fish science

WWF buys $100,000 shark fishing licence to stop someone else from using it

Conservation group WWF Australia has purchased a commercial shark fishing licence on the Great Barrier Reef, with the sole aim of removing it from circulation.

The Great Barrier Reef has been in the news a lot lately, with 93 percent of the reef bleached earlier this year, hordes of Crown of Thorns starfish still causing damage, and plans to dredge the sea floor in a number of areas. But at least fishing is banned in the area… unless you spend enough money on a special licence, that is.

The AU$100,000 licence that WWF Australia has purchased, would have given its owner the right to drag a 1.2 km net (which is included in the purchase of the license) anywhere along the Great Barrier Reef, to target sharks, or other species.

“We’re going to take it out of the water and make sure it doesn’t go fishing,” Conservation director Gilly Llewellyn told the ABC.

“We have a chance to … help save some of those sharks… This will also prevent dugongs, turtles and dolphins being killed as by-catch, and help the reef heal after the worst coral bleaching in its history.”


The Sheepshead fish has bizarre teeth that have a distinct human appearance. A fully-grown adult sheepshead will have well-defined incisors sitting at the front of the jaw, and molars set in three rows in the upper jaw and two rows in the lower jaw. It has strong, heavy grinders set in the rear of the jaw too, which are particularly important for crushing the shells of its prey. As with humans, this unique combination of teeth helps the sheepshead process a wide-ranging, omnivorous diet consisting of a variety of vertebrates, invertebrates and some plant material.


Happy 1st Birthday, Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument!

The Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument, jointly managed by the BLM and U.S. Forest Service, encompasses nearly 331,000 acres of public land in the heart of northern California’s Inner Coast Range.  Rising from near sea level in the south to over 7,000 feet in the mountainous north, and stretching across nearly 100 miles and dozens of ecosystems, the area possesses a richness of species that is among the highest in California and has established the area as a biodiversity hotspot. A part of the BLM’s National Conservation Lands, the monument offers a wide range of outdoor activities, including hiking, hunting, fishing, camping, off-highway vehicle use, horseback riding, mountain biking and rafting.

CLICK HERE for more information and to explore #yourlands!

From the non-PVP-enabled safety of their computers, British researchers were using Google Earth to look around Africa when they noticed a patch of forest on and around Mozambique’s Mount Mabu that they didn’t know was there. They soon realized they were looking at the largest rain forest in Southern Africa, and one that had previously been completely unknown to science.

It turns out that mountainous terrain and civil war had protected the region from the notoriously machine gun and mountain climbing averse scientific community. Meanwhile, its location in the center of an ocean of African savanna meant it was ecologically protected as well – whatever species were living there had spent years evolving in complete isolation from any known jungle creatures. The scientists quickly booked a trip to check it out in person.

When they finally set foot on the hidden-in-plain-sight mountain forest in 2008, what they found was practically a bio-dome paradise for biologists and botanists alike.

6 Mind-Blowing Discoveries Made Using Google Earth


Pelican eel (Eurypharynx pelecanoides)

The pelican eel is a deep-sea fish rarely seen by humans, though it is occasionally caught in fishing nets. It is an eel-like fish and the only known member of the genus Eurypharynx and the family Eurypharyngidae. The pelican eel’s most notable feature is its large mouth, which is much larger than its body. The mouth is loosely hinged, and can be opened wide enough to swallow a fish much larger than the eel itself. The pouch-like lower jaw resembles that of a pelican, hence its name. The lower jaw is hinged at the base of the head, with no body mass behind it, making the head look disproportionately large. When it feeds on prey, water that is ingested is expelled via the gills.The pelican eel has been found in the temperate and tropical areas of all oceans. In the North Atlantic, it seems to have a range in depth from 500 to 3,000 m.

photo credits: Alexei Orlov, Goodparley, wiki

A problem of synchronisation

A new study has revealed some of the effects of climate change on Britain’s wildlife, showing how desynchronisation is already a problem facing some members of the ecosystem. The issue is simple, imagine you are a migratory bird used to returning to Albion’s shores every year in time to breed. In a normal year your arrival is timed so that your favourite foodstuff, whether grubs or berries are plentiful, and the next generation will be numerous. If global warming means that the grubs are appearing two weeks early in the destination country, that migratory species faces a tough year. Similarly some kinds of fish are born in time to synchronise with specific plant foods, which are appearing earlier in the year and also affecting their numbers.

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Fish fins can sense touch, just like our fingertips!

In a study published earlier this month in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, scientists from the University of Chicago have shown for the first time that pectoral fins in at least one species of fish possess neurons and cells that are extremely sensitive to touch. 

(A pictus catfish. Photo Credit: Adam Hardy, University of Chicago)

Of course, we are well aware of how sensitive and finely-tuned the human fingertip is, and how and even slight touches convey a great deal of information about our physical environment. It turns out that some fish use their pectoral fins in pretty much the same way.

The team studied the pictus catfish, a bottom-dweller from the Amazon River. Their question was simple: can fish feel things with their fins? Well, it looks like it!

Scientists used the flat end of a pin as well as a brush to stimulate the fish’s pectoral fins while measuring the resulting neural activity. They observed that not only the fish’s neurons responded to the touch, but they also conveyed information about the pressure being applied as well as the motion of the brush!

(A pictus catfish in motion. Gif source: ScienceLife University of Chicago)

There have been studies showing that fish possess the sense of proprioception, meaning they are aware of where their fins are relative to their bodies. This study however, is the first to show that fish fins can sense touch, and are able to sense light pressure and subtle motion, similar to mammalian skins.

“Like us, fish are able to feel the environment around them with their fins,said  Melina Hale, another one of the authors. "Touch sensation may allow fish to live in dim environments, using touch to navigate when vision is limited.”

An analysis of the cellular structures of the fin revealed the presence of cells that closely resemble Merkel cells, which are associated with nerve endings in the skin of mammals and are essential for touch.

The team is currently conducting the same experiment with other species of fish (like flounders), but they are confident that such sensitivity to touch exists in other bottom-dweller fishes, and could be useful in nocturnal or deep-sea environments as well.
Shark Gives Rare 'Virgin Birth' to Three Pups
A zebra or leopard shark (Stegostoma fasciatum) in an aquarium in Australia surprises its keepers with the rare phenomenon.

Aquarium keepers in Australia realized that this week, after a captive zebra shark (Stegostoma fasciatum) gave birth to three pups—without having had any contact with a male for years. (Zebra sharks are often called leopard sharks in Australia, but they are a different species from the leopard sharks found off the west coast of North America.)

The 20-something shark at Reef HQ Great Barrier Reef Aquarium in Townsville laid 41 eggs without a father. Three of them hatched into healthy pups, all female…
Scientists surveying ocean floor turn up new fish off Alaska
With co-authors, Orr has discovered 14 kinds of new snailfish, a creature that can be found in tide pools but also in the deepest parts of the ocean. A dozen more new snailfish are waiting to be named.

Federal biologist Jay Orr never knows what’s going to come up in nets lowered to the ocean floor off Alaska’s remote Aleutian Islands, which separate the Bering Sea from the rest of the Pacific Ocean. Sometimes it’s stuff he has to name.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration biologist is part of a group that uses trawl nets to survey commercially important fish species such as cod in waters off Alaska. Sometimes those nets come up with things no one has seen before.

With co-authors, Orr has discovered 14 kinds of new snailfish, a creature that can be found in tide pools but also in the deepest parts of the ocean. A dozen more new snailfish are waiting to be named. Additional species are likely to be found as scientists expand their time investigating areas such as the Bering Sea Slope, in water 800 to 5,200 feet deep, or the 25,663-foot deep Aleutian Trench.

Continue Reading.
‘Dory’ Bred in Captivity for First Time
Breeding the popular blue tang in captivity is an important step toward protecting wild fish and reefs from destructive practices.

Remember my article a few weeks ago about Finding Dory and not purchasing a ‘Dory’ for your aquarium as it hurts the wild population?

Well, things may be changing for the better. On July 19, 2016, scientists from the University of Florida Tropical Aquaculture Lab announced that blue tangs have been bred in captivity for the first time.

This breakthrough is good news as it means that aquarium hobbyists and marine life exhibits may soon have a source for blue tangs that doesn’t rely on wild fish, often captured by illegal and destructive means. 

For now, this finding is still in its early stage and all the blue tangs you will see for sale are still taken from the wild. Don’t get a Dory quite yet, and if you really want one, be patient and hopefully you will be able to get a captive-bred one fairly soon.

Originally posted by magical-arendelle


Ghostly fish in the family Aphyonidae seen alive in the Marianas Trench for the first time

For the first time, a fish in the family Aphyonidae has been seen alive at a depth of ~2,500 meters in the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument. The eel-like fish has transparent, gelatinous skin, without scales, and has highly reduced eyes that lack pigment.

Talking on the video Dr. Bruce Mundy (Fishery Biologist) and Dr. Shirley Pomponi (Biology Science Team Lead, Deepwater Exploration of the Marianas Leg 3).

More footage and info here

video footage via: NOAA Ocean Explorer Program

(via: Sci-News)

Over 360 million years ago the first Coelacanths were found in the fossil record. Most people assumed these lobe-finned fishes went extinct about 80 million years ago when they virtually disappeared from the fossil record. The scientific community was shocked when in 1938 Captain Goosen and his crew caught a living Coelacanth in a shark gill net on the east coast of South Africa. Since then other Coelacanths have turned up in fishing nets. Three known species of Coelacanths are living today.

The deep sea is the Coelacanths prefered habitat. They can live for 60 years or longer,grow up to 6.5 feet (2 meters) long, and weigh up to 198 pounds (90 kilograms). No other living fish bony limb-like fins except the Coelacanth.

Photo by author of Coelacanth specimen at the Harvard Museum of Natural History.