20 February 2013

Crêpes à la Bailly

Last week, we greeted FishBase Coordinator and FIN Board Chair Dr. Rainer Froese to his annual Philippines visit with a crêpe party.

SeaLifeBase Scientific Adviser and FishBase Project Manager Nicolas Bailly was chef of the night.

Welcome back, Rainer!

18 February 2013

Awesome Non-Fish in Trouble # 2: Acrobatics in the high seas...

Namibia Marine Life: Blue Whale
Photo from www.namibian.org

This majestic animal is the largest in the planet! Yes, even bigger than an elephant. It swims in and through all our oceans. Given its massive body, with a length of up to 33 m, and weight of up to 160,000 kg [1], it can consume up to 4 tons of krill per day [2]. It gulps in tons of water, often with acrobatic turns from beneath a patch of krill prey, which is blindsided; it then rolls 180 degrees to complete the act [3]. Sneaky isn’t it?

Sadly this animal is now classified as endangered by the IUCN Red List, because of its decreasing population being less than 12,000 at present. [4] Their high importance to fisheries since the 1900's for its meat and oil from the blubber contributed to its decline. Current threats are mainly ship strikes, by-catch due to entanglement, and ice entrapment in cold areas. [4]

To know more about blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus), visit SeaLifeBase

[1]    Jefferson, T.A., Leatherwood, S., Webber, M.A. (1993) FAO Species Identification Guide: Marine Mammals of the World. Rome, FAO. 320 p. + 587 figures.
[2]   Harris, S. (2012) World's largest mammal, blue whales, less than 25,000 left in Earth's oceans. The Guardian Express, posted 16 October 2012.
[3]  Bhanoo, S.N. (2012) Acrobatic blue whales can sneak up on krill. New York Times, posted 4 December 2012.
[4] NOAA. Blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus). NOAA Fisheries: Office of Protected Resources http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/mammals/cetaceans/bluewhale.htm [Accessed 08/02/2013].

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15 February 2013

Awesome Non-Fish in Trouble # 1: A Faithful Hawksbill

Hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricatainhabit all tropical oceans of the world, and favor coastline where algae, sponges and other benthic invertebrates are abundant. They are highly mobile which makes them difficult to monitor. Contrary to what is known, they are not polygamous. A recent study on their DNA samples revealed that females mate only once at the start of the breeding season and can store sperm up to 75 days or until they reach the nesting site [1].

Photograph by M. Pan-Saniano

They have been highly commercially exploited for their bekko (tortoise shell) since the 15th century B.C. which resulted to a dramatic decline in their population based on the number of females annually nesting. Thus, they have been marked as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) since 1996 [2].

Let us spread the knowledge! It is the primary step to the road towards conservation.

To know more about hawksbill turtles, visit SeaLifeBase.

[1] Phillips, K.P., T.H. Jorgensen, K.G. Jolliffe, S. Jolliffe, J. Henwood, and D.S. Richardson. 2013. Reconstructing paternal genotypes to infer patterns of sperm storage and sexual selection in the hawksbill turtleMolecular Ecology.

[2] Meylan, A.B., and M. Donnelly. 1999. Status justification for listing the hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) as critically endangered on the 1996 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals. Chelonian Conservation and Biology 3(2):200-224.

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Incoming: Awesome Non-Fish in Trouble blog series

For our first series for 2013, we will be posting about the top 10 charismatic non-fish species that are at risk of extinction based on this article by the Huffington Post.

Stay tuned and watch out for our upcoming posts!

11 February 2013

Corals' retort to climate change

Climate change has been a trending topic even before former vice-president Al Gore's documentary film entitled An Incovenient Truth became a box-office hit. This film only suggested what humans can do to counteract climate change. But then, we are not the sole inhabitants of the planet. Other species must also have mechanisms that will protect them from the impending climate change.

Corals are solely responsible for the multicolored scenery you see in the ocean. They build dense and varied coral reefs where fishes, invertebrates and algae inhabit, hence their importance. Unfortunately, several environmental stresses such as pollution, coral bleaching, rise in both temperature and acidity (i.e., climate change) have destroyed some of them. So how do they respond to the ongoing climate change?

Photograph taken from Balitian Reef, Mabini, Batangas by Dr. Maria Lourdes Palomares

A recent genomic study by Barshis and his colleagues on two populations of Acropora hyacinthus using cutting edge DNA sequencing technology revealed that 60 heat stress genes were already "turned on" before the heat stress was applied [1]. This explains how they are able to survive the waters of American Samoa that can get hotter than 32° Celsius during summer-time low tides [2]. A very timely trait, don't you think so?

To learn more about the behavior of corals, visit SeaLifeBase

“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.” ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

[1] Barshis, D.J., J.T. Ladner, T.A. Oliver, F.O. Seneca, N. Traylor-Knowles, and S.R. Palumbi. 2013. Genomic basis for coral resilience to climate changeProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110(4):1387-1392.
[2] Science Daily. Heat-resistant corals provide clues to climate change survival. Posted on January 7, 2013.

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07 February 2013

Remnants of a whale

Some might wonder why bones are important. They don’t exactly give us an idea of the ‘live’ animal. Museums, the American Cetacean Society among others, place a high regard in the science of bones.

This photo which depicts the dorsal views of whale skulls (bottom to top): 1. bowhead whale, 2. humpback whale, 3. fin whale taken of Plate III In Recent Memoirs on the Cetacea, Eschricht, Reihardt and Lilljeborg, Ed. W.H. Flower, 1866, demonstrates the differences in the skull structures of these whale species. At first glance they look all the same, but they're not. Bones permit the investigation of structural differences among animals and in many cases, provides forensic evidence of how these animals behaved in their ‘live’ form, as no doubt some of you might have seen in the TV series entitled ‘Bones’.

In Davao CityPhilippinesD'Bone Collector Museum has a collection of bones from different types of animals like whales, dolphins, turtles, sharks, and even some terrestrial animals like snakes and monkeys. This bone museum collects and preserves dead beached animals for educational purposes, i.e., to provide information and increase awareness of its public on the animals  found in Philippine waters, not to mention what is being lost of this aquatic biodiversity.

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06 February 2013

"Octopus" in plural form

Quick question: what is the correct plural form of the word octopus?

For most people, the immediate answer would be a toss up between octopuses and octopi... followed quickly by a split-second confusion on which of the two words is actually correct. Lucky for us, Merriam-Webster editor Kory Stamper is here to set the record straight:

Perhaps you want a detailed explanation of the differences between octopuses, octopi, and octopodes.
If so, click here.

Or if you are a visual person, maybe this would suffice?

Grains of salt, anyone?

Happy learning,

01 February 2013

University of Alicante awards Daniel Pauly an honorary doctorate

Dr. Pauly at the awarding of an honorary doctorate from the
University of  Alicante (Spain) last January 28, 2013. Source

Esteemed fisheries scientist Dr. Daniel Pauly was recently awarded as the new Doctor Honoris Causa by the University of Alicante (UA).

Known for his work on studying human impacts on global fisheries, Dr. Pauly is a forerunner of the ecosystem approach to fisheries management, co-developing simulation toolkits such as Ecopath, Ecosim and EcoSpace to offer a new perspective in managing fisheries.

Dr. Pauly is a co-maker of FishBase and currently the SeaLifeBase Project’s beloved Principal Investigator. The SeaLifeBase Project follows the FishBase example of a global biodiversity information system for the rest of the animals in the oceans.

Congratulations, DP!

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