On World Oceans Day, Attenborough Shares Serious But Hopeful Message
Sir David Attenborough—who showed "heartbreaking" examples of the effects of plastic pollution on marine life in his Blue Planet II series—spoke with Sky News ahead of World Oceans Day about humanity's responsibility to save our struggling seas.
"We've become aware of what we've done to the world and the responsibility we have for looking after the wild world," he revered British naturalist said.
In April, the British government announced plans to end to the sale of plastic straws, drink stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton swabs in order to protect the marine environment.
"There are so many simple things we can do," Attenborough told Sky News. "It's absurd to suggest that we can do totally without plastic but there are certainly so many, many areas where we use plastic without a thought."
Sir David Attenborough says he’s “optimistic” people will change their plastic habits to save marine life… https://t.co/z8ZKz4QfRs— Sky Ocean Rescue (@Sky Ocean Rescue)1528439214.0
Attenborough expressed optimism that the damage to our oceans can be reversed, but urges us to act now to protect the natural world or "the human race will regret it."
To mark World Oceans Day, BBC Earth released a special video message from the legendary broadcaster about the importance of our blue planet.
"The presence of the ocean touches every living thing no matter where it lives. The air we breathe and the water we consume are ultimately linked to the seas. The ocean drives our weather and stabilizes our climate. Nowhere is more powerful and unforgiving, yet more beautiful and endlessly fascinating," Attenborough narrates.
"Yet for too long we have taken the ocean for granted. Our actions have pushed species to the brink, and had an impact on every ocean habitat no matter how remote or how deep. The effects of climate change have been softened by the oceans, but now we are facing the consequences. The seas are warming, rising and becoming more acidic. It's a sobering thought that coral reefs may be lost within the next century."
"We all need a healthy ocean, so we must change our ways," Attenborough continues. "Together with the right management we can repopulate the seas. We can reduce marine pollution and minimize the impact of ocean acidification. The oceans' power of regeneration is remarkable if we just offer it the chance. It's not too late."
World Oceans Day: Saving Our Seas Starts With You https://t.co/6FMBuKVWtT @MarchForOcean @oceana @seashepherd… https://t.co/lFToPGr3uY— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1528456003.0
Sweden's reindeer have a problem. In winter, they feed on lichens buried beneath the snow. But the climate crisis is making this difficult. Warmer temperatures mean moisture sometimes falls as rain instead of snow. When the air refreezes, a layer of ice forms between the reindeer and their meal, forcing them to wander further in search of ideal conditions. And sometimes, this means crossing busy roads.
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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