House Votes to Open Atlantic and Pacific to Offshore Drilling
H.R. 6082, the so-called “Congressional Replacement of President Obama's Energy-Restricting and Job-Limiting Offshore Drilling Plan,” passed the House on July 25 by a margin of 253 to 170.
In response to this disappointing vote, Environment America’s Preservation Advocate Nancy Pyne, issued the following statement:
“Imagine the next time you’re sitting with your family at Virginia Beach and you look out at the horizon only to see a line of drill rigs. Or you’re walking along the boardwalk at the Jersey Shore, or Provincetown, Cape Cod, and you see black sludge churning in the surf. Even worse, you head down to North Carolina’s Outer Banks or Florida’s Everglades only to find dead birds washing up or turtles drenched in oil. Americans don’t want to surf and swim near drill rigs; they don’t want to eat New England Cod or Maryland Blue Crab after an oil spill.
“H.R. 6082 recklessly opens up the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to new drilling, and offers more opportunities for leasing off the coast of Alaska and in the Arctic Ocean—jeopardizing marine wildlife, essential fisheries and tourism-based coastal economies. This dangerous bill is just the latest attempt by House leadership to turn over our coastlines and treasured lands to Big Oil.
“Catastrophic oil spills like Deepwater Horizon have shown us that oil drilling remains a dirty and dangerous business. The vibrant fishing and tourism economies of coastal states, and the icy waters and fragile ecosystems of the Arctic, are far too precious to risk another oil spill. Instead of providing another hand out to Big Oil, our elected officials should focus on supporting clean energy sources like offshore wind and solar, investing in energy efficiency and promoting smart transportation policies that will end our dependence on oil.”
Read Environment America's report, Oceans Under the Gun: Living Seas or Drilling Seas?, to learn more.
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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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