World’s largest marine reserve around Pitcairn islands


This video says about itself:

Edge of the World: Stunning Pitcairn Islands Revealed

18 March 2015

In 2012 National Geographic‘s Pristine Seas project went on an expedition to the Pitcairn Islands—a legendary and remote archipelago in the middle of the Pacific Ocean—and returned with footage of incredible natural wonders underwater and on land. The expedition led to the historic announcement that the British government has created the largest contiguous marine reserve in the world, protecting this one-of-a-kind ecosystem. Join National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Enric Sala as he meets with some of Pitcairn’s residents and explores the waters around the islands.

Read more about the announcement and the area around the Pitcairn Islands, one of the most pristine places on Earth: here.

From Wildlife Extra:

The world’s largest marine reserve given green light

The UK government has announced the creation of the Pitcairn Islands Marine Reserve in the southern Pacific Ocean.

The Pitcairn Islands is one of the remotest places in the world, and protecting its 322,000 sq miles (over 834,000 sq km, or roughly three and a half times the area of Britain) of pristine waters will safeguard countless species of marine animals – mammals, seabirds and fish.

The government’s decision was endorsed by two leading organisations working to preserve the world’s oceans, the Pew Charitable Trusts and the National Geographic Society, both of which joined the local elected body, the Pitcairn Island Council, in 2013, to submit a proposal calling for the creation of a marine reserve to protect these spectacular waters.

“With this designation, the United Kingdom raises the bar for protection of our ocean and sets a new standard for others to follow,” said Jo Royle, Global Ocean Legacy, a project of Pew and its partners that advocates for the establishment of the world’s great marine parks.

“The United Kingdom is the caretaker of more than 6 million sq km of ocean — the fifth-largest marine area of any country. Through this designation, British citizens are playing a vital role in ensuring the health of our seas.

“The Pitcairn Islands Marine Reserve will build a refuge of untouched ocean to protect and conserve a wealth of marine life. We celebrate members of Parliament for pressing for this action.”

National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, Enric Sala, head of the Society’s Pristine Seas project, says: “Our scientific exploration of the area revealed entirely new species as well as an abundance of top predators like sharks. It was like travelling to a new world full of hidden and unknown treasures, a world that will now be preserved for generations to come.”

In a statement, the Pitcairn Isleand Council said: “The people of Pitcairn are extremely excited about designation of the world’s largest marine reserve in our vast and unspoiled waters of the Pitcairn Islands, including Ducie, Oeno, and Henderson Islands. We are proud to have developed and led this effort in partnership with Pew and National Geographic to protect these spectacular waters we call home for generations to come.”

A March 2012 scientific survey of Pitcairn’s marine environment, led by the National Geographic Pristine Seas project in partnership with Pew, revealed a vibrant ecosystem that includes the world’s deepest-known living plant, a species of encrusting coralline algae found 382m (1,253ft) below sea level.

The reserve will also protect one of the two remaining raised coral atolls on the planet as well as 40 Mile Reef, the deepest and most well-developed coral reef known in the world.

In conjunction with the designation, the Bertarelli Foundation announced a five-year commitment to support the monitoring of the Pitcairn Islands Marine Reserve as part of Pew’s Project Eyes on the Seas, using a technology known as the Virtual Watch Room.

With this satellite monitoring system, developed through a collaboration between Pew and the UK-based company Satellite Applications Catapult, government officials will be able to detect illegal fishing activity in real time.

This is the first time any government has combined creation of a marine reserve with the most up-to-date technology for surveillance and enforcement of a protected area.

Bikini nuclear warmongering survivors now threatened by climate change


This video from the USA says about itself:

“Paradise Lost” with Lijon EknilangMarshall Islands

29 September 2012

This 15-minute segment was produced by ABC TV’s investigative program “Prime Time,” and aired in December 1990. The piece features Lijon Eknilang, a Marshallese woman who was 8-years old at the time of the U.S.’ largest and dirtiest H-bomb at Bikini in March 1954, a fission-fusion-fission bomb 1,000 times the Hiroshima A-bomb.

Caught in the high-level radioactive fallout downwind from Bikini and the H-bomb [Bravo], Lijon subsequently contracted many radiation-induced disorders along with seven miscarriages leading to her eventual sterility.

Lijon Eknilang died last month after leading a life dedicated to both educating the global community about the inherent dangers of nuclear weapons, and also of working tirelessly for the eventual abolition of nuclear weapons.

Lijon Eknilang will be dearly missed.

– Glenn Alcalay

P.S. A more recent interview of Lijon Eknilang can be found in Adam Horowitz‘s excellent new documentary “Nuclear Savage: The Islands of Secret Project 4.1.“.

And go here for Lijon’s “Nuclear Survivor Stories” video and photo archive.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Bikini community demands US relocation amid flooding

Tuesday 24th March 2015

A TINY Pacific community forced to evacuate their homes because of US nuclear testing is demanding refuge in the United States.

“We want to relocate to the US,” said Bikini atoll mayor Nishma Jamore at the weekend, as Pacific waters continued to eat away at the small Kili and Ejit islands in the Marshall Islands archipelago.

This 13 September 2013 video is called Climate change impact on the Marshall Islands: One island has all ready gone as sea levels rise.

Mr Jamore heads a community of about 1,000 islanders who have lived in exile on the islands for decades because their original Bikini home remains too radioactive for resettlement.

There were 24 nuclear tests conducted on the atoll in the 1950s, including the largest hydrogen bomb detonation ever conducted by the US.

Unable to return to Bikini, the islanders are now faced with increasing flooding from high tides and storms hitting their tiny island refuges, with waves washing over the islands and wiping out food crops.

“Kili has been repeatedly flooded since 2012 and we’ve asked the Marshall Islands government for help with no response,” said Mr Jamore.

There is also serious concern over a recent attempt by the Marshalls’ parliament, known as the Nitijela, to take authority for Ejit island away from the Bikinians.

This is the second time that the islanders have asked to be resettled in the US because of their plight.

In the 1980s, following an aborted resettlement on Bikini that ended with the islanders exposed to high levels of radiation, they attempted in vain to buy a tract of land on Maui in Hawaii.

Sea snail venom evolution, new research


This video says about itself:

11 January 2012

You’d think a snail wouldn’t be much threat in the sea, but the cone snail proves deadly to unsuspecting fish.

From the University of Michigan in the USA:

Predatory Snails Evolved Diverse Venoms to Subdue a Wide Range of Prey Species

Released: 17-Mar-2015 8:00 AM EDT

ANN ARBOR—A new study by University of Michigan biologists suggests that some predatory marine cone snails evolved a highly diverse set of venoms that enables them to capture and paralyze a broad range of prey species.

When cone snails sink their harpoon-like teeth into their prey, they inject paralyzing venoms made from a potent mix of more than 100 different neurotoxins known as conotoxins.

The genes that provide the recipes for conotoxin cocktails are among the fastest-evolving genes in the animal kingdom, enabling these snails to constantly refine their venoms to more precisely target the neuromuscular systems of their prey.

U-M researchers showed that the mix of neurotoxins in cone-snail venom varies from place to place and is more diverse at locations where the snails have a broad range of prey species. In addition, they concluded that the observed patterns of local conotoxin variation are likely due to natural selection.

That’s a significant finding because it is often difficult for biologists to determine whether place-to-place variations in an organism’s observable traits—the wide range of beak sizes and shapes in the Galapagos Islands finches studied by Charles Darwin, for example—are the result of evolution by natural selection or some other factor, such as the reproductive isolation of a population of animals or plants.

In addition, the U-M researchers were able to directly target the genes responsible for the observed conotoxin patterns. A paper summarizing the work is scheduled for online publication in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B on March 18.

“The differences in venom composition that we observed correspond to differences in prey, and a higher diversity of venom is used to capture more prey species,” said first author Dan Chang, formerly a doctoral student in the U-M Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

“Our results suggest that prey diversity affects the evolution of predation genes and imply that these predators develop a more diverse venom repertoire in order to effectively subdue a broader range of prey species,” Chang said.

The study involved a common species of tropical, worm-eating cone snail, Conus ebraeus, collected at locations in Hawaii, Guam and American Samoa. These snails are about an inch long and are commonly known as Hebrew cone snails. Their shells are white with black rectangular markings that form a distinctive checkerboard pattern.

The researchers characterized the patterns of genetic variation in five toxin genes in C. ebraeus snails from the three locations. They also collected fecal samples from the snails to determine the types of worms they ate.

“We demonstrated that venom genes used for predation are highly affected by local variation in prey diversity and geographic heterogeneity in prey compositions,” Chang said. “Not all conotoxin genes are affected in the same way though, which implies that these genes may have distinct functional roles and evolutionary pathways.”

The other U-M authors are Thomas Duda and Amy Olenzek. The study was funded by a National Science Foundation grant to Duda, who is an associate professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and an associate curator at the U-M Museum of Zoology.

Dan Chang
Thomas Duda

‘Conus geographus, the Life and Death Cone Snail’ by Andreia Salvador: here.

Rare Pacific right whales are back near US coast


This video says about itself:

31 October 2011

National Geographic photographer Brian Skerry describes a magical but risky experience photographing an enormous [southern] right whale off the coast of New Zealand.

From the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California in San Diego, USA:

Research Highlight: The Sound of Hope

Rare whale species heard off continental U.S. for the first time in more than 20 years

Feb 09, 2015

Once upon a time in the ocean, North Pacific Right Whales thrived.

Their unique calls could be heard across the seas from Asia to North America. Intense whaling activities in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries changed all that, decimating their population. Mid-twentieth century recovery efforts—backed by international whale-protection laws—were hampered by illegal Russian whaling in the 1960s and ’70s.

Today, only several hundred North Pacific Right Whales remain, divided into two groups: one in the Sea of Okhotsk off Russia and a second in the eastern Bering Sea off Alaska. For years scientists have been seeking any sign of the Bering Sea group because it is considered one of the most critically endangered cetacean populations in the world with only about 30 animals remaining.

Now, Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego researchers have reported some good news for the precarious population with a glimmer of hope that its numbers may be rebounding. A team led by Scripps researcher Ana Širović recorded the first evidence of these animals off the continental United States in decades.

Širović and her colleagues analyzed marine mammal sounds recorded in 2013 with four High-frequency Acoustic Recording Packages (HARPs), underwater microphones developed at Scripps that capture the calls and clicks emitted by various species. North Pacific Right Whales are known to produce distinctive low-frequency sounds—acoustically classified as up-calls, down-calls, gunshots, screams, and moans—that can travel across vast distances in the ocean.

To their surprise, the team discovered two Right Whale calls in HARP data recorded at Quinalt Canyon off Washington State, the first off the continental U.S. in more than 20 years, and separately at Quinn Seamount in the Gulf of Alaska.

“We had been looking for Right Whales for some time, knowing that the chances of hearing them were pretty small,” said Širović. “So it was very exciting and I was quite surprised when we heard their calls. It was a good day.”

“Our ability to detect rare species, such as the North Pacific Right Whale, has been dramatically improved by the development of new technology for listening underwater,” said Scripps Oceanography Professor John Hildebrand, a co-author of the study, published in Marine Mammal Science.

In 2013, two Right Whales were visually identified off British Columbia, Canada, marking the first such sightings that were made in the area in more than 60 years. Širović said there is no way of definitively knowing whether the animals seen were the same as the ones that were heard.

Nevertheless, the recent acoustic recordings and visual sightings may be good signs for the population of this rare animal and these instances “may offer a sliver of hope for its eventual recovery,” the researchers said in the report.

“Given the rarity of this species, and very few visual or acoustic sightings that have occurred outside the Bering Sea, our detections are an important indicator that this population is using a larger oceanic area of the North Pacific,” said Širović. “I think we are all doing this kind of work hoping to find good things to report. This was one of those good news moments. It was a happy finding.”

Shame-faced crabs of the Pacific


This video from the sea near Samal island in the Philippines is about a shame-faced crab, eating a Terebra maculata mollusk.

From Australian Geographic:

Shame-faced crab has nothing to hide about

November 27, 2014

It may look like its hiding its face out of embarrassment, but this crab has everything to be proud of

by Becky Crew

I DON’T THINK I’ve ever loved another crab as much as I love this crab right now. He’s so embarrassed he can barely even look at us. He’s so ashamed that he has to cover his face with his two humungous front pincers. Don’t feel bad, shame-faced crab, we don’t care what you did; you’re just a crab.

Found at depths of up to 50m below the surface of the Indo-Pacific, these large crabs range as far as Madagascar to west, Japan to the north, and throughout Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and New Caledonia a little closer to home.

Despite their looks and their funny little name, shame-faced crabs (Calappa calappa) are no victims. These highly armoured creatures are like walking tanks, their 15cm-long, burnt-caramel-coloured carapace acting as the perfect cover from predators until they have a chance to bury themselves right into the sand. Watch the video [above], it’s almost a little creepy how it inches deeper and deeper into the ocean floor, until all that’s left is a pair of beady eyes and the upper edges of its jagged pincers, looking just like a monster face peering up at you.

Shame-faced crabs don’t have to worry too much about predators, but keep themselves hidden during the day all the same. At night they turn to hunting, targeting little mollusks such as clams, oysters and sea snails. While hard-shelled prey like these present a challenge to many would-be predators, the shame-faced crab has evolved to deal with them expertly.

Of its two huge, meaty pincers, the right one is perfect for cracking into its prey’s tough outer shell. It’s equipped with a single, specially curved tooth that works with the flat surface of the pincer just like a can-opener to cut into its prey. Then the left pincer, which is longer, smaller, and sharper, takes over to extract the flesh from inside.

Being elegant about how you eat your dinner is nothing to be ashamed about, shame-faced crab. Just because the rest of the ocean is filled with barbaric rubes that wouldn’t know a utensil if it landed on them. Chin up, little man!

Coconut crabs in Hawaii: here.

Disco clam light, new research


This video from California in the USA is called Disco Clams Light Up the Ocean Floor.

From Wildlife Extra:

The secret of the disco clam’s light show is revealed

The Ctenoides ales file clam, also known as the disco clam, is one of the few creatures to use silica micro-structures to reflect light, according to new research published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.

The clam does it so well that for years divers and scientists alike believed that it was generating its unique electric display with light-producing chemical reactions known as bioluminescence.

Lindsey Dougherty, a PhD student at the University of California, Berkeley, first shattered that idea last year with a series of presentations showing that the lips were lined with reflective silica spheres.

For the new study, Dougherty and her colleagues used an electron microscope to look at the spectral signature of the structure of the clam’s lip tissue.

On one side were those microscopic balls of silica — the primary element in glass and quartz. The other side was dark, and only reflected light on the red-end of the visible light spectrum.

Because red light doesn’t transmit well underwater, the dark side of the clams’ lips are effectively non-reflective.

Conversely, the silica-side reflects 85 to 90 per cent of all white light when underwater.

“They’re almost ideal reflectors in blue-green water environments,” said Dougherty.

The team confirmed this by using computer models to see how the spheres’ structures reflected light at four different wavelengths.

Using a high-speed camera, they were able to see exactly how the clams make the flash: by rapidly rolling and unrolling their lips, exposing the dark and reflective sides at a rate of about two times per second.

Disco clams can be found all the way from Australia to Indonesia in water from 10 to 160ft deep.

Even in shallow waters, the clams tend to squirrel themselves away into relatively dark nooks, which explains why it seemed so natural to think that their display was bioluminescent.

From an evolutionary perspective, lightning lips are a pretty costly adaptation. They need special muscles to control the furling motion, and silica is a rare element in the ocean.

Dougherty said there are three possibilities: The lips are to lure in mates, attract prey, or ward off predators.

In the future, she’s going to be researching the clams’ eyes (they have up to 40). Knowing how the clams see could unlock the secret behind their most prominent light-show feature.

See also here.