Nearly 3 miles beneath the sea, about 250 miles east of Australia’s Tasmanian coast, lies a hidden world no one knew existed. When Australian researchers set out to map the area’s seafloor, they discovered an unknown chain of underwater volcanoes towering 1.9 miles above the seafloor. The volcanoes, or seamounts, vary in size and shape from sharp peaks and small, cone-shaped hills, to wide, flat plateaus.
The researchers believe the volcanic range likely teems with life and may provide an underwater highway for migrating marine animals. “This is a very diverse landscape and will undoubtedly be a biological hotspot that supports a dazzling array of marine life,” Tara Martin, an Australian marine geoscientist, said in a statement.
While the scientists moved over the chain of seamounts, at least 28 humpback whales and a pod of 60 to 80 long-finned pilot whales visited the ship. But marine life wasn’t the only surprise for the researchers. The volcanoes also seemed to attract large numbers of seabirds, including four species of albatross and four species of petrel.
The scientists are planning two more voyages in the next two months to gain more information about this underwater world. —J.B.
Cases of a mysterious polio-like illness that recently struck six children in Minnesota are now popping up in other states. Reports of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), a disease that generally affects children, have increased since 2014. Minnesota usually sees only about one case per year. In the past four years, health professionals have reported only 350 cases in the entire United States, but 62 cases in 22 states have been confirmed in recent weeks, Live Science reported.
AFM affects the nervous system and causes muscle weakness—particularly in the arms and legs—impaired reflexes, facial drooping, difficulty moving the eyes, difficulty swallowing, and slurred speech.
No cure for AFM exists, and the cause remains unknown. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention similar neurologic diseases result from a variety of causes, including viruses, environmental toxins, and genetic disorders. The CDC notes the rare condition still afflicts fewer than one in a million people in the United States each year. —J.B.