Greenland, the largest island in the world not considered its own continent, lies above the Arctic Circle with the exception of its Southern tip. Ice—the Greenland Ice Sheet—is everywhere but is rapidly becoming a major contributor to sea level rise as it melts because of climate change. Now, a new study shows that the resulting freshwater (or meltwater) runs off to the ocean taking along an unexpected and toxic companion—mercury, a chemical that when transformed into methylmercury bioaccumulates and biomagnifies in fish, shellfish, and animals that eat fish, causing nervous system damage and other deleterious effects in humans and wildlife.
One day, my oldest daughter (age 5) had to poop, an event that typically requires the audience of my youngest (age 3). However, on this particular journey, my oldest saw a small cellar spider in the adjacent bathtub, and this sight caused both to scream bloody murder.
Now, I study riparian spiders (more on that later) and my daughters have lived most of their lives with a striped-knee tarantula, that they named “Mr. Mommy.” They talk to Mr. Mommy, they help me feed her, they tap the glass – by all accounts, they seem to like Mr. Mommy. Additionally, they’ve both seen me shuttle wolf spiders from inside the house to the outdoors. We look at spiders on my phone and we talk about how jumping spiders are cute (seriously, if you didn’t know this… look at pictures of jumping spiders. Jumping spiders have a pair of large front eyes that make them adorable). However, I guess they forgot.
BMAA, or beta-N-methylamino-L-alanine, is a potent neurotoxin linked to the development of neurodegenerative diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease), Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s. Produced by virtually every known species of cyanobacteria, BMAA increases in concentration as it moves up the food chain—a process known as biomagnification or bioaccumulation—in both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. Continue reading →