Lionfish hunt together, share food equally


This video is called Zebra Lionfish (Dendrochirus zebra).

From New Scientist:

Zoologger: The fish that kill with special-ops signals

25 June 2014 by Michael Slezak

Species: Dendrochirus zebra

Habitat: Hanging out in the Great Barrier Reef and Indonesia; waging war in Caribbean reefs

It is night-time on the reef. With its Fu Manchu moustache and weed-like fins a lionfish blends into the swaying seaweed.

Spotting a school of little fish swimming slowly through the coral, the lionfish quickly scans around for hungry accomplices. Swimming to them one-by-one it gives a quick wiggle of its tail fin and then a slow undulating wave of its pectoral fins. The accomplices respond with a simple wave of their pectoral fins. The hunt is on.

Together the gang approach the fish, which don’t seem to see the lionfish even from up close. Using their fan-like fins they herd the prey into a corner before taking it in turns to dart into the school, each time swallowing their meal whole. Their bellies full, the conspirators part ways into the tropical night.

Invisible fish

Lionfish are venemous, and have few natural predators. They are also so adept at camouflage that Oona Lönnstedt at James Cook University in Townsville, Australia, and colleagues recently showed that they seem to be invisible to their prey. In fact, when hunting alone, they convince their prey to swim into their mouths by blowing a stream of water towards them.

But it turns out that they have another trick up their sleeves: very good communication skills.

Studying lionfish both in the lab and on the Great Barrier Reef, Lönnstedt and colleagues found that the fish sometimes conducted a distinctive fin display. Whenever there was another lionfish nearby, the fish that spotted the prey used this signal and up to four other lionfish responded and joined in the hunt.

The signal was only seen prior to a group hunt, which suggests it is a method of communication – a kind of special operations signalling with their fins. “As an intentional signal, it’s very rare. It implies that there’s a complex cognitive ability in fish,” Lönnstedt says.

All fish are equal

Lönnstedt also found that group hunts were more fruitful than solo efforts. The lionfish also shared the food completely evenly. “That blew our minds,” she says. “That’s the first time that’s been proven in animals. Usually lions or hyenas will catch prey and share it hierarchically. The top animal takes the lion’s share, so to speak.”

Group foraging and hunting have been seen in all sorts of animals, from chimpanzees to bees and eels. But very little has been done into how it is triggered, says Amanda Ridley from the University in Western Australia in Perth. “We have scores of papers about cooperation, but we don’t know how they do it,” she says. “This paper has nicely encapsulated the fin display. It goes to the other and says ‘hey how about it, let’s go fish together’.”

Journal reference: Biology Letters, DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2014.0281

Correction, 26 June 2014: When this article was first published, we mistakenly described Dendrochirus zebra as an invasive species.

See also here. And here.

Turtle, shark migration from Costa Rica to Ecuador


This is called Sea Turtle Migration Video.

From Wildlife Extra:

First evidence of an important marine migration corridor between Costa Rica and Ecuador

Sanjay, a 53k (117lb) male endangered green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas agassizii), recently made history when he completed a 14-day migration from the Cocos Island Marine National Park in Costa Rica to the Galapagos Marine Reserve in Ecuador.

Sanjay is the first turtle to directly link these two protected marine areas, proving the connectivity of the Eastern Tropical Pacific, as well as highlighting the importance of protecting migration routes.

“It’s truly remarkable,” said Alex Hearn, conservation science director for the Turtle Island Restoration Network, based in California.

“Sanjay knew where he was headed, and made a beeline from one marine protected area to the next.

“These protected areas of ocean are hot spots for endangered green sea turtles, but we also need to think about their migratory corridors between protected areas.”

Sanjay was one of three green sea turtles tagged at Cocos Island in June during a joint 10-day research expedition by the Turtle Island Restoration Network and Programa Testauracion de Tiburones y Tortugas Marinas (PRETOMA) of Costa Rica.

Since 2009, the two organisations have tagged over 100 turtles and several species of sharks in a programme to understand how endangered turtles and sharks use the Cocos Island and Galapagos National Parks marine protected areas, and to see if their is biological connectivity between those new sanctuaries.

Sanjay is the first turtle to have been documented moving between these two marine protected areas and joins several hammerhead sharks, a silky shark and a Galapagos shark that have spent time at both of these reserves.

“Finally seeing a turtle move from Cocos Island directly to Galapagos is absolutely amazing,” said Maike Heidemeyer from PRETOMA. “Especially because preliminary genetic research results suggest that there is a connection between the green turtles at Cocos Island and the Galapagos.”

Green sea turtles, like Sanjay, play an important role in the Eastern Tropical Pacific ecosystem, but little is known about the geographic distribution of juveniles and males, despite the fact that nesting sites for female turtles have been identified in the Galapagos, mainland Mexico and Revillagigedo Islands, as well in the Northern Pacific of Costa Rica.

At Cocos Island, two different populations of turtles occur: the black-to gray coloured Eastern Pacific green turtles (also known as “black turtles”) and Western Pacific populations. Both populations are considered by some to be subspecies, but there is no official taxonomic division.

“These species are protected while they are in the reserves, but as soon as they swim beyond the no-fishing zone, they are being hammered by industrial fishing vessels that set millions of hooks in the region,” said Todd Steiner, executive director of Turtle Island, biologist and co-primary investigator of the Cocos research programme.

“Our goal is to collect the necessary scientific data to understand the migratory routes and advocate for ‘swimways’ to protect these endangered species throughout their migration.”

“The route that Sanjay followed is riddled with longline fishing gear,” said Randall Arauz of PRETOMA.

“Several international initiatives exist to improve marine conservation in the Eastern Tropical Pacific, and its time for these initiatives to translate into direct actions that ultimately protect these turtles from unsustainable fishing practices.”

Satellite, acoustic and genetic information is currently being analysed and will be officially published later in the year.

Sea turtle Sanjay is on the move again, the latest ping suggests that he is headed to green sea turtle nesting grounds at Isabela Island.

Sanjay’s migration track can be seen on this map.

Fish’s intelligence and feelings of pain, new research


This 2010 video from the USA is called Dr. Jonathan Balcombe on Individuality in Fish.

From Wildlife Extra:

Researcher finds that fish are intelligent and feel pain like humans

New research suggests that fish are, in fact, far more intelligent than many previously believed.

They have very good memories, live in complex social communities where they keep track of individuals, and can learn from one another. This helps to develop stable cultural traditions.

Fish even recognise themselves and others. They also cooperate with one another and show signs of Machiavellian intelligence, such as cooperation and reconciliation. They build complex structures, are capable of using tools, and use the same methods for keeping track of quantities as humans do.

These findings, published by Culum Brown of Macquarie University in Australia in the journal Animal Cognition, argue that more consideration should be given to fish welfare and anti-cruelty issues.

For the most part the primary senses of fish are just as good, says Brown, and in many cases better than those of humans.

Their behaviour is very much the same as that of primates, except that fish do not have the ability to imitate.

The Australian researcher believes that most people rarely think about fish other than as food, or as pets.

However, they are second only to mice in terms of the numbers used in scientific research, and more than 32,000 known species of fish far outweigh the diversity of all other vertebrates combined.

Very little public concern – which is so important to inform policy – is ever noted about fish welfare issues.

Brown says this relates to incorrect perceptions about the intelligence of fish, and ultimately of whether they are conscious. Such attitudes are also influenced because humans rarely come into contact with fish in their natural environments.

Brown’s review focused especially on bony fish. The level of mental complexity they displayed he found to be on a par with most other vertebrates, and there is mounting evidence that they can feel pain in a manner similar to humans.

While the brains of fish differ from other vertebrates, they have many analogous structures that perform similar functions. Brown concludes that if any animals are sentient, fish must be considered to be so, too.

“Although scientists cannot provide a definitive answer on the level of consciousness for any non-human vertebrate, the extensive evidence of fish behavioural and cognitive sophistication and pain perception suggests that best practice would be to lend fish the same level of protection as any other vertebrate,” concludes Brown, who acknowledges that such a move has implications for the fishing industry, among others.

“We should therefore include fish in our ‘moral circle’ and afford them the protection they deserve.”

This video is called Orange-Dotted Tuskfish Uses Tool.

Cichlid fish memory lasts for days, not seconds: here.

More wildlife conservation needed, United Nations say


This video is called Science Matters: The Genetics of Wildlife Conservation.

From the United Nations Environment Programme:

Global Protection Proposed for Sharks, Rays, Sawfish, Polar Bears and Lions

Fri, Jun 13, 2014

Fate of iconic species lies in the balance as key wildlife conservation conference countdown commences

Bonn, Germany, 13 June 2014 – Some of the world’s most endangered species, many of them migratory, are facing unprecedented threats from climate change and habitat destruction to overexploitation and pollution. This has led to a number of new listing proposals for consideration at the Convention on Migratory Species Convention of the Parties, a key international wildlife conference scheduled to take place 4-9 November 2014 in Quito, Ecuador.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) administered Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (also known as CMS or the “Bonn Convention”) is the only global convention protecting species that move across international boundaries. Every three years it holds an international meeting of all its members – the CMS Convention of the Parties (COP) – to agree on internationally coordinated conservation measures for the world’s migratory species and to decide which species should be protected under its two Appendices.

The deadline for listing proposals for CMS COP11 was 6 June and a total of 32 species have been proposed for listing into Appendix I, which requires strict protection, and Appendix II, which requires coordinated management by the countries in which the species migrate.

Among the listing proposals received from countries for CMS COP11 are a large number of shark and ray species including two types of Hammerhead shark, the Silky shark, three species of thresher sharks, the Reef Manta Ray along with nine Mobula Ray species. In addition, five species of sawfishes, some of which are critically endangered, have been proposed for listing.

“One of the clear messages indicated by the listing proposals is that CMS Parties deem the plight of sharks to be so serious that they proposed over twenty species of sharks and rays for listing. It might also be seen as a vote of confidence in CMS as a forum in which to advance the global conservation of sharks, but also for an increasing number of other threatened migratory species of wild animals”, said Bradnee Chambers, Executive Secretary of CMS.

Other species put forward by individual CMS Parties for consideration by CMS COP11 include the Polar Bear, which is under major threat from climate change, and the African Lion, which has seen a 30 per cent decrease in population over the last two decades as a result of habitat loss and other man-made threats. Also proposed is the European Eel, which is threatened by overfishing and dams.

Other issues that will be discussed at CMS COP11 in Quito include the illegal hunting of elephants, which are being driven to the brink of extinction with about a hundred elephants being poached every day. This is also a topic that will be high on the agenda of the first ever United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA) later this month, and which has also been the subject of a number of major Heads of State summits recently.

Other issues affecting migratory species that will be discussed at CMS COP11 in November include climate change, marine debris, the effects of renewable energy installations on migratory species and illegal bird trapping.

The Chair of the CMS Standing Committee, Professor Alfred Oteng-Yeboah of Ghana, said: “The CMS COP comes in the middle of a busy period in the international environmental calendar. The Convention on Biological Diversity is holding its COP the month before in Korea and the IUCN World Parks Congress takes place in Sydney shortly afterwards. It will be the first time in the 35-year existence of CMS that the COP has taken place in the Americas. We are expecting the Conference to attract leading decision-makers from a wide range of governments, international organizations and civil society”.

Species covered by CMS are extremely diverse, ranging from the Blue Whale and the African Elephant to gazelles, sea turtles, sharks, a variety of birds from albatrosses, birds of prey, waterbirds and songbirds, to the Monarch Butterfly.

By signing the Convention, the 120 Parties to CMS recognize that these wild animals in their innumerable forms are an irreplaceable part of the Earth’s natural system which must be conserved for the good of mankind.

The details of the agenda of the forthcoming CMS COP11 – which is being held under the theme, “Time for Action” – are beginning to emerge. The full list of species proposed for inclusion into the CMS Appendices to be decided by governments includes three terrestrial mammals, two marine mammals, five birds and 22 fish. All proposals submitted by individual CMS Parties can be found on the CMS website at: http://www.cms.int

Notes for Editors

Key CMS COP11 Listing Proposals:

The African Lion, whose numbers have declined by 30 per cent in the last two decades, has been proposed for inclusion on Appendix II. Only about 40,000 animals remain from an estimated 100,000 in 1900 in no more than 25 per cent of their historical range. Only one isolated population of the Asiatic Lion, which has been proposed for inclusion on Appendix I, still exists in India (Gujarat State) with about 175 adult animals.

The Polar Bear, an apex predator that spends much of each year on the sea ice hunting, covers distances of up to 1,000 kilometres. It is now proposed for listing on Appendix II. A global perspective, including the better understanding of the impacts of climate change on Polar Bears, could be added to the conservation policies that countries in the region have worked on for decades.

Two species of Hammerhead shark – the Great and the Scalloped – have been proposed for inclusion on Appendix II. Noted for their distinctively shaped heads from which they derive their name, Hammerhead Sharks have undergone dramatic declines in recent years – as much as 99 per cent for some populations. Other shark species proposed for inclusion in Appendix II are the Silky shark, and three species of thresher shark.

The Reef Manta Ray along with nine Mobula or Eagle ray species is proposed for listing in both Appendices. In several regions, populations of the Reef Manta Ray have declined up to as much as 80 per cent over the last three generations, or about 75 years. The main threats are targeted and incidental fishing. Manta ray products have a high value in international trade markets.

Five species of sawfishes, some of which are critically endangered, have been proposed for listing on Appendix I and II. The listing proposals coincided with the launch of a global strategy for the conservation of sawfishes by the Shark Specialist Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) at the Sharks International Conference in Durban, South Africa last week. This proposal brings the total number of shark and ray species submitted to 21.

The European Eel, which has unique migration patterns spanning a geographic range from European rivers to the Sargasso Sea in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, is threatened by overfishing and dams being obstacles to migration is already subject to protection measures under European Union Law.

The Great Bustard, one of the largest flying birds of the world, has been proposed for Appendix I. It is already listed in both Appendices. The proposal to list the global population on Appendix I removes the existing geographical restriction to the Middle European population.

CMS – the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals is an environmental treaty under the aegis of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) which provides a global platform for the conservation and sustainable use of migratory animals and their habitats. CMS brings together the States through which migratory animals pass to agree on internationally coordinated conservation measures for a wide range of endangered migratory animals worldwide. CMS is a growing convention with special importance due to its expertise in the field of migratory species. At present, there are 120 Parties to the Convention. Further information: http://www.cms.int

COP – the Conference of the Parties is the main decision-making body of the Convention, which meets every three years to adopt the budget, Strategic Plan and policy decisions including amendments to the Convention’s two Appendices. COP11 is taking place in Quito, Ecuador, at the invitation of the Government of Ecuador in November – the first time the Parties will have met in the Americas. More details on the COP11 agenda will be posted on the CMS website as they become available.

Professor Alfred Oteng-Yeboah of the Department of Botany at the University of Ghana is the current Chair of the CMS Standing Committee; his term comes to an end at the end of COP11. He also serves as the COP-appointed Scientific Councilor for African Fauna and is also a member of the Bureau of the recently established Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

IUCN Global Sawfish Strategy – The Shark Specialist Group (SSG) of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has released a global strategy to prevent extinction and promote recovery of sawfishes, which have been devastated worldwide by overfishing and habitat loss.

For further information: http://www.dulvy.com/global-sawfish-conservation-strategy.html

For more information please contact:

Florian Keil, Information Officer and Coordinator of the Common Information Management, Communication and Outreach Team of the UNEP/CMS and UNEP/AEWA Secretariats, tel: +49 228 815 2451, mail: florian.keil@unep.org

Veronika Lenarz, UNEP/CMS Secretariat, Public Information & Media, tel: +49 228 815 2409, mail: vlenarz@cms.int

Huge fish discovered from long before dinosaurs


This video is called Fish of the Silurian Period.

By Jennifer Viegas:

Did Super-Sized Animals Live Long Before Dinosaurs?

June 12, 2014 11:00 AM ET

It’s generally believed that Earth’s earliest animals were not very big, but discovery of a huge new fish that lived around 423 million years ago has scientists rethinking what life was like close to 200 million years before the first dinosaurs emerged.

The fish, named Big Mouth Blunt Tooth (Megamastax amblyodus), is described in the latest issue of Scientific Reports. For its time, the toothy and lobe-finned fish was in the number one spot on the food chain.

“At 1 meter (3.3 feet) in length or greater, it was vastly larger than any other animal,” lead author Brian Choo told Discovery News, adding that Big Mouth was “likely the earliest vertebrate (backboned) apex predator in the fossil record.”

Choo, a paleontologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Flinders University, and his colleagues analyzed Big Mouth’s remains, which were unearthed at the Kuanti Formation in Yunnan, southwestern China. During the fish‘s lifetime, a period known as the Silurian, this region was part of the South China Sea. It is where the marine ancestors of all jawed animals, including humans, first evolved.

Equipped with both piercing and crushing teeth, Big Mouth likely preyed upon hard-shelled moving species, such as mollusks and armored fishes. The second largest animal at the time, Guiyu onerios — aka Ghost Fish, was a mere one-third of Big Mouth’s size.

Why then was Big Mouth so big?

One reason, according to the researchers, is that competition among fish appears to have been fierce.

Co-author Min Zhu explained, “During the Silurian period, the South China Sea, then at the equator, was the cradle of early jawed vertebrates, thus the ecological competition among these creatures was very intense.”

Another reason is that Big Mouth probably had plenty of oxygen. Modern fish are generally worse off in low oxygen conditions, and big fish require more oxygen than small ones, Choo said. Big Mouth therefore could not have existed unless sufficient oxygen was present.

See also here.

Baby salamanders, baby fish, flatworm and beetles


Flatworm on egg spoon, 31 May 2014

After the birds and flowers on the biodiversity day on 31 May 2014, to small animals living in water. Like the flatworm on this photo. This worm was photographed on a small egg spoon with water on it. A macro lens was really necessary to photograph a tiny animal like this. Research still has to find out which flatworm species this is.

Many small animals were caught with a landing net in the ditch near the allotment gardens. Water is rather clean there, so much biodiversity.

There were various leech species. Like Erpobdella octoculata, which was named in 1758 by Linnaeus. And Theromyzon tessulatum; which lives in ducks’ bills. One female Theromyzon tessulatum had eggs.

Bugs included specimens of water boatman; a species which may survive in polluted water. There was also the lesser water boatman. And a much smaller related species: Plea minutissima.

And a saucer bug as well.

There were nymphs of various damselfly species.

Crustaceans were represented by an aquatic sowbug.

Common bladder snail, 31 May 2014

And mollusks by a common bladder snail.

Meanwhile, a reed warbler sang.

There were various, still small, common newt larvae.

Among the very smallest animals were Cyclops and Daphnia crustaceans.

Not in the ditch, but in reed beds along the ditch: a beetle species, Donacia vulgaris.

Edible frog sound.

One very small fish is caught. Too young still to say which species. Among fish species living in this ditch are: northern pike, perch, ninespine stickleback and spined loach.

A water mite. One of scores of species in this ditch.

Finally, a great silver water beetle larva.

After the research, all animals went back into the ditch.

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Migratory fish in Ethiopia


This video says about itself:

21 January 2014

Thousands of birds that fly south during the European winter migrate to Lake Tana in Ethiopia. It’s the source of the Blue Nile and has a unique ecosystem. More than two thirds of its fish species are unique to the lake. Several of the lake’s islands are also home to ancient Coptic monasteries. But the region’s resources are under threat. A German conservation group is trying to alleviate the situation.

From BirdLife:

Migratory birds? What about migratory fish?

By nairobi.volunteer, Wed, 28/05/2014 – 08:00

Major ‘International Days for…’ play a strong role in supporting the work of conservation networks. There is the International Day for Biological Diversity, the World Environment Day, and of course World Migratory Bird Day. Now, there is also World Fish Migration Day!

The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF)under its Eastern Afromontane Hotspot programme is funding  is a project in Ethiopia, implemented by the  Addis Abeba University, to empower local fishing communities to sustainably utilize and conserve the (migratory) fish resources of Lake Tana. Lake Tana is an Afromontane Key Biodiversity Area as well as an Important Bird Area.

As part of that project, Addis Abeba University supported the first ever World Fish Migration Day which was celebrated colourfully at the city of Bahir Dar, near the Lake, on Saturday, 24 May 2014. Thousands of people marched on the streets of Bahir Dar voicing the conservation importance of the migratory fish and – specifically – the world’s only remaining Labeobarbus species flock of Lake Tana.

Abebe Getahun, Addis Abeba University’s manager of the Lake Tana project, described the day. “There were brief talks at the beginning of the march marking the day and its official opening, and there was a seminar with a discussion at the end, during which three papers relevant to fish biodiversity conservation were selected and presented. Thousands of leaflets were prepared in the local language and distributed to the public. Banners were also displayed at selected strategic sites in the city. The march was accompanied by the Police Marsh, which provided more visibility to the public and policy makers. Several local and international organizations were involved in sponsoring the event.”

Zewditu Tessema, the CEPF Eastern Afromontane Hotspot project officer in Ethiopia, based at the Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society (EWNHS, BirdLife in Ethiopia) congratulated the organizers of the event by saying: “This is a good starting point which will have an immense contribution towards the creation of awareness on the conservation of fish species in Ethiopia. Addis Ababa University and the donors are pioneers for the celebration of World Fish Migration Day in Ethiopia.” She continued: “I also congratulate CEPF for creating a legacy for this event, the first of its kind in Ethiopia, and I hope the celebrations will continue, and be marked at a national level with many more awareness creation programmes such as EWNHS‘s own efforts during the celebration of World Environment Day.”

The Lake Tana project runs from January 2014 to June 2015. 

Story by Ato Abebe Getahun

BirdLife International, together with IUCN and the Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society, form the Regional Implementation Team that supports CEPF with their investment in the Eastern Afromontane Hotspot.

Read other Eastern Afromontane News

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