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Problem Starfish ‘Smell The Fear’

Thought to be responsible for 40 per cent of coral cover loss in the past 30 years, the Crown-of-Thorns Starfish is without a doubt one of the main threats facing the Great Barrier Reef. But now scientists may have discovered a new way to repel them using the scent of their natural nemesis, the Triton Sea Snail. With one whiff enough to send the starfish running (or should that be crawling?) for its life, University of the Sunshine Coast senior lecturer Scott Cummins explains the Triton Snail is one of its most feared natural predators. “We put [the snail] next to the crown-of-thorns starfish and they reacted quite obviously,” he said. “They started to run away, which is quite an important finding because it tells us they do have very poor eyesight, they are sensing or smelling their main predator.” All that remains is for the team to successfully isolate and synthesise the molecule and then Cummins says this sort of repellent could be used to push the starfish off the reef and into areas where they could be destroyed. “We want to narrow it down to exactly what the molecule is then hopefully we can take that and put it into some slow release system on the reef.” More HERE MORE

Marine Mesozoic Revolution

Stalked Crinoid Fossil. Source: www.urweltmuseum.de

Stalked Crinoid Fossil.
Source: www.urweltmuseum.de

 Throughout geological time, there have been many shifts in marine animal species. Amongst these shifts is a transition known as the Mesozoic Marine Revolution. This evolutionary phenomenon not only overturned a number of bottom-dwelling marine species, it transformed the appearance of the ocean floor. Roughly 252 million years ago – the start of the Mesozoic Era, the ocean floor was littered with immobile invertebrate species. These species included stalked crinoids, molluscs, brachiopods, and other large, stationary marine invertebrates that rested along the ocean floor. Soon after the Mesozoic Era began, many predators such as sharks and ichthyosaurs came onto the scene. These predators were considered “durophagous” – shell crushing, and used their strength to exploit these immobile, bottom-dwelling invertebrates. 
Ichthyosaur Fossil. Source: www.urweltmuseum.de

Ichthyosaur Fossil.
Source: www.urweltmuseum.de

 This caused a strong evolutionary shift: stalked crinoids lost their stalks and became mobile while molluscs and brachiopods began to bury themselves in the sediment rather than remain defenseless and exposed. These evolutionary adaptations paved way for a seemingly emptier, more modern ocean floor.

The Flame Hawkfish: a Vision in Red

A flame hawkfish (Neocirrhites armatus) perched on rocks while keeping an eye on the aquariumI’ve long been a fan of the hawkfishes, and many a specimen has graced my various tanks over the years—most often the readily available and affordable (for me) Falco’s hawkfish (Cirrhitichthys falco). But another hawk that I’ve always found particularly endearing is Neocirrhites armatus, the flame hawkfish. Hobbyists looking for an eye-catching splash of color in a fairly small, hardy fish can’t go wrong with this species—though be warned that it can cost as much as three times what you might fork over for C. falco. Physical traits Looking like a little football (American-style) with fins, this bottom-dwelling species is bright red overall with black shading along the base of its dorsal fin and around the eyes. Unfortunately, this intense red is prone to fading in captivity. Typical of hawkfish, N MORE

Mystery Shark Birth Solved

150113-science-baby_shark_4bb73bd010040fd4b33f19f9d713f6ba.nbcnews-ux-720-400 Researchers, in a paper published last month in The Journal of Fish Biology, believe they have solved the mystery of how a tank containing only three female sharks, led to the birth of a shark pup. In 2012, at the time when the shark pup was born, there were just three female sharks residing in the California Aquarium, without any dad’s to be found in the tank. To make it even more interesting, the females hadn’t been in contact with any male sharks for years. The researchers analyzed the two possibilities: parthenogenesis (a sexual reproduction) or long term sperm storage. MORE

Secrets to success: Your aquarium’s food chain

Ecosphere_Kugel_23_grI have a bio-sphere, a small glass orb that I purchased from Amazon. Within it, there is a bio-pellet substrate bottom, marine water, a tiny clump of macro-algae and seven tiny marine shrimp. The entire ball is totally sealed, and the minute ecosystem within is said to last a minimum of two-years. The instructions for caring for the bio-sphere are minimal. Keep it out of constant direct light, but provide enough light for algae to grow, and keep it at room temperature. It’s fascinating to me, that within the nearly 12 months I’ve owned the bio-sphere, nothing within has changed. The tiny shrimp are thriving, the patch of algae remains the same size, and day after day it’s business as usual in the tiny sphere, which rests on a shelf in my living room. I could go throw the host of complex interactions taking place within the little sphere, that allow it to remain sealed from the outside world and still flourish. Then I could write and write how these same systems apply to the health of our aquariums. In reality it boils down to one thing, the food chain. We all know the basics of a food chain. Often though, we don’t apply knowledge of marine food chains to our aquariums. These systems complete an entire cycle of waste assimilation and animal nutrition. They are vital to every ecosystem on Earth, including the one within your aquarium.  MORE

Reef Threads Podcast #212

reefthreads

These guys are not algae eaters.

  It’s been a long break but we’re back for first 2015 show. To kick off the year, we talk about feeding algae to Copperbands (not), Bucket-Hand Syndrome, non-natives in Florida, giant clams, staghorn-coral fields of Florida coast, tank maturity, filter socks, and milk filter socks. Download the podcast here, or subscribe to our podcasts at iTunes. Also, follow us on Twitter at reefthreads.—Gary and Christine

Hydra Aquatics and Tony’s Vault Launch a More Mindful Wholesale Facility in South Florida

HydraPR0001Down in Sunny Dania Beach, Florida, something quite refreshing is rumbling within the trade – a wholesale facility brought to us by Hydra Aquatics International and Tony’s Vault that focuses on the wellbeing and health of livestock as opposed to simply turning a profit.  Many wholesalers have a tendency to do what could be considered “flipping” livestock – they get in an order of fish/corals and have it available for sale within days. This means many of the beautiful specimens you see at your local fish store were most likely halfway across the world just a few days ago, swimming (or slowly building a calcium carbonate skeleton) along, minding their own business. MORE

A network of coral health and communication

coral-from-glynnMost reef aquarists are familiar with coral’s symbiotic relationship with zooxanthellae algae. These tiny algae are responsible for providing corals with nutrition, in the form of sucrose which is over-produced during photosynthesis. Scientists have uncovered that coral’s have another (possible equally as important) organism living with them. In keeping in line with my recent posts on marine microbes, I thought it pertinent to discuss the relationship between corals and various species of marine bacteria. Many aquarists don’t realize the extent of this relationship. Various bacteria actually produce antibiotic which helps heal coral infections, and establish networks of bacterial communication, literally serving as coral’s microscopic caretakers. Since we are just beginning to understand the importance of microbes in the marine ecosystem, it’s also vital to understand how remarkably crucial earth’s tiniest organisms are to living corals.  MORE

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