Lumpsucker fish guards eggs, video

This 21 Mach 2017 video shows a male lumpsucker fish guarding eggs. He moves his fins to provide the eggs with oxygen.

Diver Bert Peters made this video in the Oosterschelde estuary in Zeeland province in the Netherlands..

Female guppies’ brains and choice of mates

This video says about itself:

4 October 2014

Sustainable Innovation Initiatives (SII) creates bridges between research, business, industry, tourism and educators to make ecological sustainability a priority for societies in tropical forest ecosystems. Our upcoming documentary series helps us accomplish this goal by reaching many people through video. “Home of the Guppy” is our first episode. It highlights unique features of research in the Northern Range of Trinidad and grassroots efforts in habitats critical to this watershed and communities that use it.

Home of the Guppy Summary:

Streams in Trinidad’s Northern Mountain range have been epicenters for breakthroughs in evolutionary theory over the last five decades. A unique combination of isolation, species-diversity and system-replication has created a “natural laboratory” like no other in the world. These unique conditions have allowed scientists to examine every guppy in multiple wild populations for as many as 15 generations. Guppy studies in Trinidad have produced one of the most detailed multi-generation data collections ever compiled in a wild vertebrate. Results from these studies are reshaping longstanding views of evolutionary theory.

What it means for the world

Features of Trinidad’s stream ecology enable mergers between field and laboratory studies that connect traits such as lifespan, age of maturity and mate-selection, to functions such as cognition and cooperation. Work with Trinidad’s guppies demonstrates the first time that so many traits have been connected with such detail in a wild organism under multiple conditions. Data from Trinidad’s streams has powerful implications for models of evolution and conservation, as well as population management of rare, common and commercially valuable species. Work in Trinidad also vastly updates our understanding of how ecology and evolution are intertwined, and has led to upheavals regarding the time-scales on which the two processes were previously thought to function.

Why are we making this film?

Trinidad’s Northern Range exemplifies how diversity contained in less than 400 square miles of habitat is influencing the world of biology. However it is also valued for land-use, extraction and recreation, as increasing numbers of people utilize the range.

Studying ecology of wild guppies has led to insights affecting applications for biology education, behavioral models, health care and the design of cooperative networks. These applications are assigned high value in the global marketplace.

However, Trinidadians have limited access to globally valued information generated by the biodiversity of their land. This documentary connects local communities and global networks for informed management and value-assignment.

This documentary also raises awareness of how guppy studies are affecting standards of modern biology education. We are working with scientists to make this knowledge accessible at multiple levels of outreach. Our documentary contributes to the type of information access needed for the types of societal functionality that enable sustainable management.

From Science News:

Female guppies with bigger brains pick more attractive guys

But the additional mental power has downsides, too

By Susan Milius

3:54pm, March 22, 2017

When choosing more attractive guys, girl guppies with larger brains have an advantage over their smaller-brained counterparts. But there’s a cost to such brainpower, and that might help explain one of the persistent mysteries of sex appeal, researchers report March 22 in Science Advances.

One sex often shows a strong preference for some trait in the other, whether it’s a longer fish fin or a more elaborate song and dance. Yet after millions of years, there’s still variety in many animals’ color, size, shape or song, says study coauthor Alberto Corral-López, an evolutionary biologist at Stockholm University. Somehow generations of mate choice have failed to make the opposite sex entirely fabulous.

Mate choice could require a certain amount of brainpower, with animals weighing the appeal of suitors and choosing among them. Previous research suggests a smaller brain dims guppies’ mental abilities, and the researchers wondered how brain size might affect the fish’s choice of mate.

To test the idea, researchers used female guppies bred for either a larger or smaller brain. Guppy brains are tiny to begin with, but after five generations of breeding the brain sizes in the study differed by about 13 percent, within the range of what biologists find in the wild.

Each female was offered a choice between a colorful male with orange spots and a bigger tail versus a drab male of about the same weight but without much glory behind. The male fish were installed in compartments at either end of a tank, and females swam back and forth, forced to remember and mentally compare one suitor with his rival.

Females with larger brains showed a preference overall for the more colorful male. Smaller-brained females showed no preference. (The difference did not come from differences in color vision, Corral-López says. The researchers checked the eye genes of the fish and also tested their ability to distinguish colors.)

Interest in flashy-looking males may not be just a fashion choice for females. Orange colors come from pigments in food, suggesting that brighter males may be better fed and healthier, which could lead to healthier offspring. And more colorful males are typically better at finding food. Corral-López also tested females that had not been specially bred for brain size, and these fish preferred the colorful males, too.

But bigger-brained females did not beat their small-brained compatriots in all tests. The smaller-brained guppies tended to grow faster when they were young and to have better immune systems and more offspring.

Thus, circumstances might tip the balance toward or against braininess, the researchers say. Having more babies might be more useful than a discriminating brain, for instance, when food is plentiful and most males manage a decent orange. Such changes in fortune might help explain how variety in appearance persists despite strong mating preferences, Corral-López and colleagues argue. Sometimes flashier males win females, but sometimes drab is just fine.

“Exciting work,” says Molly Cummings of the University of Texas at Austin, who studies fish brains and sexual selection. Checking the fish’s vision was especially important, she says. The results show that females were not “simple slaves to their sensory system.”

The new paper, of course, tracked lab animals, and there’s little data on what differences in brain size mean for mate choice in the wild, says evolutionary biologist Kimberly Hughes of  Florida State University in Tallahassee. The new guppy study suggests it’s certainly worth looking at what girl guppies do naturally, she says.

Further Reading

L. Hamers. Brain’s blood appetite grew faster than its size. Science News Online, August 30, 2016.

C. Samoray. Forgetful male voles more likely to wander from mate. Science News Online, December 14, 2015.

Dead whales feed other animals

This video says about itself:

Dead Whale Carcass Feast – Blue PlanetBBC Earth

26 February 2017

In Alaska, humpback whales feed on plankton in the shallow water. When one whale perishes in the treacherous waters, scavengers on the coastline such as black bears, wolves and gulls feed from the carcass.

This video says about itself:

Sharks Feasting On A Whale Carcass – Blue Planet – BBC Earth

3 March 2017

Rare footage of Sleeper Sharks, Hagfish and a whole succession of deep sea scavengers feasting on the carcass of a 30 tonne Grey Whale.

Extinct and threatened animals

This video from Australia says about itself:

Here is a combination of all the footage of the Tasmanian Tiger, now believed to be extinct.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Going the way of the Tasmanian tiger

Friday 3rd March 2017

PETER FROST sounds a warning about some iconic species struggling to survive humanity’s follies

THE Tasmanian tiger or Tasmanian wolf (Thylacine cynocephalus) is perhaps the best known and most spectacular of relatively recently extinct animals.

Eighty years ago this curiously striped wolf-shaped marsupial which carried its young in a pouch like a kangaroo, lived in Tasmania off the coast of Australia.

It was recognised as being in danger of extinction in 1936 but in September of the same year the last known Thylacine died in captivity and none has been seen since.

Another large carnivore that has gone extinct more recently is the Javan tiger. These became extinct in the 1980s due to habitat loss caused by changes in agriculture on the Indonesian island of Java.

The Caribbean monk seal is now extinct due to habitat loss, as well as human hunting — it was the only seal native to the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico until the species was declared extinct in 2008.

The Baiji river dolphin population declined drastically in recent decades as China industrialised and made heavy use of the Yangtze river for fishing, transport and hydroelectricity. Only a few hundred were left by 1970, 400 by the 1980s and then to just 13 in 1997 when a full-fledged search was conducted. It was declared extinct after an expedition late in 2006 failed to record a single individual.

The golden toad was only discovered in 1966 in the tropical cloud forests of Costa Rica. It last bred in normal numbers in 1987 but the same year, due to erratic weather, 30,000 toads perished, leaving only 29.

By 1988, only eight males and two females could be located and a year later only a single male was found — this was the last record of the species.

The Pyrenean ibex was the first species to ever be brought back into existence via cloning but the cloned baby lasted just seven minutes after being born due to lung failure. The last naturally born Pyrenean ibex, named Celia, died in January 2000.

Thousands more species are threatened with extinction. Here are some of the most iconic. Only urgent and strong worldwide action can save them.

Pangolins are not well-known but are one of the most threatened of animals — they are the only mammals with scales rather than fur. Four species live in Asia, four in Africa.

A number of their species have already become extinct. They are hunted for food, for medicines and folk remedies and to satisfy a huge illegal international trade in their scales, skins and meat.

Public campaigning has at last persuaded world leaders to vote for the highest level of protections for all eight remaining species.

Sharks: a quarter of the world’s population is threatened with extinction due to overfishing. Every year, over a 100 million sharks are slaughtered — their fins sliced off while alive to make exotic soup while the still living sharks are thrown back into the water where, unable to swim they die a slow and painful death.

Rays: over the last decade the growing demand for the gills of rays has led to a massive decline in stocks of these fascinating fish. Populations have dropped by more than half in some areas and the slaughter is continuing unabated, with ray gills fetching over £400 per kg in certain Asian markets.

African Lion: the population of these big cats has halved in 30 years. Many populations have been wiped out across much of Africa.

Poaching by traffickers seeking alternatives to endangered tiger products, coupled with massive loss of habitat and prey base due to human settlement mean that unless we act now African lions could be extinct in the wild by 2050.

Narwhals: these members of the beluga whale family are the unicorns of the oceans best known for their single long tusk protruding from their nose.

Populations have been hovering around 75,000 which means they are considered near threatened and without appropriate protection could disappear, threatened by climate change and industrial activity. Yet even today narwhals are actively hunted in Canada and Greenland.

Rhinoceros: they historically roamed in large numbers across much of Asia and Africa — today only a fraction remain on the planet. Three African rhinos are killed every day because of demand for their horns as a status symbol, aphrodisiac and a cure for cancer in Chinese medicine. Coupled with a dramatic loss of habitat, all five species of rhinos are now threatened and three of the five are critically endangered.

Tigers: just 3,200 of these majestic creatures remain in the wild. No less than 97 per cent of the wild tiger population has disappeared in the last century. Originally there were nine subspecies of tigers, but over the last 80 years three have become extinct. All tiger species are now considered critically endangered, due in large part to the market for their pelts, meat and body parts.

Cheetahs: conservation experts warn that cheetah populations continue to collapse in the wild, in large part due to poaching. Since 1980, their population in the wild has fallen by about 90 per cent in Africa. In Asia, only about 200 cheetahs remain in the wild, limited to small regions in Iran.

Marine turtles: all seven of their species are endangered, three critically so: leatherbacks, hawksbill and Kemp’s Ridley turtles. Slaughtered for their eggs, meat, skin and shells, tens of thousands of these creatures are lost each year to feed the demand from illegal markets. More than 80,000 are estimated to be killed each year.

Elephants: once common with many million strong populations throughout Asia and Africa, elephants have taken a devastating hit over the last century. Poachers slaughter one elephant about every 15 minutes to fuel a massive and lucrative illegal ivory trade.

Latest news is that more than 25,000 of Gabon’s savannah or bush elephant, some 80 per cent, were killed between 2004 and 2014.

Many countries all over the world have at last agreed to a ban on domestic ivory markets but illegal ivory trafficking is still a multimillionpound business.

Tropical shark in Britain, first ever

This 2 March 2017 video is called Crocodile Shark discovered in UK waters for first time.

From the BBC:

Crocodile Shark discovered in UK waters for first time

2 March 2017

A tropical species of shark has been found on the UK coastline for the first time in recorded history, marine experts said.

A Crocodile Shark carcass was discovered on a beach at Hope Cove near Plymouth and was reported to the National Marine Aquarium.

Experts think the animal, normally found in tropical waters, may have died from the shock of UK’s colder seas.

It is commonly found in Brazil and Australia growing to about 1m (3.3ft).

Steven Greenfields spotted the shark washed up on the beach while walking with his family.

Warmer waters

Mr Greenfields said: “We regularly visit this beach and have never seen anything like this before. My whole family was stunned as the animal had really unusual features but was unmistakably a shark.

Because it was so unusual we consulted our local aquarium to confirm what species it was.”

James Wright, curator at the National Marine Aquarium, said: “This species has never been recorded in the UK before, as it is normally found in deep waters during the day in tropical climates, such as Brazil and Australia, then coming shallower at night to feed.

“With the Crocodile Shark accustomed to much warmer waters, travelling so far and reaching colder waters would have caused a shock to its system and account for the cause of death.

“We would urge the public to share any other unusual sightings with us or The Shark Trust, so we can monitor any trends.”

Paul Cox, managing director of the Shark Trust, said: “Any information that we can get is useful so it’s great that this one has been reported and identified.”

Blacktip shark saved from fishing line

This video says about itself:

Occurred on February 9th, 2017 / Jensen Beach, Florida, USA

“Myself and two of my buddies were at the beach fishing for jacks and bluefish while we saw a shark struggling in the surf. We realized it was wrapped around something and ran to see if we could help. At this point my buddy Adam jumped into the surf to rescue the blacktip shark. We then got the fishing line unwrapped from around the body and took the hook out of its jaw. Adam then released the shark and it swam off to live another day.

See also here.

‘Restore predator, prey animals simultaneously’

This 2016 video from North America is called Bison vs Grizzly Bear – Wild Animal Interaction.

From the University of California – Santa Barbara in the USA, 27 February 2017:

Recovering predators and prey

Researchers show how simultaneously restoring predators, prey is much faster and more effective than doing so one at a time

If you build it, they will come. That’s historically been a common approach to species recovery: Grow the prey population first and predators will quickly return. As it turns out, that’s not quite the case. A new study has found that restoring predator and prey species simultaneously speeds the recovery efforts of both.

Published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, the paper by a team of scientists that includes UC Santa Barbara researchers used models and case studies to examine the pace of species and ecosystem recovery efforts. They found that tandem recovery of predators and prey is almost always more efficient — and on average about twice as fast — as sequential recovery.

“Previous work has shown how high demand for resources has led to the overexploitation of species throughout the food chain in a number of ecosystems,” said co-author Adrian Stier, an assistant professor in UCSB’s Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology. “We show how synchronized restoration of these species is nearly always the more rapid and direct path to ecological recovery. Restoration takes longer when predators recover first, but when prey recover first the system is more prone to volatile population fluctuations.”

Co-author Benjamin Halpern, director of UCSB’s National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis and a professor in the campus’s Bren School of Environmental Science & Management, noted that the study’s conclusion is important because it offers an improvement on traditional strategies. Historically, about half of species restoration efforts employ a sequential, one-species-at-time tactic, most often beginning with targeted restoration of prey species first.

“Our results suggest that we need to fundamentally rethink the way we approach species restoration and recovery efforts,” said Halpern. “If you stop to think about it, our results make sense. Natural systems are a community of species that all interact; you need all parts present and abundant to function well — and synchronized recovery of species is the best way to do that effectively.”

Just as critical, synchronous restoration is also better for the humans who earn a living harvesting both predator and prey, say, for example, Pacific cod and Pacific herring.

“You might think the loss of income associated with reducing harvest on both species at the same time would be greater than reducing harvest on one species after another, but our work suggests that synchronous recovery is ultimately better for recovering the ecosystem — and better from an economic perspective as well,” said co-author Mark Novak of the Oregon State University College of Science.

Because of overharvest, declines of multiple animal populations are typical of many ecosystems. For example, population collapses seen in pairs of species — lions and wildebeest, Steller sea lions and Pacific herring, and mink and muskrat — are wholly or partially attributable to trophy hunting, industrial fisheries or the fur trade.

In both terrestrial and marine resources management, population restoration and the setting of harvest quotas have long been single-species endeavors. Even in the pursuit of more holistic ecosystem-based rebuilding of food webs — the interconnected chains of who eats whom — the dominant strategy has been to allow prey species to initially rebound to where they readily sustain top predator levels.

However, this new research found that such single-species strategies are less efficient than allowing predator and prey to recover simultaneously. For example, predator-first strategies are particularly slow because they lead to increases in predator numbers while prey species remain depleted, limiting the availability of food that would encourage faster predator population growth.

The scientists’ analyses included information from real-world examples, such as the recovery of aforementioned Pacific cod along the west coast of Vancouver Island, which proceeded slowly before the recovery of cod’s preferred prey: the Pacific herring.

A database of marine fisheries shows that past recovery efforts have been nearly evenly divided between sequential recoveries — those that prioritize predator or prey species — and the type of synchronous recoveries that this new research determined to be faster and more efficient.

“This suggests that there is room for improvement in many restoration efforts by coordinating the recovery of predator and prey species,” Stier said. “Our research emphasizes how existing marine policy, including marine protected areas and mixed stock management, offers opportunities to synchronize the restoration of multiple species.”

“The order and timing of how you approach recovery does matter,” said lead author Jameal Samhouri, a research fish biologist at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle. The scientists concluded that improving the efficiency of ecosystem recovery efforts by better coordinating the restoration of individual species has the potential to “play a critical role in shaping 21st-century solutions to environmental issues.”