Fish using tool on video

From the University of California – Santa Cruz in the USA:

Video shows tool use by a fish

September 28, 2011

The first video of tool use by a fish has been published in the journal Coral Reefs by Giacomo Bernardi, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

In the video, an orange-dotted tuskfish digs a clam out of the sand, carries it over to a rock, and repeatedly throws the clam against the rock to crush it. Bernardi shot the video in Palau in 2009.

“What the movie shows is very interesting. The animal excavates sand to get the shell out, then swims for a long time to find an appropriate area where it can crack the shell,” Bernardi said. “It requires a lot of forward thinking, because there are a number of steps involved. For a fish, it’s a pretty big deal.”

The actions recorded in the video are remarkably similar to previous reports of tool use by fish. Every case has involved a species of wrasse using a rock as an anvil to crush shellfish. A report published in June in Coral Reefs included photos of this behavior in a blackspot tuskfish on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Bernardi said he first heard of the phenomenon in 1994, when a colleague (James Coyer) observed a yellowhead wrasse in Florida doing the same thing. Similar behavior was also reported in a sixbar wrasse in an aquarium setting.

“Wrasses are very inquisitive animals,” Bernardi said. “They are all carnivorous, and they are very sensitive to smell and vision.”

Wrasses are one of the largest and most diverse families of marine fishes. Bernardi noted that several of the species observed using tools are not closely related, but cover a broad range of evolutionary history within the wrasse family. “They are at opposite ends of the phylogenetic tree, so this may be a deep-seated behavioral trait in all wrasses,” he said.

Tool use was once considered an exclusively human trait, and Jane Goodall‘s reports of tool use in chimpanzees in the 1960s came as a stunning revelation. Since then, many other animals have been observed using tools, including various primates, several kinds of birds, dolphins, elephants, and other animals.

Bernardi, who studies fish genetics, said there may be other examples of tool use in fish that have not yet been observed. “We don’t spend that much time underwater observing fishes,” he said. “It may be that all wrasses do this. It happens really quickly, so it would be easy to miss.”

Scientists believed that tool use was a trait unique only to humans, however, recent research into animals that utilize tools has proven this incorrect: here.

Coral reef collapse: eight warning signs: here.

15th century Hawaiians worked to preserve reefs, study finds: here.

Finding a home in science: Homeless teen finds fame, refuge in marine biology research: here.

Pacific eel with dinosaur age pedigree discovered

This video is called A live image of the new eel (Protoanguilla palau)

From the BBC:

17 August 2011 Last updated at 01:18 GMT

New Pacific eel is a ‘living fossil’, scientists say

A newly discovered eel that inhabits an undersea cave in the Pacific Ocean has been dubbed a “living fossil” because of its primitive features.

It is so distinct, scientists created a new taxonomic family to describe its relationship to other eels.

The US-Palauan-Japanese team say the eel’s features suggest it has a long and independent evolutionary history stretching back 200m years.

Details appear in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The animal used as the basis for the new study was an 18cm-long female, collected by one of the researchers during a dive at a 35m-deep cave in the Republic of Palau.

But the scientists also mention other examples of the new eel species in their research paper.

At first there was much discussion among the researchers about the animal’s affinities. But genetic analysis confirmed that the fish was a “true” eel – albeit a primitive one.

“In some features it is more primitive than recent eels, and in others, even more primitive than the oldest known fossil eels, suggesting that it represents a ‘living fossil’ without a known fossil record,” write the scientists.

In order to classify the new animal, the researchers had to create a new family, genus and species, bestowing on the animal the latin name Protoanguilla palau.

The team – including Masaki Miya from Chiba’s Natural History Museum in Japan, Jiro Sakaue from the Southern Marine Laboratory in Palau and G David Johnson from the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC – drew up a family tree of different eels, showing the relationships between them.

This allowed them to estimate when the ancestors of P. palau split away from other types of eel.

Their results suggest this new family has been evolving independently for the last 200m years, placing their origins in the early Mesozoic era, when dinosaurs were beginning their domination of the planet.

The researchers say the Protoanguilla lineage must have once been more widely distributed, because the undersea ridge where its cave home is located is between 60 and 70 million years old.

See also here. And here. And here. And here.

Drug waste harms fish: here.

The first close look at the Pacific leaping blenny may offer clues to how ancient fish first made the transition to land, a new study says: here.

February 2012: Twelve per cent of marine species surveyed in the Gulf of California, the coasts of Panama and Costa Rica and the five offshore oceanic islands and archipelagos in the tropical eastern Pacific are threatened with extinction, according to a study by IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). Main threats to the region’s marine flora and fauna include overfishing, habitat loss and increasing impacts from the El Nino Southern Oscillation: here.

The struggle of the women of Palau against US nuclear weapons

This video is called Diving in Palau, about the seas and wildlife around those islands.

By Zohl de Ishtar in Green Left Weekly:

Celebrating the life of Gabriela Ngirmang of Palau

Zohl de Ishtar

26 October 2007

Gabriela Ngirmang, Mirair of Palau, who was instrumental in giving the world its first nuclear-free constitution, passed away peacefully at 12.10am on October 10 (Palau time). Gabriela had been sick for some time.

Palau is a small nation south-west of Guam in the northern Pacific. As matrilineal Palau’s Mirair (leading woman for the eastern side of the state of Koror), Gabriela Ngirmang was the leader of Otil A Beluad (the Anchor of the Land) women’s organisation for the past 50 years. Eighty-four years old, she had been a central figure among the women elders of her nation, and an inspirational leader for social justice and anti-nuclear activists across the Pacific and globally.

Gabriela believed it was her responsibility to protect and advance the wellbeing of her people. She experienced and survived the Second World War and, because of this experience, she did not want Palauans to experience war again. Aware of the devastation inflicted upon the neighbouring Marshallese from the US nuclear test regime, she knew the dangers of all things nuclear. Her concern motivated her to lead her people to write a nuclear-free clause into their constitution as they moved to reclaim their nation’s independence from the United States.

In 1979, 92% of Palauan people voted for their nuclear-free constitution, which included a clause requiring 75% of voters to agree before nuclear weapons could be brought into Palau.

This was the first time a clause banning and/or restricting nuclear activities had been included in any nation’s constitution anywhere in the world. This achievement has not been repeated since.

Unfortunately, the US had different intentions for Palau. The Pentagon wanted one-third of Palau’s precious land and its deepwater harbour (one of the most beautiful in the world) for military purposes, including for the storage of nuclear weapons.

In the 15 years between 1979 and 1994, when Palau stopped being administered by the US (under a United Nations trusteeship) and became the Republic of Palau, the people were forced to vote 11 times to uphold their unique constitutional clause.

Each time a new plebiscite was announced, courageous women would travel between villages and islands to talk with communities to provide them with information so that they could make informed decisions about the Compact of Free Association (which defined the post-sovereignty relationship between Palau and the US) and the changes the US wanted made to their constitution. Women had played a major role in the constitution’s development and now they were struggling to ensure their people knew what was at stake if they rejected the protection of its nuclear-free clause. It was grassroots networking at its best, and at its hardest: women talked to women as they worked in their taro patches.

Standing up against immense pressure from the US government as well as increasing intimidation and corruption within Palau, Gabriela faced threats to her life and violence against herself and her family. …

Today the US retains control over Palau’s military and foreign affairs, and can take any land it wants with 60 days notice. The US has not yet activated this right, and will face another backlash of Palauan resistance should it attempt to do so. The Compact lasts for 50 years (until 2044), with the financial gains the Palauans were able to secure ceasing in 2010.

The Palauan struggle to protect their nuclear-free clause was a real-life case of David and Goliath, as one of the world’s smallest nations stood against the world’s biggest and most powerful. It inspired movements in the Solomons, Fiji and Aotearoa/New Zealand that successfully banned nuclear warships from entering their harbours.

Gabriela was at the centre of this growing resistance to the militarisation of the seas and the planned use of nuclear weapons. Embodying the values of peace and non-violence, she questioned the colonial, military and nuclear implications of US policy and its impact on Palauans. …

Gabriela’s contribution to world peace will be remembered. Her desire for her people, and for all people, to be nuclear-free will not pass with her. Her work continues to live on in others. As her daughter Cita Morei once said, “The fight against the Compact has been a painful struggle but the good news is that it did not kill the women’s spirit, our spirit. The spirit that resists the evilness of war, of nuclear weapons. The mustard seed for world peace that was planted in [Palau’s] nuclear-free constitution did not die.”

It was Gabriela who planted that mustard seed. It is left to the rest of us to nurture it, in her memory.

Australia: Maralinga’s nuclear nightmare continues: here.

Dozens of new fish species discovered in Palau

This video is called Diving in Palau.

From The Independent daily in Britain:

New species of fish found in Pacific ‘twilight zone’

By Jonathan Owen

Published: 16 September 2007

Dozens of new species from one of the most remote places on the planet have been discovered by experts exploring at depths of more than 300 feet under the sea. Scientists are astonished by the finds made during a five- week expedition to the Pacific Ocean. The startling discovery, made earlier this year but not revealed until now, has been filmed for a television documentary series that will be shown for the first time next month.

At least 30 species previously unknown to man are believed to have been found in what John Earle from the Association of Marine Exploration has described as “probably the single most successful fish catching dive that anyone has ever made at any time!”

A team of divers and marine biologists exploring largely uncharted territory in waters off the tiny Micronesian nation of Palau have not only discovered new species of fish but also enormous underwater cave systems in what they call the “twilight zone” at depths of between 180 and 450 feet. Cameras have documented how, in one dive alone, every fish caught by scientists was new to science, with researchers claiming “Every one of the fish in this bucket is a new species. That doesn’t happen! It may have done 200 years ago, but not today”.

Sound recordist Mike Kasik likens the researchers to Everest climbers and says, “They’re going as deep as men go without a submersible… they’re down there working and doing amazing science at the same time.”

Unsurprisingly, the producers behind the Pacific Abyss – described as a “true voyage of discovery” and the BBC’s latest offering in a long line of natural history blockbusters – are keen to keep images of the latest discoveries to themselves and intend to broadcast them later this month.

On hearing of the discoveries, marine biologist Dr John Copley, from the University of Southampton, said: “This news really demonstrates how exciting it is to explore the ocean. They could have also come across new species of snail, corals, and sponges. There is still so much left to explore and even more as you go even deeper.”

New tarpon, bonefish compendium published: here.

Fishing ban protects largest coral reef in the Philippines: here.

The Palau Conservation Society (PCS – BirdLife in Palau), is pleased to announce the release of a new publication entitled State of the Birds 2010: A conservation guide for communities and policymakers. The guidebook was also released with a poster that highlights the plight of the Micronesian Imperial Pigeon Ducula oceanica – known locally as Belochel – which is a culturally important bird that is in decline: here.