29 November 2012

The honeycomb coral

Photo by Deng Palomares

This neat-looking coral is one of my personal favorites. Diploastrea heliopora is unique and very easy to identify with its cone-shaped corallites having small openings and thick walls. It is also the only species in the genus Diploastrea. Unfortunately this coral is listed by the IUCN to be "near threatened".

Do you see a lot of this coral in your area? Next time you go diving in the Indo-West Pacific, look-out for this massive beauty.

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28 November 2012

Sunfish seeks help from albatross

The sunfish Mola mola is the world’s largest oceanic bony fish, found in subtropical and tropical oceans. It spends most of its time feeding on jellyfish in deeper waters. When it surfaces, it’s either for thermal recharging or to seek help to eliminate parasites, e.g., from the albatross. The sunfish lies parallel to the water surface to allow the black-footed albatross Phoebastria immutabilis to feed on the copepod attached near the base of its dorsal fin. The copepod belongs to the genus Pennella, and one of the 40 ecto-parasites (écto’ from Late Greek ‘ekto’, meaning outside) identified to inhabit the sunfish’s skin.[1]

Learn more about these species from FishBase and SeaLifeBase.

[1] Abe, T., and K. Sekiguchi, 2012. Why does the ocean sunfish bask? Commun. Integr. Biol. 5(4): 395-398.

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24 November 2012

Crown-of-thorns seastars, where do they go after an outbreak?

Crown-of-thorns seastars (Acanthaster planci, COT) are coral-feeding echinoderms, natural inhabitants of Indo-Pacific tropical coral reefs. They are cryptic and normally not prominent on reefs. However, when they form aggregations of hundreds to hundreds of thousands of individuals, an outbreak occurs, which may lead to devastating effects on reef-building corals. An outbreak can wipe out a whole reef ecosystem.

Where do they go after an outbreak? Spicule evidence suggests that they die and disintegrate near reefs (Walbran et al., 1989). However, mass deaths have not been observed (Moran, 1988), until recently. In January 2012, a large aggregation of dead crown-of-thorns starfishes was observed on the sandy beach of Urasoko Bay, Ishigaki Island in southern Japan (Suzuki, et al., 2012). This report provides the first concrete evidence of this phenomenon after they have depleted food source, e.g., reef-building corals.

Photo taken from Suzuki et al. (2012)


Moran, P.J. 1988. The Acanthaster phenomenon. Australian Institute of Marine Science Monograph Series 7: 178 p.

Walbran, P.D., Henderson, R.A., Jull, A.J., Head, M.J. 1989 Evidence from sediments of long-term Acanthaster planci predation on corals of the Great Barrier Reef. Science 25:847–850.

Suzuki, G., Kai, S., Yamashita, H. 2012. Mass stranding of crown-of-thorns starfish. Coral Reefs. doi:  10.1007/s00338-012-0906-z.

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21 November 2012

FWC prohibits harvest of the giant Caribbean sea anemone


The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) received reports of declining population of certain species. One of these is the giant Caribbean sea anemone Condylactis gigantea; a cold snap in 2010 killed off most reef-associated species. To compensate, as reported in ABC 7, they initiated a three year moratorium prohibiting the commercial and recreational harvest of the giant Caribbean sea anemone to allow the species to rebuild its population. They also added to draft a proposal about the future management of this species.

There were other changes and clarifications made by the FWC to marine life management. To learn more about these, click here.

Written by: 
Vina Angelica Parducho
Research Assistant
The SeaLifeBase Project

16 November 2012

How rare is rare? The discovery of the spade-toothed whale

Photo from Current Biology

In 1872, a partially damaged mandible (with teeth) of a beaked whale (Dolichodon layardii) was collected in Pitt Island, Chatham Islands, New Zealand.1 This specimen was later on determined to be the same species as the specimen identified as Mesoplodon ginkgodens collected in White Island, New Zealand in the 1950’s 2 and the specimen identified as Mesoplodon bahamondi collected in Robinson Crusoe Island, Juan Fernández Archipelago, Chile, in 19861. Genetic analyses determined that all three specimens belong to the species Mesoplodon traversii2. Little is known about the biology of this rare offshore species3, and the fact that there is no evidence of it being consumed as food confirms its rarity in the wild4. An adult female (17 feet) and a juvenile male (11.5 feet) were sighted on Opape Beach, North Island, New Zealand in December 2010, one of the rare observations made on this species.5

1van Helden, A.L.; Baker, A.N.; Dalebout, M.L.; Reyes, J.C.; van Waerebeek, K.; Baker, S.C. 2002. Resurrection of Mesoplodon traversii (Gray, 1874), senior synonym of M. bahamodi Reyes (van Waerebeek, Cárdenas and Yánez, 1995) (Cetacea Ziphiidae). Marine Mammal Science 18(3):609-621.
2 Baker, A.N.; van Helden, A.L. 1999. New records of beaked whale, Genus Mesoplodon, from New Zealand (Cetacea: Ziphiidae). Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 29(3):235–244.
3 France-Presse, A. 2012. Rarest whale spied in New Zealand. Cosmos: The Science of Everything http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/news/6139/rarest-whale-spied-new-zealand [Accessed 12 November 2012].
4 Robards, M.D.; Reeves, R.R. 2011. The global extent and character of marine mammal consumption by humans: 1970-2009.
5 Stromberg, J. 2012. The world’s rarest whale species spotted in New Zealand. Smithsonian Magazine http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/science/2012/11/the-worlds-rarest-whale-species-spotted-in-new-zealand/ [Accessed 12 November 2012].

Written by:
Patricia S. Yap
Research Assistant
The SeaLifeBase Project

14 November 2012

We want you!

© Photos by SeaLifeBase photo collaborator David Harasti

Do you have photos of marine organisms? Be a photo collaborator and help us give "faces" to the world's marine organisms.

Your every photo will be properly credited to you through our collaborator pages. Professional photographers, divers, biologists and enthusiasts are most welcome to contribute their photos. We request that photos are properly identified up to species level. Underwater photos, aquarium photos and museum specimen photos are welcome. Only submit photos which you have taken or have permission to distribute.

Written  by:
Jeniffer Espedido
Research Assistant
The SeaLifeBase Project

12 November 2012

Forage Fish: Strive to Survive

Bryde's whale feeding. Source

Dolphins and whales are emblematic marine predators. As top predators, the survival of marine mammals is dependent on the conditions of their prey, for example, forage fishes that are rich in oil like sardines, anchovies, and sand lances. These fishes are also the target of important fisheries, that is, about 33 percent of marine fish landings worldwide are composed of forage fishes. Thus, ensuring the sustainable management of forage fishes will also benefit the marine mammal populations relying on them for survival.

To learn more about the status of forage fish species and how the Pacific Fishery Management Council took a stand to support this, click here.

Written  by:
Patricia S. Yap
Research Assistant
The SeaLifeBase Project

07 November 2012

Pokemon, Ben 10 alien, or another one of the world's beautiful creatures?


The nudibranch Glaucus atlanticus was a trending topic among biodiversity networks earlier this year when it was first sighted in Taiwanese waters [1] and referred to as a living pokemon. 

Glaucus atlanticus, commonly called the blue glaucus or blue sea slug, is the only species of its genus. Unlike its relatives, it floats upside down on the water’s surface! [2] Not your typical nudibranch, aye?

Learn more about this species from SeaLifeBase here.

Written by:
Vina Parducho
Research Assistant
The SeaLifeBase Project

06 November 2012

Marine Life Sanctuaries Society's (MLSS) Beach Interpretation Program

At one of the Marine Life Sanctuary Society's (MLSS) recent Beach Interpretation Programs in Porteau Cove, BC, a Big skate (Raja binoculata) was found washed up on shore.  Attendees were treated to an impromptu dissection of the skate by MLSS director, Dr. Chris Harvey-Clark, which proved very educational. MLSS was a key organization in the creation of the marine protected area in Whytcliffe Park in West Vancouver almost 20 years ago, which to this day remains one of the few no-take MPAs in Canada.  Their core mission is to create more similar such marine sanctuaries throughout BC through voluntary and community managed initiatives.  Their beach interpretation program strives to further these goals through increased awareness of marine ecosystems. For more information, please visit their website at www.mlssbc.com.

Written and contributed by:
Beau Doherty
Reseach Assistant
Sea Around Us Project
University of British Columbia