Category Archives: Science

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Pohnpei’s Mesophotic Reefs Reveal New Anthias

 During the last week, a group of researchers from the University of Hawaii has been exploring the depths of Pohnpei in the Central Pacific for new and exotic marine life. Using rebreather diving equipment, these intrepid scientists descended to a remarkable 490 feet. And, like most dives to this habitat, numerous new species appear to have been found. The video above shows a couple of spectacular new anthias. A small group of purple and yellow Grammatonotus can be seen at the beginning of the clip. These are females, and the male appears for just a brief moment (at 0:17) before ducking into a crevice. Look closely to see the medial magenta stripe, a yellow dorsal fin, and a yellow caudal fin with lavender lobes. 

An undescribed Grammatonotus from 490ft, Pohnpei

An undescribed Grammatonotus from 490ft, Pohnpei

   Grammatonotus, despite looking very anthias-like, is classified in a separate family, Callanthiidae. This small genus is typically found well below recreational diving depth, with only a precious few photos showing this fish alive in its natural habitat. There is, however, a single record of a juvenile having been collected in just 7 meters at Hawaii, so maybe someday one will find its way into a reef tank. The landscape in this video is obviously far-removed from the stereotypical tropical reef. The only corals to be seen are a variety of octocorals and antipatharians. The rocks teem with a kaleidoscope of sponges and rhodophytes. At one point, a large crustacean ducks into its burrow, though its impossible to decipher what this creature is. Near the end is a fantastic close-up of another potential new species. This is an Odontanthias of some sort. The short caudal fin lobes and the pennant-like dorsal fin spine are most similar to O. flagris from the Ryukyu Islands of Japan, but differences in color and biogeography suggest this fish is distinct. There is also a brief glimmer of a Chromis circumaurea. The name translates to “encircled in gold”, and it clearly fits. 
An undescribed Odontanthias.

An undescribed Odontanthias.

 In addition to these finds, there are additional videos showing a potentially new species of the deepwater anthias genus Tosanoides, as well as another new Odontanthias species (similar to O. katayamai)  which has a yellow caudal fin and lacks the elongate dorsal fin spine. Who knows how many more species remain to be discovered in these deep reefs.… More:

The Evolution and Biogeography of Stonogobiops – Part 4

stono 35 Girdled Shrimpgoby (undescribed species) 

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Girdled Shrimpgoby. Credit: Gerry Allen

 This species is documented in Allen & Erdmann’s Reef Fishes of the East Indies, but I have failed to find a single photograph of it online. It is reported from depths of 3-20m on mud bottoms in Bali, North Sulawesi, West Papua and the Ryukyu Islands. It’s possible some of these sightings may be erroneously confusing it with other undescribed forms, especially the record from the well documented waters of Japan. This species has a number of distinctive characters: 1) The longitudinal stripes are entirely lacking, as is the diagonal stripe and spotting from the head. 2) The body has a sharply demarcated line delineating a pale anterior and a darker purple-grey posterior, centered near the origin of the anal and second dorsal fins. 3) The first dorsal fin is short, with each spine extending as a white filament well beyond the membranes.… More:

Boxing Clever: Engineers Draw Inspiration From Bulletproof Boxfish

Publishing their findings in the July 27 issue of the journal Acta Materialia, engineers at the University of California, San Diego have described how the body of the boxfish Lactoria cornuta could serve as inspiration for improved armour, robots and even flexible electronics. The boxfish joins other reef organisms such as seahorses and stomatopods being studied for such purposes. Drawing its strength from hexagon-shaped scales and the connections between them (similar to the connections in a baby’s skull) the boxfish’s body features a unique construction in which each scale, or scute, has a raised, star-like structure in the centre that distributes stress across the entire surface. In addition, there is an underlying, flexible layer of interlocking collagen fibre which is difficult to penetrate. In combination, this means that even if a predator managed to generate a crack in the outer layer, the collagen fibres would help to prevent the structure from failing. “These damage-resisting structures have evolved for millions of years in nature and are being studied with support of the U.S.

What is the bleeding edge?

dripping-blood-08So what is the bleeding edge of reef keeping? I sort of think of it as that moment that you step outside of your comfort zone, when an aquarist opens their mind and a new trend emerges. Often the bleeding edge goes against the grain and operates on a new set of rules that redefines common principles. In aquaria it was a bleeding edge approach that led to Lee Chin Eng’s natural system, which remains today the foundation of reef aquariums. The bleeding edge has integrated technology and our aquariums and propelled the hobby forward. Propagation of corals, breeding marine fish and the open sharing of information can all be linked to the bleeding edge. In many ways the bleeding edge represents the innate ability to adapt to change and re-structure methodologies.… More:

The More The Merrier: Increase The Peace… With Fish

In the first investigation of its kind, experts from the National Marine Aquarium, Plymouth University and the University of Exeter have assessed people’s physical and mental responses to tanks containing varying levels of fish. Their findings were recently published in the journal Environment & Behaviour. The researchers conducted their study when the UKs National Marine Aquarium refurbished one of its main exhibits – a  45ft, 550,000 litre tank – and began a phased introduction of different fish species. Assessing the mood, heart rate and blood pressure of 112 participants as fish numbers in the exhibit gradually increased, they found that found that increased biota levels were not only associated with longer spontaneous viewing of the exhibit, but also greater reductions in heart rate, greater increases in self-reported mood, and higher interest. “Fish tanks and displays are often associated with attempts at calming patients in doctors’ surgeries and dental waiting rooms,” said Deborah Cracknell, PhD Student and Lead Researcher at the National Marine Aquarium. “This study has, for the first time, provided robust evidence that ‘doses’ of exposure to underwater settings could actually have a positive impact on people’s wellbeing.” Dr Mathew White, an environmental psychologist at the University of Exeter, added: “Our findings have shown improvements for health and wellbeing in highly managed settings, providing an exciting possibility for people who aren’t able to access outdoor natural environments.

Reef Kids

turtle craft 1My children are fascinated with sea turtles. Those enormous reptiles that drift peacefully for thousands of miles on the ocean currents, observing the world with gentle eyes, have captured their hearts. If your kids feel the same way, they might enjoy making themselves a pet turtle to play with in the bathtub or pool, or to take for walks in the rain puddles!  You just need a 2-liter bottle, string, a sturdy needle, and something for the body – craft foam like this would work, or substitute something similar that you already have.… More:

The Two-Stripe Damsel: Hardiness and Hostility in Equal Measure

Two-stripe damsel (Dascyllus reticulatus)Among the pomacentrids (damsels and clownfishes) are many species that rank exceptionally high when it comes to hardiness in aquaria (thus their once common use as tank cyclers) but also tend to mature into little hellions that can turn a peaceful community tank into an underwater war zone. The genus Dascyllus contains more than its fair share of these hardy-but-hostile damsels, including the subject of today’s profile: Dascyllus reticulatus, the two-stripe or reticulate damsel. Though not chromatically gifted, D. reticulatus is striking in appearance nonetheless. Cute and peaceful as a juvenile, the two-stripe damsel can tempt hobbyists into making an impulse purchase only to discover later on that this Indo-Pacific pomacentrid is anything but passive. That aside, it can be a good candidate for a more rough-and-tumble community. You just have to keep that territorial belligerence foremost in mind when choosing a system and tankmates

The Evolution and Biogeography of Stonogobiops – Part 3

stono 21 Yasha Goby (Stonogobiops yasha) 

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A darkly pigmented male impressing a female. Credit: Sabine Penisson

 First, a brief etyomology interlude, as the origins of the name “Yasha” is an interesting story. The first specimens to be discovered were found in Japan, where they were given the local name “Yashahaze”. “Haze” is a common name for gobies in Japanese, and “Yasha” is a type of female devil-like creature of Buddhist mythology, which is depicted as having a pair of enlarged canines. And so the prominent vomerine teeth of S. yasha are alluded to in its whimsical name. The species has many other common names. One is a bastardized misspelling (Yashia Goby) which certain marine wholesalers insist upon. Others include more prosaic sobriquets, like the White-ray Goby or, confusingly, the Clown Goby… More:

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