Harbour porpoises, what do they eat?

This video is called Harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena).

Dutch biologist Mardik Leopold recently investigated what harbour porpoises eat. He found out (translated):

To find out, he studied the stomach contents of 829 porpoises that had washed up between 2005 and 2014 on the Dutch coast.

In the stomachs Leopold found some seventy different prey species. Four types of prey are really important: gobies, cod species, sand eels and herring species. The staple food of young porpoises consists mainly of gobies, says Leopold. “As they get older and bigger they need bigger fish such as whiting and fatter fish such as herring, sprat and sandeel.”

What is wildlife crime?

Wildlife crime

This picture is part of a governmental publication in Northern Ireland; about what they consider to be wildlife crime.

Pilot whales asphyxiated by eating flatfish

This video is called Long-Finned Pilot Whale (Globicephala melas).

From PLOS one:

Fatal Asphyxiation in Two Long-Finned Pilot Whales (Globicephala melas) Caused by Common Soles (Solea solea)

November 18, 2015


Long-finned pilot whales (Globicephala melas) are rare visitors to the southern North Sea, but recently two individual strandings occurred on the Dutch coast. Both animals shared the same, unusual cause of death: asphyxiation from a common sole (Solea solea) stuck in their nasal cavity. This is a rare cause of death in cetaceans. Whilst asphyxiation has been reported in smaller odontocetes, there are no recent records of this occurring in Globicephala species.

Here we report the stranding, necropsy and diet study results as well as discuss the unusual nature of this phenomenon. Flatfish are not a primary prey species for pilot whales and are rarely eaten by other cetaceans, such as harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena), in which there are several reports of asphyxiation due to airway obstruction by soles. This risk may be due to the fish’s flexible bodies which can enter small cavities either actively in an attempt to escape or passively due to the whale ‘coughing’ or ‘sneezing’ to rid itself of the blockage of the trachea.

It is also possible that the fish enter the airways whilst the whale is re-articulating the larynx after trying to ingest large, oddly shaped prey. It is unlikely that the soles entered the airways after the death of the whales and we believe therefore that they are responsible for the death of these animals.

Shark fin soup stopped at Thailand school

This video says about itself:

23 March 2012

Shark finning is a practice used around the world where fishers capture sharks, and remove and sell their fins. Not only is it cruel, it’s hurting all marine life. Humane Society International is working hard to stop shark finning everywhere.

From the Bangkok Post in Thailand:

Shark fin soup removed from menu (Updated)

19 Nov 2015 at 11:55


Montfort College School in Chiang Mai has removed shark fin soup from the menu to be served at the school’s annual party next month at the request of a parent and after the issue was raised by a green advocate.

Friday update
Montfort removes shark’s fin soup from menu

Montfort College has informed us that it responded quickly to the parent’s concerns over serving a dish containing shark fin at next month’s annual reunion party. College officials say they thanked her for her concern and her valuable suggestion and tooks steps to remove the dish on October 26. The story became news after plans to include the dish was publicised by a prominent environmental activist.

Thursday story

Apinya Wipatayotin

Montfort College School in Chiang Mai should remove shark fin soup from the menu to be served at the school’s annual party next month, says a green advocate.

The president of the Lanna Bird and Nature Conservation Club, Rungsrit Kanjanavanit, says he backs the concerns of a school parent who wrote to him saying she was disappointed in the decision to include shark fin on the menu, as it encourages animal cruelty.

The mother said the school was preparing to offer shark fin with crab meat and scallops in red soup, to be served at 260 tables during the annual reunion dinner on Dec 22-23.

Dr Rungsrit, also an environmental activist, said shark fin soup is no longer fashionable. Many airlines and hotels refuse to include the traditional Chinese delicacy on their menus.

The school should remove it from its menu as a good example to society, he said.

Dr Rungsrit said the complainant is the mother of three children at the school. She told him in the letter the school should avoid encouraging cruelty against the shark population.

She said sharks are not food for human beings and their fins have no extra nutrition compared to other kinds of food.

“I don’t want to see the school’s party as part of a vicious circle that kills sharks and destroys the marine ecological system,” she said.

Dr Rungsrit said the mother also wrote to the school to pass on her concerns. Its executives had replied thanking her for her concerns and said they would consider the matter. No word was given on whether other parents have complained.

David Attenborough’s new TV program on Great Barrier Reef

This video from Australia is called GoPro HD: Scuba diving, Great Barrier Reef.

From the Sunday Express in Britain:

Sir David Attenborough, 89, plunges 1000ft below sea level for new documentary

HE MAY be turning 90-years-old next year, but age is nothing but a number to Sir David Attenborough.

By Kirsty McCormack

PUBLISHED: 10:49, Sun, Nov 22, 2015 | UPDATED: 11:03, Sun, Nov 22, 2015

The much-loved broadcaster and naturalist has set a new deep-sea diving record after plunging 1,000ft below sea level for a new documentary.

Almost 60 years after his first scuba dive at Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, Attenborough returned and managed to see parts of its flora and fauna which have never before been seen.

The father-of-two was armed with a cameraman and Triton submersible pilot as he filmed one of three documentaries, which are set to be shown on BBC One over Christmas.

Speaking of his latest experience, Attenborough told The Sunday Times: “There is no other one like [Triton], and it took me to a part of the reef which no human being has ever looked at before.”

After coming face-to-face with a 6ft grouper fish – which is not known to exist at such depths – Attenborough said he felt “fantastically privileged”.

“David was, as it were, conversing with the fish, which itself must have been surprised to see a sub for the first time,” said Attenborough‘s producer, Anthony Geffen.

“If he did have any worries or fears about going down to 300 metres, he did not show them. Anyway, curiosity always gets the better of him,” he added.

Attenborough made his first trip to the reef back in 1957 for a Zoo Quest programme. The footage was shot in black-and-white and Attenborough described it as “the most exciting natural history experience of my life”.

Good shortnose sturgeon news from Maine, USA

After measurement and implantation of a small tagging device, UMaine graduate student Lisa Izzo releases a shortnose sturgeon back into the Penobscot River. Credit: Gayle Zydlewski

From the University of Maine in the USA:

After more than a century, endangered shortnose sturgeon find historic habitat post dam removal

November 17, 2015

Endangered shortnose sturgeon have rediscovered habitat in the Penobscot River that had been inaccessible to the species for more than 100 years prior to the removal of the Veazie Dam in 2013.

University of Maine researchers confirmed evidence that three female shortnose sturgeon were in the area between Veazie and Orono in mid-October. Researchers had previously implanted the sturgeon with small sound-emitting devices known as acoustic tags to see if they would use the newly accessible parts of the river.

Among the most primitive fish to inhabit the Penobscot, sturgeon are often called “living fossils” because they remain similar to their earliest fossil forms. Their long lives—more than 50 years—and bony-plated bodies also make them unique.

Historically, shortnose sturgeon and Atlantic sturgeon, a related species also present in the watershed, had spawning populations in the Penobscot River as far upstream as the site of the current Milford dam, and provided an important food and trade source to native peoples and early European settlers. Overharvest and loss of suitable habitat due to dams and pollution led to declines in shortnose sturgeon populations and a listing as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1967. In 2012, Gulf of Maine populations of Atlantic sturgeon were listed as threatened under the ESA.

Today, a network of sound receivers, which sit on the river bottom along the lower river from Penobscot Bay up to the Milford Dam, detect movement and location of tagged fish.

According to Gayle Zydlewski, an associate professor at UMaine‘s School of Marine Sciences, the three individual fish observed were females. The fish have since been tracked joining other individuals in an area identified as wintering habitat near Brewer. Wintering habitat in other rivers is known to be staging habitat for spawning the following spring.

“We know that shortnose sturgeon use the Penobscot River throughout the year, and habitat models indicate suitable habitat for spawning in the area of recent detection upriver of Veazie, although actual spawning has not yet been observed,” Zydlewski says.

Since 2006, Zydlewski has been working with Michael Kinnison, a professor in UMaine’s School of Biology and Ecology; and multiple graduate students, including Catherine Johnston, to better understand the sturgeon populations of the Penobscot River and Gulf of Maine.

Johnston, who has been tagging and tracking sturgeon in the Penobscot for two years to study the implications of newly available habitat to shortnose sturgeon, discovered the detections of sturgeon upstream of the Veazie dam remnants. Each new bit of information adds to the current understanding of behavior and habitat preferences of the fish.

“We’re very excited to see sturgeon moving upstream of where the Veazie Dam once stood, and into their former habitats,” says Kim Damon-Randall, assistant regional administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries’ Protected Resources Division. “We need to do more research to see how they’re using it, but it’s a tremendous step in the right direction.”

Habitat access is essential for the recovery of these species. The removal of the Veazie Dam is only a portion of the Penobscot River Restoration Project, which, when combined with the removal of Great Works Dam in 2012, restores 100 percent of historic sturgeon habitat in the Penobscot. In addition to dam removals, construction of a nature-like fish bypass at the Howland Dam in 2015 significantly improves habitat access for the remaining nine species of sea-run fish native to the Penobscot, including Atlantic salmon and river herring.

“Scientific research and monitoring of this monumental restoration effort has been ongoing for the past decade,” says Molly Payne Wynne, monitoring coordinator for the Penobscot River Restoration Trust. “The collaborative body of research on this project is among the most comprehensive when compared to other river restoration projects across the country.”

NOAA Fisheries is an active partner and provides funding for this long-term monitoring collaboration that includes the Penobscot River Restoration Trust, The Nature Conservancy and others. These efforts are beginning to shed light on the response of the river to the restoration project. Restoration of the full assemblage of sea-run fish to the Penobscot River will revive not only native fisheries but social, cultural and economic traditions of Maine’s largest river.

Explore further: Endangered shortnose sturgeon saved in Hudson River

See also here.

Endangered sturgeon at center of Jamestown battle over power lines: here.

Bahamas luminescent eel discovery

The green eel Kaupichthys hyoproroides that was collected in the Bahamas. Typically, researchers collect dozens if not hundreds of specimens for research, but the scientists on this study decided to collect just two. Credit: Copyright David Gruber, John Sparks and Vincent Pieribone

From Live Science:

Shy Eel Glows Bright Green, Possibly As a ‘Sexy Charm’

by Laura Geggel, Staff Writer

November 11, 2015 02:06pm ET

When scuba-diving scientists serendipitously spotted a glowing green eel in January 2011, they had no idea what caused it to light up like a brilliant neon sign.

But now, after hours spent studying the fluorescent proteins of two eels, the researchers have solved the mystery. These proteins, found throughout the eels’ muscle and skin tissues, actually originated in vertebrate brains more than 300 million years ago, a new study finds.

“It started as a brain protein and then became this fluorescent protein in muscle,” said study lead researcher David Gruber, an associate professor of biology at Baruch College in New York City. [See Photos of the Glowing Green Eels]

Once the protein made its switch from a neural to a fluorescent protein, it spread like crazy throughout the eel population. Natural selection favored it so much, it’s likely fluorescence plays a crucial role in the eel world, Gruber said.

For instance, maybe it helps them spawn the next generation, he said. One anecdotal report of such spawning describes a “big, green fluorescent mating event” with a dozens of eels getting it on under a full moon in Indonesia, Gruber said. Typically, these eels are reclusive and shy, spending most of their lives hiding in the holes and crevasses around coral reefs and sea grass beds. But maybe the moonlight stimulates their fluorescent proteins, making them more visible to potential mates, he said.

“We’re hoping to witness one of these spawning events to see what they’re doing,” Gruber told Live Science. Moreover, the fluorescence may also play a role in eel communication, predator avoidance or even prey attraction, like the anglerfish’s glowing ‘fishing rod,’ which lures in fishy meals, according to Gruber.

Eel expedition

After seeing the stunning 2011 photo, the researchers wanted to learn more about the little green eel. They found two eels (Kaupichthys hyoproroides and another species of Kaupichthys) during an expedition in the Bahamas, and brought both back to Gruber’s lab in New York City.

K. hyoproroides is small — no longer than two human fingers — about 9.8 inches (250 millimeters) long, Gruber said. It’s likely that the other eel is a new species in the Kaupichthys genus, he added, but the specimen wasn’t in good enough condition to describe it, he said.

A tissue analysis showed fluorescence throughout the eels’ muscle and skin. But a protein analysis didn’t yield any green fluorescent protein (GFP) — a protein famously identified in a hydrozoan jellyfish in 1962. Nor did it match fluorescent proteins found in other glowing sea creatures, such as some fish and sharks, Gruber said.

Instead, it bore a resemblance to a fluorescent protein found in Anguilla japonica, an eel species used in sushi whose proteins can fluoresce a weak green color when bound to bilirubin. (Bilirubin is a yellow waste product that comes from broken-down red blood cells. People with jaundice have yellowish skin and eyes because of increased levels of bilirubin in their blood.)

The protein from the Kaupichthys eels also needed bilirubin to fluoresce, but a key part of the chemical makeup of this protein was different from the sushi eel’s proteins. “It turns out that every one of these new proteins that has this key little region in it has the ability to glow, and glow very bright,” Gruber said. [Images: Fish Secretly Glow Vibrant Colors]

Intrigued, Gruber and his colleagues teamed up with Rob DeSalle, a curator with the Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. DeSalle is an expert in evolutionary biology, and determined that the eels’ fluorescent protein is a newly identified family of fluorescent proteins, Gruber said.

DeSalle also studied the evolutionary history of the Kaupichthys protein. He saw that it was closely related to a fatty acid-binding protein found in the brain of most vertebrates. This protein likely plays a role in fatty-acid uptake, transport and metabolism in the brain, and may help young neurons migrate and establish cortical layers in the brain, DeSalle told Live Science.

However, over time this genetic code for this brain protein underwent three duplication events, meaning there were more copies of the protein available for the organism to play around with, DeSalle said. The duplicated genes for these proteins could then mutate over time, eventually leading to the fluorescent, bilirubin-binding protein that glows bright green in certain eels, the researchers said.

The study researchers didn’t pinpoint when the three duplication events happened, but DeSalle estimated that the first two happened between 450 million and 300 million years ago, in the common ancestor of jawed vertebrates. The third duplication led to the creation of the newly identified fluorescent protein, DeSalle said.

There’s still much to learn about fluorescent proteins, but the discovery of fluorescence in eels and other fish suggests that they played a large role in marine vertebrate evolution, said Matthew Davis, an assistant professor of biology at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, who was not involved in the study.

“The surprising aspect of this study is that the fluorescent fatty acid-binding proteins may have impacted the evolution of this lineage of marine eels, and they also expand the suite of fluorescent probes available for experimental biology in other disciplines,” Davis told Live Science in an email.

The study was published online today (Nov. 11) in the journal PLOS ONE.