Recently, the Hubble Space Telescope has characterised the nearest “blue planet”, many light years away from us. Unlike Earth seen from space, the blue does not represent the atmosphere and oceans but some scorching crust as seen by HST. The birth of a huge star was also registered in our Milky Way. This new star is hundreds of thousand times larger than the Sun which we know best. Ladies and Gentlemen, a monster is being born.
The scientists from America (not from the Soviet Russia) descended in a beautiful bathyscaphe to the depth of 100 metres at the coast of Florida to explore a ship, thriving all around with marine life, that has rested there for almost 200 years. The ship is full of starfish and a variety of fish, big and small. But most importantly, the area around the wreck has been seized by the bloodthirsty lionfish, which are exceptionally large (up to 40 cm) at all explored depths and ready to reproduce in large quantities. Those fish eat constantly and are able to reduce the number of fish of other genera in their neighbourhood to 20%. Once they lived in the Pacific Ocean and posed little threat to the ecosphere around. In the late 1990s, they got to the Atlantic where they overwhelmed other fish. It is yet to be established what acts in their favour that the Pacific lacked. Oceanologists should discover it pretty fast though, otherwise the lionfish will eat the whole Atlantic out!
Lately, the lionfish proved to be a piscine celebrity. Those beautiful and formidable fish are a crown jewel of many home aquariums. They are venomous, but not poisonous (after removing the spines they are edible and, apparently, delicious as well). The scientists suspect that they were “supersized” in some home aquarium, and then their humane owner decided to set them free into the Atlantic instead of killing them. It is even estimated that their initial number might have been only 12, and the Caribbean owes the present troubles to their joy of spawning. Although they are not the favourite prey of the Caribbean sea predators, the great land predators – humans – like to fish for them.
Today, no scientist would follow the 19th century physicists and dare to say that we understand everything and there is nothing left for discovery.
P.S. Is it possible to make sushi from this monster in the photograph?
Prof. Magdalena Fikus
Professor of molecular biology, a lecturer at many prestigious universities and a prominent science populariser. The co-creator, co-organiser and for many years the chairwoman of the Programme Board of the Science Festival in Warsaw. A member of the EUSCEA international association, the chairwoman of the Science Promotion Council at the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw. A member of the CSC Programme Board since the foundation of the Copernicus Science Centre.