New coral, shark discoveries in California


This video from the USA is called Habitat Exploration: Deep-Sea Corals.

From Wildlife Extra:

New coral species discovered off the coast of California

Scientists on a mission led by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have made new discovers in waters off California’s coast, including a new species of deep sea coral and a nursery area used by both catsharks and skates.

The research was a result of the first intensive exploration of the areas north of Bodega Head, which took place in September 2014 aboard NOAA’s R/V Fulmar. The team of scientists focused on two main sites: the head waters of Bodega Canyon, and an area known as ‘the Football’ west of Salmon Creek and north of the canyon, so-named for its oval shape.

While investigating in these areas, the researchers discovered a new species of deep sea coral, and a nursery area for both catsharks and skates located in the underwater canyons close to the Gulf of Farallones and Cordell Bank national marine sanctuaries off Sonoma coast.

The team of scientists undertook multiple dives during which they made the discovery of hundreds of skate egg cases on the sea floor, and in bundles on rocks surrounding a catshark nursery area.

Commenting on this finding, deep sea biologist at NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science Peter Etnoyer said: “This is a highly unusual nursery because rarely, if ever, are shark nurseries in the same area as skate nurseries.”

The significant discovery of the new coral species was made by the second team to embark on the mission, led by California Academy of Sciences’ Gary Williams. His team found corals at around 600 feet deep and confirmed them to be a new species of deep sea coral. “Deep-sea corals and sponges provide valuable refuge for fish and other marine life,” said Maria Brown, Farallones sanctuary superintendent. “Data on these life forms helps determine the extent and ecological importance of deep sea communities and the threats they face. Effective management of these ecosystems requires science-based information on their condition.”

The mission was also significant for being the first time that video surveys were recorded in the area. Previously this region had only been documented through sonar imaging.

“The video surveys from this research mission verified the extent of rocky habitat estimated from sonar data collected several years ago, and the quality of rocky habitat in some areas exceeded expectations.” says US Geological Survey geophysicist Guy Cochrane.

The scientists used small submersibles in their investigations along with other innovate technologies, documenting the marine life that has adapted to survive in offshore waters reaching depths of 1000 feet by filming and photographing it. Prior to this research, scientists knew little about these areas except they were thought to contain nutrient-rich and biologically diverse marine life.

“Surveys of the seafloor in these waters reveal an abundance and diversity of life in new habitats,” commented Danielle Lipski of the Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary. “This work helps inform our knowledge and understanding of the deep sea ecosystems north of Cordell Bank and Gulf of the Farallones national marine sanctuaries, areas that are extremely important to the ocean environment.”

Polar bear, whale and fish conservation news


This video is about a polar bear and her two cubs.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Governments agree on new protections for polar bears

Convention on Migratory Species meeting in Ecuador adds listings for Cuvier’s beaked-whale, and 21 shark, ray and sawfish

Adam Vaughan

Monday 10 November 2014 14.17 GMT

Polar bears are among 31 species approved for greater protections by more than 100 countries, in a move hailed by conservationists as an important step to saving the endangered mammal.

The Convention on Migratory Species conference in Ecuador closed on Sunday, with new listings for a whale capable of the world’s deepest ocean dives, and 21 shark, ray and sawfish. A proposal to list the African lion, however, was rejected due to a lack of data.

The Norwegian proposal to protect the estimated 20,000-25,000 remaining polar bears, which are threatened by melting ice, Arctic oil exploration and hunting, saw the species gain an Appendix II listing. That means countries must work together to put in place conservation plans, as opposed to the stronger Appendix I listing which requires strict protections such as bans on killing an animal.

Dr Masha Vorontsova, director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare Russia, said: “We are pleased to see the polar bear joining a growing list of threatened migratory species protected under CMS. Appendix II does not mean that sufficient conservation action will be taken to protect the well-being of polar bears.

“What gives us hope is that this listing means that 120 countries are now recognising the threats that polar bears face from the shrinking of their ice habitat to pollution and hunting. This is an important first step, but it must not be the last if we wish to save the polar bear.”

The top level of protection, Appendix I, was issued for the rarely-seen Cuvier’s beaked-whale (Ziphius cavirostris), which scientists have recorded as diving as deep as 3km below the water’s surface.

The meeting in Quito also agreed that the 120 parties to the convention should pass laws to ban the capture of live whales and dolphins for use in travelling shows and entertainment.

Cathy Williamson of Whale and Dolphin Conservation said: “This very positive development from CMS sends a clear message of international concern about the impact of live captures for the aquarium industry on wild whale and dolphin populations.”

Campaigners praised the new protections for rays and sharks, with countries agreeing to take steps to stop the practice of finning, where sharks are caught and their fins cut off for use as soup at Chinese banquets.

Humane Society International’s Alexia Wellbelove said: “Today’s commitment at CMS by countries to provide greater protection for shark and ray species is an unprecedented step forwards in the conservation of sharks and rays worldwide.”

Governments agreed that the use of lead shot should be cut down to stop the poisoning of migrating birds, despite the UK initially opposing the move. The resolution also called for the phasing out of the veterinary drug diclofenac, and rodenticides, insecticides and poison baits.

Martin Harper, RSPB director of conservation, said: “I would like to congratulate the UK government for its role in helping to find a way forward. The UK showed leadership on the issue of poisoning by providing financial support to set up the CMS Preventing Poisoning Working Group, which produced the guidelines that have been ratified.”

Guidelines were also settled for the first time on how best to protect birds and bats from wind turbines and other forms of renewable energy.

Bradnee Chambers, the convention’s executive secretary, said: “Like never before in the 35-year history of CMS, migratory animals have become the global flagships for many of the pressing issues of our time. From plastic pollution in our oceans, to the effects of climate change, to poaching and overexploitation, the threats migratory animals face will eventually affect us all.”

POLAR BEARS HAD A BAD DECADE The polar bear population dropped 40% in the area north of Alaska and northern Canada. [HuffPost]

Shark feeding frenzy in North Carolina


This video says about itself:

Rare Shark Feeding Frenzy in North Carolina

On Thursday, October 9 [2014] at around noon, while at a retreat at Cape Lookout National Seashore off the coast of North Carolina, the leaders of One Harbor Church witnessed a shark feeding frenzy. The men were out fishing for the evening’s dinner when they stumbled across more than 100 sharks attacking a school of bluefish. As seagulls and pelicans joined in on the meal, the men began to cast into the surf, catching fish without the use of bait. For more than five minutes, the sharks were observed swimming in and out of the surf, some of which became beached in the fury.

eNature Blog in the USA writes about this:

Amazing Video Shows Shark Feeding Frenzy In The Surf Off North Carolina Beach

Posted on Tuesday, October 14, 2014 by eNature

Several species of shark, including the popular blacktip that frequents the coastal waters of Virginia and the Carolinas during the summer, can be clearly seen literally on the beach in a feeding frenzy video posted to YouTube last week.

The video, posted by user Brian Recker, shows sharks feasting on a school of smaller fish, most likely bluefish, in shallow water at North Carolina’s Cape Lookout National Seashore.

While it’s not uncommon on East Coast beaches to find schools of small fish in the surf when they are chased up on the beach by predators, most observers encounter bluefish chasing smaller fish such as herring or mullet. It IS uncommon to see bluefish as the prey being chased—and sharks so exposed on the beach.

Here is another video on this.

Sharks have individual personalities, new study


This video is called Jonathan Bird’s Blue World: Shark Biology.

From the BBC:

2 October 2014 Last updated at 03:17 GMT

Sharks can be ‘social or solitary’

By Jonathan Webb Science reporter, BBC News

The most feared predators in the sea have individual personalities that affect how readily they socialise, according to a study by UK scientists.

Individual sharks, studied in groups of ten, showed consistent social habits – either forming groups with other sharks or finding camouflage on their own.

When a group was shifted into a new environment, individual sharks showed the same patterns of behaviour.

This is the first study to show that sharks have their own personalities.

The research was done in large tanks at the Marine Biological Association of the UK, in Plymouth, in collaboration with the University of Exeter. The findings appear in the journal Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology.

Strategies for safety

Ten different groups, each containing ten small spotted catsharks, were each studied in three different situations. Some were complex environments with lots of rocks and other features, and some were simple tanks with gravel on the bottom.

Even though the overall number and size of sub-groups among the ten sharks often changed between environments, the individual sharks that tended to form big groups continued to do so, no matter what the situation.

Similarly, the more antisocial specimens remained on their own, or in much smaller groups.

“The results were driven by different social preferences, that appeared to reflect different strategies for staying safe,” said lead author Dr David Jacoby, a behavioural ecologist now working at the Institute of Zoology in London.

“Well-connected individuals formed conspicuous groups, while less social individuals tended to camouflage alone, matching their skin colour with the colour of the gravel in the bottom of the tank,” Dr Jacoby said.

Prof William Hughes, an animal behaviour expert at the University of Sussex, said he was impressed by the level of detail in the results.

“They recorded which shark was hanging around with which other sharks, on a number of occasions across two days – so they got a very, very detailed picture of the social relationships,” he told BBC News.

Prof Hughes said the experiments could be compared to watching a group of people: “Imagine if we took ten work colleagues and plonked them in a bar, and observed which individuals sat with which other individuals over the course of an evening.”

Then imagine repeating the experiments in a nightclub, rather than a bar. And then perhaps back at work – and then, repeating the whole exercise with nine other groups of ten colleagues.

Individual people would tend to form bigger or smaller groups no matter what the situation, much like the sharks.

“It’s a very nice piece of work. It provides some pretty reasonable evidence that sharks show a form of social personality,” Prof Hughes said.

Comparing notes

The result is not altogether surprising, he added. Over the last decade or more, a minor revolution in animal behaviour research has amassed similar evidence for consistent, individual behaviour differences within a large number of species.

“Probably all animals show it, to some extent,” Prof Hughes explained.

Jean-Sebastien Finger is a PhD student at the Humboldt University in Germany, investigating the existence of personalities in another species, the lemon shark. His work is based at the Bimini Biological Field Station in the Bahamas.

Mr Finger agrees that the result was not unexpected. “Personality has been seen everywhere – in almost every taxon of animals,” he told the BBC.

“Sharks haven’t really been tested before.”

Mr Finger said his own research had found “strong preliminary evidence” for consistent differences in lemon sharks.

“I think it will be quite good to compare the two species,” he said.

Dr Jacoby is also looking forward to comparing notes. “I’d expect there to be similar sorts of traits in other species,” he said, adding that the Bahamas project looks at sharks in the wild, which is important.

“Ours was captive study – but it gave us an opportunity to manipulate and control these experiments, which is unusual in shark studies.”

Baby nursehound shark born


Baby nursehound shark

This is a photo of a baby nursehound shark; hatched recently from an egg in the aquarium of Ecomare museum on Texel island in the Netherlands (with a stickleback in the background of the photo).

Carboniferous fossil discoveries in England


This video is called The Carboniferous Period.

From Wildlife Extra:

Yorkshire‘s hidden fossil haven reveals an exotic past

A derelict mining tip in Doncaster has given up its 310-million-year-old secrets after a host of new fossils – including some fossilised plants and creatures that may even be new to science – were found. One of the most exciting finds was that of a fossilised shark egg case, hinting at Yorkshire’s more exotic history.

Also among the fossils were some horseshoe crabs and previously unrecorded seed pods, all of which were found in preserved rocks that formed within the coal and shale deposits in what is one of the few fossil locations of its kind left in the UK.

The tip, located in Edlington, southwest of Doncaster, has been identified as being the only tip in the borough where fossils could still potentially be collected. All others in the area have been landscaped, or turned into parks, leaving any fossils that may be lying beneath inaccessible.

Palaeontologist Dean Lomax, a visiting scientist at the University of Manchester’s School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, described what the fossils indicate Yorkshire might have been like hundreds of millions of years ago: “The fossils unlock a window into a long distant past, buried deep beneath residents’ feet. They are proof that parts of Yorkshire were once a tropical water-logged forest, teeming with life that may have looked something similar to today’s Amazon delta, a mix of dense forest, lakes, swamps and lagoons.

“The shark egg case is particularly rare and significant, because it’s soft bodied and an unusual object to find fossilised. We hope that future organised collecting of the site may reveal further rare discoveries, such as dragonflies, beetles, spiders and further evidence of vertebrates. And who knows, maybe we will even find the actual shark.”

It is hoped that further fossil specimens unearthed at the site will continue to be found. Speaking from Doncaster Heritage Services, Peter Robinson said: “We hope this important discovery will encourage ex-miners from the borough to bring forward and donate fossil specimens from the now defunct collieries, which were collected whilst extracting coal from the pit face. We have heard many stories of some of the wonderful fossils that have been found.”

The fossils are being safely stored at Doncaster Museum and have been integrated into the museum’s fossil collection.