28 April 2015

The hit of El Niño on Galapagos penguin

When we think of causes concerning the decline of certain animal species, one of the biggest factors that affect them are human activities. However, that is not always the case. Some populations can fluctuate in size because of natural environmental events [2].

Galapagos penguin drying wings, photo from www.arkive,org

A Galapagos penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus) can be found at the northern part of the equator of the Galapagos Island. They are known as one of the smallest penguin species that has an average height of around 50 centimeters. [1] However because of certain events such as the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), in 1980 this resulted to a decline of its population by 77%. Although 50% of its population were able to recover by 1995, the 1997 to 1998 El Niño caused its population to further reduce to 65%.  [3] The ENSO also introduces a strong negative effect on the behaviour, breeding, and reproduction of the penguins. It was concluded that breeding periods that occur during El Niño result to the failure of the survival of their nests. Galapagos penguins depend on the upwelling of the cool nutrient rich oceanic water that supports the small schooling fish that they feed on. [4] The oceanic conditions have resulted to a decline of food availability due to the increase in its temperature over the past years which have overall reduced the population to more than 50% comparing to its population during the 1970’s.

At present, its population is now around 1800 individuals. [5] Galapagos penguins are classified as Endangered (EN) according to the IUCN red list.

To know more about them, visit SeaLifeBase.


[1] Akst, E.P., Boersma, P.D., & Fleischer, R.C. (2002) A comparison of genetic diversity between the Galapagos Penguin and the Megallanic Penguin. Conservation Genetics 3:375-383

[2] Ludwig, D. (1996) The Distribution of Population Survival Times. The American Naturalist (147)4:506-526

[3] Boersma, P. (1998) Population trends of the Galapagos Penguin: Impacts of El Niño and La Niña. The Condor (100)2:245-253

[4] Lacy, R.C., Meile, R.J., Parker, P.G., Vargas, F.H. (2013) Modeling Plasmodium Parasite arrival in the Galapagos Penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus) The Auk 130(3):440-448

[5] BirdLife International 2012. Spheniscus mendiculus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 15 April 2015.

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24 April 2015

Collaborator of the Week: Denis Lepage

Denis Lepage’s most notable work is his creation of a massive online resource on birds, the Avibase. As a passionate birdwatcher, it all started as a personal endeavour of having a catalogue for his own sightings. Eventually, it became more than that. The database is standing for more than 20 years now and it has been available online since 2003. It hosts an astounding 14 million records - encompassing 10,000 species and 22,000 subspecies of birds with details on their taxonomy, distribution and synonyms in many languages.

Aside from overseeing the database he founded, he is currently a Senior Scientist at the National Data Center, Bird Studies Canada. His resolve in creating the database is rooted in a disciplined organization of the entire bird taxonomy, with the utmost goal of  mapping out the evolution of bird taxonomy and devising concrete solutions for inconsistencies in taxonomic concepts and scientific names. In response to these nomenclature intricacies, he submitted a paper in ZooKeys (http://zookeys.pensoft.net/articles.php?id=3906)whereby his concepts are integrated in Avibase and can then be utilized by other taxonomic groups.

Furthermore, over 10,000 checklists from different countries and regions can be accessed in Avibase. This database encourages people to actively participate by contributing data and sharing their experiences. No doubt that many birdwatchers, along with educators and enthusiasts alike, find his database very useful and interactive.

Being a collaborator of SeaLifeBase, he has supplied invaluable information on seabirds. For that, we are grateful and hopeful for more years of collaborating with you. 

Biodiversity Heritage Library. Avibase, The World Bird Database. http://blog.biodiversitylibrary.org/2014/08/avibase-world-bird-database.html [Accessed 4/19/2015]. 

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23 April 2015

SeaLifeBase opens its doors to summer volunteers

SeaLifeBase welcomes its newest member, our volunteer for this summer, Ms. Shamica Alonso. Mica is taking up her Bachelor ‘s degree in Biochemistry (major in Chemistry) at the De La Salle University. Apart from her passion in visual arts, such as photography, painting and other crafts, she also enjoys fun outdoor activities and was a former varsity member of Miriam College’s Football team, SY 2010–2011. She is looking forward to gain a wider perspective and personal hands-on experience in the field of marine biology, which is one of her current interests.

Welcome to the SeaLifeBase Team, Mica! 

We hope you will also love and enjoy your stay with us.

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22 April 2015

International Mother Earth Day 2015: Let us join in! It's our turn to lead

Artwork by: Mike Yap

The 22nd of April marks the 45th Earth Day or International Mother Earth Day, where man puts nature on a pedestal and highlights our commitment to be stewards of this planet.

It all started in 1969 when a peace activist, John McConnell, at a UNESCO Conference in San Francisco, requested a special day to celebrate and honor the Earth, and the concept of peace. The proposed date coincided with the first day of Spring in the northern hemisphere, March 21, 1970. Then, US Senator Gaylord Nelson, by only a month later, instigated Earth Day on April 22, 1970. Originally, it was only in the US that this was observed, but in 1990, Denis Hayes and his organization brought forth awareness and extended the celebration of Earth Day in 141 nations. Today, Earth Day Network facilitates its annual celebration in more than 192 countries [1].

"But the big decisions that lie ahead are not just for world leaders and policy-makers..." 
                                                                                   - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [2]

The battle to save the environment is not just for those who are in position, it is a mandate that everybody should take part in. As with the theme of this year’s International Mother Earth Day celebration, “It’s our turn to lead” [2], let us join in and show our support, even in our very simple ways.


[2] International Mother Earth Day 22 April. www.un.org. [Accessed 04/21/2015].

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21 April 2015

Vegetarians of the Sea

Dugong feeding in sediment, photo from: www.arkive.org

Dugongs (Dugong dugon) commonly known as sea cow, can be found in at least 48 countries along the coasts of the western Pacific and Indian oceans. They can grow up to an average of 3 meters and can weigh at around 2,200 lbs [1]. Being the only marine herbivorous mammal, they mostly feed on seagrass as they are highly low in fiber and nutrients such as nitrogen and starch and it’s easily digestible [2]. Other herbivorous mammals would be its close relative, the Manatees which are commonly found in coastal waters and rivers such as the Amazon River

Dugongs can consume an average of 77lbs of sea grass per day [5]. About 97% of their diet consists of different species of seagrass as the remaining are algae. These numbers however can change depending on the abundance of food species and its ecological distribution [4]. As much as they prefer to be at shallow waters, they can also be found in depths up to 37 meters because of the presence of some deepwater seagrass habitats [3]. There are still a lot of threats that this animal faces. Because of human activities such as development, pollution and some cases of by-catch, the dugong population is decreasing. Another threat is food availability, and it causes a delay in breeding. These threats make habitat conservation a critical issue [3]. Dugongs are now classified as Vulnerable (VU) according to the IUCN red list [6].

To know more about dugongs, visit SeaLifeBase.

[1] Reeves, R. R., Stewart, B. S., Clapham, P. J., and Powell, J. A. (2002) Guide to Marine Mammals of the world. New York, NY: Chanticleer Press, Inc. 527p.

[2] Marsh, H. (2009) Dugong Dugong dugon. In pp. 332-335, Perrin, W.F., Wursig, B., Thewissen, J.G.M. (2009) Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals Second Edition. Academic Press: London. 1316pp.

[3] Marsh, H. (2002) Dugong: Status Report and action plans for countries and territories Early warning and assessment report series. UNEP: Nairobi. 162p.

[4] Johnstone, I.M., and Hudson, B.E.T. (1981) The Dugong Diet: Mouth sample analysis. Bulletin of Marine Science, 31(3):681-690

[5] Gaus, C., Donohue, M.O., Connell, D., Mueller, Jochen., Hynes, D., and Paepke, Olaf. (2004) Exposure and potential risks of Dioxins to the Marine Mammal Dugong. Organohalogen Compounds. 66:1159-1166

[6] Marsh, H. (2008). Dugong dugon. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. <www.iucnredlist.org>. [Accessed 16/04/2015].

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17 April 2015

Collaborator of the Week: Dr. Bertrand RICHER de FORGES

“There’s no real retirement for a marine biologist, we have so many things to do.” [1]

A core statement from a retired marine biology expert, Dr. Bertrand Richer de Forges. His words emphasized an aspect of a man’s character that is very strong and unchangeable with regards to his profession.

Dr. Richer de Forges was born in France and studied marine biology in Paris VI University. He finished his first thesis in biological oceanography on the crab of Kerguelen Island, Halicarcinus planatus in 1976 and eventually, his second PhD thesis in Marine Biology from the Museum in Paris in 1998.  He is known as a taxonomist of deep-sea crabs from tropical zones and author of extensive publications including several books on the Coral reef fauna. His career has been ceaseless for the past 40 years, 5 years of which were spent at sea, sampling the deep sea benthos of the Indo-Pacific.

In 2008, he retired from French Institute of Research for Development (ex-ORSTOM), a public research institute sharing its best in development, policy, practice and research [2]. He also became a member of Census of Marine Life in several groups, mainly in CenSeam, and as well as in the Tropical Deep-Sea Benthos (ex-MUSORSTOM). Certainly, even in retirement he still links himself in global networks of researchers and experts dedicated to assess fauna of the world’s oceans.

[1] Chua, G. Biodiversity expert on board S’pore marine expedition. The Strait Times. 25 September, 2012.

[2] Institut de recherche pour le développement, IRD (ex-ORSTOM). www.eldis.org.

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15 April 2015

Dr. Pauly's latest updates: Global marine fisheries true catch

Do you want to get updated about the reconstruction efforts on the annual global fish harvests?

On April 17, Dr. Daniel Pauly, Principal Investigator of the Sea Around Us and the SeaLifeBase Project, will be presenting:

"Reconstructing the global marine fisheries catch: the main findings so far"

Time: 11am
Location: AERL 120, University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada

This will be the last Fisheries Centre Seminar talk this semester. Don’t miss this chance. Everyone is very much welcome to attend.

14 April 2015

14th day of April 2015: It’s Dolphin Day!

Artwork by: Mike Yap

Today is April 14 and it’s the National Dolphin Day. It’s a part of pet health awareness events  established by the American Veterinary Medical Association, a non-profit association aiming to advocate and advance the science and practice of veterinary medicine to improve animal and human health [1].

Dolphins are very smart marine mammals that are known to display  agility for long distance swimming to reach feeding areas [2]. They are also highly social animals that often hunt together to find prey. In fact, they use a hunting scheme by circling, trapping, and catching a school of fish [2].

Like other marine animals, species such as Hector’s, Maui’s, and common bottlenose  dolphins are continually threatened. According to research, their deaths are mainly caused by human activities which includes marine pollution, habitat degradation, harvesting, entanglement in fishing gear (by-catch), climate change, and ship strikes [2, 3, 4].

Hopefully, this particular celebration will increase awareness to save and protect these amazing sea creatures from various threats.

To know more about the dolphins, visit SeaLifeBase.

[1] AVMA Vision and Mission. www.avma.org  [Accessed 04/09/2015].

[2] LeDuc, R. 2009. Delphinids, Overview. In: Perrin, W.F., B. Wursig and J.G.M. Thewissen (eds.), Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals, Second Edition, p. 298-302.
Academic Press: London [ISSN 978-0-12-373553-9].

[3] Ministry of Fisheries and the Department of Conservation Te Papa Atawbai. 2007. Hector’s Dolphin Threat Management Discussion Document. www.fish.govt.nz.

[4] Bearzi, G., Fortuna, C.M. and Reeves, R.R. 2008. Ecology and conservation of common bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus in the Mediterranean Sea. Mammal Review. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2907.2008.00133.x.

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10 April 2015

In Memory of Claude Monniot

On 12 July 2008, the world of marine research lost a great and passionate colleague. Claude Monniot, a French marine biologist and a specialist on ascidians died suddenly from stroke at the age of 72.

Photo from Ascidian News*
Claude was born in 1936 at Fontenay/sous/Bois (Val de Marne). He used to read, and a book written by Y. Le Danois, “La vie étrange des rivages marins” seized his interest to marine biology. He earned degrees in Botany, Geology and Zoology. He took a specialization in biological oceanography and pursued a master’s thesis about ascidians. Eventually, he also finished his doctoral thesis, “Étude systématique et évolutive de la famille des Pyuridae”.

C. Monniot showed eagerness and passion to increase knowledge and to discover more on ascidians around the world as he involved himself in numerous cruises and expeditions. He, together with his wife Françoise published over 160 publications in relation to oceanography, biogeography, marine ecology and taxonomy including describing and naming new species of tunicates.

Over the years, he was not only an academe, a professor at the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, and assistant director in the laboratory of marine invertebrates, but also a loving husband for his wife, Françoise, a great father for her daughter, Nadine, and a caring grandfather for his two grand daughters.

Source:    Ascidian News*

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Edited by:    Nicolas Bailly

06 April 2015

Ocean Giants: Australian Trumpet

If the largest bivalve is the giant clam Tridacna gigas (read article here), the largest gastropod on the other hand is the Australian trumpet Syrinx aruanus.

Photo from the Queensland Museum.

It is found from northern Australia and extends through the Indonesian Papua New Guinea. The largest recorded size measured 72.2 cm in shell length [1]. Based on its size, it can be deduced that this species is a predator. It hunts and feeds on polychaete worms, such as Polyodontes australiensis, Loimia ochracea, L. ingens and Diopatra sp. [2]. Apparently, this species is popularly used as an ornament and the demand for its shell increased over the past decades. Thus, the Australian government limited the amount of its catch for both commercial and recreational fishers [3]. Knowledge on its biology would be a help develop a way to prevent the decline of wild stocks. Unfortunately, little is known on the biology of  the Australian trumpet (to view the information we have, you may visit SeaLifeBase). 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] Taylor JD and Glover EA (20030 Food of giants - field observations on the diet of Syrinx aruanus (Linnaeus, 1758) (Turbinellidae) the largest living gastropod. pp. 217-224. In Wells FE, Walker DI, and Jones DS (eds) The Marine Flora and Fauna of Dampier, Western Australia. Western Australian Museum, Perth.
[3] Weis A et al (2004) Ecological assessment of Queensland's marine specimen shell collection fishery. Report to the Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage on the ecologically sustainable development management of a small scale, highly selective hand and shell dredge collection fishery. Accessed from

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