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An illuminating discussion on the Flashlightfish

Photoblepharon seen in Cebu, Philippines. Credit: うきくさ

Photoblepharon seen in Cebu, Philippines. Credit: うきくさ

 Despite its ubiquity in the deeper waters of the oceans, bioluminescence is an unusual behavior in shallow water reef fishes. The most notable exception to this rule are the flashlightfishes of the family Anomalopidae. MORE

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. MORE

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 MORE

The Evolution and Biogeography of Stonogobiops – part 3

stono 21Yasha Goby (Stonogobiops yasha) 

stono 22b

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

Aquarium morality 2.0

definition-of-moralityI have gotten an incredible amount of feedback on my follow up to Richard Ross and Nathan Hill’s conversation about the aquarium hobby and morality. What shocked me, is that many advanced aquarists agreed with me 100%, and felt that both the hobby and industry have a lot of work to do, when it comes to morality and our tanks. I also got feedback from those outside of the hobby or industry, whom feel that removing animals from their habitat constitutes environmental abuse, and that individual animals suffering along the chain of custody on up to our aquariums is unacceptable. Those on the outside looking in, seem to think a zero tolerance policy regarding wild caught livestock needs implemented. It’s encouraging to know that aquarists, and those who simply appreciate the planet, are thinking about these issues.  MORE

Synthetic Coral to Clean the Ocean

synthetic coral 4

Photo credit: Paul Nicklen

 Coral, with its porous nature and curled structure, is extremely efficient at absorbing toxic heavy metals; deadly poisons. The mercury that is polluting our oceans is contributing to massive coral die-offs, and is building up in the food chain, eventually resulting in toxic fish. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), between 1.5 and 17 in every thousand children living in selected subsistence fishing populations showed cognitive impacts caused by the consumption of fish containing mercury. Coral’s remarkable ability to absorb heavy metals inspired researchers at Anhui Jianzhu University in China to create nano-sized, coral-like structures that use aluminum oxide to absorb mercury out of the water. The team, led by Dr. Xianbiao Wang, published their procedures and findings this week in the Journal of Colloid and Interface Science. They outlined their process for creating this unique structure, which they found to be about two and a half times more effective at absorbing mercury than traditionally structured nanoparticles –  49.15 mg/g vs.19.56 mg/g. MORE

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