DiCaprio Donates $2 Million to Protect the Oceans
Oceans 5, which focuses on directing philanthropic money toward marine conservation and ocean protection projects, has announced that the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation has donated $2 million to be used for a variety of ocean conservation projects. They include stopping overfishing by improving fisheries enforcement in Europe, the U.S. and Central America and establishing marine preserves in the Pacific Islands and the Arctic. It also is earmarked for protecting threatened sharks and furthering Antarctic conservation.
“Oceans 5 is an exciting new platform for marine conservation," said DiCaprio. "Working together with other philanthropists, we are making smarter, more impactful investments for the future of our planet. The sad truth is that less than two percent of our oceans are fully protected. We need to change that now. My Foundation supports Oceans 5 projects that are directly improving ocean health by stopping overfishing and creating marine reserves."
DiCaprio has a long history of supporting environmental causes and putting his money where his mouth is. He launched his foundation in 1998 and since then, it has backed efforts to protect tigers in Nepal and elephants in Africa, and donated significant amounts to ocean-related groups. DeCaprio was a featured speaker at the recent UN Climate Summit in New York City and was recently appointed a UN Messenger for Peace by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon who called DiCaprio a "new voice for climate advocacy."
According to Oceans 5 DiCaprio's grant will help develop future initiatives as well as directly support a number of beneficiaries including a coalition of four conservation groups working to eradicate illegal fishing in the EU, three organizations working to strengthen fishery enforcement in Central and South America, a local organization working to implement the world's fourth largest marine reserve in the central Pacific, a group of Cook Islanders working to create a marine park in an area three times larger than California, a group of organizations working on creating marine preserves in Canada, Greenland and Russia, and a coalition working on trade restrictions for endangered sharks.
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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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