In the shallowest waters surveyed, scientists found areas dominated by red algae, such as coralligenous and maërl beds, which supported dense gardens of sea fans and large schools of fishes such as horse mackerel.
Pictured is a golden anemone. Photograph by Juan Cuetos/Courtesy of Oceana Europe.
At intermediate depths, black corals full of shark eggs were filmed, as well as red coral and yellow tree corals, both of which are threatened in the Mediterranean.
Pictured here is red gorgonian ( Paramuricea clavata) Photograph: Juan Cuetos/Courtesy of Oceana Europe
When absinthe — also known as the Green Fairy — was banned in France, Switzerland, the United States and many other countries in the early 1900s, it had become associated with illicit behavior.
In fact, it was accused of turning children into criminals, encouraging loose morals and inspiring murders. That regular old alcohol received similar treatment during the Prohibition period in the United States turns out to be pretty apropos:
We now know that properly manufactured absinthe — an anise-flavored, alcoholic drink — is no more dangerous than any other properly prepared liquor.
What about the tales of hallucinations, Oscar Wilde and his tulips, family massacres and instant death?
Not absinthe’s fault, technically speaking. Absinthe does have a very high alcohol content — anywhere between 55 and 75 percent, which equates to about 110 to 144 proof.
It makes whiskey’s standard 40 percent (80 proof) seem like child’s play, which is why absinthe is supposed to be diluted.
Absinthe is not a hallucinogen; its alcohol content and herbal flavor sets it apart from other liquors.
Traditional absinthe is made of anise, fennel and wormwood, a plant (see Image above), and various recipes add other herbs and flowers to the mix.
The anise, fennel and wormwood are soaked in alcohol, and the mixture is then distilled. The distillation process causes the herbal oils and the alcohol to evaporate, separating from the water and bitter essences released by the herbs.
The fennel, anise and wormwood oils then recondense with the alcohol in a cooling area, and the distiller dilutes the resulting liquid down to whatever proof the absinthe is supposed to be (based on brand variations or regional laws).
At this point, the absinthe is clear; many manufacturers add herbs to the mixture after distillation to get the classic green color from their chlorophyll.
The chemical that’s taken all the blame for absinthe’s hallucinogenic reputation is called thujone, which is a component of wormwood. In very high doses, thujone can be toxic.
It is a GABA (Gamma-aminobutyric acid) inhibitor, meaning it blocks GABA receptors in the brain, which can cause convulsions if you ingest enough of it. It occurs naturally in many foods, but never in doses high enough to hurt you.
And there’s not enough thujone in absinthe to hurt you, either.
The world is full of bizarre wonders, from flowers that look utterly alien to otherworldly landscapes and terrifying deep-sea creatures that seem to have sprung straight from your nightmares.
This particular tree might not look quite as monstrous as six-foot-tall blooms or carnivorous plants that are large enough to consume rats, but it’s certainly strange: it grows its fruit directly on its trunk.
Jabuticaba is native to the Minas Gerais and São Paulo states of southeastern Brazil, and starts off looking ordinary enough, save for the salmon-colored leaves it sprouts while it’s still young.
As it matures to fruiting age, the first sign of something unusual are the starry white blooms that appear not on its branches, as you’d expect, but on its trunk.
When uncultivated, it flowers and fruits once or twice a year, but when regularly irrigated it can produce its grape-like, thick-skinned berries year-round.
In Brazil, where it can be eaten immediately, it’s typically served fresh.
Since it starts to ferment within three days of ripening, it has to be preserved into jam, tarts, wine or liqueur to give it a longer shelf life.
Attempts to grow it commercially in North America haven’t been successful, since the climactic conditions aren’t quite right and the trees tend to grow very slowly, making it a treat you should really travel to South America to enjoy properly.
Image: Thank luciferin for mushrooms’ mysterious glow. (Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain)
by Erin Blakemore
When is a mushroom more than just a mushroom? When it glows. It might sound like a psychedelic riddle, but when it comes to bioluminescent mushrooms, it’s reality.
The glow-in-the-dark fungi have been found in places like Brazil and Vietnam. But now, reports Rachel Becker for The Verge, have researchers described the compound that gives the mushrooms their glow—and figured out how it’s made.
It’s called oxyluciferin, and it was a mystery until quite recently. Though bioluminescent mushrooms have long been studied by scientists, they weren’t sure why the fungi glowed until 2015, when a team of researchers figured out that the mushrooms use luciferins—light-emitting compounds found in other glowing animals and plants—to attract insects.
The bugs then help spread their spores to sheltered places in the forest, which helps the mushroom species survive.
Luciferins give fireflies and even bioluminescent underwater creatures their glow. Paired with an enzyme and oxygen, it releases light that illuminates the fungi.
But how do the mushrooms make the stuff? A new study published in the journal Science Advances has the answer.
Scientists went foraging for the glow-in-the-dark mushrooms in Brazil and Vietnam. Back in the lab, reports Becker, they crushed the mushrooms to make a slurry filled with luciferins. Then they isolated the luciferin and studied it, capturing its chemical structure and experimenting with its ability to fuel those flourescent colors.
Not only does the team now know that the mushrooms are fueled by their own kind of luciferin, but they also figured out that the enzyme that combines with the chemical to trigger light could be what they call “promiscuous.”
That means that the enzyme might be able to interact with different luciferins—and produce even more shades of that pretty glow. And that suggests that when it comes to these magical mushrooms, there’s even more to discover.