Friday, January 20, 2012

Suddenly I Think I Know What H. G. Wells Was Getting At

Okay, so the prospect that an octopus isn't satisfied just sitting, waiting for me to go into the water so that it can drag me to a cold and watery death, and is also fully capable and willing to crawl out and chase me down on land, is pretty terrifying in and of itself. I would even say that, if it were a somewhat larger octopus, it would not only play to my inherent discomfort with writhing things, but would qualify as at least semi-apocalyptic.

But wait! There's more. Not only can octopus kind now come after us on our own turf, but apparently they can edit the way their bodies build protein molecules to enable them to better withstand extreme environments; so if we, say, tried to defend ourselves by sheltering in colder climates, or by inventing a freeze ray, or something along those basically wouldn't matter:

Low temperatures hamper certain proteins that allow the nervous system to send signals. When a nerve cell fires, protein channels in its membrane open or close to allow various ions in or out. And when the electrical charge across the cell membrane returns to normal, the ion channels that let potassium ions out shut. But frigid temperatures can delay the potassium channels’ closing, hindering the neuron’s ability to fire again. So researchers hypothesized that species inhabiting frigid climates have modified their potassium channels so they work better in the cold.

[...] The pair recently tested their suspicion by comparing an octopus species that lives in frigid Antarctic seas with another dwelling on a Puerto Rican reef where the water ranges from 25° to 35°C. To their surprise, they found that the potassium channel genes in the two species had almost identical DNA sequences. Next, the researchers inserted the genes into frog egg cells, which then manufactured each protein and installed it in their plasma membrane. This procedure allowed the researchers to measure the electrical activity of each species’ channel.

Oh, as they say, crap. Or, as you might also say, just the latest...

Weekly Sign of the Apocalypse.

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