Small luminescent fish, video

This 19 August 2019 video says about itself:

Tiny Fish Use Bacteria to Glow in the Dark | National Geographic

While scuba diving at night along a coral reef in the Solomon Islands, marine biologist and National Geographic Explorer David Gruber witnessed what he describes as “the closest [he’s] had to an Avatar moment.” Thousands of flashlight fish swam before him, forming shapes, and illuminating the dark ocean waters.

Giant rat discovery in Solomon Islands

This 28 September 2017 video is called Enormous, coconut-cracking, tree-dwelling rat found in Solomon Islands.

Another video used to say about itself:

27 September 2017

People from Vangunu in the Solomon Islands have for decades told stories about “vika,” a giant tree-dwelling rat with teeth sharp enough to bite through a coconut.

Mammalogist Tyrone Lavery of the Field Museum in Chicago heard these seemingly outrageous stories when he first visited the islands in 2010. Intrigued, he brought a team to investigate a forested area, but the scientists came out rat-less.

A logging company later entered the same region and focused their chopping work on a big tree.

“They cut down the tree, and the rat came out of it,” Lavery recounted to Seeker. The terrified gigantic rat, which went scurrying past the equally stunned loggers, was indeed the legendary vika.

Described in the Journal of Mammalogy, the rodent was given the scientific name Uromys vika. It is the first new rat species to be discovered in the Solomon Islands in nearly a century.

Local animal expert Hikuna Judge, a co-author of the paper, obtained one of the rats, permitting detailed study of its anatomy. First, the researchers noted the rodent’s size and heft: a foot and a half long, and 2.2 pounds. In comparison, rats typically seen in American homes and alleys weigh less than half of a pound, on average.

Judge, Lavery, and their colleagues compared vika’s skull and other features to those of rodent species in museum collections. They also conducted a genetic analysis using a DNA sample. The research confirmed that the giant rat does in fact represent a new species.

From the Field Museum in the USA:

Tree-dwelling, coconut-cracking giant rat discovered in Solomon Islands

Elusive 18-inch-long rodent finally found after years of searching

September 27, 2017

Summary: Scientists have discovered a new species of giant rat. It’s more than four times the size of the black rats that live in the US, it lives in trees, and it’s rumored to crack open coconuts with its teeth. And it’s actually pretty cute.

Remember the movie The Princess Bride, when the characters debate the existence of (Rodents of Unusual Size), only to be beset by enormous rats? That’s kind of what happened here.

Mammalogist Tyrone Lavery heard rumors of a giant, possum-like rat that lived in trees and cracked open coconuts with its teeth on his first trip to the Solomon Islands in 2010. After years of searching and a race against deforestation destroying the rat’s would-be home, Lavery, along with John Vendi and Hikuna Judge, finally found it.

“The new species, Uromys vika, is pretty spectacular — it’s a big, giant rat,” said Lavery, a post-doctoral researcher at The Field Museum in Chicago and the lead author of the Journal of Mammalogy paper announcing the rat’s discovery. “It’s the first rat discovered in 80 years from Solomons, and it’s not like people haven’t been trying — it was just so hard to find.”

The Solomon Islands, a country made up of a series of islands a thousand miles northeast of Australia, are biologically isolated. Over half of the mammals on the Solomon Islands are found nowhere else on Earth, making it an attractive location for scientists like Lavery.

“When I first met with the people from Vangunu Island in the Solomons, they told me about a rat native to the island that they called vika, which lived in the trees,” says Lavery. “I was excited because I had just started my Ph.D., and I’d read a lot of books about people who go on adventures and discover new species.”

But years of searching didn’t turn up any of the giant rats. “I started to question if it really was a separate species, or if people were just calling regular black rats ‘vika,'”said Lavery. Part of what made the search so difficult was the rat’s tree-dwelling lifestyle. “If you’re looking for something that lives on the ground, you’re only looking in two dimensions, left to right and forward and backward. If you’re looking for something that can live in 30-foot-tall trees, then there’s a whole new dimension that you need to search,” explains Lavery.

Finally, one of the rats was discovered scurrying out of a felled tree. “As soon as I examined the specimen, I knew it was something different,” says Lavery. “There are only eight known species of native rat from the Solomon Islands, and looking at the features on its skull, I could rule out a bunch of species right away.” After comparing the specimen to similar species in museum collections and checking the new rat’s DNA against the DNA of its relatives, Lavery confirmed that the giant rat was a new species, which he named Uromys vika in honor of the local name for the rat. “This project really shows the importance of collaborations with local people,” says Lavery, who learned about the rat through talking with Vangunu locals and confirmed with them that the new rat matched the “vika” they knew.

Vika are a lot bigger than the black rats that spread throughout the world with European colonists — the rats you’ll see in American alleys weigh around 200 grams (0.44 pounds), Solomon Islands rats can be more than four times that size, weighing up to a kilogram (2.2 pounds). And from the tip of its nose to the tip of its tail, U. vika is about a foot and a half long. And while they haven’t yet been observed cracking open coconuts, they do have a penchant for chewing circular holes into nuts to get at the meat.

The rat’s giant size and possum-like tree-dwelling lifestyle can be traced back to its island home. Islands are full of animals found nowhere else on earth that evolved in isolation from the rest of the world. “Vika’s ancestors probably rafted to the island on vegetation, and once they got there, they evolved into this wonderfully new species, nothing like what they came from on the mainland,” explains Lavery.

While the rat has only just been discovered, it will quickly be designated as Critically Endangered, due to its rarity and the threat posed by logging to its rainforest habitat. “It’s getting to the stage for this rat that, if we hadn’t discovered it now, it might never have gotten discovered. The area where it was found is one of the only places left with forest that hasn’t been logged,” says Lavery. “It’s really urgent for us to be able to document this rat and find additional support for the Zaira Conservation Area on Vangunu where the rat lives.” Lavery also emphasized the necessity of preserving the rats, not just for ecological reasons, but for the role they play in the lives of Vangunu’s people. “These animals are important parts of culture across Solomon Islands — people have songs about them, and even children’s rhymes like our ‘This little piggy went to market.'” The discovery marks an important moment in the biological study of the Solomon Islands, especially since vika is so uncommon and close to extinction. “Finding a new mammal is really rare — there are probably just a few dozen new mammals discovered every year,” says Lavery. “Vika was so hard to find, and the fact that I was able to persevere is something that I’m proud of.”

Mammalogists went to the Solomon Islands in search of a giant rat and monkey-faced bat — and ended up playing a role in fostering peace between the Kwaio people of Malaita and the Western world. A reconciliation ceremony between the Kwaio and Australian scientists began the healing process for acts of violence committed in 1927, when the Solomon Islands were a British protectorate: here.

Sharks at active underwater volcano

This video says about itself:

8 July 2015

Ocean engineer and National Geographic Explorer Brennan Phillips and his team surveyed underwater volcano Kavachi, located near the Solomon Islands. They encountered a surprising amount of sea life, including the rarely filmed Pacific sleeper shark. Phillips believes the high-definition images of this elusive shark represent only the third—and maybe the best—video of the shark ever made.

Click here to read more about this rare discovery.

From Wildlife Extra about this:

Sharks Found Inside An Active Volcano… Alive

Kavachi is one of the most active underwater volcanoes in the southwest Pacific Ocean. It’s surrounded by hot, acidic seawater that can make it too dangerous for human divers — and that’s when it’s not erupting explosively.

But when a team of scientists recently sent down camera-equipped robots, they not only found animals surviving in and around the volcano; they found a surprising amount of biodiversity, including silky sharks, hammerhead sharks and the rarely seen Pacific sleeper shark, which had previously been caught on video just twice.

The sharkcano is located south of Vangunu in the Solomon Islands, where researchers funded by the National Geographic Society recently embarked on a risky trip to explore Kavachi. The volcano is very active, having experienced a minor eruption in 2014 as well as more explosive outbursts in 2007 and 2004.

“Nobody actually knows how often Kavachi erupts,” team member Brennan Phillips tells National Geographic. And even when it’s not launching lava, ash and steam above the surface, he adds, it can be too extreme for divers to explore. “Divers who have gotten close to the outer edge of the volcano have had to back away because of how hot it is or because they were getting mild skin burns from the acid water.”

To avoid that risk, Phillips and his colleagues sent down submersible robots with underwater cameras to explore Kavachi’s inhospitable environment. Despite the extreme conditions, the robots spotted a variety of wildlife living around Kavachi, including jellyfish, crabs, stingrays and the aforementioned sharks.

On top of the volcano-dwelling silky and hammerhead sharks, the team was also psyched to see a Pacific sleeper shark swimming near Kavachi. These enigmatic fish are normally found in the North Atlantic, the North Pacific and around Antarctica, but they’ve never been seen near the Solomon Islands before. Phillips says this is only the third time the species has been caught on video anywhere, and his HD footage may represent the highest-quality glimpse in history. Watch the footage above.

Another year of science closes, giving us pause to review those new species of sharks described in the scientific literature, bringing the total number of known shark species to 512. Perhaps it’s a hollow victory to have so many different species known at a time when sharks populations worldwide are either in decline or in a complete population tailspin. But as taxonomists continue to kick ass and give names, our knowledge of shark evolution, biogeography, and ecology continue to get richer. Meet the new sharks of 2015: here.

Makira moorhen of Solomon Islands, extinct or not?

Makira moorhen

From BirdLife:

Search for the lost Makira Moorhen

By Mark O’Brien, Wed, 04/11/2015 – 03:09

Last recorded in 1953 but reported by hunters in more recent times, the elusive Makira Moorhen is thought unlikely to have gone extinct, although any remnant population is likely to be tiny.

A new search for it has been co-ordinated by Solomon Islands Community Conservation Partnership (a potential in-country partner for BirdLife) in conjunction with Mark O’Brien at BirdLife with support from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund. 10 days of field work in August in the forests of East Makira, Solomon Islands, failed to produce any sightings of Makira Moorhen. However there were a couple of encouraging indications.

An interview with a local hunter provided plausible evidence of, and detailed description of, a bird that sounds like a Makira Moorhen being sighted, and killed, in East Makira less than 3 years previous. A second, rather more sketchy and less detailed story of a Makira Moorhen being sighted in 2011 was also relayed ot the team. These add to 3 other reports from hunters of birds in similarly wild, remote areas of the East Makira forest this century.

Camps were established at three separate locations during the fieldwork – the third of which was located in good quality native forest. Unfortunately, the weather deteriorated during the time at the third camp, making observations difficult. However, automatic cameras were set – and we are looking forward to checking any resulting images.

The survey team located a nest and single egg of a Yellow-legged Pigeon – a declining and globally-threatened (Vulnerable) pigeon. This species is considered to be rare wherever it occurs (it is restricted to the Solomon Islands and Bismarck Archipelago), except for Makira where it is classed as locally uncommon. The nest was found by Reuben Tako, a volunteer on the survey. Bizarrely, the only other nest found of this species, in 2001, was by Reuben’s father. Both nests were located on the ground. The continued presence of the Pigeon in the area might indicate that ground predators are not at a high density within the Makira forest – a conclusion that bodes well for the continued existence of a flightless ground-dwelling species, such as Makira Moorhen.

Reuben has retrieved the cameras and relocated them at another prime remote forest area. Accessing these forests and locating the cameras is, itself, a considerable task. Hopefully we will be able to repeat this exercise on another 3 or 4 occasions – check the images, not just for the Moorhen but also for any local undescribed native Solomys rats that are thought to be present, and also to develop an index of the number of introduced ground predators, such as rats, cats and pigs, that might be present in the forest. We will use the findings from the camera traps to identify a further site for a field trip later in the year.

The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund is a joint initiative of Conservation International, l’Agence Française de Développement, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan, the MacArthur Foundation and the World Bank. A fundamental goal is to ensure civil society is engaged in biodiversity conservation.”

Six species we thought were extinct, but aren’t. These are termed ‘Lazarus’ species, after the biblical story in which Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead: here.

Coral reef research, video

This video says about itself:

5 June 2015

A team of scientists from Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation and XL Catlin Seaview Survey sets sail on the world’s largest coral reef expedition to gather ground-breaking images to reveal the reefs as never seen before.

The research vessel, M/Y Golden Shadow, was in the Solomon Islands conducting surveys for the Foundation’s Global Reef Expedition. The XL Catlin Seaview Survey science team, from the University of Queensland joined the Expedition and used their custom panorama camera system to take stunning 360⁰ imagery of the reefs. Over the course of 10 days, the team was able to document over 21 miles of reefs, all as part of an ongoing research project that aims to measure coral reef habitat diversity across the tropics and understand how coral reefs are changing due to human pressures.

Occupiers kill Solomon islander

Australia and the Solomon Islands

Military personnel with the Australian-led Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands shot and killed an unarmed local man and wounded another in an incident on the outskirts of the capital, Honiara, last Thursday: here. See also here.

Solomon Islands: Australian occupation to continue: here.

Solomon Islands: Australian police accused of bribing witnesses: here.

Vanuatu government expels Australian police: here.

Australian witchhunt of Solomon Islands lawyer

Julian Moti

By Patrick O’Connor in Australia:

Papua New Guinea report highlights illegality of Moti arrest

13 March 2010

The Papua New Guinean parliament has released a report by the Ombudsman Commission into the events of September–October 2006, beginning with the arrest of the then pending Solomon Islands’ attorney general, Julian Moti, at the behest of Australian Federal Police (AFP). The ombudsman concluded that the “initial arrest and detention of Moti was unlawful and in breach of the Extradition Act”. The finding is further confirmation of the illegal and provocative character of the protracted witch-hunt waged by the Australian government against the international and constitutional lawyer.

By Patrick O’Connor, 2 June 2010:

Public prosecutors yesterday asked the Queensland Court of Appeal to overturn the legal victory recorded by former Solomon Islands Attorney General Julian Moti late last year when the Australian government’s attempt to prosecute him on politically motivated statutory rape charges was blocked by the Queensland Supreme Court.

The former Solomon Islands’ attorney general is once again threatened with trial on politically motivated statutory rape allegations, following a decision last month by the Queensland Supreme Court of Appeal to overturn an earlier court ruling that the charges be dismissed: here.

Former Solomon Islands’ Attorney General Julian Moti is preparing a High Court challenge to the Australian government’s politically motivated attempt to prosecute him on statutory rape charges: here.

The Australian Labor government’s vendetta against former Solomon Islands’ attorney general Julian Moti on trumped up rape allegations has suffered a devastating blow: here.

The Australian High Court is hearing an appeal by former Solomon Islands’ Attorney General Julian Moti alleging that the government’s attempt to prosecute him is politically motivated and unlawful: here.

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Danny Philip has accused the Australian Labor government of plotting to bring down his government: here.

WikiLeaks cables reveal US role in Australia’s “regime change” in Solomon Islands: here.

Manasseh Sogavare was nominated as the prime minister of Solomon Islands on Tuesday, following national elections held last month. Sogavare is returning to office seven years after he was removed from office through a lawless, dirty-tricks campaign waged by the Australian government: here.

Documents leaked by US National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden show that New Zealand’s intelligence agency, the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), used the NSA search tool XKeyscore to spy on high-ranking officials in the Solomon Islands government: here.

New white-eye bird discovered in Solomon Islands

This November 2018 video from Indonesia is called White-eye/Zosterops birds.

From BirdLife:

Darwin’s finches: Part Two


The discovery of a new bird to science in a distant archipelago is providing evidence of how, in the absence of competitors, unique species can evolve rapidly to fill empty niches. But the archipelago is not the Galapagos, and the bird is not one of Darwin’s finches.

In the year of the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth, a paper in the leading scientific journal, Ibis, describing a new bird species in the Solomon Islands, has reinforced evidence that white-eyes evolve new species faster than any other known bird family –including Galapagos finches.

The new species has been named Vanikoro White-eye Zosterops gibbsi. The formal description was published in Ibis by Dr Guy Dutson of Birds Australia (BirdLife in Australia), who led a recent expedition to the island of Vanikoro to gather evidence about the bird. Its scientific name gibbsi is in honour of the first person to see the species – David Gibbs.

Vanikoro White-eye differs from other family members by having a distinctively shaped bill; along with different leg and eye-ring colours.

Vanikoro is a small island in the south-west Pacific, in the Solomon Islands archipelago. The rugged volcanic island with steep, forest-covered hills was visited by Jules D’Urville in 1829 – six years prior to The Beagle landing in the Galapagos – who collected specimens of Vanikoro Flycatcher Myiagra vanikorensis and Uniform Swiftlet Collocalia vanikorensis.

“Genetic research has shown that white-eyes evolve new species faster than any known bird family,” said Guy Dutson. “Islands only 3 km apart in the Solomons have their own white-eye species, and the Solomon Islands alone have 13 species of white-eye.

“Like Darwin’s finches, these birds have evolved unique beak structures and feeding behaviours in the absence of competitors”, Dr Dutson added.

White-eyes are small sociable birds of tropical forests. As their common name implies, many have a conspicuous ring of tiny white feathers around their eyes. The Vanikoro White-eye differs from the geographically closest white-eye, the Santa Cruz White-eye Z. sanctaecrucis, by having a longer bill, and different leg and eye-ring colour.

Vanikoro White-eyes are found in forest habitats, mostly above 350 m, and feed on insects and small fruits. “Vanikoro White-eyes were abundant towards the summit of the highest mountain”, noted Dr Dutson, who observed an active nest during his expedition. “Up to three adults fed chicks at a single nest, suggesting cooperative breeding, which has only been documented in two other white-eye species”.

New frogmouth bird species discovered in Solomon islands

Marbled frogmouth

From Biology News Net:

Your bird field guide may be out of date now that University of Florida scientists discovered a new genus of frogmouth bird on a South Pacific island.

New genera of living birds are rare discoveries — fewer than one per year is announced globally.

David Steadman and Andrew Kratter, ornithologists at the Florida Museum of Natural History, turned up the surprising new discovery on a collecting expedition in the Solomon Islands.

Theirs is the first frogmouth from these islands to be caught by scientists in more than 100 years. They immediately recognized it was something different.

Kratter and Steadman are co-authors to a study analyzing the frogmouth’s morphology, or physical form, and DNA in comparison to two other living genera of frogmouths.

The findings are published in the April print edition of Ibis: The International Journal of Avian Science, in a paper that describes the bird as a new genus and species, now named Rigidipenna inexpectata. …

Originally, the bird was misclassified as a subspecies of the Australian Marbled Frogmouth, Podargus ocellatus.

The blunder went undetected for decades, until a collecting trip led by Kratter in 1998 turned up a specimen on Isabel, a 1,500-square-mile island in the Solomons. Today, the only museum specimen of this bird in the world, with an associated skin and skeleton, is housed at the Florida Museum.

Frogmouths are predatory birds named for their strikingly wide, strong beak that resembles a frog’s mouth; but their beak also sports a small, sharp hook more like an owl’s. Steadman said their beaks are like no other bird’s in the world. They eat insects, rodents, small birds — and yes, even frogs.

As dusk falls over the Solomon Islands, a cacophony of quacks rises from the forest floor. The noise originates from the small Solomon’s Horned Frog, an amphibian unique to the islands: here.

Australia: Beck’s petrel, thought extinct, seen again

This 2012 video is about freeing a recovered Tahiti petrel.

From BirdLife:


Beck’s Petrel Pseudobulweria becki, unrecorded since 1929, has apparently been seen and photographed in the Coral Sea, east of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

The observer, birding tour guide Richard Baxter, was able to compare it directly with Tahiti Petrel Pseudobulweria rostrata, the bird with which it is most likely to be confused (and with which it may be conspecific).

Despite the 77-year gap in the record, BirdLife had categorised Beck’s Petrel as Critically Endangered rather than Extinct.

“It probably remains extant, because there have been a number of recent records of up to 250 individuals of the very similar Tahiti Petrel in the Bismarck Archipelago and Solomon Islands which may refer to this species,” states BirdLife’s species account.

“Furthermore, petrels that are nocturnal at the nesting grounds are notoriously difficult to detect, and there are numerous possible breeding sites on isolated atolls and islands that require surveying.”

However, it adds: “Any remaining population may be tiny.”

Baxter had been crossing the Coral Sea for two days, en route from Noumea to Australia.

“Tahiti Petrels were abundant the entire time we were in suitably deep water and I had seen several hundred,” he reported.

“The Beck’s was the size of a Cookilaria petrel [a subgenus of small Pterodromas], significantly smaller than a Tahiti Petrel, and comparable to both Black-winged Pterodroma nigripennis and Gould’s Petrel Pterodroma leucoptera, which were also seen that morning.”

The BirdLife International Pacific Secretariat, supported by the Mohammed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund and the Marisla Foundation is launching a new project under its Preventing Extinctions Programme seeking to unravel the mystery of the Beck’s Petrel: here.