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Schooling fish help explain group behavior

Published 2014-05-12

In the Disney movie Finding Nemo, Marlin asks schooling moonfish for directions to Sydney during which the school makes ornate 3-D patterns resembling a sailboat, arrow and even a clownfish (mocking Marlin). While in reality, schooling fish cannot react to a conversation with another fish, nor can they create ornate patterns, they do make group decisions based on environmental cues and make rapid movements en masse. A study recently published by Kao and Couzin (PNAS 2014) explored decision making behavior in groups by developing two mathematical models of schooling fish. Early theoretical... (more)

Oil affects developing pelagic fish hearts

Published 2014-05-05

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill resulted in the release of more than 4 million barrels (636 million L) of oil at depth into the pelagic zone of an ocean ecosystem and rose to warm mixed and surface layers of the northern Gulf of Mexico between April 10 and July 14, 2010. This was unfortunately during the spawning window for many commercially import fish species, including bluefin tuna and many other large predator species (e.g., mackerel, amberjack, sailfish, marlin, mahi mahi, and other tunas). The fertilized eggs produced by all these pelagic fish are buoyant, and therefore float in the... (more)

The Phoenix Effect: a story of coral recovery

Published 2014-04-28

In a shallow sandy lagoon off Rangiroa Atoll in French polynesia, a distinctive reef habitat exists formed entirely by living giants: massive Porites coral colonies. On average, these colonies measure 2.65 meters in diameter with the largest measured colony at a whopping 7.1 meter wide - which suggests the colony is anywhere between 284-497 years old! George Roff et al. reported a remarkable recovery in Porites after the mass mortality which followed the 1997/1998 El Nino Southern Oscillation, which caused coral bleaching and death in much of the living coral tissue in Rangiroa. They have... (more)

Sponge disease dynamics and Hurricane Irene

Published 2014-04-21

Often disturbances that affect coral reef communities such as storms and disease outbreaks are assessed in response to such events, with little spatial information available to assess patterns at the scale of a patch reef. A study recently published in Plos One (title: Exploring Individual- to Population-Level Impacts of Disease on Coral Reef Sponges: Using Spatial Analysis to assess the Fate, Dynamics, and Transmission of Aplysina Red Band Syndrome (ARBS)), mapped two patch reefs in the Bahamas over the course of three years, surveying health states of individual sponges and investigating... (more)

The little (puffer) fish that could

Published 2014-04-14

This story is about mysterious circles that were found in the ocean resembling crop circles, and the mighty puffer fish who form them. While this story is not necessarily new, it is a new one to me and hopefully to some of our readers. Yoji Ookata, an underwater photographer and videographer, discovered usual formations in the sediment near Amami Oshima, one of the small islands south of mainland Japan. To his surprise, no one else had seen or could identify these patterns either. The geometric patterns were 80 feet deep and approximately 6.5 feet in diameter! After many hours of filming,... (more)

Diversity-stability hypothesis & coral reefs

Published 2014-04-07

There is an ecological theory called the diversity-stability hypothesis that posits more diverse communities are more stable, and therefore better able to resist and recover from disturbances. A recent article published in PeerJ, an open-source journal, investigated this theory in coral reef communities and found surprising results: reefs with greater species richness showed no correlation with recovery or resilience. In this meta-study, the authored compiled 41 field studies from 82 reefs to analyze changes in coral cover due to disturbance across a global gradient of species richness.... (more)

Japan to halt Antarctic whaling immediately

Published 2014-03-31

In 2010 Australia brought a suit against Japan accusing Japan of conducting commercial whaling despite the 1986 worldwide moratorium; today, March 31, 2014, the U.N. court found Japan in breach of its international regulations and ordered an immediately halt to all Antarctic whaling. Japan has killed ~15,000 whales since the moratorium under permits for biological research. Japan says the effort was to collect data and monitor the impact of whales on Japan's fishing industry, yet few studies have been produced despite the large number of study "animals". The U.N.'s International Court of... (more)

Visualizing coral reefs in the future

Published 2014-03-25

A new study published in Global Change Biology reveals the projected timing of bleaching and ocean acidification on coral reefs globally, questioning persistence of any reefs on Earth by the mid-century. The authors of this study used ensembles of the IPCC AR5 climate models under four different emission scenarios (business as usual=8.5, and several mitigation scenarios: most aggressive=6.0, 4.5 and least aggressive=2.6). This study assessed when annual bleaching is projected using a metric of anomalously high thermal stress (8 degree heating weeks) in which very few corals on Earth could... (more)

Tester Symposium Recap

Published 2014-03-17

This past week was the 39th Annual Tester Symposium held at UH Manoa. It was two-and-a-half days of inspiring talks and posters. In total, 75 students shared posters, 5-minute and 12-minute presentations. Dr. Silvia Earle joined the symposium as the distinguished speaker, selected by an overwhelming majority of the student body. Dr. Earle is known as a National Geographic explorer-in-residence and is often referred to as a living legend. She is a true adventurer, still holding the record for the deepest untethered dive. The students with winning papers, and organizers of next year's... (more)

Free Willy

Published 2014-03-10

A bill was just proposed by California state legislator Bloom to ban the captivity of killer whales (Orcinus orca) for entertainment. This bill would would end any routine shows, unprotected interaction between humans and Orcas, import and export of whales to captive environments (except for research purposes) and import and export of genetic material intended for artificial insemination. There are currently 10 killer whales in captivity in California for entertainment purposes, seven of which were born in captivity. This raises the question of how to move forward because these captive bred... (more)