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  • The on-board identification of ore minerals during a cruise is often postponed until long after the cruise is over. During the M127 cruise, 21 cores with deep-seafloor sediments were recovered in the Trans-Atlantic Geotraverse (TAG) field along the Mid Atlantic Ridge (MAR). Sediments were analyzed on-board for physicochemical properties such as lightness (L*), pH and Eh. Selected samples were studied for mineral composition by X-ray powder diffraction (XRD). Based on XRD data, sediment samples were separated into high-, low- and non-carbonated. Removal of carbonates is a common technique in mineralogical studies in which HCl is used as the extraction agent. In the present study, sequential extraction was performed with sodium acetate buffer (pH 5.0) to remove carbonates. The ratio between the highest calcite XRD reflection in the original samples (Iorig) vs its XRD-reflection in samples after their treatment with the buffer (Itreat) was used as a quantitative parameter of calcite removal, as well as to identify minor minerals in carbonated samples (when Iorig/Itreat > 24). It was found that the lightness parameter (L*) showed a positive correlation with calcite XRD reflection in selected TAG samples, and this could be applied to the preliminary on-board determination of extraction steps with acetate buffer (pH 5.0) in carbonated sediment samples. The most abundant minerals detected in carbonated samples were quartz and Al- and Fe-rich clays. Other silicates were also detected (e.g., calcic plagioclase, montmorillonite, nontronite). In non-carbonated samples, Fe oxides and hydroxides (goethite and hematite, respectively) were detected. Pyrite was the dominant hydrothermal mineral and Cu sulfides (chalcopyrite, covellite) and hydrothermal Mn oxides (birnessite and todorokite) were mineral phases identified in few samples, whereas paratacamite was detected in the top 20 cm of the core. The present study demonstrates that portable XRD analysis makes it possible to characterize mineralogy at cored sites, in particular in both low- and high-carbonated samples, before the end of most cruises, thus enabling the quick modification of exploration strategies in light of new information as it becomes available in near-real time.

  • Vocal differentiation is widely documented in birds and mammals but has been poorly investigated in other vertebrates, including fish, which represent the oldest extant vertebrate group. Neural circuitry controlling vocal behaviour is thought to have evolved from conserved brain areas that originated in fish, making this taxon key to understanding the evolution and development of the vertebrate vocal-auditory systems. This study examines ontogenetic changes in the vocal repertoire and whether vocal differentiation parallels auditory development in the Lusitanian toadfish Halobatrachus didactylus (Batrachoididae). This species exhibits a complex acoustic repertoire and is vocally active during early development. Vocalisations were recorded during social interactions for four size groups (fry: <2 cm; small juveniles: 2–4 cm; large juveniles: 5–7 cm; adults >25 cm, standard length). Auditory sensitivity of juveniles and adults was determined based on evoked potentials recorded from the inner ear saccule in response to pure tones of 75–945 Hz. We show an ontogenetic increment in the vocal repertoire from simple broadband-pulsed ‘grunts’ that later differentiate into four distinct vocalisations, including low-frequency amplitude-modulated ‘boatwhistles’. Whereas fry emitted mostly single grunts, large juveniles exhibited vocalisations similar to the adult vocal repertoire. Saccular sensitivity revealed a three-fold enhancement at most frequencies tested from small to large juveniles; however, large juveniles were similar in sensitivity to adults. We provide the first clear evidence of ontogenetic vocal differentiation in fish, as previously described for higher vertebrates. Our results suggest a parallel development between the vocal motor pathway and the peripheral auditory system for acoustic social communication in fish.

  • Despite the levels of air pollution in Macao continuing to improve over recent years, there are still days with high-pollution episodes that cause great health concerns to the local community. Therefore, it is very important to accurately forecast air quality in Macao. Machine learning methods such as random forest (RF), gradient boosting (GB), support vector regression (SVR), and multiple linear regression (MLR) were applied to predict the levels of particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5) concentrations in Macao. The forecast models were built and trained using the meteorological and air quality data from 2013 to 2018, and the air quality data from 2019 to 2021 were used for validation. Our results show that there is no significant difference between the performance of the four methods in predicting the air quality data for 2019 (before the COVID-19 pandemic) and 2021 (the new normal period). However, RF performed significantly better than the other methods for 2020 (amid the pandemic) with a higher coefficient of determination (R2) and lower RMSE, MAE, and BIAS. The reduced performance of the statistical MLR and other ML models was presumably due to the unprecedented low levels of PM10 and PM2.5 concentrations in 2020. Therefore, this study suggests that RF is the most reliable prediction method for pollutant concentrations, especially in the event of drastic air quality changes due to unexpected circumstances, such as a lockdown caused by a widespread infectious disease.

  • In this study, components of the food-web in Macao wetlands were quantified using stable isotope ratio techniques based on carbon and nitrogen values. The δ13C and δ15N values of particulate organic matter (δ13CPOM and δ15NPOM, respectively) ranged from −30.64 ± 1.0 to −28.1 ± 0.7 ‰, and from −1.11 ± 0.8 to 3.98 ± 0.7 ‰, respectively. The δ13C values of consumer species ranged from −33.94 to −16.92 ‰, showing a wide range from lower values in a freshwater lake and inner bay to higher values in a mangrove forest. The distinct dietary habits of consumer species and the location-specific food source composition were the main factors affecting the δ13C values. The consumer 15N-isotope enrichment values suggested that there were three trophic levels; primary, secondary, and tertiary. The primary consumer trophic level was represented by freshwater herbivorous gastropods, filter-feeding bivalves, and plankton-feeding fish, with a mean δ15N value of 5.052 ‰. The secondary consumer level included four deposit-feeding fish species distributed in Fai Chi Kei Bay and deposit-feeding gastropods in the Lotus Flower Bridge flat, with a mean δ15N value of 6.794 ‰. The tertiary consumers group consisted of four crab species, one shrimp species, and four fish species in the Lotus Flower Bridge Flat, with a mean δ15N value of 13.473 ‰. Their diet mainly comprised organic debris, bottom fauna, and rotten animal tissues. This study confirms the applicability of the isotopic approach in food web studies.

  • Uptake and depuration kinetics of 4,4′-dichlorobenzophenone (main metabolite of dicofol) in the edible clam Meretrix meretrix were evaluated through a mesocosm experiment. M. meretrix was exposed to different dicofol concentrations (environmental concentration, D1 = 50 ng/L; supra-environmental concentration, D2 = 500 ng/L) for 15 days, followed by the same depuration period. To accomplish this goal, an analytical method was successfully optimized for 4,4′-DCBP using QuEChERS as extraction method with a range of concentrations 0.3–76.8 ng/g ww quantified by gas chromatography coupled to tandem mass spectrometry. Our results demonstrated different kinetics of accumulation depending on the two dicofol treatments. For D1, the uptake kinetic was best fitted using a plateau followed by one phase association kinetic model, while for D2 a one phase association kinetic model suited better. Similar bioconcentration factors were obtained for both concentrations but only animals exposed to D2, showed 4,4′-DCBP levels above the limits of quantification after 24 h exposure. These animals also showed lower uptake rate (ku) than organisms exposed to D1. During the depuration period, only organisms exposed to D1 successfully depurated after 24 h. On the other hand, although animals exposed to D2 presented higher elimination factor, they did not reach the original levels after depuration. Moreover, values detected in these clams were higher than the Maximum Residue Level (10 ng/g) established by the European legislation. This indicates that longer periods of depuration time than the ones used in this study, may be needed in order to reach safe levels for human consumption. This work also demonstrated that studies on metabolite kinetics during uptake/depuration experiments, could be a new alternative to understand the impact and metabolism of pesticides in the marine environment.

  • Limited special education and related services are available for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in Macau, especially those who are educated in general education classrooms. No intervention study has been conducted on these children. This study was conducted to explore the relationship between a board game play intervention and board game play behaviors and social communication of children with ASD educated in general education classrooms in Macau. A repeated measures design was used and the results of this study showed the mean occurrence of unprompted board game play behaviors per session during intervention was not significantly different from that during pre- or post-intervention. The mean occurrence of social communication per session during intervention was significantly higher than that during pre- and post-intervention. These findings suggest a positive relationship existed between the board game intervention used in this study and social communication of children with ASD.

  • The recently explored inactive Tianzuo hydrothermal field, in the amagmatic segment of the ultraslow-spreading Southwest Indian Ridge (SWIR), is closely associated with detachment faults. In this site, sulfide minerals are hosted by serpentine-bearing ultramafic rocks and include high-temperature (isocubanite, sphalerite, and minor pyrrhotite) and low-temperature (pyrite I, marcasite, pyrite II, and covellite) phases. In this study, trace-element concentrations of isocubanite and pyrite II were used to elucidate mineralization processes in ultramafic rocks hosting sulfides. Results show that isocubanite is enriched in metals such as Cu, Co, Sn, Te, Zn, Se, Pb, Bi, Cd, Ag, In, and Mn, and pyrite II is enriched in Mo and Tl. The marked enrichment in Te, Cu, Co, and In in isocubanite (compared with Se, Zn, Ni, and Sn, respectively) is most likely due to the contribution of magmatic fluids from gabbroic intrusions beneath the hydrothermal field. The intrusion of gabbroic magmas would have enhanced serpentinization reactions and provided a relatively oxidizing environment through the dissolution of anhydrite precipitated previously in the reaction zone, within high temperature and low pH conditions. This might have facilitated the extraction of metals by initial hydrothermal fluids, leading to the general enrichment of most metals in isocubanite. Metals in pyrite II have compositions similar to those of isocubanite, except for strong depletion in magmatically derived Te, Cu, Co, and In. This means that serpentinization processes had a dominating role in pyrite II precipitation as well. The enrichment of pyrite II in Mo and Tl is also indicative of seawater contribution in its composition. The study concludes that serpentinization reactions contribute effectively both to high- and low-temperature sulfide mineralization at Tianzuo hydrothermal field, with gabbroic intrusions further promoting high-temperature sulfide mineralization, providing additional metals, fluids and heat. In contrast, low-temperature sulfide mineralization occurred during the cooling of gabbroic intrusions, with decreasing rates of serpentinization reactions and a significant influence of seawater.

  • Anthropogenic noise of variable temporal patterns is increasing in aquatic environments, causing physiological stress and sensory impairment. However, scarce information exists on exposure effects to continuous versus intermittent disturbances, which is critical for noise sustainable management. We tested the effects of different noise regimes on the auditory system and behaviour in the zebrafish (Danio rerio). Adult zebrafish were exposed for 24 h to either white noise (150 ± 10 dB re 1 μPa) or silent control. Acoustic playbacks varied in temporal patterns—continuous, fast and slow regular intermittent, and irregular intermittent. Auditory sensitivity was assessed with Auditory Evoked Potential recordings, revealing hearing loss and increased response latency in all noise-treated groups. The highest mean threshold shifts (c. 13 dB) were registered in continuous and fast intermittent treatments, and no differences were found between regular and irregular regimes. Inner ear saccule did not reveal significant hair cell loss but showed a decrease in presynaptic Ribeye b protein especially after continuous exposure. Behavioural assessment using the standardized Novel Tank Diving assay showed that all noise-treated fish spent > 98% time in the bottom within the first minute compared to 82% in control, indicating noise-induced anxiety/stress. We provide first data on how different noise time regimes impact a reference fish model, suggesting that overall acoustic energy is more important than regularity when predicting noise effects.

  • Distinct patterns of gene expression often underlie intra- and intersexual differences, and the study of this set of coregulated genes is essential to understand the emergence of complex behavioural phenotypes. Here, we describe the development of a de novo transcriptome and brain gene expression profiles of wild-caught peacock blenny, Salaria pavo, an intertidal fish with sex-role reversal in courtship behaviour (i.e., females are the courting sex) and sequential alternative reproductive tactics in males (i.e., larger and older nest-holder males and smaller and younger sneaker males occur). Sneakers mimic both female's courtship behaviour and nuptial coloration to get access to nests and sneak fertilizations, and later in life transition into nest-holder males. Thus, this species offers the unique opportunity to study how the regulation of gene expression can contribute to intersex phenotypes and to the sequential expression of male and female behavioural phenotypes by the same individual. We found that at the whole brain level, expression of the sneaker tactic was paralleled by broader and divergent gene expression when compared to either females or nest-holder males, which were more similar between themselves. When looking at sex-biased transcripts, sneaker males are intersex rather than being either nest-holder or female-like, and their transcriptome is simultaneously demasculinized for nest-holder-biased transcripts and feminized for female-biased transcripts. These results indicate that evolutionary changes in reproductive plasticity can be achieved through regulation of gene expression, and in particular by varying the magnitude of expression of sex-biased genes, throughout the lifetime of the same individual.

  • Statistical methods such as multiple linear regression (MLR) and classification and regression tree (CART) analysis were used to build prediction models for the levels of pollutant concentrations in Macao using meteorological and air quality historical data to three periods: (i) from 2013 to 2016, (ii) from 2015 to 2018, and (iii) from 2013 to 2018. The variables retained by the models were identical for nitrogen dioxide (NO2), particulate matter (PM10), PM2.5, but not for ozone (O3) Air pollution data from 2019 was used for validation purposes. The model for the 2013 to 2018 period was the one that performed best in prediction of the next-day concentrations levels in 2019, with high coefficient of determination (R2), between predicted and observed daily average concentrations (between 0.78 and 0.89 for all pollutants), and low root mean square error (RMSE), mean absolute error (MAE), and biases (BIAS). To understand if the prediction model was robust to extreme variations in pollutants concentration, a test was performed under the circumstances of a high pollution episode for PM2.5 and O3 during 2019, and the low pollution episode during the period of implementation of the preventive measures for COVID-19 pandemic. Regarding the high pollution episode, the period of the Chinese National Holiday of 2019 was selected, in which high concentration levels were identified for PM2.5 and O3, with peaks of daily concentration exceeding 55 μg/m3 and 400 μg/m3, respectively. The 2013 to 2018 model successfully predicted this high pollution episode with high coefficients of determination (of 0.92 for PM2.5 and 0.82 for O3). The low pollution episode for PM2.5 and O3 was identified during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic period, with a low record of daily concentration for PM2.5 levels at 2 μg/m3 and O3 levels at 50 μg/m3, respectively. The 2013 to 2018 model successfully predicted the low pollution episode for PM2.5 and O3 with a high coefficient of determination (0.86 and 0.84, respectively). Overall, the results demonstrate that the statistical forecast model is robust and able to correctly reproduce extreme air pollution events of both high and low concentration levels.

  • The levels of air pollution in Macao often exceeded the levels recommended by WHO. In order for the population to take precautionary measures and avoid further health risks under high pollutant exposure, it is important to develop a reliable air quality forecast. Statistical models based on multiple regression (MR) analysis were developed successfully for Macao to predict the next day concentrations of PM10, PM2.5, and NO2. All the developed models were statistically significantly valid with a 95% confidence level with high coefficients of determination (from 0.89 to 0.92) for all pollutants. The models utilized meteorological and air quality variables based on five years of historical data, from 2013 to 2017. The data from 2013 to 2016 were used to develop the statistical models and data from 2017 were used for validation purposes. A wide range of meteorological and air quality variables were identified, and only some were selected as significant dependent variables. Meteorological variables were selected from an extensive list of variables, including geopotential height, relative humidity, atmospheric stability, and air temperature at different vertical levels. Air quality variables translate the resilience of the recent past concentrations of each pollutant and usually are maximum and/or the average of latest 24-hour levels. The models were applied in forecasting the next day average daily concentrations for PM10, PM2.5, and NO2 for the air quality monitoring stations. The results are expected to be an operational air quality forecast for Macao.

  • Alternative reproductive tactics (ARTs) evolve when there is strong intra-sexual competition between conspecifics for access to mates. Typically, larger “bourgeois” males reproduce by securing the access to reproductive resources while smaller “parasitic” males reproduce by stealing fertilizations from larger males. A number of factors can influence the reproductive success of each tactic, including intrinsic (e.g. size) and extrinsic (e.g. tactic relative frequency) variables. An example where plastic ARTs occur is the peacock blenny Salaria pavo, with large males reproducing by defending nests and attracting females (bourgeois tactic) and small males reproducing by achieving sneaked fertilizations (parasitic tactic). In this study, we conducted field observations on individually tagged animals to determine their social network and collected eggs from 11 nests to determine the fertilization success of each male tactic. Paternity estimates for 550 offspring indicated an average fertilization success for nest-holder males of 95%. Nest-holder male morphological traits and social network parameters were tested as predictors of fertilization success, but only the number of sneakers present in the nest-holder’s social networks was found to be a predictor of paternity loss. Although male morphological traits had been previously found to be strongly correlated with reproductive success of nest-holder males, as measured by the number of eggs collected in the male’s nest, no correlation was found between any of the measured morphological traits and fertilization success for these males. The results suggest a stronger influence of the social environment than of morphological variables in the proportion of lost fertilizations by nest-holder males of this species.

  • Reaction of ultramafic rocks with seawater and subsequent serpentinization has been considered one of the most important factors controlling the formation of ultramafic-hosted seafloor massive sulfide (UM-SMS) deposits. However, the mineralization processes responsible for these deposits remain poorly understood, in particular because they are less abundant as compared with their basaltic counterparts. In this work, serpentinites with different alteration grades collected at the Tianzuo hydrothermal field (THF), Southwest Indian Ridge, were studied. Mineralogical and chemical analyses were performed in the secondary opaque minerals resulting from serpentinization to understand the role of this process during the formation of UM-SMS deposits. Our results show that these opaque minerals mainly consist of magnetite, hematite, pentlandite, and minor pyrite, suggestive of high but varying oxygen and sulfur fugacities. The hematite is characterized by an enrichment in Mg, Si, Ni, and Co as compared with magnetite. Pentlandite associated with hematite has elevated and consistent Ni contents as compared with that associated with magnetite. These results indicate that breakdown and decomposition of primary silicate and sulfide minerals during serpentinization has controlled the sources of ore-forming materials. Concentrations of Te are variable and show a positive correlation with Ni in pentlandite associated with magnetite or hematite, suggesting that gabbroic intrusions provided additional material to the hydrothermal system. Oxidation and sulfidation conditions are ideal for the formation of trisulfur ion S3− in THF, which can significantly improve the capability of hydrothermal fluids for leaching ore-forming metals from the wall rocks, promoting the formation of THF. In addition of reduced systems, hydrothermal fluids with high oxygen and sulfur fugacities triggered by extensive seawater infiltration can most likely also develop in ultramafic-hosted systems. These results suggest that the areas with well-developed fractures are promising candidates for further exploration of UM-SMS deposits along mid-oceanic ridges.

  • The protein adsorption capacity of different materials was evaluated to assess their potential efficacy as alternative adsorbents for the removal of proteins from wines, with the purpose of finding suitable low-swelling materials that could be used in a percolated bed. The adsorbents tested were thermally treated sodium bentonite, low-swelling adsorbing clays, ion exchange resins and other protein adsorbents (silica gel, hydroxyapatite and alumina). The materials were evaluated by analysing both the capacity to stabilize untreated white wines, according to a heat test, and by characterizing the adsorption isotherms of bovine serum albumin (BSA) in a model wine (water, ethanol and K-bitartrate). Breakthrough curves in a packed bed were determined experimentally for some materials, showing the influence of the adsorption isotherm shape. Some ion-exchange resins showed a favourable behaviour and have good potential as alternative adsorbents.

  • In southeast Asia, males of the Siamese fighting fish, Betta splendens, have been selected across centuries for winning paired staged fights and previous work has shown that males from fighter strains are more aggressive than wild-types. This strong directional selection for winners is likely to have targeted aggression-related endocrine systems, and a comparison between fighter and wild-type strains can bring into evidence the key hormones implicated in aggression. Here, we compared the plasma levels of the androgen 11-ketotestosterone (KT) and of the corticosteroid cortisol (F) in F2 males of a fighter and a wild-type strain raised under similar laboratory conditions. We show that F was generally lower in fighter as compared with wild-type males, while no overall differences in KT levels were detected between strains. When presented with a mirror-induced aggressive challenge, post-fight levels of F increased but more significantly so in wild-type males, while KT increased in males of both strains. After the challenge, fighter males had higher levels of KT as compared with wild-type males, while the pattern for F was opposite. As compared with animals in social groups, wild-type males placed under social isolation had lower F levels, while KT decreased for fighters. Taken together, this data suggests that while wild-type males responded to aggression with an increase in circulating levels of both androgens and corticosteroids, males selected for winning fights maintained a blunt F response, increasing only KT levels. These data agree with the hypothesis that a combination of high levels of androgens and low levels of corticosteroids is associated with high aggression. Overall, these results seem to indicate that selection for winning had a stronger impact in the hypothalamus-pituitary-interrenal axis than in the hypothalamus-pituitary–gonadal axis in B. splendens.

  • The occurrence of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) is a major issue for marine and coastal environments in the proximity of urban areas. The occurrence of EDCs in the Pearl River Delta region is well documented but specific data related to Macao is unavailable. The levels of bisphenol-A (BPA), estrone (E1), 17α-estradiol (αE2), 17β-estradiol (E2), estriol (E3), and 17α-ethynylestradiol (EE2) were measured in sediment samples collected along the coastline of Macao. BPA was found in all 45 collected samples with lower BPA concentrations associated to the presence of mangrove trees. Biodegradation assays were performed to evaluate the capacity of the microbial communities of the surveyed ecosystems to degrade BPA and its analogue BPS. Using sediments collected at a WWTP discharge point as inoculum, at a concentration of 2 mg l−1 complete removal of BPA was observed within 6 days, whereas for the same concentration BPS removal was of 95% after 10 days, which is particularly interesting since this compound is considered recalcitrant to biodegradation and likely to accumulate in the environment. Supplementation with BPA improved the degradation of bisphenol-S (BPS). Aiming at the isolation of EDCs-degrading bacteria, enrichments were established with sediments supplied with BPA, BPS, E2 and EE2, which led to the isolation of a bacterial strain, identified as Rhodoccoccus sp. ED55, able to degrade the four compounds at different extents. The isolated strain represents a valuable candidate for bioremediation of contaminated soils and waters.

Last update from database: 6/4/23, 3:45 AM (UTC)