Great Barrier Reef fish protection works

This 2015 video is called Australia’s Great Barrier Reef || Full Documentary with subtitles.


Great Barrier Reef protected zones help fish in even lightly exploited areas

Fish biomass up to five times greater compared to unprotected zones at northernmost reefs

November 8, 2017

Protected zones of the Great Barrier Reef benefit fish even at the relatively lightly-fished northern reefs, according to a study published November 8, 2017 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Carolina Castro-Sanguino from the University of Queensland, Australia, and colleagues.

The Australian Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is the largest network of marine reserves in the world, and includes both ‘no fishing’ (‘no-take’) and ‘no-entry’ zones as well as fished areas. The authors of the present study analyzed the effect of such policies in the relatively lightly-fished northernmost regions. They measured, counted and calculated the biomass of commonly-fished species found at 31 northern, central and southern reefs in the area north of Cooktown, as well as assessing the seabed habitat at these sites.

The authors found that fish biomass was up to five times greater in protected zones which prevented fishing, whether they had ‘no-take’ or ‘no-entry’ policies. The most remote northern reefs had greater fish biomass than more southern zones, regardless of the zones’ policies, and the authors speculate that poaching may be common in southern reserves. They also found indication that fishers may frequently operate at reserves’ boundaries to exploit the increased fish biomass in these reserves.

The specific seabed habitat of different reefs had a strong effect on the amounts and types of fish found, making it impossible for the researchers to discern any distinct effects of ‘no-take’ versus ‘no-entry’ policies. Nonetheless, they did find clear differences in biomass between protected and unprotected areas, despite this region being generally fished relatively lightly. They state that this illustrates the high sensitivity to fishing of many species, reinforcing the case for their protection.

“Even in remote reef habitats, marine reserves increase the biomass of exploited fish but detecting these benefits can be challenging because the state of corals also varies across some management zones and these patterns also affect fishes,” says Castro-Sanguino. “We also conclude that fishing is most intense near reserve borders leading to a reduction of biomass just outside reserves.”


Deep-sea fish eyes, new research

This video from Australia says about itself:

New twilight eye cells discovered in fish

7 November 2017

A new type of cell has been found in the eye of a deep-sea fish, and scientists say the discovery opens a new world of understanding vision in a variety of light conditions.

QBI scientists found the new cell type in the deep-sea pearlside fish (Maurolicus spp.), which have an unusual visual system adapted for twilight conditions.

From the University of Queensland in Australia:

Deep-sea fish reveals twilight trick

A new type of cell has been found in the eye of a deep-sea fish

November 8, 2017

Summary: A new type of cell has been found in the eye of a deep-sea fish, and scientists say the discovery opens a new world of understanding about vision in a variety of light conditions. Scientists found the new cell type in the deep-sea pearlside fish (Maurolicus spp.), which have an unusual visual system adapted for twilight conditions.

A new type of cell has been found in the eye of a deep-sea fish, and scientists say the discovery opens a new world of understanding about vision in a variety of light conditions.

University of Queensland scientists found the new cell type in the deep-sea pearlside fish (Maurolicus spp.), which have an unusual visual system adapted for twilight conditions.

Dr Fanny de Busserolles at UQ’s Queensland Brain Institute said the retina of most vertebrate animals — including humans — contained two photoreceptor types: rods for vision in dim light, and cones for daytime vision. Each had different light-sensitive proteins.

“Deep-sea fish, which live at ocean depths below 200m, are generally only active in the dark, so most species have lost all their cones in favour of light-sensitive rods,” Dr de Busserolles said.

Pearlsides differed in that they were mostly active at dusk and dawn, close to the water’s surface where light levels are intermediate.

“Previously it was thought that pearlsides had retinas composed entirely of rods, but our new study has found this isn’t the case,” Dr de Busserolles said.

“Humans use their cones during the day our [sic; or] rods at night, but during twilight, although not ideal, we use a combination of both.

“Pearlsides, being active mainly during twilight, have developed a completely different solution.

“Instead of using a combination of rods and cones, they combine aspects of both cells into a single and more efficient photoreceptor type.”

The researchers found that the cells — which they have termed “rod-like cones” for their shapes under the microscope — were tuned perfectly to the pearlsides’ specific light conditions.

Research leader Professor Justin Marshall said the study was significant.

“It improves understanding of how different animals see the world and how vision might have helped them to conquer even the most extreme environments, including the deep sea,” Professor Marshall said.

“Humans love to classify everything into being either black or white.

“However our study shows the truth might be very different from previous theories.

“More comprehensive studies, and caution, are needed when categorising photoreceptor cells into cones and rods.”

The study is published in Science Advances.

Saving Australia’s endangered mountain pygmy possums

This 2015 video is called Mountain Pygmy Possums – Endangered Species Edit.

From the University of Melbourne in Australia:

Genetic rescue boosts recovery of Australia’s endangered mountain pygmy possums

October 23, 2017

For the first time, a breeding technique known as genetic rescue has been shown to increase population numbers and survival rates of the endangered mountain pygmy possum, now at their highest numbers since 1996.

The study was conducted by a team from the University of Melbourne, La Trobe University, CESAR, Mt Buller Mt Stirling Resort Management, and the University of New South Wales.

Dr Andrew Weeks from the University of Melbourne led the project, published in the international journal Nature Communications.

Genetic rescue was used to introduce male mountain pygmy possums, Burramys parvus, from a healthy population at Mt Hotham, to a recipient group of females at Mt Buller. The two groups had become physically isolated from each other over 20,000 years.

This isolation had led to inbreeding and a lack of the genetic variation that is essential for overcoming disease and ensuring the ability to thrive.

Dr Weeks says that since the genetic rescue program began in 2011, the possum population has gone through rapid growth and is now larger than when the population was first discovered in 1996.

“Before 2010, there was thought to be only a handful of individuals at Mt Buller,” Dr Weeks says. “Now, Mt Buller females from the genetic rescue are bigger and have more offspring that survive longer than the progeny of pygmy possums born outside the program. We now estimate the population to be over 200 possums,” he says.

Co-author Dr Ian Mansergh from La Trobe University says the study’s findings mark an important development in conservation management.

“Our study confirms genetic rescue as a successful conservation technique, especially when used for small, isolated populations of threatened species,” Dr Mansergh says.

Along with genetic rescue, there was also a program of habitat restoration, predator control and environmental protection instituted by the land manager, Mt Buller Mt Stirling Resort Management.

The researchers say this was essential to avoid losing the benefits of genetic rescue if populations cannot expand and still face the threats that reduced the population in the first place.

Dr Weeks and the University of Melbourne’s Professor Ary Hoffmann, who co-authored the possum paper, are now also leading a genetic rescue program for the critically endangered Eastern Barred Bandicoot at Mt Rothwell Conservation Centre near Little River in Victoria.

Prof Hoffmann says the long-term hope for genetic rescue is that it will provide endangered animals with enough genetic variation to adapt and evolve to new challenges, such as climate change.

“These animals are now facing an extra threat. They are experiencing physical isolation and introduced predators as well as climate warming,” Professor Hoffman says. “The hope is that animals can adapt if we give them the genetic tools to do so.

“We have shown the technique is successful in the mountain pygmy possum, and hope the Eastern Barred Bandicoot can recover if they are also given enough support.”

What albatrosses eat

This video says about itself:

Wings of the Albatross | National Geographic

8 August 2011

Photographer Frans Lanting talks of his epic journey to capture images of the albatross, a hauntingly beautiful bird enshrined in legend and poetry.

From ScienceDaily:

Albatross feces show diet of fishery discards

New, non-intrusive way to assess seabird diet could help improve fisheries management and monitor marine biodiversity

October 4, 2017

Summary: The first-ever analysis of fish DNA in albatross scat indicates a high level of interaction between seabirds and commercial fisheries. This non-invasive method could be used to assess whether fisheries are complying with discard policies. Extending the analysis to other marine predators could help monitor marine biodiversity and broader marine ecosystem changes.

Albatross feed on several fish species that are not easy for the birds to access in nature, but which are caught by commercial fisheries, finds a study in open-access journal Frontiers in Marine Science. This indicates a high level of interaction between albatross and fisheries in some areas, and so an ongoing risk of the birds being killed in fishing gear.

The study is the first broad geographic assessment of seabird diet through DNA analysis of feces — and the first to examine the diet of any Southern Ocean species in this way. This non-invasive technique could serve as a valuable tool for fishery and conservation management into the future.

Albatross are threatened by commercial fisheries

Commercial fishing practices are still the biggest direct threat to most albatross species, although many advances have been made in some fisheries. The birds are attracted to bait used on longline hooks, as well as to non-target fish and processing waste that is discarded from fishing boats. However, by scavenging behind vessels, many get tangled in the fishing gear and drown. This incidental mortality, or bycatch, kills hundreds of thousands of albatross and other seabirds each year. Fishers, conservationists and managers globally are working to find solutions.

“A better understanding of seabird-fishery interactions would help improve ecosystem-based management of fisheries,” says Julie McInnes from the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies at the University of Tasmania, Australia. “However, it can be difficult to assess what proportion of a seabird population may interact with fishing vessels and whether this interaction is similar across different breeding colonies and fishing zones.”

Seabird diet can reveal interactions with fisheries

One way to assess how seabirds are interacting with fisheries is to look at what the birds are eating. Conventional techniques involve directly analyzing stomach contents for the presence of different prey species. However, sample collection can be invasive and body parts from different species are not always distinguishable after digestion.

McInnes and an international team took a different approach: instead of stomach contents, they analyzed the DNA in albatross feces.

“Detecting prey DNA in predator scats provides a non-invasive tool to examine diet,” says McInnes. “We wanted to test whether this “DNA barcoding” is a valuable method for assessing seabird-fishery interactions.”

High level of fishery interactions in some areas

The researchers collected droppings from black-browed albatross at six breeding sites across their circumpolar range over two years, including colonies that had rarely or never been studied in the past.

DNA analysis of the feces showed that the birds consume a wide diversity of fish species, and identified a number of new prey species. Moreover, many of the identified fish species are not known to be naturally available to albatrosses, but are commercially harvested or caught as bycatch. The areas with the highest proportion of these species were sites where discards are still permitted by the fishery.

“These species were likely obtained by scavenging on discards from fisheries operating adjacent to the colony,” says McInnes. “This indicates ongoing interactions of black-browed albatross with fisheries.”

New, valuable tool for fishery and conservation management

Improvements to discard management are likely to have major implications for some albatross populations, she says. “By identifying the areas where seabird-fishery interactions are high, fishery resource managers can look at mechanisms to reduce the attractiveness of fishing vessels to albatross, and so reduce their mortality in fishing gear.”

The study demonstrates that DNA analysis of scat samples provides a valuable tool for fishery resource and conservation management. For example, long-term monitoring of albatross diet could be used to assess whether fisheries are complying with discard policies. Extending the analysis to other marine predators could help monitor marine biodiversity and broader marine ecosystem changes.

“DNA barcoding could be used to identify changes in the abundance and distribution of different marine species, for example in response to warmer oceans and climate change” says McInnes. “Understanding how these changes affect seabirds and other predators will be important for monitoring which populations are impacted.”

The research was led by the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (University of Tasmania), the Australian Antarctic Division and the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks Water and Environment.

Australian magpies dunk their food, new discovery

This video says about itself:

30 October 2010

An Australian magpie singing a very small part of their repertoire. The full song is unbelievable.

From the University of York in England:

Australian Magpie ‘dunks’ its food before eating, researchers find

September 7, 2017

Scientists at the University of York, in collaboration with researchers at Western Sydney University, have shown that the Australian Magpie may ‘dunk’ its food in water before eating, a process that appears to be ‘copied’ by its offspring.

The research could potentially shed more light on the dietary systems of some bird species and how they respond to the defences of its prey.

Food dunking is common behaviour in a range of bird species, but has never been observed in the Australian Magpie before. Not only was it observed in the adult bird, but the offspring were seen to copy the ‘dunking’ process.

Dunking is thought to be an important food-process for birds, but it remains unclear as to why some birds do this and some do not. One theory is that it helps moisten the food to make it more digestible and other theories suggest that it might help make unpalatable insects less toxic to eat.

Eleanor Drinkwater, PhD student at the University of York’s Department of Biology, said: “Food dunking has been seen in at least 25 bird species, particularly in birds that have high cognitive abilities.

“The Australian Magpie is an intelligent animal, however we were not expecting to see dunking displayed by this bird. In a separate study on predator-prey interactions between katydids and Australian Magpies we were observing a family of magpie at a site near Kosciuszko National Park to see what they would do when offered the insect.

“We presented the wild magpie with a local insect called Mountain Katydid, which is thought to be distasteful due to the toxins it emits. The adult magpie first dragged and beat the insect on the ground before carrying it to a nearby puddle, dunking it and thrashing under water.”

The adult male bird appeared to eat the insect under a nearby bush, before returning to take a second insect, repeating the action, but this time leaving the ‘dunked’ insect at the side of the puddle.

The team then observed a juvenile bird that had been watching the adult male pick up the discarded insect and mimic the actions of the adult male before eating the insect whole.

Eleanor continued: “Although more research is needed to understand why the bird dunks its food before eating, our initial assumptions are that it responds to the ‘nasty tasting’ chemical defences of the insect, by dunking it in water and making it more palatable.

“It was exciting to see that this process was copied by the juvenile bird, suggesting that this behaviour could be socially learnt. More research can now be done to determine how common this behaviour is from adult birds through to its offspring.”

The research is published in the journal Australian Field Ornithology.

Will Australian clerical child abuse cover-ups be prosecuted?

This video says about itself:

Australia Church Abuse: Catholic church struggles with child abuse

6 February 2017

Seven percent of priests in Australia’s Catholic Church were accused of sexually abusing children between 1950-2010. Journalist Karen Middleton brings more details.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Australia: Charges for priests who don’t report child abuse?

Tuesday 15th August 2017

PRIESTS who fail to tell police about suspected child sexual abuse, even if discovered during religious confession, should face criminal charges, Australia’s most powerful investigative authority recommended yesterday.

The royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse recommended national legislation to make it a criminal offence for people to fail to report child sexual abuse in an institutional setting.

Clergy who find out about sexual abuse during a religious confession would not be exempt from the law.

“The right to practise one’s religious beliefs must accommodate civil society’s obligation to provide for the safety of all and, in particular, children’s safety from sexual abuse,” the commission declared.

“Institutions directed to caring for and providing services for children, including religious institutions, must provide an environment where children are safe from sexual abuse.

“Reporting information relevant to child sexual abuse to the police is critical to ensuring the safety of children.”