We’ve seen previously just how fluid dynamically impressive sharks are on the outside, but today’s study demonstrates that they’re just as incredible on the inside. Researchers used CT scans of more than 20 shark species to examine the structure of their intestines. Sharks have spiral intestines that come in four different varieties; two of those types look like a stacked series of funnels (either pointing upstream or downstream). These funnel-filled spirals, the researchers found, are incredibly good at creating uni-directional flow without any moving parts, much like a Tesla valve does. The spiral structure also seems to slow down digestion, which may factor into the shark’s ability to go long periods between meals. Incredibly, the fossil record indicates that spiral intestines — in some form — evolved in sharks about 450 million years ago — before mammals even existed! Clearly we engineers are way behind sharks when it comes to controlling flows!
It’s impressive when a microscopic organism is visible from space, but that’s a regular occurrence for phytoplankton, the tiny marine algae that feed much of the ocean. In this video from NASA Earth Observatory, we travel around the globe, observing phytoplankton blooms and learning about the ecosystems they feed — or destroy.
Note that many of these satellite images have been color-enhanced to bring out the swirls and eddies of each bloom. The colors are enhanced but the patterns are real. (Image and video credit: NASA Earth Observatory)
Approximately 66 million years ago, a 10-km asteroid struck our planet near Chicxulub on the Yucatán Peninsula. The impact was globally catastrophic, causing tsunamis, wildfires, earthquakes, and so much atmosphere-clogging sediment that about 75% of all species on the planet — including the non-avian dinosaurs — died out. A new study points to another remnant of the impact: giant ripples buried in the sediment of Louisiana.
Using seismic data collected by petroleum companies, the researchers describe the ripples as approximately 16 meters tall with a spacing around 600 meters, making them the largest known ripples on the planet. Currently, they are buried about 1500 meters underground, just below a layer of fine debris associated with the impact. The ripples show no evidence of erosion from storms or wind, leading the authors to conclude that they were deposited by an impact-associated tsunami and remained unaffected by smaller natural disasters before their burial. It’s very likely, according to the authors, that many other such megaripples exist, hidden away in proprietary petroleum data sets. (Image credits: top – D. Davis/SWRI, ripples – G. Kinsland et al.; research credit: G. Kinsland et al.; via Gizmodo)
Building sandcastles is more than a pastime for the bumblebee-mimic digger bee. This species of bee collects water into an abdominal pouch, then uses it to wet sand to help her sculpt her nest. She’ll use the material she digs out to create a protective turret over the nest’s entrance, and once her eggs are laid and stocked with food, she’ll deconstruct the turret to rebury the nest and keep her brood safely hidden. (Image and video credit: Deep Look)