by Richard Ross
In the last nine installments of Skeptical Reefkeeping we have looked at varied topics from phosphate to marketing to fallacious lines of reasoning to communication. One of the through lines all along has been the idea of anecdote, and generally, why it isn’t to be trusted. In this installment of Skeptical Reefkeeping, we are going to take another look at anecdote, try to understand why we are dependent upon anecdote in our hobby, and discuss some of its power and how to make it more useful.
A Brief Reminder to Set the Scene
Skepticism is a method, not a position. It can be defined as a method of intellectual caution and suspended judgment. As a Skeptical Reefkeeper, you decide what is best for you, your animals, and your wallet based upon critical thinking, not just because you heard someone else say it. The goal of this series of articles is not to provide you with reef recipes or to tell you which ideas are flat out wrong or which products really do what they say they do or which claims or which expert to believe. The goal is to help you make those kinds of determinations for yourself while developing your saltwater expertise in the face of sometimes overwhelming, conflicting advice.
These two Dr. Seuss fish have not yet jumped out of their tank, but that doesn’t seem like a reason to jump to the conclusion that these fish aren’t jumpers.
What is Anecdote Anyway?
From Skeptical Reefkeeping – Are you sure that that thing is true, or did someone just tell it to you? (1) Merriam-Webster defines anecdote as “a usually short narrative of an interesting, amusing, or biographical incident.” More hardcore, Ron Shimek says, “Anecdote is unsubstantiated or unverified observation generally made by an unqualified observer who often really doesn’t know what they are looking at.” Essentially, an anecdote is someone telling you what they think happened. The problem with most anecdotes, besides the observation and conclusion being suspect, is how quickly, with no real support, they can be converted to facts. This conversion can have a real and detrimental cost in both animal’s lives and your money.
by Matt Pedersen
Adult Pygmy Seahorse, Hippocampus bargibati, on pink coral, Muricella – it was unknown if they would venture onto the pink coral. Image by Richard Ross
Opinion by Matt Pedersen
We just shared the news of the first successful captive-breeding of Hippocampus bargibanti at the wet hands of Steinhart aquarists Matt Wandell and Richard Ross. Marine breeders, and more specifically seahorse propagators, are no doubt ecstatic (Dare I borrow a line from from Ross: “Their heads are falling off”).
Of course, why didn’t this happen until now, and why can’t we all rush out to buy a captive-bredBargibant’s Seahorse? More »
by Matt Pedersen
An adult Bargibant’s Pygmy Seahorse, behind the scenes at the Steinhart Aquarium at the California Academy of Sciences – Image courtesy Richard Ross.
Matt Wandell and Richard Ross are two professional aquarists who need no introduction to serious marine aquarium audiences. This dynamic duo of public aquarists has the kind of job most all of us would gladly commit manslaughter to have, working for the Stienhart Aquarium at the California Academy of Sciences. Wandell and Ross get to work on the type of aquarium systems most of us can only dream of and certainly will never afford. As if that wasn’t enough, they get to galavant around the globe on expeditions looking for new and interesting animals and husbandry challenges that many of us will never have the opportunity to tackle - like keeping and breedingHippocampus bargibanti, Bargibant’s Pygmy Seahorse. Can you smell, can you taste, the envy? More »
BY NICK STOCKTON
10 day old baby Pygmy Seahorse hunting copepods
For the past three weeks, Richard Ross has been spending his mornings next to a small tank in a back room at the Steinhart Aquarium in San Francisco. He leans in close. Not only is the room dark, but the fish inside this tank are masters of hiding in plain sight. They are Bargibant’s pygmy sea horses, and their orange, studded bodies twitch and sway just like the piece of coral they’ve wrapped their tiny, tiny tails around.
They are the first pair of pygmy sea horses to ever see the inside of an aquarium, and Ross is the first biologist to watch their daily pair bonding in a controlled environment.
As the lights slowly turn on, Ross can see that the two fish, each barely an inch long, are facing each other and twitching in unison. They rub snouts and butt heads. This ritual is part of their mating cycle, which culminates every 14 days with the birth of 60 to 70 babies. Immediately afterward, the pair detach from their pieces of coral, wrap their tails tightly, and the female deposits her eggs into the male’s belly sac, where he’ll fertilize and incubate the clutch.
Sea horse researchers call this the copulatory rise. ”The whole thing is very awkward,” says Matt Wandell, Ross’ colleague at the Steinhart Aquarium. On June 22nd, Ross and Wandell expect the pair to give birth for the third time since they arrived at the aquarium on May 20th. More »