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A Database for the Identification of Sponges

Photo by Twilight Zone Expedition Team 2007, NOAA-OE.

Photo by Twilight Zone Expedition Team 2007, NOAA-OE.

There is a huge number of sponge species in our world’s oceans. Some of them are bacterivores, some are carnivorous, some even harbor zooxanthellae. Yet, despite their great diversity of function, sponges are highly conserved in form. Often, differences between even distant relatives are so subtle that only trained experts with the right tools are capable of conclusively identifying them. Because there are so many different but similar species, traditional field guides (especially those in print form) are pretty much useless. The difficulty in identifying these primitive animals has been blamed for a general lack of attention to the group by biologists. That notwithstanding, comprehensive, well-illustrated and regularly updated catalogs of sponges are much needed; this is especially so if one considers the abundance and ecological importance of sponges in nature, and the fact that sponges are becoming even more ubiquitous as many coral species decline. The Sponge Guide, an online database devoted to sponge identification, has been notably filling this gap. Because it is electronic, it can be more extensive and be easily updated as needed. Work on the guide began in 2000, when sponge taxonomist Sven Zea was conducting research in the Bahamas under Joseph R. Pawlik. Over the next decade the pair was joined by Timothy P. Henkel, who was to contribute his knowledge of databases and computer programming. Though it was initially meant for use by researchers in the expedition, the photographic database (tSG, was eventually published online in 2009. And, then they just kept adding to it. Recently, the collaborators have launched the third edition of the database. MORE

Reef Threads Podcast #225

It’s Reef Threads time once again. This week Christine and Gary discuss Papua New Guinea, pillar coral spawning, and power outages. Download the podcast here, or subscribe to our podcasts at iTunes. Also, follow us on Twitter at reefthreads.—Gary and Christine

5 Circumstances That Test Marine Aquarists’ Willpower

Resist the urge to bring home a fish you’re not able to see feed in the LFS holding tankSeveral elements/traits are key to success in the marine aquarium hobby. Among them are a fundamental understanding of aquarium-keeping principles, the proper equipment for the type of system you plan to keep, diligent attention to maintenance and detail, willingness to research the needs of each and every organism acquired, and a good dose of patience. But at least one more element that’s seldom discussed should probably be added to that list: willpower. That’s right, the same self-discipline that helps us resist harmful habits or bad choices in other areas of life (like when CC says “No thanks!” to that eighth beer during our Saltwater Smarts Planning Sessions) will help you avoid making counterproductive decisions as an aquarist. And trust me, if you haven’t already, you will be tempted to make counterproductive decisions time and time again in this hobby!Here are five circumstances that try men’s and women’s souls…err, hobbyists’ willpower: 1) Delaying stocking until cycling is complete This is the first real test of every aquarist’s resolve. Like a brand-new pair of sneakers that you just can’t wait to get on your feet and take for a test walk (Royal Crown Cream-Sponge Para Litefoot Tennis Shoes, anyone?), that newly set up display tank is just begging for fish and invertebrates to be introduced. As you mark time through the seemingly endless succession of ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate, the urge to short-circuit the process and add “just a specimen or two” can be pretty powerful. MORE

Sleeping Stoplight Parrotfish Video Clip, Curacao

 Hi friends, I have another fun video for you all today of a big adult Stoplight Parrotfish sleeping with his head propped up on a rock and his body laying in the sand. Aimee and I never get tired of seeing this, I mean who would have even guessed that fish sleep?? On any given night dive we see about 20-30 parrotfish, all different species and sizes fast asleep in the weirdest of places! For instance we usually see parrotfish stuck in tube sponges or laying flat up against rocks and it’s not uncommon to find them inside barrel sponges and hidden under algae, honestly if you really look they are everywhere! When I find them out in the open like this one they can be very hard to approach as light will scare them. I’ve learned that coming in very slowly with a non-threatening approach usually works, just be calm and quiet, get in and get out! MORE

Check Out Our Wrasses!

As mentioned in our previous post, six adult melanurus wrasses (3 male, 3 female) were moved to the Tropical Aquaculture Lab back in February.  After settling into their new environment and being offered a conditioning diet of LRS Reef Frenzy, PE mysis shrimp and Otohime EP1 pellets, the wrasses have quickly got back into their routine of
spawning nearly every night.  While we continue to work through some kinks in production, we wanted to share some of our excitement with our latest group of captive bred melanurus wrasses. MORE

Fincasters Episode 66 Seachem offers Seed and Remediation bacterial products

 Seachem offers Seed and Remediation bacterial products MORE

Heartbreaking Goldfish Funeral

 Think back to when your most favorite fish died….or does it hurt too much? Some of us get very attached to our little fishy friends and may even secretly shed a tear or two when they pass. So I think we can all commiserate with this little boy who lost “Top” to the golden throne. When my Black Ice Clown fish committed suicide by jumping out of his very comfortable Fluval M90 tank, I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach. Watch the video, but make sure you have tissues nearby and your fish are doing well.  MORE

Mischief Reef

china Mischief Reef was discovered by Henry Spratly in 1971. It is rumored to contain vast amounts of gas and oil. Geographically the area sits 105 nautical miles from the Philippines. Since the late 1900’s it has been a source of tension in Asia as claimed territory. However, since January, China has been dredging sand from around Mischief Reef and using up land mass hundreds of miles from China’s shore. The location has been an area of contention between China, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan. Shacks on stilts have quickly been replaced with bulldozers and machinery. MORE is the world's leading destination for sustainable coral reef farming and the aquarium hobby. We offer a free open forum and reef related news and data to better educate aquarists and further our goals of sustainable reef management.