In a cluster of villages in the mountains of central Sardinia, residents enjoy extraordinary longevity, particularly among males.
The isolation of Sardinia’s mountain villages has helped preserve a traditional Sardinian way of life in which family comes first, food is locally grown, and physical activity is a part of each day—all elements that promote longevity.
Brian Skerry has been a contributing photographer for National Geographic magazine since 1998. Shallow-water corals in Kingman Reef, 2007The remoteness of the Line Islands' Kingman Reef, which barely breaks the ocean’s surface, has kept it relatively unspoiled and removed from the overfishing and pollution affecting more easily reached locales.
Southern right whale and diver, New Zealand, 2007It was a stunning scene—a 45-foot-long, 70-ton right whale hovering over the bottom just a few feet away from a diver standing on the bottom.
Moray eel, Japan, 2008Washed by a mix of nutrient-rich currents, the temperate waters of central Japan hold a stunning array of wildlife.
Batfish, Japan, 2008Far from the frenetic activity of mainland Japan, marine life surrounding the Ogasawara Islands moves to its own rhythm. Black coral, New Zealand, 2006The resilience of the oceans is evident within the many marine reserves throughout New Zealand. Giant clams, Kingman Reef, 2007Swimming through the waters of Kingman Reef is a feast for the eyes: Gardens of giant clams clutter the bottom, their neon-colored mantles glowing vibrantly, and are juxtaposed with brightly hued mushroom corals ranging in size from silver dollar to dinner plate. Coral goby on soft coral, Japan, 2008In spooky forests of whip coral, a pair of shrimp, male and female, are found living on a single strand, while nearby a goby mimics the brilliant orange of soft coral as a defense against predators. Harp seal pup, Canada, 2002I found that living with harp seals around the clock in full immersion was inspiring and addictive in a way that few wildlife experiences have been. Subscribe to National Geographic magazine and save. Print and digital editions available for as little as $12.
After a weekend visit to a flea market where people sold furniture and old clothes, Tailor passed by a pink mosque wall in his hometown. Divers wrangle a 3-D camera while filming a test in the New Britain Trench off Papua New Guinea.
Aboriginals in touch with the land see desert oaks and imagine the drinking water in the trees’ cavities.
At the start of Diwali, a festival across India celebrating light, Paul went with three friends to a neighborhood fireworks show. Clear-cuts and remnants of rain forest flank the Vanduzi waterfall, on the east side of Mount Gorongosa.
During a trip last year to photograph flamingos that spend the winter near India's Ujjani Dam, Singh watched as this brown-headed gull scanned the glassy water. Rich in natural beauty, Skrova boasted the highest percentage of millionaires in all Norway as recently as 1980, thanks to its thriving fish factories and whaling station.
DEEPSEA CHALLENGER is lifted on deck by a shipborne crane after a test dive to 26,972 feet. This two-headed blue shark fetus was removed from its mother by fisherman Christopher Johnston in 2008, off the coast of Australia. As we previously reported, there have been only about a half dozen reported cases of two-headed sharks.
In January 2011, scientists published a review of two-headed blue sharks in the journal Marine Biodiversity Records. The researchers, led by Felipe Galvan-Magana, wrote, “Abnormal sharks showed a symmetric bicephaly that could be caused by the high number of embryos found in the uterus of the blue shark, which is the most fecund species of shark in the world.
In the case of the two-headed blue shark that appears in the photos in this post, Johnston told us that he found it while working as a longline fisherman in the Indian Ocean. Johnston showed it to the captain and other crew, but he said they were too tired and focused on getting their work done to pay much attention. Johnston explained that the reason the fishermen cut open pregnant sharks was because they were only allowed to keep 20 blue sharks on a boat at a time, apparently including fetal ones. As for Johnston, these days he lives in Dubai, where he leads private recreational fishing trips for royals. He originally hails from Perth, Australia, although his family moved him to the Middle East when he was four years old.


As to the reader comments that asked if such two-headed creatures could be traced to pollution, radiation, or other environmental ills, Wagner had told us that it is very difficult to pin abnormalities on a single cause. Out of the 20, he should have kept this one and submitted it to a local marine biology clinic so that it could have been analyzed more.
People are sick and cruel for any purpose – fooling with nature and killing for money is not humane! Birth defects in any species are not normal but happen – but we as a species are polluting this planet! Ocean ViewsOcean Views brings new and experienced voices together to discuss the threats facing our ocean and to celebrate successes. The Aquarium of the WorldDescribed by Jacques Cousteau as the "aquarium of the world," the Gulf of California in Mexico is threatened by coastal development, climate change, and other human activities. The carbon dioxide we pump into the air is seeping into the oceans and slowly acidifying them. Photograph: Clownfish reared in acidified water can't recognize the chemical signals that guide them to their unusual home—the tentacles of an anemone.
Isolation also turned native Sardinians into genetic incubators, amplifying certain traits over generations.
The classic Sardinian diet consists of whole-grain bread (the traditional flatbread is called carta da musica, or sheet music), beans, garden vegetables, fruits, and, in some parts of the island, mastic oil. Men in this Blue Zone, famous for their sardonic sense of humor, gather in the street each afternoon to laugh with and at each other. His new book, Ocean Soul, features spectacular images from a 30-year career in underwater photography. Within Kingman’s massive lagoon, water quality is exceptional, allowing reef systems to thrive, and in every corner, wildlife teems. Swimming over the volcanic sands of Suruga Bay is like entering a fairy tale, with characters to be found around every turn and each dive like another chapter. The undersea terrain here morphs from boulder-strewn shallows to coral reefs, each with its own cast of characters. In places like the Poor Knights Islands, Fiordland, and Goat Island, no-take protection has resulted in a rebounding of marine life, creating a new baseline for healthy marine ecosystems. Throughout the more than 700 islands there are mangrove nurseries, coral reefs, and deep oceanic trenches, all perfect habitats for a wide variety of shark species.
The more I saw, the more I wanted to see, and as each roll of film was wound up, I wanted to shoot another. In front of it, two birds stood with their heads obstructed by an old roof that offered an element of privacy. They see a full moon above Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and find light for a nocturnal event. As the sky lit up, he realized that his friends' spellbound reaction offered a unique angle. The mountain was added to the national park in 2010, but thousands of people still live on it. The orange bag adds buoyancy for the ascent; the gray ones shift the sub to a horizontal position for recovery.
Using three forks and a lotus bud that he cut in half, he created a design on a glass table that resembled an intricate flower growing sideways.
One of our readers, Christopher Johnston, then sent us an email with photos he had taken on September 27, 2008 of a similarly surprising find: a two-headed blue shark.
The phenomenon arises through conjoined development of twins, the same process that produces what used to be called Siamese twins in people.
The malformed female blue shark embryos the scientists examined had been found inside a pregnant adult female that had been caught in the Gulf of California off the western coast of Baja California Sur, Mexico.
He indicated that the fins had to remain on the bodies, to prevent the finning that is driving down shark numbers around the globe. Michael Wagner of Michigan State University recently confirmed to us that two-headed animals rarely survive in the wild.


Sometimes the problems also arise spontaneously, an imperfect expression of life’s machinery. If he finds a pregnant mother to be carrying up to 100 pups, how can they ensure they’re not killing 100 more aside from the 20 they have? Is it normal (though unusual) for sharks to be born two-headed, or is this caused by we humans, polluting and screwing up the oceans? To learn firsthand what's going on in and around this marine treasure of global importance, the National Geographic Society sent its top scientists and officials to the region in January 2016. Dan Buettner traveled to the Italian island to learn what makes Sardinians—especially those in the central region of Barbagia—some of the longest-lived people in the world. The unique geographic properties of central Sardinia—rocky, sun-beaten terrain not suited for large-scale farming—meant that over the centuries, shepherding offered the best profession. Pecorino cheese made from grass-fed sheep—a traditional part of the Sardinian diet—is high in omega-3 fatty acids. Grandparents can provide love, child care, financial help, wisdom, and expectations and motivation to perpetuate traditions and push children to succeed in their lives.
In the handful of places like this that remain, we can learn how coral reefs were meant to function, and create models for conservation elsewhere. Instead, the whale also stopped, turned, and hovered over me as it stared with that soulful eye.
In these waters the ocean has also transformed shipwrecks from bygone wars into lush gardens of life, and oceanic caves hide species not yet described by science.
Some of these places were protected because they were extraordinary; others became extraordinary thanks to protection.
Far from being the solitary, aggressive monster they have often been portrayed as, sharks are complex animals, and they are crucial to the health of the oceans.
For a few nights each year in spring, firefly squid spawn in the deep waters off Toyama Bay.
He says most seem to “swim off fine” but what if they all die within 20 minutes?
They toured the desert islands off the southeastern coast of the Baja Peninsula and they listened to presentations by more than a dozen experts, including several whose Baja California research is funded by the Society. Walking five miles or more a day as Sardinian shepherds do provides cardiovascular benefits and has a positive effect on muscle and bone metabolism without the joint-pounding of running marathons or triathlons. Goat’s milk, another staple, contains components that might help protect against inflammatory diseases of aging such as heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
Moderate consumption of locally made Cannonau wine, which has two to three times the level of artery-scrubbing flavonoids as other wines, may help explain the lower levels of stress among men. A few seconds later, I resumed swimming alongside the whale, making pictures, and savoring every second. The gift that warm water provides is the gift of time, being able to spend prolonged periods in the water so that we can begin to make sense of all that we see.
Diving in these waters, surrounded by schools of fish and seeing animals everywhere, people become aware of the restorative powers of conservation. With clear, blue water as a backdrop, this tropical locale is the ideal environment for an underwater photographer seeking to capture the special blend of power and grace that these animals exude.
On moonless nights they rise to the surface, and dying females get swept by currents to nearby beaches, glowing an eerie blue as they wash ashore. We had a radio on the boat and a satellite phone that I used occasionally, but for the most part it was just the ice, the seals, and me. They live at home, where they’re likely to receive better care and remain more engaged than they would in a nursing home or assisted-living facility. As we move slowly through these places, patterns begin to emerge and behaviors are revealed.



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