Teaching sharks that lionfish are tasty?

Some gutsy local divers have been teaching sharks just how good lionfish are to eat in Roatan Marine Park off the coast of Honduras [The Seamonster].

Dr John Bruno, over at the excellent new ocean-science blog, Seamonster, points out some new efforts in the fight against a particularly troubling invasive species, the lionfish.  Lionfish are native to the Indo-Pacific but have invaded waters along the US eastern seaboard, all the way down to South America, and represent an enormous ecological change, as pretty much nothing is left to eat them.  But apparently there are efforts afoot to change that, by working with sharks, and by attempting to convince a largely land-based bunch of bipeds that they’re yummy as well.


Photography from the Shackleton Expedition

The NPR blog, The Picture Show, has a great post and series of images up today about Frank Hurley.  Hurley sailed to Antarctica with Sir Ernest Shackleton on the Endurance expedition as a photographer in 1914.  After the Endurance became trapped, Hurley and Shackleton picked a mere 120 of the weighty photographic plates to bring with them, leaving the rest along with Hurley’s color photography gear.  The below images were captured by Hurley, who visited Antarctica six times between 1911 and 1932, using glass Paget plate phototransparency.

The images above can be accessed on The State Library of New South Wales’ Flickr page (no known copyright restrictions for this set).  You can view more of Hurley’s photography from the expedition there, and at the NPR article mentioned.

h/t Jad Abumrad on Twitter.  Jad is a host of Radiolab, easily my favorite podcast (but you can find an actual station too!).

Distinct communities on a Tyrrhenian seamount

Using a Remotely Operated Vehicle, researchers surveyed a large seamount in the Tyrrhenian Sea off the coast of Italy, finding three distinct biological communities.  Seamounts, undersea mountains, can hugely affect the way water flows in an area and can provide hard substrate for benthic animals.  These features are generally acknowledged to be potential hotspots in terms of how many species are in a given area (known as species richness).

Marzia Bo and colleagues1 detail the the species composition of the Vercelli Seamount in a paper appearing in PLoS ONE.  Similar to other Mediterranean seamounts, the  relatively shallow summit of Vercelli hosts kelp  and algal-dominated communities at the very top (60-70 meters depth).  A bit further down, from 70-80 meters, the southern flank of the seamount hosts mostly organisms that are well-suited for a high-flow environment, such as octocorals. Species found on the northern flank are adopted for lower-flow regimes and feed by active filter-feeding, for example, sponges and ascidians.

The study of seamounts, these seemingly esoteric oceanic peaks, is still very exploratory due to the difficulty in sampling in the open and deep ocean.  Only a few hundred seamounts have been sampled biologically out of the estimated hundreds of thousands or millions thought to be present in the global ocean2. This work illustrates that seamounts can consist of multiple habitats over relatively little area. This is likely due to the different environmental conditions that are created by the feature itself, such as varying hydrodynamics (especially relevant here, with active and passive filter-feeders grouped), as well as slope and depth gradients.   Bo et al. note that the conservation value of Vercelli should be focused on the variety  of different communities the seamount supports and the diversity of life contained therein.

Though a seamount may have the impression of being remote and singular, the total global area represented by large seamounts is roughly equal to the size of Europe and Russia combined.  This estimate is actually quite conservative and only takes into account seamounts with greater than 1500 meters in relief3.

This is an open-access paper; read the original work here.

The figures shown above are from Bo et. al. 2011 (cc).


1. Bo M, Bertolino M, Borghini M, Castellano M, Covazzi Harriague A, Di Camillo CG, Gasparini G, Misic C, Povero P, Pusceddu A, Schroeder K, & Bavestrello G (2011). Characteristics of the mesophotic megabenthic assemblages of the vercelli seamount (north tyrrhenian sea). PloS one, 6 (2) PMID: 21304906
2. Wessel, P, Sandwell, DT, & Kim, SS (2010). The global seamount census Oceanography, 23 (1), 24-33
3. Etnoyer, PJ, Wood, J, & Shirley, TC (2010). How Large Is the Seamount Biome?Oceanography, 23 (1), 206-209

Ecologists…helping to thwart the next banking crisis?

Making sense of the relationship between the individual and the system is one of science’s oldest challenges. What might be new to banking is well-studied in biology, for example. This prompted Bob May, ecologist and former government chief scientific adviser, to approach the governor of the Bank of England Mervyn King with an offer of help and advice. Could there be, he wondered, any parallels between banking and ecosystems?

The main idea here seems to be that banking systems would do well do mimic ecosystems, in which the diversity of species and stability tend to go hand in hand.  Read more at the Guardian (link below).

via Scientists of the Subprime: Can biologists avert another banking crisis? | Ehsan Masood | Science | guardian.co.uk.