27 January 2015

A Sea Turtle's Magnetic Voyage Back Home

Photo from www.arkive.org

Once they reach adulthood, sea turtles (e.g. Caretta caretta[1]), along with salmon and other marine mammals, travel thousands of miles across the open ocean only to return home to reproduce at the very coastal line where they hatched [2,3,4]. This amazing feat has baffled scientists for fifty years now [2].

Then how come they know their way home? New evidence points out that they “imprint” on magnetic fields as hatchlings and use these magnetic features as signature cues to return to their natal beach as adults [2,3]. Since early studies proved difficult in studying them in the open ocean, scientists took advantage of looking into changes in their behavior in response to changes in magnetic fields instead [2].

By processing a long-standing database, scientists found a strong link between the subtle shifts in the Earth’s magnetic field and the spatial distribution of the turtle nests. Only to confirm their theory: slight shifts in the Earth’s field resulted to coming together of adjacent magnetic signatures, hence gathering sea turtles in a much shorter coastline. Consequently, diverging magnetic signatures meant sparse eggs were laid and nests were farther from each other. This new evidence indicates that changes in magnetic fields influence where turtles will nest [2].

To learn more about sea turtles visit SeaLifeBase and to read more on salmons, visit FishBase.

[1] SeaLifeBase. Caretta caretta (Linnaeus, 1758). Retrieved January 27, 2015 from http://sealifebase.ca/summary/Caretta-caretta.html#.

[2] Cell Press. (2015, January 15). For sea turtles, there’s no place like magnetic home. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 18, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/01/150115134713.htm

[3] Lohmann, K.J., Putman, N.F., Lohmann, C.M. (2008). Geomagnetic imprinting: a unifying hypothesis of long-distance natal homing in salmon and sea turtles. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 105(49): 19096-19101.

[4] Putman, N.F., Lohmann, K.J., Putman, E.M., Quinn, T.P., Klimley, A.P., Noakes, D.L.G. (2013). Evidence of geomagnetic imprinting as a homing mechanism in Pacific salmon. Current Biology 23(4):312-316.

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21 January 2015

Balaena mysticetus on its lifespan and vitality

Photo from www.arkive.org

The bowhead whale, Balaena mysticetus, inhabits the arctic region and can live for more than 200 years with free or low incidence of old-age illness [1, 2, 3]. The species can reach up to 18 meters and is known to be the second heaviest whale after the blue whale [2]. Recently, scientists revealed the mystery of its long lifespan and vitality.

Mapping the bowhead whale’s genome, researchers discovered distinct genetic properties that influence DNA repair, cell growth, cell cycle, and ageing process [1, 2, 3].  Genes responsible for its immunity and metabolic processes were also discovered to be different compared to other animals [1, 2, 3].  Given the high number of cells of these animals, of over 1, 000 times than humans, bodies of bowheads are still more efficient in suppressing tumour cells because of their genetic composition [2, 3]. Scientists are now hoping that this knowledge in the genome of bowhead whales can be applied in hopes of improving human health and quality of life.

To know more about the bowhead whale, visit SeaLifeBase.
[1] Old whales-good genes. http://www.dw.de/old-whales-good-genes/a-18177578 [Accessed 20 January 2015].

[2] How to age gracefully? Ask a bowhead whale. http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20150108/environment/How-to-age-gracefully-Ask-a-bowhead-whale.551047 [Accessed 20 January 2015].

[3] Genome mapped for bowhead whale, which can live 200 years. http://thespeaker.co/genome-mapped-bowhead-whale-can-live-200-years/ [Accessed 20 January 2015].

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14 January 2015

The SeaLifeBase Project turns Ten

Welcome 2015!

It will be an exciting year for SeaLifeBase as it prepares to celebrate it’s 10th year anniversary on 1 December 2015. On this occassion, we take the opportunity to extend our sincerest gratitude to all our partners, collaborators and online users for their invaluable help and support. Our anniversary celebration will be one of the highlights of the 13th FishBase Symposium, which is hosted by the FishBase Information and Research Group (FIN), and which will be held on the first week of September 2015 in Los Banos, Laguna, Philippines.

We invite you to celebrate with us via our website, (http://sealifebaseproject.blogspot.com/) and facebook pages, (http://www.facebook.com/TheSeaLifeBaseProject), which will be regularly updated with further news on the events. We look forward to working with and serving you all for many more years.

08 January 2015

A Great Leap towards Mapping the World’s Coral Reefs

Photo from Catlin Seaview Survey

Climate change has drastically changed how we view today’s marine environment. It would not be surprising at all that coral reefs are constantly threatened to be extinct after a century or earlier [1]. Rightfully so, a team of innovative scientists are determined to race and change the tides.

Catlin Seaview Survery, a pioneering scientific expedition, aims to create a dynamic and reliable baseline record on the state of coral reef ecosystems today. Equipped with an automated SVII camera, a diver can capture 360-degree high resolution panoramic shots every three seconds at a speed of 4 km/h [1]. Using a highly advanced image recognition software, the myriad of GPS-located images can then be stitched together to form a 3D structure of coral reefs. What is more fascinating is that they can be readily accessed at Catlin Global Reef Record [2,3]. In turn, this may essentially empower scientists, policy makers and the public in general to monitor changes on reef ecosystems over time, find solutions on how to better protect them, and make informed decisions.

The project commenced in 2012 in the Great Barrier Reef. As the first project was a success, it has gone global and laid eyes on surveying the waters of Southeast Asia in 2014 [2]. Hopefully more surveying will be done in the successive years to consistently monitor the health of our coral reefs and understand its implications.

To know more about corals, visit SeaLifeBase.

[1] Euro news (2015) Mapping the oceans’ coral reefs to try and save them from extinction. http://www.euronews.com/2014/12/03/mapping-the-oceans-coral-reefs-to-try-and-save-them-from-extinction/ [Accessed 1/4/2015].

[2] Catlin Seaview Survey (2014) About the Catlin Seaview Survey. http://catlinseaviewsurvey.com/about/ [Accessed 1/4/2015].

[3] Catlin Seaview Survey (2014). The science of the Catlin Seaview Survey. http://catlinseaviewsurvey.com/science/ [Accessed 1/4/2015].

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