Sea Snake And Horrifying Fish Get Locked In Battle To The Death

This circle of terror is, unfortunately, a very real battle of the poisonous captured off the coast of Australia, as if the country didn’t have enough terrifying creatures already.

The two beasts above, a sea snake and a fish that appears to be a venomous stonefish, were spotted by Australian spear-fisherman Rick Trippe off the coast of Darwin last week. They were very much alive when Trippe’s boat stumbled across them, with the animals’ mouths locked onto each other. He quickly snatched the duo out of the water for a quick photo (not the safest idea, as quite a few selfie-seekers have found out).

“I’m silly but not mad. I knew this was dangerous,” Trippe told the BBC. “I knew if I grabbed it I wouldn’t get the bitten.”

It’s unclear what species of sea snake can be seen in the photo above, but the band of ocean between Australia and Asia is home to some of the deadliest sea snakes in the world, LiveScience reports. Stonefish are the most poisonous fish in the world, and can easily kill humans in two hours if victims aren’t treated with antivenom.

John C. Murphy, a sea snake expert with Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History, told National Geographic that fish are regular prey for the snakes. He told the outlet it’s possible the snakes are immune to stonefish venom. The reptiles hunt by injecting the fish with venom, he said, holding them until they’re subdued and then swallowing them whole.

There’s also a chance the fish is actually a nonvenomous frogfish, which look similar to a stonefish, biologist Bryan Fry told the outlet. Both creatures are found in Australian waters.

The fish eventually lost the battle, according to the BBC, and the snake left —> Read More

More Spectacular Images from the MUOS-4 Launch

Stunning downrange plume over the rising sun, about 3 mins after launch of the MUOS-4 satellite from Space Launch Complex 41 in Florida. Used by permission. Credit and copyright: Mike Seeley.

Stunning downrange plume over the rising sun, about 3 mins after launch of the MUOS-4 satellite from Space Launch Complex 41 in Florida. Used by permission. Credit and copyright: Michael Seeley.

Skywatchers across Central Florida got an unusual view early Wednesday morning in conjunction with the Atlas V launch of the MUOS-4 satellite.

“That wasn’t thunder this AM, Florida: An absolutely stunning MUOS launch!” tweeted photographer Michael Seeley, who shared several images of the launch with Universe Today. Mike is a freelance photographer and works with Spaceflight Insider. You can see more of his imagery at his website.

The pre-dawn light combined with unusual atmospheric conditions produced stunning views both during and well after the launch. The skyshow was visible across a wide area.

“Folks as far south as Miami and up to Jacksonville to the north saw it,” Universe Today’s David Dickinson said. “I even heard kids waiting for the school bus on our street crying out in surprise!”

You can read more about the launch and the mission in our article from Ken Kremer, but see a stunning gallery of images of the unusual cloud formations following the launch below:
Read the rest of More Spectacular Images from the MUOS-4 Launch (231 words)

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Watch Astronauts’ Violent Return To Earth From Inside Their Space Capsule

If you think riding a rocket to the International Space Station makes for a bumpy ride, check out this new video showing what it’s like to return to Earth after the mission is over.

The video, just published by io9, follows three astronauts from the moment their Soyuz capsule undocks from the ISS to what is considered a “soft” landing on solid ground in Kazakhstan. Although the capsule hits the ground at a speed of about 3 miles an hour, the term “soft” might not be the most accurate description…

“The soft landing is not really soft … it felt like a head-on collision between a truck and a small car, and of course, I was in the small car,” former astronaut Paolo Nespoli said in a training video released by the European Space Agency in 2013.

The three-hour descent that leads up to the landing aren’t especially tranquil either. They’re filled with a cacophony of sounds as portions of the capsule’s exterior are stripped away by the rush of hot gases outside.

Soyuz capsules, which have ferried Americans to and from space since the end of NASA’s space shuttle program in 2011, are considered spartan but extremely sturdy. As space historian James Oberg told the Associated Press in 2011, Soyuz is a “‘one trick pony,’ no frills or luxuries, and can take any licking and keep on ticking.”

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First ancient genome recovered from the Mediterranean area

An international team of researchers has sequenced the first complete genome of an Iberian farmer, which is also the first ancient genome from the entire Mediterranean area. This new genome allows to know the distinctive genetic changes of Neolithic migration in Southern Europe which led to the abandonment of the hunter-gatherer way of life. The study is led by the Institute of Evolutionary Biology, a joint center of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) and the Universitat Pompeu Fabra (Barcelona, Spain), in collaboration with the Centre for GeoGenetics in Denmark. The results are published in the Molecular Biology and Evolution journal. —> Read More

California Passes Sweeping Ban On Elephant Ivory, Rhino Horn

The state of California has effectively banned the sale of nearly all ivory and rhinoceros products, in a sweeping measure aimed at curbing the slaughter of the animals.

The bill, CA-AB96, will “prohibit a person from purchasing, selling, offering for sale, possessing with intent to sell, or importing with intent to sell ivory or rhinoceros horn.” Antiques containing 5 percent ivory or less and antique musical instruments containing 20 percent ivory or less (often vintage pianos), will be exempt from the measure.

The bill still needs to go back to the assembly, where it has already passed, after minor amendments were made. It will then head to the governor’s desk.

“We are seeing a poaching crisis that has the potential to impact an entire species of elephants and rhinos,” Toni Atkins, a co-sponsor of the bill, said in a statement. “We are one step closer to taking decisive action to prevent the harmful and illegal act of poaching to protect conservation efforts and help protect these delicate creatures.”

A legal trade of elephant parts imported before 1977 had been allowed in California. But many merchants flouted those rules, artificially aging the appearance of new items and selling them anyways.

The practice is particularly common in California, where San Francisco and Los Angeles trail only New York City in ivory imports, a study by the Natural Resources Defense Council found last year. The U.S. is the second biggest ivory market after China.

The trade in ivory and rhino horn has skyrocketed in recent years due to increased demand from a rising middle and upper class in some Asian countries, particularly China. The price of raw ivory tripled between 2010 and 2014, and now fetches up to $2,100 a kilogram, according to Save the Elephants. Rhino horn —> Read More

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