29 October 2015


Dr. Daniel Pauly at a White House event on citizen science. (Source: Sea Around Us)

We take pride as SeaLifeBase’s Principal Investigator, Dr. Daniel Pauly speaks in the recently held discussion of the Oceans and Coasts session of the “Open Science and Innovation: Of the people, by the people, for the people”, a live-webcast forum of the White House held last September 30, 2015. The event was hosted by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the Domestic Policy Council, having three objectives: (1) to celebrate the successes of citizen science and crowdsourcing; (2) to raise awareness of the benefits these innovative approaches can deliver and; (3) to motivate more Federal agencies and Americans to take advantage of these approaches [1].

In this forum, Dr. Pauly presented FishBase and briefly discussed the efforts of its project staff in the Philippines in gathering and extracting data from vast references in order to make information on all fishes become freely available to the world through the database. FishBase, an online information system founded more than 25 years ago, has grown to become one of the largest global database sources (GSDs) that provides systematic information on all fishes of the world including Etheostoma obama and Teleogramma obamaorum, two species of fish named in honor of President Obama. The database has received almost 50 million hits from over half a million users in a month and has been cited by more than 5000 scientific studies over the past decade, based from the Google scholar [2].

The forum was participated by respected citizen science professionals, researchers, stakeholders from different levels of the government, acadaemia as well as the non-profits and private sectors. It is such an honor for the whole FishBase team to be recognized as a successful science project by the White House. SeaLifeBase and  the whole FishBase Information and Research Group Inc. (FIN) family are very proud of what FishBase, with its founders, Dr. Pauly and Dr. Rainer Froese, have achieved.

Cheers! For future great collaborations that this opportunity might bring.

Watch the complete footage of the event here.

Links to other posts about the event: for Sea Around Us and for FishBase.


[1] Kalil, T. and D. Wilkinson.  Accelerating Citizen Science and Crowdsourcing to Address Societal andScientific Challenges. Published on September 30, 2015. [Accessed 10/22/2015].

[2] The FishBase Project Facebook page. Coming Soon: FishBase in the White House! Published on September 28, 2015.  [Accessed 10/22/2015].

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15 October 2015

Secret of resilience revealed in Antarctic octopod

Photo by Thomas Lundälv.

At a constant temperature of -1.8°C to 2°C in the Antarctic, ectotherms adapt various strategies to survive near-freezing temperatures. Such a condition may increase the solubility of oxygen but increase blood viscosity, making it difficult to deliver oxygen in tissues [1,2]. But such a dire circumstance does not thwart the Antartic octopod’s survival in freezing waters.

However, this octopod does not only thrive in cold temperatures, evidence suggests that a functional change in its blue-blood pigment ‘haemocyanin' enhances oxygen supply to octopod tissues, notably at higher temperatures. This could mean increased resiliency to warmer climate as global warming advances in the Antarctic Peninsula [1,2].

How does an Antartic octopod survive temperature extremes? Researchers analyzed the haemolymph of three octopod species – the Antarctic octopod Pareledone charcoti and the two species residing in warmer climates, Octopus pallidus and Eledone moschata. They found out that P. charcoti has one of the highest concentration of haemolymph recorded for octopods, allowing sufficient oxygen supply. Also, relative to the two other species, oxygen transport via haemocyanin in P. charcoti (76.7% on average) was significantly improved at 10°C compared to 0°C. Such a remarkable feat may allow the Antarctic octopod to thrive in both warm and cold temperatures [1]. Amazing, isn’t it?

To know more about these species and octopods in general, visit SeaLifeBase.

[1] BioMed Central. (2015, March 10). “Blue-blood on ice: How an Antarctic octopus survives the cold.” ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 16, 2015 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/03/150310205703.htm

[2] Oellermann, M., Lieb, B., Pörtner, H.O., Semmens, J.M., Mark, F.C. (2015). Blue blood on ice: modulated blood oxygen transport facilitates cold compensation and eurythermy in an Antarctic octopod. Frontiers in Zoology.

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25 August 2015

FishBase at 25: transcending the impossible

Poster by R. Atanacio

“It always seems impossible until it’s done” – Nelson Mandela

Ideas are not entirely original. They are built on something that was conceived long before, sitting atop each other as an idea reaches new horizons.  And they become so much more, sometimes way beyond what was once conceived. When people are curious enough to embrace ideas and the “what could be’s” that come with it, the impossible becomes less daunting.

Such rings true in the creation of FishBase.  With brilliant, hardworking individuals willing to collaborate, the world is sure to conspire in making a vision a stark reality. It didn’t come easy as most successful stories are. Most of the time it’s grueling - but FishBase stood firm on its vision. Finally the story can be told.

In 1986, Walter Fischer (FAO) created a global database (SPECIESDAB) encompassing basic information on important, commercially exploited fish and invertebrates. Drawing inspiration from this idea, Daniel Pauly suggested the transfer of  his compilation of fish population dynamics data to a standardized database in 1987. Who would have imagined that Pauly’s collection of 630 note cards would become a worldwide phenomenon known as FishBase 25 years later? The catalyst spinned off a series of events - from a raw idea, to the prototype and to the dynamic database FishBase is known for today. 

Rainer Froese, from the Institut für Meereskunde, in Kiel, Germany, implemented Pauly’s idea, and together with inputs from ICLARM scientists along with their programmers, the design of what to become as FishBase was conceived. Data entry kicked off in 1988, with only two research assistants, Susan M. Luna and Belen Acosta.

What is more valuable than a lasting partnership with key institutions that share noble interests? Collaboration, as stressed by reviewers, should be at the core of widening the scope and improving FishBase. This led to ICLARM and FAO forging a partnership in 1989. This allowed coordination of developments in FishBase and SPECIESDAB – a relationship which helped acquire FishBase’s first grant from European Commission. On-board and ready to set sail, FishBase became one of ICLARM’s major projects in 1990. With a clear-cut target, full-time data entry on all finfish species began. Transfer of tables to a more powerful relational database, Microsoft Access, became possible in 1994.

Restrictions in mass CD-ROM production did not hinder FishBase from its first wide release. Efforts paid off and there came 130 copies of FishBase 100, the first mass-produced version of FishBase in 1995. The successive release of 1000 copies of FishBase 1.2 hooked more than 160 collaborators and more than 400 recipients. Nature commended the capacities of FishBase 1.2. Another feat was achieved as FishBase 96 became the first fully tested version of FishBase, garnering 1000 users, more collaborators, ACP-EU grant, and a breakthrough in the number of users in developing countries. Reviews of FishBase from a number of journals pointed out that if gaps are to be bridged and collaboration more broadened, FishBase is certain to become an indispensable database.

The proponents knew that the database can do so much. How much more if it successfully pervades the Internet? FishBase became online in 1998. In two years, the turn of a new century made FishBase an Internet sensation, with over 30,000 unique users, covering 60,000 user sessions, and gaining recognition from USA Today as the number of hits reached 554,000 in March 2000.

Another celebration was at the corner as FishBase hit the coveted ceiling of 25,000 known fish species in August 2000. Today, the premiere database contains 33,208 valid extant species, more than 300,000 common names, 9,000 population dynamics data, 11,000 biological and ecological information, and 58,000 pictures, among other information relevant to fishery science. To this date, FishBase boasts of a suite of tools and modules relevant to research and teaching biodiversity, fisheries conservation and management.

Practically, as the longest running project conceived to initially populate 2,000 species, FishBase has carved a niche in the field of biological information systems with over 1,700 citations worldwide and 0.6 million web visits by 0.3 million users globally.

FishBase is a considerable feat of knowledge, vision, and resilience. It has surpassed challenges of every sort in its 25 years of exceptional journey. What started as a small initiative has gained the respect and recognition of the whole world today.

19 August 2015

In retrospect: sharing the SeaLifeBase story

The ocean is teeming with life that one cannot possibly fathom all its deepest secrets. But if substantial information is crunched into its juicy bits and made cohesive, it is certain to be useful in marine studies and conservation. 

The emergence of a global database SeaLifeBase in 2005 is one of the answers to making sure that all the remaining sea creatures other than fishes can share the limelight. The noble proponents of this project are Dr. Daniel Pauly (Principal Investigator) and Maria Lourdes D. Palomares (Project Coordinator); it is a joint initiative of the Sea Around Us (Fisheries Centre, UBC, Vancouver, Canada) and the FishBase Information and Research Group, Inc. (FIN). Also, it is endorsed and monitored by the FishBase Consortium. In essence, it emulates the highly-commended framework of FishBase, aiming to provide key information on scientific and common names, distribution, ecology and life history data for all multi-celled marine organisms of the world’s oceans. Its taxonomic backbone is the Catalogue of Life which is refined by expert-reviewed taxonomic data of the World Register of Marine Species.

The SeaLifeBase (SLB) encoding team is based in the Philippines. Data entry began in 2005 with only three research assistants Christine Dar-Sicada, Marianne Pan-Saniano, and Patricia Marjorie Sorongon-Yap, under the guidance of Maria Lourdes Palomares. The AquaSpecies Workshop was a good starting point for SLB as it formed collaborations with marine experts around the globe. Determined to make the database a reality, the SLB team completed more than 11,500 species, specifically marine mammals, marine reptiles, marine worms and other small groups.

The wait was over as SeaLifeBase finally became a searchable online information system in 2008. It secured the domain www.sealifebase.org, reaching 13,000 hits per month during the first six months.  Widening its presence in the marine scientific community was made possible  as it was introduced in the World Conference on Marine Biodiversity in Spain. 

In 2010, SeaLifeBase ventured into documenting the marine biodiversity of South China Sea, the large marine ecosystem that contains the Coral Triangle. Then on, it successfully provided mandatory information to almost 50,000 species. Resolute to achieve a firm footing, SLB shifted its target goal into working one marine ecosystem at a time, with its long-term goal of covering all 66 large marine ecosystems.

The decision to accomplish one ecosystem at a time was a heyday for SeaLifeBase, and most importantly to our precious marine folks. SLB became a vital advocate in putting a stop to drilling in Belize barrier reef when the team was commissioned in 2011 to provide key data on its marine biodiversity. Work progressed and other island ecosystems considered as large marine protected areas were covered, including Southern Oceans, Kermadec Islands, Pitcairn Islands and the Mediterranean Sea. Collaborators, coming from 46 countries, doubled to 200.

In three years SeaLifeBase covereded eight island ecosystems: Kerguelen, Crozet, Terre Adélie, Kermadec, Easter, Pitcairn, and Belize. Labor in research and much-appreciated collaboration resulted to 94,326 species pumped up with ecological and biological information. In 2012, it reached a monthly average of 2,772,669 hits with 8,792 unique visitors.

Sailing forward on island ecosystem projects from 2013 to the present, more commissioned work on  the Sailish, Baltic, and North Seas, some major Mediterranean Islands, the Western Indian Ocean, French Polynesia, Palau and New Caledonia were completed. For the entire 2014, SLB garnered 12,238,587 hits with 129,775 unique users. 

Today, SLB  hosts information for all non-fish marine vertebrates, tunicates, cephalopods and other small groups of mollusks and jellyfishes. Aside from nomenclature and distribution data, SLB actively provides information on population dynamics, trophic ecology, and abundance.

As of August 2015, SeaLifeBase contains over 71,500 species (57,090 species with ecology information, 48,767 species for 170 marine ecosystems, 56,578 species with reproduction information, 1,918 species with morphological data) described by 34,587 common names, with 15,354 food item records, 515 diet records, 9,090 abundance records, 4,561 predator records, 3,040 growth records, 1,604 introduction records and 12,342 pictures gathered from 24,621 references. Moreover, SLB has garnered 260 collaborators worldwide.

Embracing the gift of sharing free and relevant information its proponents have perpetuated, SeaLifeBase with its seven members alongside their project coordinator, will carry on and pursue its goal – forming meaningful collaborations, tapping what is available, and providing relevant and far-reaching information to attain its long-term goal of completing all large marine ecosystems. 

14 August 2015

13th Annual FishBase Symposium centers on harnessing global information databases for teaching and research

For more than a decade now, the FishBase Symposium is being held in tandem with the FishBase Consortium Annual Meeting. This year, the 13th Annual Symposium will be celebrating the 25th year of FishBase and 10th year of SeaLifeBase.

The annual FishBase Symposium will be held here in the Philippines in Los Baños from September 1 to 4, with FishBase Information Research Group, Inc. (FIN) as the host. The event is generously sponsored by Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Developmet (PCAARDD) , Oceana, WorldFish, SEARCA, Biodiversity Management Bureau, Asian Development Bank, Asean Centre for Biodiversity, Manila Ocean Park,  Mundus maris, World Wildlife Fund, and Conservation International - Philippines. This year’s theme, “FishBase and SeaLifeBase for Teaching and Research in Aquatic Science” will focus on how FishBase and SeaLifeBase can be utilized as powerful tools in teaching and research in the Philippines as well as increasing public awareness on the databases, promoting their various applications in sustainable fisheries management, biodiversity conservation and environmental protection.

FIN is guided scientifically by a Consortium of 10 international members, i.e. three European natural history museums (Swedish Museum of Natural History [Stockholm, Sweden], Royal Museum for Central Africa [Tervuren, Belgium], and Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle [Paris, France]); four universities (Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel [Kiel, Germany], Fisheries Centre, University of British Columbia [Vancouver, Canada], and Aristotle University of Thessaloniki [Thessaloniki, Greece], Universidade Federal de Sergipe [Sergipe, Brazil]; and three non-government organisations (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations [Rome, Italy], WorldFish [Penang, Malaysia], and Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences [Beijing, China]) 
Attending this four-day event at IRRI, College, Los Baños, Laguna are invited speakers from local universities and research institutions, representatives of partner institutions, FishBase Consortium members themselves, and students from universities and secondary schools in the Philippines. 

Among the notable guests is Dr. Daniel Pauly, a world-renowned fisheries biologist. He is the co-proponent (alongside Dr. Rainer Froese) of FishBase, the highly successful database on all fishes of the world and the Principal Investigator of SeaLifeBase, a flourishing complementary database which documents all non-fish marine organisms. An outlier and a true hero in the fisheries sector, he has bravely filled the void in world’s fisheries. While most conform in regulatory agencies with skewed systems, he and his colleagues have looked at the larger picture, repeatedly being upfront on reporting that fish stocks are plummeting worldwide. He stressed that a considerable reduction in global fishing and a firm stand on “no take” zones are crucial for fisheries to thrive. His contributions to fisheries are insurmountable. He co-developed concepts, methods and software which are documented in over 500 scientific and general-interest publications and used by ocean experts throughout the world. With so much on his plate, he even teaches an array of courses at the Fisheries Centre and Zoology, University of British Columbia and handles graduate students in four languages on five continents. No wonder his career has been highly commended in various profiles like Nature and New York Times, to name a few. Recently he was invited in TedXSydney wherein he unfolded the obvious gap between the reported global catch and the much higher reconstructed global catch. Since 1999, he has served as the Principal Investigator of the Sea Around Us, working towards mitigating the impacts of fisheries on the world’s marine ecosystems.

The 13th Annual FishBase Symposium will be held on September 1, and will focus on paper presentations both international and local. Dr. Daniel Pauly will give the key note address with the theme “FishBase: an improbable success, and what it inspired.” Dr. Cornelia Nauen of Mundus Maris, Belgium will lead the inspirational talk. FishBase Consortium members who themselves are presentors will share their experiences and insights in using FishBase to supplement teaching and research activities. They are Dr. Rainer Froese, FishBase Consortium Coordinator, Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research, Germany; Dr. Nicolas Bailly, Helenic Centre for Marine Research, Greece; Dr. Jos Snoeks, Musée Royal de l'Afrique Centrale, Belgium; Dr. Kosta Stergiou, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece; Dr. Kátia Freire, Universidade Federal de Sergipe, Brazil; Dr. Markus Skyttner, Swedish Museum of Natural History, Sweden; Dr. Fumito Muto, Tokai University, Japan; Dr. Mathieu Colleter, University of British Columbia, Canada; and Ms. Regina Bacalso, ECOFISH-USAID. 

Local presentors will come from five distinguished research institutions and two state universities. They will talk about their work and how FishBase and SeaLifeBase have contributed or can contribute to teaching and research. Speakers are Dr. Reiner Wassmann, International Rice Research Institute; Dr. Rex Montebon, Conservation International-Philippines; Dr. Adelaida Palma, NFRDI-BFAR; Mr. Christian Elloran, ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity; Mr. Patrick Co, World Wildlife Fund Philippines; Dr. Benjamin Vallejo, Jr., UP Diliman; and Dr. Asuncion de Guzman, Mindanao State University Naawan. Dr. Maria Lourdes Palomares, SeaLifeBase Project coordinator, will conclude the symposium. 

Other anniversary celebration activities from September 1 to 4 include a poster exhibit of FishBase and SeaLifebBase, a book-giving activity to local libraries, students’ hands-on orientation on FishBase and SeaLifeBase, and an art competition – poster-making and digital photo contests – expressing underwater relationships and connections. A workshop on “New Technology for small scale fisheries data collection” will be sponsored by Oceana on September 4 and will be led by Dr. Stephen Box of Smithsonian Institution, USA. 

This anniversary event is also a tribute to honor the donors, partners and collaborators who have extended their support through the years to provide, free of charge to the public, these comprehensive information systems with key data on all aquatic organisms of the world.

30 July 2015


Hi to all amateur Philippine-based photographers!

We are very pleased to announce that the deadline for submission of entries for the FishBase Symposium digital photo contest  is extended until 14 August 2015. Still photos should showcase the theme "Under the sea connections: different relationships among aquatic organisms". So what are you waiting for? Send in your entries to sealifebase@fin.ph.

Note: Open image in new tab to enlarge.

22 July 2015

Digital Photo Contest Awaits Your Entries!

Hurry! The countdown is on for the FishBase Symposium digital photo contest. The contest is open to all amateur Philippine-based photographers. Photos should exemplify the theme "Under the sea connections: different relationships among aquatic organisms." Send your entry to sealifebase@fin.ph

Note: Open image in new tab to enlarge.

10 July 2015

Collaborator of the Month: Lucas Brotz

Photo courtesy of Lucas Brotz

Lucas Brotz holds a Bachelor’s degree in Astrophysics and a Master’s degree in Oceanography. Currently, he is undertaking his doctorate in Zoology at the University of British Columbia’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries under the guidance of the esteemed Dr. Daniel Pauly. He is also working with the Sea Around Us.

His research focuses mainly on changing jellyfish populations and jellyfish fisheries, as well as the economic impacts of jellyfish blooms. A study that he published in 2012 together with UBC scientists was the first attempt to identify changes in global jellyfish abundance. Analysis of available data from 1950 to the present confirmed a remarkable rise in their populations. This was evident in 28 of the world’s Large Marine Ecosystems, or 62 percent of the regions analyzed.  

Consequently, this study has immense implications for humans and ecosystems. Negative impacts of this global phenomenon are felt on human activities like fishing, aquaculture, tourism, power generation, and desalination, among others. Aside from exploiting jellyfish as a food source, people may have to resort to creative ways to reduce economic loss. No single factor is responsible for increasing jellyfish blooms, but mounting evidence suggests that pollution, aquaculture, fishing, shipping, global warming, and coastal development are likely to contribute to this observed rise. UBC scientists urge that subsequent studies on jellyfish populations and awareness are vital to make sure we still have fishes, and not just jellyfishes, on our plates.

Lucas Brotz makes use of SeaLifeBase for jellyfish taxonomy as well as FishBase, since he is also studying the dynamics between jellyfish populations and fisheries. He has contributed data on taxonomic updates of jellyfish, photographs of jellyfish, and scientific papers on jellyfish populations as well as the results of his MSc Thesis.

Cheers to more years of collaborating with you!

The University of British Columbia Fisheries Centre . http://www.fisheries.ubc.ca/students/lucas-brotz [Accessed 6/29/2015]
The University of British Columbia. http://news.ubc.ca/2012/04/18/jellyfish-on-the-rise-ubc-study/  [Accessed 6/29/2015]

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07 July 2015

FishBase Symposium: Art Contest 2015 is now ON

FishBase Symposium Art Contest is now officially on, with the theme "Under the sea connections: different relationships among aquatic organisms". This activity features a poster-making contest, open for all elementary, high school and colleges in Los Baños, Laguna, and a digital photo contest which invites all amateur Filipino photographers. Read through the details and be among the winners!

Note: Open image in new tab to enlarge

Artwork by: Mike Yap

16 June 2015

Seven Sea Turtle Wonders

Artwork by Mike Yap

To develop an appreciation for something can take as little as a glimpse – an instant connection – or sometimes a profound amount of time to see the beauty within. In the life of James Spotila, a remarkable sea turtle biologist, it only took a sighting of a healthy leatherback about to lay its eggs to be held captivated by it forever. Such a moment held a big part of him, enough to commit his lifetime into studying these wonderful, often miraculous sea creatures.

Since World Sea Turtle Day, June 16, is especially dedicated to the 7 sea turtle species (Green turtle, Leatherback, Kemp’s Ridley, Olive Ridley, Hawksbill, Loggerhead and Flatback) we have today, let us take the time to see how amazing and resilient they really are.

1. Did you know that sea turtles don’t have sex chromosomes? Instead, sex is determined by temperature at which eggs incubate. In the case of green turtles, at 28oC, hatchlings develop into males; at 31oC the hatchlings grow into females [1]. This has great implication in conservation [2].

2. The largest recorded leatherback turtle weighs nearly a ton [1]. With jellyfish as its main food, it’s kind of hard to imagine how much it has to eat to weigh that much.

3. Sea turtles have magnetite in their brains; they use it as their internal magnetic compass [1]. They don’t have the superpowers of Magneto but they are tuned to migrate thousands of miles in the ocean and get back to the beach were they hatched.

4. Different species bury their eggs in sand at varying depths. Don't worry the eggs have porous shells so they can breatheThe shallowest depth is observed for Olive ridley and Kemp’s rildey nests at 15 inches while the deepest is for leatherback eggs buried at 25 inches. The deeper it is, the more stable the temperature [2].

5. Sea turtles have to spend at least a decade or more in the open sea before going to back to mate and reproduce in their natal beach [1]. Imagine that they are already independent from the time that they were hatchlings, racing to the open sea. It only becomes tougher (and tougher) for the succeeding years as they have to avoid being captured in destructive shrimp trawls, longlines, and gillnets. What is more worrisome is their affinity to ingest plastics which they mistake for a sumptuous jellyfish.

6. Sea turtles are excellent divers and can prolong their breathing underwater for 45 minutes. The deepest dive a leatherback has bagged is 4250 m [3], beating that of a sperm whale at 3686 m [1].

7. They have survived the mass extinction which obliterated dinosaurs and so have lived for 110 million years now [1]. And it is of course in our hands to make certain that they get to be seen and conserved by the next generations.

The list of how beautiful sea turtles are goes on. Never cease to see and celebrate what’s amazing.

We have considerable information on the seven species of sea turtles. Feel free to visit us at SeaLifeBase, or become a collaborator. Happy World Sea Turtle Day!

[1] Spotila, J.R. (2004). Sea Turtles: A Complete Guide to their Biology, Behavior and Conservation. The Johns Hopkins University Press.
[2] Spotila, J.R. (2011). Saving Sea Turtles. The Johns Hopkins University Press.
[3] OBIS Search Interface. http://www.iobis.org/mapper/ [Accessed 6/8/2015]. 

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08 June 2015

World Oceans Day 2015: Healthy Oceans, healthy planet

Artwork by: Mike Yap

The ocean provides us with many things, including food and medicine, and is an important reservoir of carbon and oxygen, things that are necessary for our survival. Other than these, it serves as a home to vast numbers of organisms and it also regulates the Earth’s climate. Simply put, oceans since the dawn of time, have been caring for all organisms including the human race, but the question is, do we care for the oceans? Unfortunately, humans have misused its resources and unknowingly put 71 percent of the Earth’s surface at risk. However,  it is never too late for man to change this kind of situation.

Today, the whole world celebrates World Oceans Day, an annual event to celebrate the beauty, the wealth and the promise of the ocean. This was first proposed in 1992 by the Government of Canada at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, and in 2008 during the United Nations General Assembly, it was officially set to be celebrated every 8th day of June. May this celebration remind and unite us all in making plans into actions toward a sustainable management of the world’s oceans. Healthy oceans, healthy planet.


World Oceans Day 8 June. Accessed from http://www.un.org/en/events/oceansday/.
World Oceans Day History. Accessed from http://www.worldoceansday.org/about/history/.

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05 June 2015

Today is WED!

Artwork by: Mike Yap

We often used “WED” as an abbreviation for “Wednesday”, which is the day between Tuesday and Thursday, the fourth day of the week, or the third day of the working week. Well aside from that, “WED” is also an acronym for “World Environment Day”. It may sound something new for some individuals.

World Environment Day is initiated by the United Nation as a worldwide awareness and action for the environment. It encourages humans to take full responsibility in managing and utilizing the planet’s natural resources. Earth’s ecosystems are getting closer to critical depletion or irreversible change caused by increasing population growth and economic development. By 2050, if this continues and with a 9.6 billion population it is presumed that man will need three planets in order to sustain his ways of living and consumption.

As we celebrate WED with the theme, “Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care.”,  may we all realize our own responsibility to take care for our planet. Let’s keep in mind that to secure good and healthy future need not cost the Earth. Your action counts. My action counts. Every action counts. Be an agent of change.

Although individual decisions may seem small in the face of global threats and trends, when billions of people join forces in common purpose, we can make a tremendous difference.

        UN Scretary-General Ban Ki-Moon


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29 May 2015

Grannies of the Sea

­Orcinus orca, photo by S. Blanc on www.arkive.org 

What do humans and whales have in common?
        Killer whales (Orcinus orca) and the short-finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus) have comparable post-reproductive lifespans. Just like human females, killer whales undergo menopause after they have reached a certain age. They have the longest post-reproductive lifespan of all non-human animals. Female orcas usually stop reproducing during their 30’s to their 40’s but can live until their 90’s, as compared to males that rarely live beyond their 50’s [1].

        Aside from the mortality of the females being higher, their post-reproductive stage renders a higher survival rate to their pod, especially to their male progenies. These so called “grandmothers” may serve as teachers, guides, and keepers of the clans or pods’ traditions [3]. According to a recent study that was conducted for about 35 years, females that had undergone menopausal stage exhibit a strong leadership to its pod. During periods wherein food is scarce, they are most likely to lead the group’s activities, especially when food source such as salmons are low in supply or extremely difficult to locate [2]. The mothers are able to share their long experience in the waters which gives them an advantage in foraging.

        Compared to females, males are more likely to follow their mothers as they conceive the ecological knowledge of their mothers useful. It is known that once their post-reproductively-aged mother dies, the sons have a higher probability of dying compared to the females [2]. From this, it can be said seen that the males highly depend on their mothers for their survival.

        Aside from the killer and pilot whales, there has been no evidence or data in other non-human animals that can suggest similar post-reproductive behavior [1].

            To know more about whales, visit SeaLifeBase.
[1] Foster, E.A., Franks, D.W., Mazzi, S., Darden, S.K., Balcomb, K.C., Ford, J.K.B., and Croft, D.P. (2012) Adaptive Prolonged Postreproductive Life Span in Killer Whales. Science. 337:1313

[2] Brent, L.J.N., Franks, D.W., Foster, E.A., Balcomb, K.C., Cant, M.A., and Croft, D.P. (2015) Ecological Knowledge, Leadership, and the Evolution of Menopause in Killer Whales. Current Biology. 25: 746-750

[3] Allen, S.G., Mortenson, J., and Webb, S. (2011) Field Guide to Marine Mammals of the Pacific Coast. University of California Press: Berkley, California. 261p.

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18 May 2015

Ocean Giants: Giant Squid

Last week we talked about the Kraken, that it's a squid-like sea monster and that its identity can be either of the two known largest extant squids. First was the heaviest, the colossal squid Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni (read article here). The second is the longest, the giant squid Architeuthis dux with a cosmopolitan distribution.

Photo taken by Tsunemi Kubodera from Ogasawara Islands, off Tokyo on December 4, 2006 [1].

There are many different species listed under the genus Architeuthis, 21 nominal species in total. But based on a genetic study conducted by Guerra et al (2013), all species are synonyms of A. dux; thus, there is only one giant squid. Furthermore, like the majority of deep sea species, little is known of its biology. Obviously it's a predator; it feeds on fishes and other cephalopods. It has a short life cycle; spawning occurs only once and the females die after bearing their eggs. The largest recorded species measured 12 m in length, unfortunately there was no record of its weight. Studies on its growth and mortality were very limited since getting a sample population from the ocean was tough. Thus, if you have other information on them, which you wish to include in our information system, please e-mail us at sealifebase@fin.ph or join us as a collaborator.

[1] Accessed from http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/invertebrates/giant-squid/
[2] McClain CR et al (2015) Sizing ocean giants: patterns of intraspecific size variation in marine megafauna. PeerJ 2:e715. Accessed from https://peerj.com/articles/715/
[3] Guerra A et al (2013) Architeuthis dux: única especie de calamar gigante en el mundo. MOL. Revista de la Sociedad de Ciencias de Galicia 53:46-53.
[4] Bolstad KS et al (2004) Gut contents of a giant squid Architeuthis dux (Cephalopoda: Oegopsida) from New Zealand waters. New Zealand Journal of Zoology 31(1):15-21.

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11 May 2015

Ocean Giants: Colossal Squid

Who here have watched the movie "Clash of the Titans"? Remember the scene when Zeus shouted "Release the Kraken!" to his men? Kraken actually refers to a squid-like sea monster and among the family of squids, there are two known largest species. First is the heaviest - the colossal squid Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni commonly found in the Antartic.

The short clip above presents the largest specimen ever caught, it weighed 495 kg and measured 4.2 m in length [1]; but the measurements stated are underrated. Experiments conducted by the Te Papa staff from the Museum of New Zealand showed that fresh specimens can shrink up to 22% when preserved and the specimen above was believed to have shrunk by 14%. Unfortunately, only 9 adult specimens have been recorded and were not enough to fully study their biology [2]. Thus, if you have other information on them, which you wish to include in our information system, please e-mail us at sealifebase@fin.ph or join us as a collaborator.

[1] McClain CR et al (2015) Sizing ocean giants: patterns of intraspecific size variation in marine megafauna. PeerJ 2:e715. Accessed from https://peerj.com/articles/715/
[2] The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. The Squid Files. Accessed from http://squid.tepapa.govt.nz/the-squid-files

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10 May 2015

Mother knows best! Don't we all agree?

Harp seals (Pagophilus groenlandicus) are famous for being white and fluffy, which makes them adorable; but did you know that the white harp seals we see are pups? Adults on the other hand are black-faced with silver-gray body [1].
(Young harp seal suckling, photo by M. Watson posted www.arkive.org)

Like any other mammal, there is a special bond formed between the mother and her young. In the case of harp seals, the mother “noses” its offspring immediately after its birth not only to recognize its scent but also for her to be able to find her pup after foraging [2, 5]. Foraging takes a few hours a day and the mothers need to eat more during the nursing phase (which lasts about 12 days) to provide milk to their pups [3, 4, 5]. They also use their sense of smell to protect their young by detecting predators on ice [1], and to get back to their pups in case there is a need to relocate them due to the unstable ice floe where they gave birth on. [6]

Newborns are sedentary and weigh around 20 lbs which is almost nothing compared to a well fed adult at around 300 lbs. [2, 6] The pups can gain an average of 5.5 lbs per day, because their mother’s milk contains 25 to 40% fat in comparison to a cow’s milk that only contains 5% fat [2]. As soon as the pup fattens up and the nursing period ends, they are then ready to live on their own. The mothers swim off leaving them on the ice in search of a new mate.

Quite a short time to start becoming independent, huh?

To know more about harp seals, visit SeaLifeBase.

[1] Lavigne, D.M. (2009) Harp seal Phoca groenlandica. In pp. 542-546, Perrin, W.F., Wursig, B., Thewissen, J.G.M. (2009) Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals, Second Edition. Academic Press: London. 1316pp.
[2]  Dougan, J.L., & Roland, K. (1982). The Ice Lover: Biology of the Harp Seal (Phoca groenlandica). Science, New Series 215(4535):928-933.
[3] Ellis, R. (2003). The Empty Ocean. Island Press, 367p.
[4] Innes, S., Lightfoot, N., & Stewart, R. E. A. (1981). Parturition in Harp Seals. Journal of Mammology 62(4):845-850.
[5] Lydersen, C. & Kovacs, K. M. (1999). Behaviour and energetics of icebreeding,
North Atlantic phocid seals during the lactation period. Marine Ecology Progress Series 187:265–281.
[6] Van Opzeeland, & I.C., Van Parijs, S.M. (2004) Individuality in harp seal, Phoca groenlandica, pup vocalizations. Animal Behaviour 68:1115-1123.

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09 May 2015

World Migratory Bird Day 2015: Energy – make it bird-friendly!

Photo from www.worldmigratorybirdday.org

World Migratory Bird Day was initiated  in 2006 and is an awareness-raising campaign which highlights the conservation of migratory birds and their habitats. This annual event is celebrated every second weekend of May and organized by two international wildlife treaties, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) - the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), and the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA).

This year’s celebration has the theme “Energy – make it bird-friendly!”, which aims to emphasize the importance of utilizing energy technologies that do not inadvertedly pose threats to migratory bird species and to their habitats. Empowering actions toward this goal requires proper planning, design and risk assessment. Therefore, this must be participated not only by authorities, organizations, experts and the energy sector but also by an ordinary people of the society.

Search through SeaLifeBase’s collection of about 400 seabirds to know more.


9-10 May 2015 World Migratory Bird Day. www.worldmigratorybirdday.org [Accessed 05/06/2015].

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08 May 2015

Demise of an ‘indeterminate’ Plesiochelyid turtle from rising sea levels

 Photo reinterpration by Iván Gromicho

A discovery of sea turtle remains from Jaén, Baetic Cordillera adds knowledge on the oldest sea turtles that once existed on Earth millions of years ago. The supposed new species, Hispaniachelys prebetica, turned out to be a misnomer (i.e. deemed invalid) upon reinterpretation of the sole specimen from Jaén. Since evidence is meager, the sea turtle fossil is classified as an ‘inderterminate’ species of Plesiochelyidae, a diverse group of reptiles from the European Jurassic. This means that the specimen possibly fits in one of the previously defined species of the group [1,2].

As experts point out, the Plesiochelyids from 160 million years ago certainly do not resemble sea turtles today. Growing evidence obtained from Spain supports this claim. Unlike that of the agile, migratory, adventurous sea turtles we see today, the first European sea turtles’ anatomy –unfortunately - restricted them to the coastlines. This constraint and the changing sea levels that occurred 145 million years ago obliterated them [1,2]. That’s natural selection, after all.

Currrently, scientists are working to unravel the diversity in Plesiochelyids.

To ponder more on Plesiochelyidea, refer to the link http://www.bioone.org/doi/pdf/10.4202/app.2012.0115. SeaLifeBase also has information for the 7 living species of sea turtles. Happy learning everyone!

[1] Plataforma SINC (2015, March 23). First European sea turtles became extinct due to changing sea levels. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/03/150318074232.htm

[2] Pérez-García, A. (2014). Reinterpretation of the Spanish Late Jurassic “Hispaniachelys prebetica” as an indeterminate Plesiochelyid turtle. Acta Paleontologica Polonica 59(4):879-885.

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