Colorado Governor Drinks Water From Animas River After Historic Mine Waste Spill
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper was at the Animas River in Durango, Colorado yesterday, dealing with the ongoing chaos of the acid-mine pollution caused by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) mistake at the Gold Strike Mine that turned the river a ghoulish orange-yellow color. Gov. Hickenlooper—always a media showboat—decided he was going to drink water out of the Animas River to prove a point that it was safe and as reported by the Durango Herald newspaper he did just that.
— DurangoHerald (@DurangoHerald) August 12, 2015
The Durango Herald also reported that Gov.Hickenlooper used an iodine tablet in the river water to kill bacteria. However, as a river advocate in Colorado, I would like to assert that Colorado's rivers and streams are a dangerous concoction of pollution including waste from livestock, wildlife, human sewage treatment plants as well as acid-mine drainage and other nasty toxins and so the Governor's behavior—while very media worthy—should not be repeated by the public. As the story reports, the EPA so far refuses to "open" the river to public recreation and rightly so. Acid mine drainage can be invisible as can many pollutants in our nation's lakes, rivers and streams.
Gov. Hickenlooper became famous in 2011 for telling a U.S. Senate Subcommittee that he drank Halliburton's "green" fracking fluid, a behavior that got him the nickname, "Frackenlooper."
Acid mine drainage is very serious, as are many of the serious health consequences of ingesting water out of rivers and streams in Colorado and across the nation. Gov. Hickenlooper is famous for making Colorado "open for business," but I highly encourage the public not to make your intestinal tract "open for business" by mimicking the Governor's behavior. Wait for the EPA and public health officials to open the river for recreation and then get out on the water again. But don't drink the water!
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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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