By KEVIN WADLOW. email@example.com
Wednesday, March 28, 2012 06:00 AM EDT
Florida Keys corals that took centuries to grow died within days during the frigid January 2010 cold snap, says a newly published scientific study.
“Some monumental corals that were 200 or 300 years old perished in a span of five days,” said Rob Ruzicka, a co-author with Michael Colella of the patch-reef study published in the February edition of Coral Reefs, the journal of the International Society for Reef Studies.
Colella and Ruzicka work for the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and have been involved with the 17-year history of the institute’s Coral Reef Evaluation and Monitoring Project.
The published cold-water study focuses on patch reefs, generally found in depths of 12 to 20 feet in Hawk Channel, inside the main Florida Keys coral reef, that did not suffer damage as severe. Read the full article at http://www.keysnet.com/2012/03/28/434024/new-study-2010-cold-snap-massacred.html
ScienceDaily (Mar. 28, 2012) — As corals continue to decline in abundance around the world, researchers are turning their attention to a possible cause that’s almost totally unexplored — viral disease.
It appears the corals that form such important parts of marine ecosystems harbor many different viruses — particularly herpes. And although they don’t get runny noses or stomach upset, corals also are home to the adenoviruses and other viral families that can cause human colds and gastrointestinal disease.
In a research review published in the Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, scientists point out that coral declines are reaching crisis proportions but little has been done so far to explore viral disease as one of the mechanisms for this problem. Read the full article at the ScienceDaily
Bottlenose dolphins in Barataria Bay, Louisiana, are showing signs of severe ill health, according to NOAA marine mammal biologists and their local, state, federal and other research partners.
Barataria Bay, located in the northern Gulf of Mexico, received heavy and prolonged exposure to oil during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Based on comprehensive physicals of 32 live dolphins from Barataria Bay in the summer of 2011, preliminary results show that many of the dolphins in the study are underweight, anemic, have low blood sugar and/or some symptoms of liver and lung disease. Nearly half also have abnormally low levels of the hormones that help with stress response, metabolism and immune function.
Researchers fear that some of the study dolphins are in such poor health that they will not survive. One of these dolphins, which was last observed and studied in late 2011, was found dead in January 2012.
NOAA and its local, state and federal partners started the Barataria Bay dolphin study in 2011 as part of the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA), the process for studying the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Read more at http://www.gulfspillrestoration.noaa.gov/2012/03/study-shows-some-gulf-dolphins-severely-ill/
Conservationists have issued repeated warnings that the Maui’s dolphins of New Zealand, the planet’s smallest species of dolphin, are in danger of
extinction. This month, they’ve estimated there are only about 55 surviving members left, according to an updated survey of the species’ population.
The last time the Maui’s dolphin population was surveyed in 2005. At that time, there were 111 of the species left, according to the New Zealand Department of Conservation.
Experts say the population decline corresponds to a rise in commercial fishing.
“Every day the animals are exposed to gill and trawl nets carries a risk we can’t afford. If ever there was a time to act, it is now,” Dr. Barbara Maas, international head of the Nature and Biodiversity Union’s International Species Conservation division,” said in a statement. Read the full article at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/22/mauis-dolphins-almost-extinct_n_1373970.html
Tuesday March 12, 2012. Mission Blue
Everything about the goliath grouper is extreme: its size, its personality, and especially its sex life.
Once a year, schools of goliath groupers converge under the full moon and engage in a one-shot mating frenzy. For divers and scientists, this titillating event is the ultimate form of nature voyeurism, and might be key to spreading the word about the critically endangered species.
“They are indeed crazy,” marine biologist Sarah Frias-Torres of the Ocean Research and Conservation Association commented about the grouper’s elaborate mating rituals. “It’s like fish porn.” She added that no one has managed to catch the act on camera yet.
To engage in this courtship extravaganza, the fish return en masse to the reef site where they first copulated. As the courtship begins, males change from their typical blotchy patterns into a deep, provocative black, while females turn a dainty pale grey. To show off their bravado to the ladies, males often spar, ramming their heads into one another and bellowing out deep booming sounds of roughly 160 decibels—the same volume generated by a jet engine. While the macho rumble goes on, females swim by, watching.
Footage of a goliath grouper spawning aggregation at the Zion wrecks off Jupiter, Florida. This spawning aggregation was fished to extinciton in the 1980s, but in 2005 divers reported seeing the giant fish gathering again during the late summer spawning season. Credit: Sarah Frias-Torres
ScienceDaily (Mar. 6, 2012) — Among the many intriguing aspects of the deep sea, Earth’s largest ecosystem, exist environments known as hydrothermal vent systems where hot water surges out from the seafloor. On the flipside the deep sea also features cold areas where methane rises from “seeps” on the ocean bottom.
It’s extremely rare to find both habitat types intersecting in one place, but that’s what researchers found and explored during an expedition in 2010 off Costa Rica. A description of the scientists’ findings, including a large number of mysterious, undescribed species, is published in a study led by Lisa Levin of Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego in the March 7 issue of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B (Biological Sciences).
David Perlman. http://www.sfgate.com
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
In the seas of the world where sharks of all kinds are fast disappearing, a deep-diving San Francisco biologist and his colleagues have discovered a new species of shark among the Galapagos Islands.
With its razor-sharp teeth, the shark is well equipped for its role at the top of the ocean’s food web, said John McCosker, the chief of aquatic biology at the California Academy of Sciences who led the discovery. But it’s not much like the feared great white: This one is a modest-size bottom-feeder.
Bridie Smith. March 7, 2012. www.theage.com.au
TO MARINE scientists, it seemed curious that the fragile coral embryos bobbing on the surface of the ocean without any protection from the elements were nature’s way of efficient reproduction. Without a protective membrane, the embryos were so delicate they would break apart with the wind and waves.
ScienceDaily (Mar. 5, 2012) — Investigating the history of water on Earth is critical to understanding the planet’s climate. One central question is whether Earth has always had the same amount of water on and surrounding it, the same so-called “water budget.” Has Earth gained or lost water from comets and meteorites? Has water been lost into space? New research into Earth’s primordial oceans conducted by researchers at the Natural History Museum of Denmark at the University of Copenhagen and Stanford University revisits Earth’s historical water budget.
The results have just been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Water accounts for about ½ of a thousandth of Earth’s total mass, despite the fact that roughly 70% of the planet’s surface is covered by this substance so vital to survival. Indeed, water is a relatively “rare substance” on our “Blue Planet.”
ScienceDaily (Mar. 2, 2012) — Shark fins are worth more than other parts of the shark and are often removed from the body, which gets thrown back into the sea. To curtail this wasteful practice, many countries allow the fins to be landed detached from shark bodies, as long as their weight does not exceed five per cent of the total shark catch. New University of British Columbia research shows that this kind of legislation is too liberal.
A study published this week in the journal Fish Biology analyzes the fin to body weight ratios for 50 different shark species. The authors find the average fin to body mass is three per cent — considerably lower than the five per cent ratio currently legislated by the EU and other countries.
“The five percent ratio provides an opportunity to harvest extra fins from more sharks without retaining 100 per cent of the corresponding shark carcasses,” says Sea Around Us Project researcher Leah Biery, lead author of the study. “It does not prevent waste or overfishing, as the law intended.”