Eye Candy Archives - reefs.com

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Pohnpei Deep Dive

Pohnpei reef - reefs

Pohnpei reef, credit Sonia Rowley

 Check out this new video from Brian Greene – a glimpse into what an extremely deep diving trip looks like. You’ll notice that the divers’ voices sound funny; that’s because they are breathing a mixture of oxygen and helium. The main reason for adding helium to the breathing mix is to reduce the proportions of nitrogen and oxygen below those of air, to allow the gas mix to be breathed safely on deep dives. A lower proportion of nitrogen is required to reduce nitrogen narcosis and other physiological effects of the gas at depth. And the crunching sound isn’t the scientists stepping on the reef – it’s actually the  desiccant packs in the camera housing.  Brian Greene, Dr. Richard Pyle and Dr. Sonia Rowley are on this dive, part of the Association for Marine Exploration‘s expedition to Pohnpei, Ant Atoll, and Pakin Atoll. As Dr. Rowley posted on the site, “After our remarkably successful 2014 research expedition to Pohnpei and Ant Atoll, it was clear that we simply had to return…”… More:

The Identification and Evolution of Closed Brain Corals: Part 3

Astrea curta - reefs

Astrea curta, note the circular, extracalicularly-budded polyps. Credit: Blue World Aquariums

 Merulinidae: Astrea Four extant species (and two extinct) species make up this newly recognized genus. The species are mostly former Montastraea (plus one Plesiastrea) that are identifiable by their symmetrically-round polyps and intracalicular growth. It should come as no surprise that they are similar to the Indo-Pacific “Montastraea” (now placed in Favites) but differ in having smaller polyps (~5mm vs ~10mm) that are mostly round (vs irregularly oval). A. rotulosa is known only from the holotype specimen (which lacks a collection locality), and it is nearly identical to the West Indian Ocean endemic A. devantieri. Dr. Danwei Huang (pers. comm.) has intimated that they are quite likely synonymous, but it may be a while before this is sorted out. Astrea curta and annuligera are far more common and well-documented species. In particular, curta is reported as being one of the more common merulinids on reefs, and it does occasionally find itself collected for aquariums, often in the traditional colors of the “X-mas favia”. These two species of Astrea are easy to tell apart, as annuligera has highly exsert septa.… More:

The Identification and Evolution of Closed Brain Corals: Part 2

merulindae favites - reefs

Favites (complanata?). Credit: unknown

 Merulinidae: Favites With twenty species, this is the second most speciose genus of merulinid coral. As discussed above, Favites shares most of its morphological characters with Dipsastraea, differing most visibly in the nature of the corallite arrangement (typically ceriod vs plocoid), though this too is variable and often unreliable. A good example is the placement of the former “Favia rotundata” within Favites based on molecular study. Confusing matters is the placement of several Indo-Pacific species formerly included in Montastraea, which stretches the definition of the genus beyond a tidy, easy-to-understand description. Also note that there are microstructural differences between Favites and Dipsatraea related to skeletal calcification that can provide a more authoritative means to identify these corals, but this is beyond the means of any sane aquarist. 
favia valenciennesi - reefs

F. valenciennesi, note the extracalicular budding and uneven septa. Credit Franchi Cichlids

 Favites is also strikingly similar to several other genera that possess cerioid polyps: Goniastrea, Paragoniastrea, Platygyra and Coelastrea.… More:

Identification and Evolution of Closed Brain Corals: Part 1

closed brain 1 correct- reefs
Coral identification is a challenge for every aquarist, and few groups pose as many difficulties as the “closed brain corals”. Well known aquarium references (Sprung 1999, Borneman 2001) are rife with erroneous generalizations and outdated taxonomy. Retailers and wholesalers are often unreliable, and it’s generally best to ignore any of their identifications entirely. Quality field guides for the Indo-Pacific are almost nonexistent. Even the familiar scientific literature (Veron, 2000) can’t be relied on, as molecular studies have thrown these old, morphology-based classifications out the window. In sum, this is a confusing group with few reliable resources. The term “closed brain coral” is used by aquarists with little thought as to what it precisely refers to. As commonly interpreted, the name signifies a couple things: 1) the coral in question is typically encrusting or massive 2) the coral in question has relatively large polyps, which may or may not chain together into meanders that resemble the folds of a brain. For decades, taxonomists agreed with this scheme and placed these species together in the family Faviidae. And so “closed brain” became a convenient term which obviated the need for aquarists to learn how to identify the bewildering diversity of morphologically similar corals that occupied the family. But in the last decade a series of molecular studies have consistently shown that our traditional classification for these corals was enormously incorrect.… More:

Up-Close with Bali Maricultured Euphyllia

reefs.comMariEuphyllia2One of my favorite pastimes [besides diving] is perusing through the never-ending pictures of reefs in nature. It’s hard to believe where some of our favorite corals grow, often in vastly different environments than what we create in our glass boxes. Over the past decade, we’ve seen a surge in both the aquaculture and the mariculture of coral. While some people interchange the terms freely, to me they are two unique and distinct designations: maricultured coral is farmed in the ocean; aquaculture denotes coral farmed in captivity. With social media being such an easy way to connect these days, coral farmers of all types can share their work quickly. Recently, I was talking with Bali coral farmer Endang Nilsari about some maricultured Euphyllia sp. he and his team are working with.… More:

Karen Brittain Breeds Bandit Angels

reefs.comBandit3Renown fish breeder Karen Brittain, who made waves last year revealing a slew of captive bred Genicanthus personatus at MACNA 2014, recently had a larval run with Apolemichthys arcuatus, the Bandit angelfish. Considering A. arcuatus is my favorite fish, I was watching the fruits of her labor anxiously waiting for them to settle. While there were a couple hiccups as with any larval run, four perfect little babies went through metamorphosis and have been moved to their grow out tank. Another fantastic achievement for Karen!… More:

MACNA 2015 – Washington D.C.

reefs.comMACNA20158The Marine Aquarium Conference of North America (MACNA) is the largest marine aquarium conference in the world. The gathering brings livestock vendors, equipment manufacturers and everything in between together for a three day extravaganza of reef geek utopia from around the world. Forget holidays, for me this is the most sought after weekend of the year. This year the Washington D.C. Area Marine Aquarist Society (WAMAS) hosted the conference at the Wardman Marriott in Washington D.C., and what a MACNA it was!… More:

Long Island Collecting Log: Some days, it isn’t about the collecting

Sargassum weed off Long Island, NY

Sargassum weed off Long Island, NY

 Contrary to commonly-held beliefs, a day in the life of a marine biologist bears little, if any, resemblance to a National Geographic documentary. I remind my marine science students of this at the beginning of each semester. Even if you have the privilege of being paid to do real research on something really awesome, the reality is that most of your time will be spent reading papers, analyzing data, and writing grant proposals.… More:

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