A whole new world
The Phoenix Island Expedition has been sending some spectacular images in from the field, but this set might be the best. Photographer Keith Ellenbogen captures the experience of diving in this diverse and vibrant ecosystem near Nikumaroro Island. See the rest of the images from this set here.
Photomegatron Maps Coral Reefs
Traditionally, marine scientists would gather data on corals by photographing and measuring a one square meter area or quadrat. That method gives consistent data on a coral area over time, but it’s also a very small area … so scientists are trying out new methods like this one. It’s affectionately called the PHOTOMEGATRON. It’s two Nikon SLR’s, mounted in a protective frame with lasers.
A researchers swims it over the reef as the cameras record coral cover. The images are assembled later to create a comprehensive map that includes larger coral formations that would be missed in the quadrat system.
An entirely synthetic fish: Award-winning journalist, aquatic ecologist and lifelong fisherman Anders Halverson will discuss the discovery of rainbow trout, their artificial propagation and distribution of this commonly stocked fish at the New England Aquarium tomorrow night, 7 p.m.
This lecture is FREE and open to the public! Find more details and RSVP here.
With Noise Pollution Growing at Sea, A Texas Team Looks for Answers
by Mose Buchele
One of the insidious things about noise pollution is that it is invisible. While the long plume that rose after the Deepwater Horizon explosion is a discernible reminder of how oil can harm the ocean, the sound that explosion made is less tangible. But recent research shows that the noise caused by human activity, like noise from oil shipping and drilling, is having a negative impact on the marine ecosystem. That’s lead to new research and the possibility of new regulation, all aimed at keeping human activity quieter.
In one recent study, a group of researchers from the New England Aquarium gauged the stress levels of whales by measuring hormones in whale droppings. They discovered there was a brief window of time right after the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks when whales appeared more relaxed than usual. Scientists think it might have something to do with the fact that shipping traffic was restricted in the weeks following 9/11.
In another study, researchers from Norway tracked fish catches in an area where seismic airguns were being used to explore for oil. The result: certain fish catches declined after the guns were used, while the presence of other species increased.
“If the data are correct and can be replicated, the issue comes down to: ‘Well, is this affecting fisheries around the world?’” Dr. Arthur Popper, a scientist with the Aquatic Bioacoustics Laboratory at the University of Maryland, posed to StateImpact Texas. “And as we do more things like developing wind farms, and oil exploration and geologic surveys and such, is this becoming a bigger and bigger issue?”…
(read more: NPR - State Impact) (photo: Luis Rabayo)
Here’s a link to the New England Aquarium right whale researchers post about the sound and stress findings. This year the team included some acoustic studies in their field season, and managed to make these recordings of mothers and calves communicating. Really drives home the importance of clear underwater acoustics for the well being of these animals.
The large forest gecko (Gekko smithii) is a lizard from the forests of South-East Asia. In bright light, the blue-green iris of the gecko’s eye constricts to form a slit-shaped pupil featuring four tiny pinholes. These are thought to decrease the amount of light that enters the eye as well as the depth of field, giving the lizard better distance estimation in bright light. | +
Human brain hardwired to respond to animals
Surrounded by technology and urbanity though we may be, the human brain remains profoundly hard-wired to respond to animals.
When people are shown pictures of animals, specific parts of the amygdala — a structure central to pleasure and pain, fear and reward — react almost instantly.
Put another way, glimpsing a bird at the feeder or a shark on Animal Planet, or even a plankitten, could invoke cognitive tricks inherited from ancestors who walked on four legs in shallow water.
The effect is large and consistent, and “may reflect the importance that animals held throughout our evolutionary past,” wrote researchers led by California Institute of Technology neurobiologist Florian Mormann in an Aug. 29 Nature Neuroscience
Check out this beautiful slideshow of high-magnification images of plankton.
Seen here is a species of gastropod - slugs and snails - known as the sea angel. As captioned in the slideshow, “Sea angels only have a shell when they are embryos, as in this species Clione limacina (magnification x 20). Juvenile C. limacina are about 5 mm long and adults reach up to 5 cm. The foot of a sea angel develops into two wing-like parapodia that help them move about.”
Ha ha, and I see @oystersgarter has corrected them in the comments section.
All clownfish are born male. When they become adults, the largest, most dominant fish becomes a female, and the second largest becomes the breeding male. If the breeding female disappears, the breeding male (now the largest of the group) will become a female, and so on. In other species of tropical fish, when the ratio between males and females becomes imbalanced, dominant females may become males.