Category Archives: Invertebrates

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Mapping the Intrinsic Risk of Marine Species

The Journal of Science recently published a paper from the University of California at Berkeley where fossils were studied to help predict which marine species were now at the greatest risk for extinction.”Marine species are under threat from human impacts, but knowledge of their vulnerabilities is limited,” says study co-author, Professor John Pandolfi from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at the University of Queensland. Using fossils to better understand the inherent risk some species have to coastal threats such as human presence, the team was able to map the extinction patterns of marine species. 150430144955_1_540x360“We used these estimates to map natural extinction risk in modern oceans, and compare it with recent human pressures on the ocean such as fishing, and climate change to identify the areas most at risk,” says Professor Pandolfi. Protecting modern species from extinction is the number one goal yet some species have an intrinsic rick of extinction so the teams goal “was to diagnose which species are vulnerable in the modern world, using the past as a guide” says study lead author, Assistant Professor Seth Finnegan from the University of California Berkeley. “We believe the past can inform the way we plan our conservation efforts. However there is a lot more work that needs to be done to understand the causes underlying these patterns and their policy implications,” says Asst. Professor, Seth Finnegan Read more here!… More:

Chromis Make Gender Adjustments to Combat Global Warming

A new study from the University of Sydney Australia has found that the Spiny Chromis reef fish can manipulate the gender of their offspring to combat the gender bias created by increasing ocean temperatures. “The research findings are significant because global warming poses a threat to species with temperature-dependent sex determination (TSD), such as reptiles and fish, potentially skewing the sex-ratio of offspring and, consequently, breeding individuals in a population,”said lead author and UTS Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Research Fellow Dr Jennifer Donelson. “A reduction in the proportion of females in the population could be especially damaging because population growth rate is often constrained by female fertility.” A-poly-rubble-copy_0The understanding of how prenatal gender adjustments can be made is a bit of a mystery to scientists but the findings certainly add to the hope that ecosystems will adapt to the changes occurring all over the globe. “Just precisely how our study species, the Spiny Chromis coral reef fish, engineer these amazing adjustments is unknown and is something we are now investigating. What we do know however is that oceans are warming and emerging research is showing the importance of transgenerational plasticity in reducing the negative impacts of climate change on species with TSD.” Read more here!… More:

Deepwater Coral Reef Discovered off Coast of Ireland

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The deep sea biome is said to be less understood and less explored than the Moon. Nearly any serious expedition into deep sea ecosystems reveals new species, or even entirely new habitats. Often, these notoriously slow-growing biological communities are thought to be extraordinary simply on the basis of their size and structural complexity. Such was the case with the discovery of a large, coldwater coral reef off of the Irish coast. While scanning the seafloor along the route of the… More:

Football Takes a Hit from The Mantis Shrimp

Researchers from the University of Riverside are studying the internal bone structure of Mantis Shrimp in an effort to reduce the damaging effects of head trauma associated with American Football. Within the dactyl forearms of the Mantis a spiral structure of bone material called chitin is specific, and this formation allows for the buffering of damaging elastic waves such as shear waves, through its forearms. “This is a novel concept,” said David Kisailus, the Winston Chung Endowed Professor in Energy Innovation at UC Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering. 150617144502_1_540x360Researchers will attempt to apply the architecture of mantis shrimp arms to products such as football helmets and body pads: “It implies that we can make composite materials able to filter certain stress waves that would otherwise damage the material.” “The smasher mantis shrimp will hit many times per day. It is amazing,” said Pablo Zavattieri, an associate professor in the Lyles School of Civil Engineering and a University Faculty Scholar at Purdue University. Read more here!  … More:

Rare Blue Montipora! Ah no, it’s actually Collospongia

I’m continuously fascinated by all of the different things that live in our oceans. Sponges are the simplest of multicellular organisms and also among the oldest, with a fossil record extending back to the last part of the Precambrian, about 550 million years ago. When I go snorkeling at the fossil reef at Key Biscayne (my local reef) I see all types of sponges; bright red fire sponge, large brown barrel sponges, delicate blue encrusting sponges, etc. They inhabit turtle grass beds and coral reefs alike. Sponges filter the water while providing food and shelter for a myriad of creatures. 

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Blue Layer Cake Sponge – Collospongia

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New Dwarf Cuttlefish at Henry Doorly Zoo!

Dwarf_cuttlefish_(Sepia_bandensis) by the High Fin Sperm Whale

Dwarf cuttlefish. Photo: High Fin Sperm Whale/Wikimedia Commons

 The newest residents at the Henry Doorly Zoo have ten tentacles, swim via jet propulsion, squirt ink at potential danger and are masters of camouflage.  Yes, the zoo has cuttlefish!!Sixteen dwarf cuttlefish are now on display near the giant Pacific octopus exhibit.   These little guys are only 4 inches (10cm) in size when adults (the size of your computer mouse), but they are big on the cuteness scale.  Beware though; they only live for a year so don’t get too attached! Want one?… More:

Unlocking the Code to Ocean-Acidification

A new study led by scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) has presented evidence stating coral reefs may not be as susceptible to ocean-acidification as once was thought. Examining coral reefs from the naturally acidic waters of Palau archipelago, researchers made some valuable findings. “Surprisingly, in Palau where the pH is lowest, we see a coral community that hosts more species and has greater coral cover than in the sites where pH is normal,” states Anne Cohen, co-author of the paper.
panama_coral_bioerosion_750_368613Upon comparing these findings with other naturally acidic reefs around the world, researchers found that the only common thread across these reefs was bio-erosion, and “because we don’t see a correlation between skeletal density and pH” [in the Palau reefs] lead author Hanna Barkley thinks there is something specific to Palau that might unlock the ocean-acidification code. Read more here!  … More:

Stony Coral Origins: Their Evolution and Diversification (Part 3)

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Credit: NERC CHESSO project

 Relicanthus daphnaea: Incerti ordinis A recent study of sea anemone genetics revealed a surprising finding—a species formerly included amongst the “swimming anemones” was in fact a completely different order of hexacoral. This large colorful species is known only from hydrothermal vents in the ocean depths. Calling this species “large” is a bit of an understatement, as the body can reach up to a meter across, with tentacles up to two meter long. This is in fact the largest polyp known to science! Its former placement amongst the “swimming anemones” is indicative of a high degree of morphological convergence, particularly amongst the nematocysts. But the incongruities in body size, habitat and genetics strongly indicate this species occupies its own… More:

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