News Article | April 21, 2017
Ask a regular smartphone user how they'd like to see the devices improved, and it's a safe bet that longer battery life would be close to the top of the list. Batteries made with silicon anodes could help boost that, and now a team at the University of California Riverside (UCR) has shown that these batteries can be environmentally friendly too, by being sourced from glass bottles headed for the scrap heap. Lithium-ion batteries power everything from smartphones to electric vehicles, and conventionally they're made with a lithium cathode and a graphite anode. But as useful as this setup has been over the years, the ceiling on their efficiency has all but been reached, prompting researchers to look to our old friend silicon as an alternative anode. While they have the potential to store up to 10 times more energy than graphite, silicon anodes aren't quite as durable, with the expansion and contraction that comes with regular use cracking the material and wearing them down much faster. Past work has found that crushing the silicon first helped to overcome that problem. With durability addressed, the UCR team's research has now found a new source of silicon for producing batteries: discarded glass bottles. The researchers aren't strangers to using unusual materials as anodes: in the past, they've dabbled in recipes using sand and mushrooms. Now they've shown that silicon dioxide can be wrung out of glass bottles, saving them from the fate of clogging up landfills. First, the bottles are crushed and ground down into a fine, white powder. Next, the silicon dioxide is reduced down into nanostructured silicon with the help of hot magnesium, and finally, those nanoparticles are coated in carbon, which makes them more stable and improves their energy storage capacity. When tested in coin cell batteries over 400 cycles, the bottle-based silicon anodes demonstrated a capacity of about 1,420 mAh/g (milliamp hours per gram), a huge improvement over the storage capabilities of graphite anodes, which typically manage about 350 mAh/g. "We started with a waste product that was headed for the landfill and created batteries that stored more energy, charged faster, and were more stable than commercial coin cell batteries," says Changling Li, lead author on the study. "Hence, we have very promising candidates for next-generation lithium-ion batteries." The researchers say that the process is viable, thanks to the low-cost chemical reaction and the fact that each glass bottle can create enough nanosilicon to make hundreds of coin cell batteries. The team has filed a patent to commercialize the process and products. The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports, and the process is outlined in the video below.
News Article | November 2, 2016
LYNNFIELD, Mass., Nov. 02, 2016 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- American Power Group Corporation (OTCQB:APGI), announced today that its subsidiary, American Power Group, Inc. (“APG”), has added the following two key management positions to strengthen the company’s dual fuel air quality enhancement initiatives and support opening new dual fuel sales channels in California. Dan Goodwin Vice President of Technical Marketing and Government Affairs: Mr. Goodwin will be responsible for establishing and directing APG’s corporate efforts to expand recognition and acceptance by federal, state, regional and local air quality regulatory bodies of the significant and immediate emission reduction benefits of APG’s dual fuel solution. There are numerous federal, state, regional, local, and corporate supported air quality grants and sustainability initiatives available which APG as well as our customers could take advantage of with formal recognition and acceptance by each respective governing body. California in particular, is under extreme regulatory pressure to show dramatic improvements in emission reduction, particularly in the area of NOx reduction by 2023, or potentially face significant reductions in federal funding. Mr. Goodwin earned his Bachelor of Science with Merit in Systems Engineering from the U.S. Naval Academy followed by a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degree from Norwich University. His professional career is highlighted by twenty-one years of active service in the United States Marine Corps as an F/A -18 Hornet pilot, and as an F-15C exchange pilot with the US Air Force. He served as the Executive Officer/Chief of Staff at the Marine Corps Air Station in Miramar, CA as his final active-duty position. Following his time in the Marine Corps, Mr. Goodwin has held Engineering, Business Development, and Government Affairs management positions in alternative fuel and microwave electronics companies. Kevin Campbell -Vehicular Business Development Director: Mr. Campbell will be responsible for directing APG’s vehicular sales and marketing initiatives in the South Central and Southwestern portions of the United States including key natural gas regions of Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and California. Mr. Campbell will work with our existing authorized dealers/installers and natural gas provider partners and will be responsible for expanding our partnerships throughout his region. Mr. Campbell has had a progressive career in the service and sales of truck engines and parts. He has been a pioneer in the development of dual fuel markets and the sale of low emission automotive components. Mr. Campbell’s education concentration is from Rio Hondo College where he was also an Advisory Board Member for their Advanced Transportation Department. He has also held Advisory Board Member positions at Long Beach City College – Alternative Fuel Training Department; University of California Riverside Bourns College of Engineering- Center of Environmental Research and Technology, and the Universal Technical Institute. Lyle Jensen, American Power Group Corporation’s Chief Executive Officer stated, “We look forward to adding Dan’s and Kevin’s leadership and alternative fuel experience to the APG team. Both live in California and are well-versed in California’s air quality challenges and the fact that APG’s dual fuel has the ability to play an important role in the reduction of diesel related criteria pollutants (NOx and Particulate Matter) in California. Our recent dual fuel emission test results from the Center for Alternative Fuel Engines and Emissions at West Virginia University on SCR emission technology has shown greater than a 50% reduction in NOx emissions compared to the federal standard. These NOx levels would qualify APG’s dual fuel solution for CARB’s future “Optional Low NOx” consideration.” Mr. Jensen added, “With our recently announced California ARB EO Certifications for Cummins ISX and Detroit Diesel 15L engines in addition to our 13L Volvo California ARB EO Certification, APG is bringing one of the only alternative clean fuel technologies to the Class 8 high-horsepower (13L to 15L) market segment that retains the required power and torque of a diesel engine. No dedicated natural gas technology or electric-hybrid engine technology is available to pull the heavy loads through the challenging topography of California.” About American Power Group Corporation American Power Group’s subsidiary, American Power Group, Inc. provides cost effective products and services that promote the economic and environmental benefits of our alternative fuel and emission reduction technologies. Our patented Turbocharged Natural Gas® Dual Fuel Conversion Technology is a unique non-invasive software driven solution that converts existing vehicular and stationary diesel engines to run concurrently on diesel and various forms of natural gas including compressed natural gas, liquefied natural gas, conditioned well-head/ditch gas or bio-methane gas with the flexibility to return to 100% diesel fuel operation to avoid any natural gas range anxiety. Depending on the fuel source and operating profile, our EPA and CARB approved dual fuel conversions seamlessly displace 45% - 65% of diesel fuel with cleaner burning natural gas resulting in measurable reductions in nitrous oxides (NOx) and other diesel-related emissions. Through our Trident Associated Gas Capture and Recovery Technology, we provide oil and gas producers a flare capture service solution for associated gases produced at their remote and stranded well sites. These producers are under tightening regulatory pressure to capture and liquefy the flared gases at their remote and stranded well sites or face significant oil output reductions. With our proprietary Flare to Fuel™ process technology we can convert these captured gases into natural gas liquids (“NGL”) which can be sold as heating fluids, emulsifiers, or be further processed by refiners. Given pending federal methane capture regulations, we anticipate our next generation NGL processing systems will have the capability to convert the residual flared methane into pipeline quality natural gas that can be sold for a variety of dedicated and dual fuel vehicular, stationary, industrial and household uses. See additional information at: www.americanpowergroupinc.com
News Article | September 28, 2016
Structural biology research conducted at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory has uncovered how small insecticidal protein crystals that are naturally produced by bacteria might be tailored to combat dengue fever and the Zika virus. SLAC’s X-ray free-electron laser – the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS), a DOE Office of Science user facility – offered unprecedented views of the toxin BinAB, used as a larvicide in public health efforts against mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria, West Nile virus and viral encephalitis. The larvicide is currently ineffective against the Aedes mosquitos that transmit Zika and dengue fever, and therefore not used to combat these species of mosquitos at this time. The new information provides clues to how scientists could design a composite toxin that would work against a broader range of mosquito species, including Aedes. The study is published in Nature. “A more detailed look at the proteins’ structure provides information fundamental to understanding how the crystals kill mosquito larvae,” said Jacques-Philippe Colletier, a scientist at the Institut de Biologie Structurale and lead author on the paper. “This is a prerequisite for modifying the toxin to adapt it to our needs.” The BinAB crystals are produced by Lysinibacillus sphaericus bacteria, which release the crystals along with spores at the end of their life cycle. Mosquito larvae eat the crystals along with the spores, and then die. BinAB is inactive in the crystalline state and does not work on contact. For the crystals to dissolve, they must be exposed to alkaline conditions, such as those in a mosquito larva’s gut. The binary protein is then activated, recognized by a specific receptor at the surface of cells and internalized. Because Aedes larvae can evade one of these steps of intoxication, they are resistant to BinAB. These larvae do not express the correct receptors at the surface of their intestinal cells. Many other insect species, small crustaceans and humans also lack these receptors, as well as alkaline digestive systems. “Part of the appeal is that the larvicide’s safe because it’s so specific, but that’s also part of its limitation,” said Michael Sawaya, a scientist at the UCLA-DOE Molecular Biology Institute and co-author on the paper. For public health officials who want to prevent mosquito-borne disease, BinAB could also offer an alternative for controlling certain species of mosquitos that have begun to show resistance to other forms of chemical control. The research team already knew the larvicide is composed of a pair of proteins, BinA and BinB, that pair together in crystals and are later activated by larval digestive enzymes. In the LCLS experiments, they learned the molecular basis for how the two proteins paired with each other – each performing an important, unique function. Previous research had determined that BinA is the toxic part of the complex, while BinB is responsible for binding the toxin to the mosquito’s intestine. BinB ushers BinA into the cells; once inside, BinA kills the cell. The scientists also identified four “hot spots” on the proteins that are activated by the alkaline conditions in the larval gut. Altogether, they trigger a change from a nontoxic form of the protein to a version that is lethal to mosquito larvae. Using the information gathered during the crystallography study, the research team has already begun to engineer a form of the BinAB proteins that will work against more species of mosquitos. This is work that is ongoing at Institut de Biologie Structurale, University of California Los Angeles, University of California Riverside and SLAC. Only coarse details were known about the unique three-dimensional structure and biological behavior of BinAB prior to the experiment at LCLS. “We chose to look at the BinAB larvicide because it is so widely used, yet the structural details were a mystery,” said Brian Federici, professor of entomology at University of California Riverside. The small size of the crystals made them difficult to study at conventional X-ray sources. So the research team used genetic engineering techniques to increase the size of the crystals, and the bright, fast pulses of light at LCLS allowed the scientists to collect detailed structural data from the tiny crystals before X-rays damaged their samples. The researchers used a crystallography technique called de novo phasing. This involves tagging the crystals with heavy metal markers, collecting tens of thousands of X-ray diffraction patterns, and combining the information collected to obtain a three-dimensional map of the electron density of the protein. “This is the first time we’ve used de novo phasing on a crystal of great interest at an X-ray free-electron laser,” said Sebastien Boutet, SLAC scientist. The technique had so far only been used on test samples where the structure was already known, in order to prove that it would work. “The most immediate need is to now expand the spectrum of action of the BinAB toxin to counter the progression of Zika, in particular,” said Colletier. “BinAB is already effective against Culex [carrier of West Nile encephalitis] and Anopheles [carrier of malaria] mosquitos. With results of the study, we now feel more confident that we can design the protein to target Aedes mosquitos.”
De A.,University of California Riverside
Physical Review Letters | Year: 2014
Clusters of interacting two-level-systems, likely due to Farbe+(F+) centers at the metal-insulator interface, are shown to self-consistently lead to 1/fα magnetization noise [with α(T)1] in SQUIDs. Model calculations, based on a new method of obtaining correlation functions, explains various puzzling experimental features. It is shown why the inductance noise is inherently temperature dependent while the flux noise is not, despite the same underlying microscopics. Magnetic ordering in these systems, established by three-point correlation functions, explains the observed flux- inductance-noise cross correlations. Since long-range ferromagnetic interactions are shown to lead to a more weakly temperature dependent flux noise when compared to short-range interactions, the time reversal symmetry of the clusters is also not likely broken by the same mechanism which mediates surface ferromagnetism in nanoparticles and thin films of the same insulator materials. © 2014 American Physical Society.
News Article | November 9, 2015
While the cost of solar power has dropped significantly from the early 2000s, there is still plenty of room for the technology to become cheaper, making it even more attractive as a substitute for fossil fuels. Currently, the cost of the land to build solar installations on and the labor required are the most expensive parts of a solar project. The panels themselves only account for about 20 percent of the cost, but if the solar panels had a much greater energy output, there could be fewer of them generating the same amount of energy, meaning less land required and fewer labor hours. Researchers at the University of California Riverside think they've developed a technology that achieves just that and could lead to much less expensive solar power in the future. The scientists have developed a coating for solar panels that allows them to use the infrared portion of the light spectrum that usually passes right through solar cells without being converted into electricity, essentially wasted energy. They say the new material effectively reshapes the solar spectrum so that it better matches the photovoltaic materials in the solar cells. The infrared portion is then absorbed and used, boosting the conversion efficiency by at least 30 percent. The coating includes cadmium selenide or lead selenide semiconductor nanocrystals combined with organic molecules. The resulting material does what they call "upconverting" photons so that they are readily absorbed by the solar cells. “The key to this research is the hybrid composite material – combining inorganic semiconductor nanoparticles with organic compounds. Organic compounds cannot absorb in the infrared but are good at combining two lower energy photons to a higher energy photon. By using a hybrid material, the inorganic component absorbs two photons and passes their energy on to the organic component for combination. The organic compounds then produce one high-energy photon. Put simply, the inorganics in the composite material take light in; the organics get light out,” said Christopher Bardeen, a professor of chemistry at the university and one of the lead researchers. Besides making solar panels better, this material could also be used to improve things like biological imaging, data storage and organic light-emitting diodes.
News Article | November 24, 2015
An international team from University of California Riverside and the University of Augsburg in Germany has taken a new approach to unraveling the properties of novel two-dimensional semiconductors, materials with unique properties that could offer improved integration of optical communication with standard silicon-based devices. As part of the groundswell of research into new materials for electronic and optoelectronic applications, the work helps improve our knowledge of monolayer films. The study, which was reported in Nature Communications [Preciado et al. Nat. Commun. (2015) DOI: 10.1038/ncomms9593], involved the development of a single-atomic-layer-thin film of molybdenum disulfide on a substrate of lithium niobate, which is employed in a range of electronic devices that use high-frequency signals, such as cell phones and radar installations. Lithium niobate is the archetypical ferroelectric material and the key substrate for many applications, including surface acoustic wave radio frequencies devices and integrated optics. Although it offers a unique combination of properties, its lack of optical activity and semiconducting transport have up to now hampered its application in optoelectronics. On applying electrical pulses to the lithium niobate, the team produced very high-frequency sound waves – "surface acoustic waves" – that run along the surface of lithium niobate like tremors. These surface waves allowed them to listen to how the illumination of lithium niobate by laser light changes the electric properties of molybdenum disulfide. Cell phones use resonances of these surface waves to filter electric signals in the same way that a glass can resonate when tapped at exactly the right pitch. As a glass fills up with liquid, the tone at which it resonates alters, and this tone can help identify how full the glass is. Similarly, the team could “hear” the lithium niobate sound waves and were able to infer how much current the laser light was allowing to flow in the molybdenum disulfide. In addition, they fabricated transistor structures onto the molybdenum disulfide films that proved the accuracy of the analysis. Their prototypical device presents electrical characteristics that are competitive with molybdenum disulfide devices on silicon, and the surface acoustic waves allowed them to realize a sound-driven battery and an acoustic photodetector, which could lead to new ways to non-invasively investigate the electrical properties of monolayer films. As UC Riverside team leader Ludwig Bartels points out, “The well-established nature of the substrates and the processes to create surface acoustic waves makes the novel technique facile and ready to be applied. In particular, even remote, wireless sensing applications appear to be within reach.”
News Article | December 21, 2016
For three billion years or more, the evolution of the first animal life on Earth was ready to happen, practically waiting in the wings. But the breathable oxygen it required wasn't there, and a lack of simple nutrients may have been to blame. Then came a fierce planetary metamorphosis. Roughly 800 million years ago, in the late Proterozoic Eon, phosphorus, a chemical element essential to all life, began to accumulate in shallow ocean zones near coastlines widely considered to be the birthplace of animals and other complex organisms, according to a new study by geoscientists from the Georgia Institute of Technology and Yale University. Along with phosphorus accumulation came a global chemical chain reaction, which included other nutrients, that powered organisms to pump oxygen into the atmosphere and oceans. Shortly after that transition, waves of climate extremes swept the globe, freezing it over twice for tens of millions of years each time, a highly regarded theory holds. The elevated availability of nutrients and bolstered oxygen also likely fueled evolution's greatest lunge forward. After billions of years, during which life consisted almost entirely of single-celled organisms, animals evolved. At first, they were extremely simple, resembling today's sponges or jellyfish, but Earth was on its way from being, for eons, a planet less than hospitable to complex life to becoming one bursting with it. In the last few hundred million years, biodiversity has blossomed, leading to dense jungles and grasslands echoing with animal calls, and waters writhing with every shape of fin and color of scale. And most every stage of development has left its mark on the fossil record. The researchers are careful not to imply that phosphorous necessarily caused the chain reaction, but in sedimentary rock taken from coastal areas, the nutrient has marked the spot where that burst of life and climate change took off. "The timing is definitely conspicuous," said Chris Reinhard, an assistant professor in Georgia Tech's School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. Reinhard and Noah Planavsky, a geochemist from Yale University, who headed up the research together, have mined records of sedimentary rock that formed in ancient coastal zones, going down layer by layer to 3.5 billion years ago, to compute how the cycle of the essential fertilizer phosphorus evolved and how it appeared to play a big part in a veritable genesis. They noticed a remarkable congruency as they moved upward through the layers of shale into the time period where animal life began, in the late Proterozoic Eon. "The most basic change was from very limited phosphorous availability to much higher phosphorus availability in surface waters of the ocean," Reinhard said. "And the transition seemed to occur right around the time that there were very large changes in ocean-atmosphere oxygen levels and just before the emergence of animals." Reinhard and Planavsky, together with an international team, have proposed that a scavenging of nutrients in an anoxic (nearly O2-free) world stunted photosynthetic organisms that otherwise had been poised for at least two billion years to make stockpiles of oxygen. Then that balanced system was upset and oceanic phosphorus made its way to coastal waters. The scientists published their findings in the journal Nature on Wednesday, December 21, 2016. Their research was funded by the National Science Foundation, the NASA Astrobiology Institute, the Sloan Foundation and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. The work provides a new view into what factors allowed life to reshape Earth's atmosphere. It helps lay a foundation that scientists can apply to make predictions about what would allow life to alter exoplanets' atmospheres, and may inspire deeper studies, here on Earth, of how oceanic-atmospheric chemistry drives climate instability and influences the rise and fall of life through the ages. Complex living things, including animals, usually have an immense metabolism and require ample O2 to drive it. The evolution of animals is unthinkable without it. The path to understanding how a nutrient dearth would starve out breathable oxygen production leads back to a very special kind of bacteria called cyanobacteria, the mother of oxygen on Earth. "The only reason we have a well-oxygenated planet we can live on is because of oxygenic photosynthesis," Planavsky said. "O2 is the waste product of photosynthesizing cells, like cyanobacteria, combining CO2 and water to build sugars." And photosynthesis is an evolutionary singularity, meaning it only evolved once in Earth's history - in cyanobacteria. Some other biological phenomena evolved repeatedly in dozens or hundreds of unrelated incidences across the ages, such as the transition from single-celled organisms to rudimentary multicellular organisms. But scientists are confident that oxygenic photosynthesis evolved only this one time in Earth's history, only in cyanobacteria, and all plants and other beings on Earth that photosynthesize coopted the development. Cyanobacteria are credited with filling Earth's atmosphere with O2, and they've been around for 2.5 billion years or more. That begs the question: What took so long? Basic nutrients that fed the bacteria weren't readily available, the scientist hypothesize. The phosphorus, which Planavsky and Reinhard specifically tracked, was in the ocean for billions of years, too, but it was tied up in the wrong places. For eons, the mineral iron, which once saturated oceans, likely bonded with phosphorous, and sank it down to dark ocean depths, far away from those shallows -- also called continental margins -- where cyanobacteria would have needed it to thrive and make oxygen. Even today, iron is used to treat waters polluted with fertilizer to remove phosphorous by sinking it as deep sediment. The researchers also used a geochemical model to show how a global system with high iron concentration and low phosphorus availability combined with low nitrogen availability in ocean shallows could perpetuate itself in a low-oxygen world. "It looks to have been such a stable planetary system," Reinhard said. "But it's obviously not the planet we live on now, so the question is, how did we transition from this low-oxygen state to where we are now?" What ultimately caused that change is a question for future research. But something did change about 800 million years ago, and cyanobacteria and other minute organisms in continental margin ecosystems got more phosphorus, the backbone of DNA and RNA, and a main actor in cell metabolism. The bacteria became more active, reproduced more quickly, ate lots more phosphorus and made loads more O2. "Phosphorus is not only essential for life," Planavsky said. "What's implicit in all this is: It can control the amount of life on our planet." When the newly multiplied bacteria died, they fell to the floor of those ocean shallows, stacking up layer by layer to decay and enrich the mud with phosphorus. The mud eventually compressed to stone. "As the biomass increased in phosphorus content, the more of it landed in layers of sedimentary rock," Reinhard said. "To scientists, that shale is the pages of the sea floor's history book." Scientists have thumbed through them for decades, compiling data. Planavsky and Reinhard analyzed some 15,000 rock records for their study. "The first compilation we had of this was only 600 samples," Planavsky said. Reinhard added, "But you could already see it then. The phosphorus jolt was as clear as day. And as the database grew in size, the phenomenon became more entrenched." That first signal of phosphorus in Earth's coast shallows pops up in the shale record like a shot from a starting pistol in the race for abundant life. The following people coauthored the study: Benjamin Gill from Virginia Tech, Kazumi Ozaki from the University of Tokyo, Leslie Robbins and Kurt Konhauser from the University of Alberta, Timothy Lyons from the University of California Riverside, Woodward Fischer from the California Institute of Technology, Chunjiang Wang from the University of Petroleum in Beijing, and Devon Cole from Yale University. The study was funded by the National Science Foundation (grant EAR-1338290), the NASA Astrobiology Institute (grant NNA15BB03A), the Sloan Foundation (grant FR-2015-65744) and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the sponsoring agencies.
News Article | December 12, 2016
by Delphine Faugeroux, University of California Riverside, and Barbra Wells, Priorclave North America
News Article | August 29, 2016
Contrary to a prevailing theory, coral larvae could not survive the five-thousand-kilometer trip across the Pacific Ocean to replenish endangered corals in the eastern Pacific, according to new research. Researchers used a supercomputer to simulate billions of coral larvae traveling on ocean currents over a 14.5-year period. The simulations showed that even during extreme environmental events that speed ocean currents, like the 1997-1998 El Niño, coral larvae could not survive long enough to make the trip from coral reefs in the western and central Pacific to help corals in the east recover from environmental damage. "Our study uses computer simulations to allow us to answer questions about coral biology that we can't answer in the field," said Iliana Baums, associate professor of biology at Penn State University and a coauthor of the research paper. "The information we gain can help direct conservation efforts for these vital organisms. Without living corals, beaches would erode at an alarming rate -- there are already areas in the Caribbean that are losing a meter of beach a year due to reef loss. Reefs provide habitats for one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world and they are extremely economically important for fisheries, coastal protection, tourism, the aquarium trade, and as sources for new pharmaceuticals. The reefs in the eastern Pacific that we study are particularly important because they survive in inhospitable conditions, and understanding how they do this could be critical when designing strategies for reef conservation as the climate continues to change." The research, by an international team of scientists from the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, Penn State University, the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science in Miami, the University of California Riverside, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, will be published by the journal Nature Communications on August 23, 2016. The study used a state-of-the-art numerical model run on Bristol University's BlueCrystal supercomputer to track the dispersal of simulated coral larvae from 636 reef locations in the Pacific. The supercomputer enabled the researchers to deal with the very large computational demands required to explicitly test, for the first time, a long-standing theory that El Niño events could promote long-distance dispersal of coral larvae across the Pacific Ocean. The researchers used the simulations to identify reefs that either are important sources of larvae to other reefs, or are very isolated from such sources and therefore potentially more vulnerable to disturbances. One such area is the Eastern Tropical Pacific, a large area stretching from Baja California in the north to the coastline of Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands in the south. Coral reefs in this region have been around for thousands of years despite living in particularly hostile environments for reef formation with limited suitable coastline, cool temperatures, and frequent disturbances. Eastern Tropical Pacific reefs are sparsely distributed and are also very isolated, both within the region itself and from the more diverse reefs of the central and western Pacific. "We simulated the dispersal of over five billion model larvae from 636 reefs throughout the central and eastern Pacific from 1997 to 2011," said Sally Wood, postdoctoral research associate in coral reef ecosystem modeling in the School of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol and a coauthor of the paper. "This time period crucially covered a range of oceanographic conditions -- ocean currents are highly variable over time -- including the extreme El Niño of 1997-1998. Contrary to the theory that eastward dispersal may happen during El Niño events, we found no such dispersal." As is happening worldwide at the moment during the current El Niño event, the large El Niño in 1997-1998 wiped out a lot of the corals in the eastern Pacific. Usually corals recover from events like this through a combination of proliferation of survivors and colonization by larvae that are brought in sporadically by the currents from nearby unaffected reefs. However, the new research shows that coral reefs in the far eastern Pacific Ocean, separated from the nearest reefs by over 5,000 km of open ocean, could be on their own when it comes to recovery from mass mortality events such as happened in 1998. Biologists have been interested in this region since Darwin, who regarded the deep ocean that separates the eastern and western Pacific as an impassable barrier. Several of the same species can be found on both sides of the barrier, suggesting that the barrier has at some point been breached, but it is not clear when or how frequently this has occurred, or in what direction. Genetics is commonly used to detect connections between populations by measuring the level of genetic relatedness, similar to a paternity test. Recent genetic data for corals indicate that eastern and western populations of some species have been isolated for at least the previous few generations -- possibly thousands of years in long-lived corals. "We compared these genetic data to the larvae dispersal data that we simulated," said Baums. "The two data sets lined up pretty well, suggesting that our simulations are doing a good job of capturing what is actually happening in nature." "Coral larvae are tiny and can survive for a maximum of about 120 days," said Baums. "The larvae travel mainly by ocean currents to establish new colonies, but because of their small size it is currently impossible to track them across the vast distances of the Pacific Ocean to know if healthy populations of corals in the western Pacific could help to rejuvenate decimated populations of corals in the eastern Pacific. For the first time, our computer simulations combined with genetic data allowed us to test whether the larvae could survive this journey."
News Article | January 25, 2016
Suggestively called Cryptomaster, the herein studied daddy longlegs genus, represented until recently by a single species, is not only difficult to find in the mountains of southwest Oregon, but had also stayed understudied for several decades since its establishment in 1969. Inspired by much newer records of the previously known species, called after the notorious Hebrew monster Leviathan, an American team of researchers from University of California Riverside and the San Diego State University, led by Dr. James Starrett, undertook a new search for mysterious endemic harvestmen, which was successfully concluded with the discovery of another beast, Cryptomaster behemoth. Their work is available in the open-access journal ZooKeys. The Cryptomaster daddy longlegs belong in the largest and incredibly diverse harvestman suborder, called the Laniatores, which are characterized by having relatively short legs and preference for hiding underneath logs, stones and leaf litter in tropical and temperate forests. Typical for many of these well over four thousand species is that they might inhabit very restricted geographic regions and yet be strikingly genetically diverse. This is why when the authors understood about the recently expanded distributional range of the Leviathan's namesake across different mountain ranges, they did not take long to assume that there could be more species having settled nearby. Curiously, both Cryptomaster daddy longlegs species showed two forms of their species, a smaller and a larger one, but neither form was genetically different enough to suggest the presence of a separate group. The scientists observed the variation in both males and females from across both species and all their known localities. Having its localities further increased as a result of the present study, C. leviathan shows surprisingly small genetic distance between its populations. In contrast, its sibling species is so far known to occupy far more restricted range, yet shows considerably more genetic variations. Bearing the name of the huge notorious Hebrew monster Leviathan, the first member of the harvestman genus has won its name because of its excessive size when compared to its relatives within the family of travunioid daddy longlegs. Following the already established trend, the new species is called Cryptomaster behemoth after another large monster known from the Book of Job. "This research highlights the importance of short-range endemic arachnids for understanding biodiversity and further reveals mountainous southern Oregon as a hotspot for endemic animal species," point out the authors in conclusion. Explore further: Two new iguanid lizard species from the Laja Lagoon, Chile More information: James Starrett et al. A new monster from southwest Oregon forests: Cryptomaster behemoth sp. n. (Opiliones, Laniatores, Travunioidea), ZooKeys (2016). DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.555.6274