The Little Mermaid: Are mermaids real?

“A mermaid has not an immortal soul, nor can she obtain one unless she wins the love of a human being”

Fairyology Episode 8

Image result for the little mermaid

Hello and welcome to another fairyology episode, this time I pose the question is it better down where its wetter? Todays fairy tale is of course the little mermaid. Now for a quick run down of the story. So the disneys version is a little bit different from the original fairytale but today we’re going to look at the original version.

Theres a mermaid that lives with her widowed father in an underwater kingdom. When she turns 15 she can swim to the surface. She then becomes obsessed with the world on land and falls in love with a Prince she rescues. She asks her grandmother about the humans and she then tells the young mermaid (Ariel) and she tells her that humans live for a shorter time than the mermaids 300 years but when they die their soul lives forever. Where as when a mermaid dies they turn into sea foam and disappear (have a think about that when you’re next paddling in sea foam!). Ariel decides she wants to live on the land so visits a sea witch. The sea witch gives her a potion that will cause her to become human but she will never be able to return to the mermaid world and the only way she will obtain a soul is if the prince marries her.

Ariel then takes the potion and becomes human. She becomes good friends with the prince but he doesnt recognise her as the mermaid who recognises him. He instead marries a princess who he sees as the one who rescued him. Ariel is now heartbroken. Her sister comes to the rescue with a knife for her to kill the prince. Ariel goes to do the awful deed but cannot bring herself to kill him. She chucks the knife into the water and her body turns to foam. BUT! She instead turns into an earth spirit??? and uses her 300 years doing good deeds. Yes well I now understand why disney simplified this tale!

So the science in this one has to be could mermaids be real?! There are a few theories on this one so lets get to it!

Theory 1. Manatees

The main theory behind mermaid sightings is that they were actually manatees. Now manatees hardly look like Ariel but often these sightings came from seamen. In the past often boats would carry limited supplies meaning these sailors were often highly dehydrated and suffered with scurvy. All this together meant they often started to see things and the manatees appeared to them as attractive women. So next time you see a mermaid just have a check that it isn’t a manatee and maybe have an apple with some water!

Theory 2. Hoaxes

Mermaids that have been “found” in the past were often pretty horrific. They were very popular in freak shows of the victorian era and were “obviously” hoaxes. If you’re brave enough feel free to go and have a look at the photos online but often these were a combination of monkeys with fish. Yeah, its gross…. moving on!

Theory 3. “Of course they’re real they just haven’t been found yet.”

Mermaids are so fantastical and genetically having half human half fish is just not going to happen. However my mermaid lovers out there should always remain hopeful! The ocean is such a mystery to scientists even now so I’m just waiting for the documentary where Ariel makes her first appearance!

Hope you have enjoyed this silly foray into fairyology! See you all next time!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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Marine Protected Areas

Hi everyone, one of my modules I’m taking this term is on marine conservation. One of the main ways that the world protects its oceans is marine protected areas. This is a map of all the MPAs in the world.

officialmpamap

This actually covers a mere 3% of the worlds oceans. An MPA can be an area thats completely no take or can have some regulated fishing. Most importantly they are areas that have site specific importance for example the great barrier reef is an MPA. The demand to protect the worlds oceans has been impressed upon the nations of the world. In the UK there has been an initiative to increase the area of no take MPAs in UK waters by 3% by 2020. I’d love to say that we should just make the entire ocean protected in one way or another but as always with conservation it’s just not that simple.

There is some debate on how well MPAs work. After all fish swim and we can’t fence areas of the ocean like we do with terrestrial protected areas. Although some studies have shown that fish actually stick to their own territory and don’t swim as far as you might think. But MPA’s do alot more than protecting the fish. They protect corals and plants that don’t swim around and they can also protect resources under the sea bed such as oil.

MPA’s also have a whole host of people issues around them. Fishing is an essential income to many people and also countries as a whole. No-take MPA’s revolve around their being 0 fishing in these zones which can cause some backlash amongst fishermen (understandably). The way this is often dealt with is for fisherman to use the area for other purposes like ecotourism but this is can’t always work. Given that you cant fence these areas illegal fishing often goes ahead.

In my opinion MPA’s are essential. The ocean is an invaluable resource that goes forgotten about. For them to work there is a need for strong state law but also a need for local communities to see the importance of the ocean.

The world of MPAs is intensely complicated and I’m working on an essay right now balancing an argument of whether no take MPA’s are worth their money. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about this, see you tomorrow!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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Becoming A Master – Ready, Set, Go!

Week 12

Hello!

I’m back after almost a month away! I can’t really believe it has been that long since I last updated you all on my masters degree so let me kick off with how last term ended. My last day of term finished with a presentation for my group project which went really well! So well done team if you’re reading this! Then our whole department went for our christmas do which was actually a talk from Chris Packham! It was extremely insightful as to what practical conservation can look like. He showed us some of his truly incredible photography.

Image result for chris packham photography

Then it was time for a well earned christmas break.. or not. Over the christmas break I wrote three assignments totaling at approximately 7,500 words and I started some new writing projects! My assignments were all handed in on Monday this week so fingers crossed they all pass through with flying colours. And with that a new term with brand new modules started!

So as for this week Monday started with a lecture and practical in Diatoms! These are fascinating little beasts and it felt so good to be back in the lab after so long away. I took a few pictures with my phone not that they show diatoms in the greatest detail. I was using a x1000 lens just to give you a scale of how small these guys are.

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On Tuesday I had my first battle with GIS. Thats geographical information software. It’s a fantastic skill to have because with it you can build up maps and make links between well lots of different things. Anyway I really enjoyed the first session so here’s to a bright future with it! On Wednesday I had a lecture in marine conservation. I studied marine in depth in a module in my undergrad but this module seems to include more policy. Marine policy can be a little complicated so I’ll explain that in a future blog.

On Thursday I had a field trip that took us to a lake in North Hertfordshire. I spent 3 hours on some very cold tiny boats doing coring. This is when you take sediment from the bottom of a lake and from that you can find out what was living in it hundreds of years ago. It did rain down a lot that day but it was still great fun!

Then Friday was my 23rd birthday and I’ve had an amazing weekend celebrating just that! I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of BAM!

Happy Biologying!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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The Monthly Scientist: Miss February

Hello, yes we’re running a little late what with it being March and all. Never the less I thought I’d take the time to honour this wonderful biologist, Miss February is…

Miss Rachel Louise Carson

200px-Rachel-Carson

Born: May 27 1907

Died: April 14 1964 (aged 56)

Noted for: Being a Marine Biologist, conservationist and Author.

Why scientist of the month?

Rachel Carson is most noted for being a fantastic author, her works centred on the combination of humans and the natural world. Perhaps her most noted work (and my favourite) is Silent Spring. It asks whether humans have the right to control the natural world? A question that is still very important. The book also warned of the misuse of chemicals such as DDT to the natural world and its various cycles. So why does she get my scientist of the month? Well she was an incredibly intelligent woman and one that I aspire to be like. Unfortunately science is still a man’s game and I think its incredibly important to celebrate the female scientists and all that they have achieved. Carsons words in all of her books are just as important now as they were when she wrote them. So I shall leave this article on a quote from the woman herself.

“Through all these new, imaginative, and creative approaches to the problem of sharing our earth with other creatures there runs a constant theme, the awareness that we are dealing with life with living populations and all their pressures and counter pressures, their surges and recessions. Only by taking account of such life forces and by cautiously seeking to guide them into channels favorable to ourselves can we hope to achieve a reasonable accommodation between the insect hordes and ourselves.” – Rachel Louise Carson

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6 in 60: Number 22 – The Big Old Blue

Hello! So last week we learned about all things tea but now we’re going in a completely new direction and lets have a look at that thing that cover two thirds of our planet. I’m of course talking about the Ocean! In fact all of the 6 in 60s this month will be Ocean themed so stay tuned!

  1. An estimated 50 – 80% of all life on earth is found under the ocean surface.
  2. 90% of all volcanic activity occurs in the ocean.
  3. The Mariana trench is the deepest point of the ocean in the Western Pacific ocean. Its almost 7 miles deep!
  4. Blue whales are the largest animal on earth and can get up to 200 tons in weight and 110 feet long.
  5. The ocean covers 70% of the earths surface but this is ever growing due to sea level rise.
  6. There are 109,768.84 square miles of shallow coral reefs worldwide.GP0STOE23_coral.jpg

The Sources

The first two  facts come from marine bio. That page has loads more stuff if your interested. The facts from 3 to 5 come from the ocean project. The last fact came from Greenpeace. I also used the photo from them!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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