30 October 2012

The Mother-Calf Bond of Gray Whales

Photo by James Dorsey from Ocean Conservancy

 Populations of gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus) are known only from the Northern Pacific and adjacent waters; they became extinct in the Northern Atlantic in the 1700’s. On a global scale, this whale is categorized as ‘of least concern’ by the IUCN Red List. However, the Western Pacific population is listed as Critically Endangered. They migrate up to 6,000 miles with their calves to feed. During migration, predator encounters are inevitable. Where a predator, like the killer whale (Orcinus orca), is present, the strong bond between mother and calf enables the pair to endure attacks (see this video documentation in Monterey Bay, California), a behavior rarely observed in the wild.

Written by:
Patricia Yap
Research Assistant
The SeaLifeBase Project

25 October 2012

Position Opening: Data Encoder [FILLED]

We are looking for a dynamic and determined person to join our team.

To know more about the position responsibilities and application procedure, click this image below:
Open to Philippine residents only.

24 October 2012

Fishing Down the Marine Food Web

A visual presentation  by Hans Hillewaert, 
as inspired by the work of Daniel Pauly.

The phrase "fishing down the food web" has been very popular in the fisheries industry since the late 1990's, but it is definitely far from being a cliché.

Introduced in this article by Pauly et al. (1998), this phrase simply mean that over time, traditional fisheries has exploited the stocks of large predatory fishes and has now moved on to smaller species, oftentimes farther or deeper in the ocean (sometimes both).

Pauly believes that with this continuing decline, it won't be long before people would start having jellyfish sandwiches. Yikes! Can you imagine yourself having jellyfish meals?

To learn more about this concept, visit www.fishingdown.org. It is recently launched by the Sea Around Us Project to present case studies from around the world that have largely been ignored in the objections to fishing down, and present a brief response to these objections which are largely based on misunderstandings and allegations.

Happy learning!

Written by:
Lealde Pacres-Urriquia
Research Assistant
The SeaLifeBase Project

18 October 2012

Announcement from FIN Executive Director Mary Ann Bimbao

On September 2012, SeaLifeBase Project Coordinator M.L. Deng Palomares accepted the position of Associate Scientific Director for the FishBase Information & Research Group, Inc.(FIN) which manages both FishBase and SeaLifeBase projects.
Deng joins Nicolas Bailly who was appointed as FIN's Scientific Director in January 2011, with the latter and the former to lead and manage FishBase and SeaLifeBase, respectively. Her appointment will balance the relationship and work between the two databases, whose programs will further be well coordinated for upcoming projects particularly directed towards an ecosystem approach.
Nicolas and Deng are on secondment arrangement from WorldFish and UBC Fisheries Centre, respectively.

15 October 2012

Moorish Idol

Mohammedans of Africa and Asia venerated this fish, probably due to its long sickle-form dorsal fin, and hence its name, Moorish idol [1].

Photo by Richard Field

Its Latin name, Zanclus cornutus, can be literally translated as ‘horned back’: Zanclus, from Greek agklino, i.e., ‘to be on one’s back’[2], and cornutus from Latin, i.e., horned[3].

The name Zanclus was applied to a person, the first king of Messina (Sicily), who gave his name to the town of Zancle[4]. Which makes Gill of Finding Nemo a venerated Sicilian crowned prince!

Ciao, Principe Gill!

[1] Robins, C.R., Bailey, R.M., Bond, C.E., Brooker, J.R., Lachner, E.A., Lea, R.N., Scott, W.B. 1991. World fishes important to North Americans. Exclusive of species from the continental waters of the United States and Canada. Am. Fish. Soc. Spec. Publ. (21):243 p.
[2] Romero, P., 2002. An etymological dictionary of taxonomy. Madrid, unpublished. See http://www.fishbase.org/references/FBRefSummary.php?ID=45335
[4] http://www.ancientlibrary.com/smith-bio/3643.html.

Written by:
Maria Lourdes 'Deng' Palomares
Project Coordinator
The SeaLifeBase Project

10 October 2012


Photo by Ben Osborne from ARKiVE

The Imperial Shag (Phalacrocorax atriceps) is a sea bird resident of Sub-Antarctic islands and the Antarctic Peninsula. These sea birds are known to feed on fish, crustaceans, squid and other benthic invertebrates.  During feeding, it dives up to depths of 200 feet (60 meters), and as such, it is referred to as the “superbird” by enthusiasts.

Check out this video shot in Punta Leon, Argentina, where this behavior was documented by the Wildlife Conservation Society in December 2011. The sea bird dove 150 feet (45.72 in meters) in 40 seconds, just to catch a fish! On the surface, that’s just like jumping from a 13-story building down to the ground. Aren’t these birds talented? They use their physiology and environmental factors to feed and provide for their young!

Written by:
Patricia Yap
Research Assistant
The SeaLifeBase Project

07 October 2012

Taeng-kalabaw [carabao dung]

Acanthaster planci is a natural inhabitant of tropical reefs across the Indo-Pacific that feeds on reef-building corals. It is an interesting starfish because they are sometimes seen in high densities called an outbreak.
Commonly known as crown-of-thorns starfish or COT, it is locally known as 'bula' (Fiji), 'rrusech' (Palau), 'taramea' (French Polynesia) and 'alamea' (American Samoa and Tonga) in different islands in its distribution. In the Philippines, it is locally known as 'taeng kalabaw' (i.e., carabao dung) in the islands of Luzon.
Photo by Dr. Jay MacLean from SeaLifeBase
According to Ms. Aida Mendoza (pers. comm., 2009), this common name came from its carabao dung-like form and, just like any fecal matter, who would want to step on a spine-covered starfish?
Do you have any funny or peculiar common names of marine animals in your seas? Share it with us. E-mail us at sealifebase@fin.ph or follow us in our Facebook page.


05 October 2012

What information would you be able to gather from SeaLifeBase?

SeaLifeBase gathers biological and ecological information among others and make these data available at the tip of your fingers. It is useful for students, scientists, researchers and fisheries managers.
Here is an example of a species fact sheet synthesized from the species pages of SeaLifeBase and used for the 2009 issue of ACB Magazine.
Perna viridis (Linnaeus, 1758)
Common names: Asian brown mussel (FAO English); tahong (Filipino); green mussel (English, India); green lipped mussel (English, Malaysia).
Description: This species is a fairly large mussel, commonly 8 centimeters long and occasionally reaching a size of about 16.5 centimeters. Its shell is elongate, roughly triangular in outline with one end swollen and pointed (anterior) and the other, rounded and compressed (posterior). The outer surface is nearly smooth with concentric growth marks and faint radial lines. The outermost layer of the shell called periostracum, is attached, thick and smooth. The ligamental ridge is finely pitted and the hinge has interlocking teeth, a small one on the right valve and two on the left. The internal margins are smooth with the outside of the shell whitish under a bright periostracum that is dark brownish green (anterior) and olive-green to bright green (posterior). The interior is an iridescent pale bluish green, with a vivid green margin on periostracum. The wavy posterior end of the shell margin and the large kidney-shaped adductor muscle are diagnostic features of this species.
Distribution: Known to be native to the Indo-Pacific, the species was introduced to Japan, Australia, Fiji, North and South America, French Polynesia, Venezuela and the Caribbean. Habitat and Ecology: This mussel can be found in estuarine and marine tidal and subtidal habitats, forming dense aggregations of up to 35,000 individuals per square meter on various structures, like vessels, buoys and other hard substrates. It can tolerate a wide range of salinities (0°80 ppt) and temperatures (7-37.5°C).
Predators and Prey: Filter feeds on small plankton and other suspended fine organic materials. The mussel is a popular table seafood, preyed upon by Scylla serrata and other predators, such as other crustaceans, fishes, sea stars and octopus. Reproduction: External sexual fertilization. Spawning peaks coincide with the monsoon seasons except in the Philippines and Thailand where spawning is year-round. Both sexes release gametes in the water column, where developed larvae remain for two weeks before settling in benthic habitat as juveniles. Sexual maturity occurs at 15-30 millimeters shell length about 2-3 months age.
Life Span: Growth rates are influenced by environmental factors such as temperature, food availability and water movement. Life span is typically 2-3 years.
Mode of Introduction and Dispersion: The introduction of this species from the Indo-Pacific to Atlantic waters is attributed to fouling on boat hulls and ballast-water traffic. Local dispersion is brought about mainly by aquaculture activities and is intensified by natural periodic aggregation.
General Impacts: This species is highly invasive and can have economic, ecological and human health impacts. It can cause problems with water systems of industrial complexes by clogging pipes, increasing corrosion and therefore reducing efficiency. Fouling on marine vessels and mariculture equipment also results in raised costs and maintenance. The over abundance of this species leads to changes in community structure and trophic relationships as it outcompetes other local fouling organisms. It is also known to harbor high levels of toxins and heavy metals and has been linked to shellfish poisoning in humans.
Importance: This species is highly commercial and harvested in the Indo-Pacific as a human food resource due to its dense and fast growth. It also serves as an indicator of biopollution of heavy metals, organochlorines and petroleum hydrocarbons.

Written by:
Jeniffer Espedido
Research Assistant
The SeaLifeBase Project

Publication in the Nature Climate Change

SeaLifeBase Principal Investigator Daniel Pauly and Project Coordinator Deng Palomares are co-authors in an article recently published in Nature Climate Change (NCC). Entitled "Shrinking of fishes exacerbates impacts of global ocean changes on marine ecosystems," the paper talks about how changes in biogeochemical properties directly affect the ecophysiology of marine water-breathing organisms. In simpler terms, it shows how global warming affect the distribution and reproduction of fishes, notably how fish across different species decrease in size with the continuing rise of water temperature. The data used in this paper was based heavily on FishBase growth data.

This study has been featured by the BBC News.
To access the full paper, click here.

04 October 2012

The last mangrove forest in Metro Manila, Philippines

The Las Pinas-Paranaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area (LPPCHEA) is considered as the last mangrove forest in Metro Manila, Philippines. A thirty-minute drive from the capital city Manila brings you to this avian sanctuary, which is now in danger from the large reclamation projects happening in the area. According to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), LPPCHEA records 8 species of mangroves, almost 70 species of water birds and more than 50 species of migratory birds in its 175 hectare strip.

In December 2011, SeaLifeBase Research Assistant Jeniffer Espedido participated in a workshop led by the DENR-Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (DENR-PAWB). The workshop included a macrobenthic survey of the invertebrates in LPPCHEA. The main resource person, Dr. Benjamin Vallejo of the University of the Philippines Diliman, noted its peculiar ecology. Numerous mollusks, crustaceans and annelids were collected, and an abundance of fish and birds were observed. It seems that despite the "sea"of garbage, marine organisms are struggling to survive; somehow giving a sliver of hope that maybe degraded ecosystems, such as this, still has a chance and that this small patch of wildlife is worth saving.
Check out the short documentary about LPPCHEA below (source: Devential).

Written by:

Jeniffer Espedido
Research Assistant
The SeaLifeBase Project