Discovered: One in three ocean species remain unknown to science; biofuels could be worse in a spill than oil; robots powered by rat heart cells; katydids have human-like ears below their knees.
One third of sea life eludes science. Here's a fun factoid to drop should you ever find yourself at a nerd-friendly cocktail party: Scientists currently know more about certain parts of the Solar System than they do about the depths of Earth's own ocean. And now, thanks to an international effort to create a registry of all the ocean's fauna, we have hard data on just how much we still have to discover. Scientists working on the World Register of Marine Species estimate that of the million seas species, we have yet to discover a whopping one in three types of underwater organism. "It's the best job ever of tallying everything we know - and what we don't know - about life in the oceans today," says Stanford's Stephen Palumbi. "It's the first time anyone's done this kind of dirty work that's so important with the world's oceans facing a biodiversity crisis." [San Francisco Chronicle]
Biofuels could do more damage in a spill than oil. No one has to be reminded about the incredible damage oil spills do to the environment, least of all BP, who'll have to pony up a record $4.5 billion as a result of their Deepwater Horizon spill. But spills could actually get worse if we switch to biofuels, according to research from the University of Michigan. Ethanols may be more sustainable than conventional oil, but they more actively bind with water, making biofuel spills potentially more harmful to underwater life and ecosystems. "Ethanol / gasoline blends are often presented as more environmentally benign than pure gasoline, but there is, in fact, little scientific research into the effects these blends could have on the health of surface waters," says researcher Avery Demond. [American Institute of Physics]