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‘Extremely Rare’ Baby Albino Turtle Found on Australia Beach

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'Extremely Rare' Baby Albino Turtle Found on Australia Beach

Wildlife volunteers say they were stunned to find an extremely rare albino turtle on a beach in Australia.

The tiny creature was one of 122 hatchlings from a green turtle nest on Castaways Beach on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.

The volunteers from Coolum and North Shore Coast Care were surveying the nest on Sunday when they found it.

“It was very chipper and just took off into the water as happy as can be,” said group president Linda Warneminde.

“He wasn’t sick, he was just white,” she told the BBC.

Albino green turtles are extremely rare and may have a low rate of survival, experts were quoted as saying

Albino green turtles are extremely rare and may have a low rate of survival, experts were quoted as saying

Ms Warneminde said typically only one in 1,000 green turtles survived to maturity and experts believed the chances for an albino turtle were even lower.

But Peregian Beach resident Jayne Walton, who filmed the turtle, said she was very excited about the experience.

“He was beautiful, you could see his flippers were pink, like the blood flowing,” Ms Walton said.

“I just hope he survives out in the big sea. He was very fast, very keen to get in the water.”

An expert quoted by the Australian Broadcasting Corp said that albino green turtle hatchlings occurred at a rate of one in many hundreds of thousands.

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Using Handheld Devices May Cause Young Children’s Speech Delay, new study claims

While technology offers convenience on one’s life, it could also impose negativity on its users especially on children.

A new study presents the possible speech delay in children upon usage of handheld devices last May 6 during 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) meeting…

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Using Handheld Devices Cause Young Children’s Speech Delay, new study claims

While technology offers convenience on one’s life, it could also impose negativity on its users especially on children.

A new study presents the possible speech delay in children upon usage of handheld devices last May 6 during 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) meeting.

The study was presented as an abstract entitled, “Is handheld screen time use associated with language delay in infants?” which claims that a thirty-minute daily usage of such devices increases the risk of a child’s speech delay by 49 percent.

“Handheld devices are everywhere these days,” said Dr. Catherine Birken, MD, MSc, FRCPC, the study’s principal investigator and a staff pediatrician and scientist at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids).

A total of 894 children from ages six to twenty-four months participated in the study, conducted from 2011 to 2015.

Dr. Birken, says in a news release, the research findings could reinforce the policy recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to limit any type of screen media in children primarily on the younger ones, 18 months and below.

However, she also added that more research is required to have a clearer understanding of how screen devices affect a child’s speech delay – like knowing what type of content children indulge with.

Lead by the author Julia Ma, HBSc, an MPH student at the University of Toronto, the study is the first to probe the correlation between handheld screen time and risk of expressive language delay.

AAP Policy

Last year, November 2016, AAP issued their three policy statements, which detailed how children should use media and avoid unnecessary repercussions: “Media and Young Minds,” “Media Use in School-Aged Children and Adolescents,” and “Children, Adolescents and Digital Media.”

In these policy statements, AAP encourages parents to be vigilant as they play an integral role if technology would benefit their children or not.

“Families should proactively think about their children’s media use and talk with children about it, because too much media use can mean that children don’t have enough time during the day to play, study, talk, or sleep,” said Jenny Radesky, MD, FAAP, lead author of the policy statement, “Media and Young Minds.”

AAP policy statements elaborated the effects of media on children, prominently on health issues.

With different age group as subjects, the “Media and Young Minds” included infants, toddlers and pre-school children while “Media Use in School-Aged Children and Adolescents” focused from ages 5 to 18.

In addition, AAP released a Family Media Plan Tool on October 2016, which can be used to help parents in guiding their children for using media.

AAP Recommendations

AAP have also laid several recommendations for avoiding overexposure of children on media. These are divided into three subgroups: pediatricians, families, and industries.

See: Media and Young Minds

Source: PAS (news release), AAP (news release)

 

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Greenland Shark may live up to 250 years

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In the freezing waters of the sub-Arctic ocean lurks a mysterious and slow-moving beast known as the Greenland shark. It’s a massive animal that can grow up to six metres in length. Now, new research suggests it may have a massive lifespan as well.

According to a paper published recently in Science, the Greenland shark could live for well over 250 years, making it the longest-living known vertebrate on Earth.

“I am 95 percent certain that the oldest of these sharks is between 272 and 512 years old,” said lead author Julius Nielsen, a marine biologist at the University of Copenhagen.

 

“That’s a big range, but even the age estimate of at least 272 years makes it the oldest vertebrate animal in the world.”

The oldest-animal record holder is a clam called Ming that was dredged up from the ocean floor off the coast of Iceland. It was said to be 507 years old when it died in 2006.

Shortraker rockfish off the Alaskan coast and orange roughy off Namibia are both estimated to live up to 200 years or longer. Harriet, a Galapagos tortoise from the Australia Zoo, lived to be about 170 years old.

Still, if Nielsen’s estimates are correct, the Greenland shark would be a record breaker.

Greenland sharks are among the largest sharks on the planet. They are dark brown or purple with small, beady eyes. They inhabit the Arctic and sub-Arctic waters, as well as cold, deep water in other oceans throughout the world.

Because they spend most of their time in the darkness their eyesight is thought to be very poor, but a vast network of neurons in their snouts suggests they hunt and scavenge using their powerful sense of smell.

“They are basically a giant swimming nose,” said Aaron Fisk, a professor at the University of Windsor who has studied the Greenland shark for two decades.

Scientists have long suspected that these lethargic giants have extremely long lifespans in part because previous research shows that they grow very slowly – possibly as little as a centimetre per year.

“In colder temperatures, growth slows and fish tend to get older,” said Fisk, who was not involved in the study.

“It’s not hard to imagine that they could be 200 or 400 years old.”

But determining the exact age of the Greenland shark is a tricky business. When scientists determine the age of fish such as cod, rockfish and salmon, they usually look at the otolith – a bony structure that grows in the ear of a fish.

Otoliths have seasonal growth rings, kind of like the rings in tree trunks. If researchers can figure out how long it took the animal to lay down one ring, they can easily determine the age of the fish.

Sharks and rays don’t have otoliths, so scientists have found other ways to determine their ages. For some species of sharks, it’s possible to tell how old they are by looking at growth layers deposited in calcified parts of their vertebra or fin spines. But the Greenland shark doesn’t have fin spines, and its cartilage skeleton is extremely soft with almost no calcified material, so there are no layers to count.

To overcome this hurdle, Nielsen and his collaborators turned to a more complicated technique called eye lens radiocarbon dating, which has been used to determine the age of other animals.

The eye lenses of all vertebrates continue to grow with the animal through its life, adding layers like an onion. However, the core of the eye lens is formed before the animal is born and remains metabolically stable throughout its life, Nielsen explained. That means that embedded in this small piece of tissue in the centre of a shark’s eye is a chemical signature from the environment just before it was born.

In the late 1950s, atmospheric tests of thermonuclear weapons caused a big and easily detectable spike in the amount of radiocarbon that eventually made its way into the sea. Scientists call this bump “the bomb pulse,” and it has become a handy way to verify the age of marine organisms.

If the amount of radiocarbon in a shark’s lens represents post bomb-pulse levels, that’s a pretty clear indicator that the animal was born after 1960. (It took a few years for the radiocarbon to filter down into the deep water.)

For this study, Nielsen examined the eye lenses of 28 female specimens that were caught off the coast of Greenland between 2010 and 2013.

The radiocarbon levels in the lenses of the two smallest sharks had a clear post-bomb pulse signature, suggesting that these animals were 50 or younger. The radiocarbon levels of the third-smallest shark put it right on the onset of the bomb pulse. The researchers say this means the third shark was likely born in the early 1960s.

However, the centre of the eye lenses of the 25 larger sharks all had pre-bomb-pulse radiocarbon levels, leading the authors to conclude that they were more than 60 years old.

The group’s next step was to determine how long before 1960 the other 25 sharks were born, and here’s where they had to get creative. They measured the radiocarbon levels in each of the remaining eye lens samples and then compared them to a published reference of how radiocarbon levels in the ocean have changed over time.

This chronology of much more subtle radiocarbon fluctuations goes back 50,000 years and is usually used to date corals and other organisms that are thousands of years old. When it is used to date more recent organisms, it shows a wide range of error.

To further constrain their results, the authors made the assumption that the longer a shark is, the older it is.

When they added the lengths of the specimens to their model, they found that the biggest shark in the data set – a 16-footer – would have been 392 years old, give or take 120 years.

The authors concede that the margin of error is still very large, but they say their findings demonstrate that the Greenland shark is extremely long-lived and that its population would take a long time to bounce back to normal if the animals were exploited by humans.

Aaron MacNeil, a research scientist at the Australian Institute of Marine Science who was not involved in the work, said the study represents an interesting approach to a difficult biological problem, but added that the findings are not necessarily conclusive.

“I don’t think this is the final word on Greenland shark ages,” he said.

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NASA Hires US Companies to Develop Habitats for Mars Mission

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In a bid to help advance the manned flight to Red Planet, the US space agency has selected six US companies to develop ground prototypes and concepts for deep space habitats.

Habitation systems provide a safe place for humans to live as scientists move beyond Earth on the journey to Mars.

Through the public-private partnerships enabled by the Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships-2 (NextSTEP-2), NASA and industry partners will expand commercial development of space in low-Earth orbit while also improving deep space exploration capabilities to support more extensive human spaceflight missions.

“NASA is on an ambitious expansion of human spaceflight, including the Journey to Mars, and we’re utilising the innovation, skill and knowledge of the both the government and private sectors,” said Jason Crusan, director of NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems, in a statement.

The next human exploration capabilities needed beyond the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion capsule are deep space, long duration habitation and in-space propulsion.

“We are now adding focus and specifics on the deep space habitats where humans will live and work independently for months or years at a time, without cargo supply deliveries from Earth,” Crusan added.

The selected companies are Bigelow Aerospace, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Orbital ATK, Sierra Nevada Corporation and NanoRacks.

The six partners will have up to approximately 24 months to develop ground prototypes and/or conduct concept studies for deep space habitats.

NASA has estimated the total of contract award amounts to be approximately $65 million.

The ground prototypes will be used for three primary purposes: supporting integrated systems testing, human factors and operations testing and to help define overall system functionality.

These are important activities as they help define the design standards, common interfaces, and requirements while reducing risks for the final flight systems that will come after this phase.

NASA made the first NextSTEP selections in 2015, which include deep space habitation concept studies that also advance low-Earth orbit commercial capabilities.

Four companies were selected under that solicitation: Bigelow Aerospace LLC, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Orbital ATK.

This round of NextSTEP selections will catalyse commercial investment in low-Earth orbit and lead to an operational deep space habitation capability in the area of space near the moon which will serve as the proving ground for Mars during the 2020s.

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