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Predicting the Vulnerability of Reefs to Climate Change

Data collected from the Reef Life Survey has allowed researchers from Ocean and Earth Science at the University of Southampton to measure the thermal-range tolerance of 2,695 shallow reef fish and 1225 reef invertebrates. From Greenland to Australia the team focused on the thermal “bias” within which inhabitants can adapt, while noting which groups are more susceptible to extinction and replacement. “They found that locations where the average summer sea surface temperature is presently 24 °C, such as the Gulf of Thailand, southwestern Caribbean and Three Kings-North Cape in New Zealand, are the most vulnerable to changing community biodiversity. This is because most of the species making up these communities are already living near the edge of their temperature distribution.” The effort has created new measurement tools for predicting the sensitivity of reefs to rising ocean temperatures around the world. Study co-author Dr. Amanda Bates adds: “A strong focus in climate change ecology has been on quantifying the exposure of different regions of the globe to warming. Our work offers new tools for measuring the sensitivity of communities to change including accurate indicators that can be used to predict vulnerability.” 151111143139_1_900x600 Photo Credit: Rick Stuart-Smith With the evolutionary notion that species come and go, this research provides an interesting look into the heat tolerance for thousand of reef inhabitants, while providing a predictive model for those most at risk: “In 100 years from now, 100 percent of species in many communities will be lost and replaced by new species able to tolerate warmer conditions, leading to a redistribution of species across the globe.” Read more here!    

Reef Threads Podcast #253


Hawaii Pacific University grad students Aurora Burgess, and our guests this week, Emma Forbes and Erin Pereira-Davison (l-r)

  This week we talk about yellow tang breeding with Emma Forbes and Erin Periera-Davison, graduate students with Rising Tide Conservation and the Oceanic Institute at the Hawaii Pacific University. Emma and Erin share how they got involved in the project, some of their experiences while trying to get the larvae to develop and settle, and their individual research work as part of the project. Don’t miss this one. It’s a fantastic look into what it takes to realize such an achievement. Download the podcast here, or subscribe to our podcasts at iTunes. Also, follow us on Twitter at reefthreads.—Gary and Christine

Sometimes You Need to Overfeed Your Fish

Overfeeding is sometimes necessary to entice a finicky fish to eat, especially if they have little nutritional reserve to begin with, such as butterflyfishYou’ve heard time and again, here at Saltwater Smarts and elsewhere, that overfeeding is one of the surest ways to cause ill health in fish and pollute your aquarium water. The usual recommendation is to offer foods in very small quantities that the fish can consume within just a few minutes. And when it comes to reef systems, we tend to be especially sparing with fish food in order to maintain the lowest possible level of dissolved nutrients. While it’s generally good advice to feed fish sparingly and judiciously, there are certain times when it doesn’t pay to be stingy with the victuals. In fact, sometimes you really have to feed on the heavy side and then step up your water changes and other water-quality-management techniques to compensate for the increased dissolved pollutants. Here are just a few examples off the top of my head:When feeding a finicky fish in quarantine Of course we’re supposed to make sure fish are eating at the LFS before we acquire them, but over the years I’ve had various specimens simply turn off the “feeding switch” upon arriving in quarantine (and in a few cases after being moved from quarantine into my display tank), possibly due to the stress of transfer or because they simply didn’t recognize the stuff I was offering as edible. When this situation arises, it can take a lot of coaxing with different types of food at various times throughout the day to entice the specimen. In other words, you may end up introducing a lot more food to the system than is typically considered acceptable before the fish finally resumes feeding. MORE

Jimmy Butler’s Boombox Tank

ButlerAnimalPlanet.vadapt.620.high.78The guys from Animal Planet’s Tanked are at it again building some incredible celebrity fish tanks. This time they designed a special music themed fish tank for 26 year old Chicago Bulls star Jimmy Butler. Butler loves all genres of music and commissioned a special music themed tank to go inside of his River North Mansion, perhaps to celebrate signing his recent new contract on a five year deal with the Chicago Bulls, which will bring him in more than 90 million dollars. The Tanked stars designed a 600 gallon, boom box shaped fish tank to fit the order. The 6000 pound, 9 feet tall, 10 feet long, boom box shaped tank even actually plays music, which filters through the tank. MORE

4 New Deep Cold Water Reefs Discovered in the Atlantic

Researchers from Plymouth, the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), and the National University of Ireland Galway (NUI Galway) have recently confirmed 4 new reefs located in the Atlantic Ocean. Developed at Plymouth University researchers used a mathematical process to identify the reefs, and then sent unmanned robotic rovers to explore the areas in waters just West of Ireland.  Plead researcher Dr Kerry Howell, Associate Professor in the School of Marine Science and Engineering at Plymouth University, said: “We’re delighted with these results. It means we can now produce maps of where coral is likely to be for large areas of the deep-sea that we have not yet visited, and use them to identify high value ecological areas that might need protection from damaging activities.”151013111956_1_900x600 “The models work by looking at where we know deep-water coral reefs are found, identifying what is favourable environment for the corals, for example their favourite depths, and then looking for areas with the same or similar conditions,” added Dr Anthony Grehan, from NUI Galway. “If conditions are very similar then there is a high likelihood we will find corals.” The research team spent a total of two frigid weeks aboard the RV Celtic Explorer using its underwater robot, Holland I, to explore areas predicted to house reef inhabitants. While on the exhibition the team was able to locate four out of four predicted reef sites, which solidified the matrix of their models. The findings and predictive models would not have been possible without the use of high resolution “multibeam” sonar maps coupled with the Irish National Seabed Survey high resolution bathymetric charts. Dr Howell concludes: “Our cold water coral reef models are now good enough to be used to better target areas that have not previously been explored, and this can greatly reduce the cost of future survey work.” Read more here!

The Reef Damsel’s Distress Call

Researchers at James Cook University in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (Coral CoE) have uncovered an interesting feature of the Damsel reef fish family. We watch our fish dart in and out of crevices when they get scared in our aquariums but little did we know they are, at the same time, releasing a chemical signal from their skin and scales to ward of predators, and give themselves a fighting chance for survival. This is a finding not new to the science of fish, but the surprise conclusion was the benefit to the fish releasing the chemical: “When damselfish release their chemical alarm on a coral reef, lots of additional predators are attracted to the cue release area,” says Professor Mark McCormick from the Coral CoE. 151027213415_1_900x600The added presence of predators would seem counterintuitive to anyone reading this, but what researchers would like us to recognize is the increased presence of predators can cause confusion at the predation site, allowing the fish that released the chemical signal additional distraction for escape. “When caught by a predator, small damselfish have almost no chance of escaping their fate as the predator’s next meal. However, when another fish predator is attracted to the capture site, prey will escape about 40 percent of the time,” added Professor McCormick. “For decades scientists have debated the evolutionary origin of chemical alarm cues in fish,” says study lead author, Dr. Oona Lönnstedt, now a research fellow at the University of Uppsala. The percent increase of escape establishes additional evolutionary benefit to the defense mechanism of Damsel fish, while opening a new avenue for understanding the behaviors of reef fish. Read the entire article here!

Three Eyed Fish in Gowanus Canal?

man-claims-he-caught-three-eyed-fish-in-gowanus-canalThe Gowanus Canal is certainly not a canal you would want to step foot in. The 1.8 mile canal is located in Brooklyn, New York. Once a busy transportation gateway, it is now recognized as one of the most polluted bodies of water in the United States and is a run off point for gallons of sewage and wastewater from New York. The Environmental Protection Agency has labeled it one of the ‘most extensively contaminated’ waterways in the country. It gained even more notoriety when environmentalist Christopher Swain swam the cancel, while decked out in protective gear, to bring attention to the dire condition of the canal. The EPA warned him against this swim based on the high levels of bacteria, pollution and other unmentionables. MORE

Some Subtle Signs that a Fish is Sick

I’ve kept multiple copperband butterflyfish (Chelmon rostratus) in my reef over the yearsMost marine aquarium hobbyists learn quickly to identify common warning signs of ill health in fish—white spots, excessive mucus production, bulging eyes, frayed fins, etc. But sometimes ailing fish exhibit much more subtle symptoms that are evident only to someone with powers of observation honed by many decades of experience. In the following excerpt from his book The Avant-Garde Marine Aquarist: A 60-Year History of Fishkeeping, hobby pioneer Paul “Paul B” Baldassano demonstrates how things with fish aren’t always what they seem:A copperband conundrum Recently, I was in a large LFS in New York. My mother-in-law is in a nursing home nearby, so I go there often. This store is very old, and I even helped start their saltwater tanks in the early 70s. They had a tank of about five copperband butterflies, and they were kind of cheap—like $20.00, which is a great price for copperbands. 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.