Science Briefs: Strange new fish discovered in Gulf of Mexico

This is the new anglerfish: Lasiognathus regan.
This is the new anglerfish: Lasiognathus regan. University of Washington

New fish species hunts with lighted ‘fishing pole’

Oceanographers from Florida’s Nova Southeastern University have found a never-before-seen species of fish from the deep waters of the northern Gulf of Mexico.

The new fish, which was found at depths between 3,281 and 4,921 feet, is a new species of Ceratioid anglerfish. The three females specimens found ranged in length from 1 to 4 inches.

At ocean depths where it lives, there is no sunlight. The only light is that from creaturese bioluminescence: They generate their own light source. At these depths, the pressure is immense – more than one ton per square inch. And the fight for food is never-ending. That’s why these fish have developed their unique way of attracting prey – from the appendage at the top of their head that resembles a fishing pole of sorts. This fish dangles the appendage until an unsuspecting fish swims up thinking they found a meal, only to quickly learn that they are, in fact, a meal themselves.

The findings have been published by the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists in the journal Copeia.

Duke University research doubles cancer drug’s effectiveness

Duke University researchers have packaged a widely used cancer drug into nanoparticles – more than doubling its effectiveness at destroying tumors.

The drug paclitaxel has been used for decades to fight breast, ovarian, lung and other cancers. But its effectiveness has been limited by its small molecular size and insolubility in water – properties that allow the body to clear the drug too quickly, reducing its accumulation in tumors.

By surrounding molecules of paclitaxel with self-assembling spheres composed of amino acids, the Duke team doubled tumor exposure to the drug compared to Abraxane – currently the leading therapy drug – while simultaneously reducing its effects on healthy tissue. This kept mice with tumors alive significantly longer and, in some cases, completely eradicated the tumors.

The team was led by biomedical engineering professor Ashutosh Chilkoti. The results were published online in Nature Communications.

Humans literally see seasons differently

Scientists at the England’s University of York have shed new light on how humans process color: We see things differently in winter compared with summer.

The researchers examined how our color perception changes between seasons and in particular how we process the color yellow. Yellow is unique because it is stable across large populations: Everyone agrees what pure yellow looks like, even though people’s eyes are often very different.

The researchers’ suspicion: Unique yellow might depend not on the biology of the eye but on the color of the natural world.

“What we are finding is that between seasons our vision adapts to changes in environment,” lead author Lauren Welbourne said. “So in summer when there is a much larger amount of foliage, our visual system has to account for the fact that on average we are exposed to far more green.... This is the first time natural changes in the environment have been shown to affect our perception of color.”

The research is published in Current Biology.