warnings-issued-after-eruptions-on-mout.html
http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2017/02/eruptive-episode-on-mount-fuego.htmlhttp://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2016/12/magnitude-54-earthquake-in-escuintla.html
http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2016/08/explosive-eruptions-on-mount.htmlhttp://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2015/11/eruptions-on-mount-fuego-guatemala.html
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Sunday, 10 December 2017

Pleistacantha kannu: A new species of Spider Crab from the Bay of Bengal.

Spider Crabs, Majidae, are a distinctive group of Crabs with carapaces that are longer than they are wide and come to a point at the front. They have extremely elongate legs for Crabs, and tend to be covered in bristles, which are often covered in Algae, providing a form of camouflage.

In a paper published in the journal ZooKeys on 29 November 2017, Peter Ng of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum at the National University of Singapore, Raveendhiran Ravinesh of the Department of Aquatic Biology & Fisheries at the University of Kerala, and  Samuthirapandian Ravichandran of the Center of Advanced Study in Marine Biology at the Annamalai University, describe a new species of Spider Crab from the Bay of Bengal.

The new species is placed in the genus Pleistacantha, and given the specific name kannu, in honour of the late T. Kannupandi of the Center of Advanced Study in Marine Biology at the Annamalai University,for his work on Crustaceans. This species has longer legs than other members of the genus, and these are free of spines. They are orange-brown in colour.

Pleistacantha kannu, colour in life. (A) Male (length 106.2 mm, width 87.0 mm), (B) ovigerous female (length 84.4 mm, width 71.5 mm). Ng (2017).

See also...

http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2017/11/coconut-crabs-observed-predating.htmlhttp://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2017/11/salangathelphusa-peractio-new-species.html
http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2017/09/court-issues-28-220-in-fines-and.htmlhttp://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2017/06/tomopaguropsis-rahayuae-deepwater.html
http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/kani-maranjandu-new-species-of-tree.htmlhttp://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2017/02/testing-strength-of-coconut-crab.html
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Understanding the dispersal of Rockwood and Spoonwood seeds in the South African Fynbos.

The Fynbos of the Western Cape, South Africa, is a dry shrubland ecosystem, prone to frequent fires, which play an important ecosystem function, clearing old growth and stimulating growth of the seeds of fire adapted trees and shrubs such as Mountain Cypress, Widdringtonia nodiflora, and various Protea species. Within this ecosystem there are patches of rocky habitat, such as cliffs, rock outcrops and scree slopes, where non-fire tolerant species such as Rockwood, Heeria argentea, and Spoonwood, Hartogiella schinoides, dominate. Unlike Cypresses and Proteas, these species produce large, fleshy fruits, which are not fire tollerant, and which appear to only survive fires by nestling deep within rock crevices, a location which they are unlikely to reach on their own, suggesting an animal vector is placing them there. It has been suggested that the Rock Hyrax, Procavia capensis, may be responsible for dispersal of the large fleshy seeds of the Rockwood, while the smaller, as redder, seeds of the Spoonwood are probably dispersed by a Bird (the colour red is often associated with dispersal of seeds or pollination by Birds, since few Mammals or Insects have receptors for this colour in their eyes).

In a paper published in the South African Journal of Science on 27 November 2017, Joseph White and Jeremy Midgley of the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Cape Town, describe the results of a series of tests intended to determine the animals responsible for the dispersal of the seeds of the Rockwood and Spoonwood trees.

 Intact and cross-sectioned fruits of (a), (b) Heeria argentea and (c), (d) Hartogiella schinoides, showing the thin, fleshy pericarps and chlorophyllous endosperm/embryo. White & Midgley (2017).

White and Midgley placed Rockwood seeds in front of camera traps in both Fynbos shrublands and rocky areas within theses shrublands. 

The seeds placed in the rocky areas were ignored by Rock Hyrax, suggesting that this animal is not responsible for the dispersal of these seeds, while 66% of the seeds were removed by the smaller Namaqua Rock Rat, Micaelamys namaquensis. The Cape Genet, Genetta tigrina, and Cape Grey Mongoose, Galerella pulverulenta, were also seen near seeds in these rocky areas, but took no notice of them, which is unsurprising as neither species usually consumes seeds.

A Namaqua Rock Rat, Micaelamys namaquensis. Andrew Deacon/iSpot.

Four species of seed-eating Mammals were seen around the seeds placed in the Fynbos shrublands, the Four-striped Grass Mouse, Rhadbomys pumilio, the Vlei Rat, Otomys irroratus, the Cape Spiny Mouse, Acomys subspinosus, and the Cape Porcupine, Hystrix africaeaustralis. Of these only the Four-striped Grass Mouse paid any attention to the seeds, and this species removed only a very small number.

Searching for the removed seeds revealed a number of seeds with their pericarps (outer fleshy parts) removed, having apparently been gnawed off by a Rodent or similar animal. Experimentation with seeds revealed that 60% of those with the percarp removed germinated, while none of those with it left intact did so, suggesting that this is a natural part of the plant's life cycle, providing a free meal to the Rock Rats, which probably retreat into rock crevices with the seeds to enjoy a meal out of sight of predators such as the Genet and Mongoose.

A Heeria argentea seedling emerges from a dark, rocky crevice at Limietberg Nature Reserve. White & Midgley (2017).

The same procedure was repeated for the seeds of the Spoonwood tree, though without the camera trap. As predicted, some of these seeds were observed being removed by Red-wing Starlings, confirming that these smaller seeds are available to Birds, but a search for the seeds in crevices again found most of the removed seeds, which again showed signs of having the pericarps removed by a Rodent, suggesting that Rats are likely to be the most important distributors of this species as well.

See also...

http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2017/12/bituminaria-antiatlantica-new-species.htmlhttp://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2017/08/argyrella-richardsiae-new-species-of.html
http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2016/10/ceropegia-sandersonii-flower-mimicking.htmlhttp://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2016/08/ceratocaryum-argenteum-plant-producing.html
http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2015/05/northern-mozambiques-critically.htmlhttp://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/the-impact-of-invasive-native-shrub-on.html
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