Pest anemones can be worse than a piece of popcorn stuck between your teeth; they annoyingly consume all of your attention, they multiply quickly, sting animals you like and it seems like no matter what you do to control them, there are always a few that appear impervious to any attempt at eradication. As part of the anti pest anemone kit the Majano wand is an easy to use, quite effective and cathartic way to deal with pest anemones in a reef tank. (more…)Scridb filter
Biologists from The Florida Aquarium, Steinhart Aquarium in the California Academy of Sciences, Moody Gardens, Disney’s The Seas, and the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium have gathered at the Coral Restoration Foundation’s facility in the Florida Keys to continue to expand our understanding of the sexual reproduction of the areas endangered Acropora cervicornis and Acropora palmata corals. (more…)Scridb filter
The Marine Breeding Initiative’s 2012 workshop is next weekend, so the timing to share a pic of a captive breeding success story.
Metasepia spp have long been thought of as one of the ultimate aquarium display animals. Their colors and patterns that continually change and move across their skin make their common name obvious – the Flamboyant Cuttle. The problem? The only live about a year, and they have traditionally shipped poorly which means if you are lucky enough to get one that survived shipping, its probably near the end of its natural lifespan anyway. Captive breeding would be a no brainer, except getting broomstick has been near impossible because on the rear occasions these animals do get imported, the get imported in single digits. (more…)Scridb filter
Ok, now that that attention grabbing headline is out of the way, here is what happened. A lady in Korea taste tested a part of a whole parboiled squid, and had pain in her gums, tongue and cheek. Turns out par boiling doesn’t diminish the squids spermatophores capacity for firing and shooting into whatever is nearby. Have I even mentioned how awesome and amazing cephalopods are?
Evolution is amazing, the world is just awesome and gut your squid before you eat or cook it. The peer reviewed paper on this incident (its not the first time this has happened, really) is available here. Me talking about it on Penn’s Sunday School with Penn Jillette and Michael Goudeau is available here. Danna Staaf, the squid sex expert who first broke the tale here, talked about about the story recently at Nerd Nite SF in the video above – and does a great job explaining the complex apparatus of squid sperm delivery with amazing video support. PS – If you don’t know what Nerd Nite is, click here and find one near you. If there isn’t one near you start one. Super cool events.
PPS – If the above story isn’t enough squid sex for you, and not enough Nerd Nite for you, click here to see the talk I was privileged to give at a Nerd Nite SF last year about cephalopod sex.Scridb filter
In anticipation of the MBI workshop coming up on July 28th in Bloomfield Hills, MI, I have been breeding everything I can get my hands on – including the dwarf seahorse Hippocampus zosterae pictured above. These little seahorses max out at about an inch, and both parents and fry can be raised and maintained with easy to hatch, enriched Artemia. If you have a fuge or a spare 5 gallon tank, why aren’t you breeding these guys? Or some clownfish? Or some Banggai cardinals? Seriously, find someone who is breeding any of these easy fish (buy captive bred animals as it is possible wild populations of some of these fish may be in trouble), get some yourself and do it. Little to no impact on wild populations, super fun, super educational, very easy, and there is nothing like the cuteness of little animals you can raise yourself…why isn’t everyone doing it? No reason I can think of, so get to it.Scridb filter
The last year has seen a lot of heated discussion and possible legislation regarding the Marine Aquarium trade. In these discussions everyone seems to have data on the numbers of fishes that move through the trade, but the sources of that data often somehow seems ‘iffy’. Today a new paper was published in the open access journal PLoS One (making scientific papers available to anyone for no cost!) that examines a years worth of US marine fish import paperwork to present a clear picture of how many fish of what kinds are actually being imported into the country. The 9 page paper by Andrew Rhyne et al, available here, not only presents useful information, but also gives a great overview of the process of importing fish into the US as well as addressing some invasive species concerns. I expect in the coming weeks there will be a lot of themselves. Finally, actual data is available, and anyone that has ever entered into a discussion about the sustainability, ethics or responsibility of reefkeeping should take advantage of it.
After two weeks of slogging through the jungle, being forced to endure huge stick insects, wild pygmy elephants, several species of hornbills and a Tarsier, we are finally getting down to seeing some “good wild life.” (Ow. My wife just kicked me, but she knows I am kidding – the land portion of this trip has been astounding). So far we have dived house reefs of various resorts, all of which have artificial reef structures that are rather mature and teeming with life. Not only are they fantastic to explore, but it’s great to see local operations building habitat. Tomorrow we dive Sipadan Island, and I can hardly contain myself, but that has to be its own blog post.
I woke up this morning in my room on stilts built over the reef. From the font window I watched the sun peek up over the Celebes Sea and bathe my sleeping daughter in ‘sweet light’. I walked out the front door, and as I made way to the 5 star dive center, I watched the local village come to life. The juxtaposition between the luxury of the resort, and the stark substance lifestyle of the local community was sobering as I prepared for the first dive of the day.
Less than 30 minutes later, fishing village forgotten, we were diving paradise. My wife was swimming through a tornado of jacks when a tremendous KRACKKKKKKBOOMMMM shattered the idyllic experience. What the hell was that? The dive master and the 5 newbie divers with us didn’t react at all. To me, the sound was overpowering and terrifying. I hoped it was some kind of construction project, but the recent round of dynamite fishing and reef destruction in Komodo made me think it was not construction at all. Twice more on the dive, the calm was split by the jarring shock of explosions. The sound was unbelievable. It was awful to be surrounded by life and beauty but to know that animals and habitat were being destroyed nearby in the name of easy food. I was moved to tears both under water and now while I write this.
At the surface the local dive master confirmed that it was dynamite fishing but that it was ‘far away’ – sound travels far underwater. The aquarist in me was horrified, but I couldn’t help thinking as a father; my family has never gone hungry. It’s easy for me, with my first world values, to wish education and responsible practices would prevent this kind of destruction…but if my daughter needed a meal, I would do whatever I had to do to provide for her. And, if I found a practice that worked, that ensured that my little girl would have a full belly at night, I am not sure what anyone could do to make me give it up.
It’s a heartbreaker. Lets keep that in mind as we are tempted to judge real world practices that we feel might impact our hobby of keeping reefs in our living rooms. We need solutions that fill bellies as well as fill glass boxes.
PS I was filming during the dive and I think I was shooting during the one or two of the explosions. When I get back to my computer, I’ll listen to the footage and if I have any of the explosions recorded, I will post a follow up. For now, I have to go prepare for another dive in some of the most beautiful reefscape I have even been on, and hope that I won’t hear any more destruction in the distance.Scridb filter
It seems to me that we hear a lot about automation disasters, but not so much about automation successes. That makes sense because disasters tend to stick with us when we hear about them, and we just don’t talk about everyday successes because well, they are just regular every day happenings. So, here is a non everyday automation success story.
Recently, I had to leave town immediately and unexpectedly for what turned out to be several family medical emergencies in succession (it was difficult, but everyone turned out to be fine). I was gone for 10 days with no time to prep the tank, though I did franticly arrange with friends and colleagues to move some octopus I am working with to a lab at UC Berkeley. The whole time I was away I thought about my reef tank exactly once on day 4, the first extension of the trip, when my wife and daughter asked me if they were feeding the tank the right way. While in the hospital dealing with emergency room doctors and drama, the back of my mind was not also busily worrying about my home systems, I was able to focus on what was right in front of me.
My advice – automate everything you can on your reef. Not only will it free you from the some of the drudgery of every day maintenance and help keep the system stable over time, but it will give you some piece of mind when you are out of town on vacation or for an unexpected emergency.Scridb filter
From Advanced Aquarist
The ongoing discussions about and with anti aquarium trade groups have been hopping on Facebook. Sadly they have taken a turn that makes me feel engaging with the anti trade side is often useless and should possibly be avoided.
What these groups are doing is deleting comments that respectfully disagree with them, and then pretending to be generous by replying…while at the same time blocking the people they say they are replying to. They are also assuming that everyone that disagrees with them disagrees with everything they have to say and that everyone disagrees about the same thing in the same way both of which are of course, not true. Because blocking people shuts down all real discussion, these misconceptions cannot be addressed or cleared up in an effort to find common ground and move everyone forward.
It is very hard to take seriously or trust advocates that delete responses that they disagree with and block dissenting opinions – especially respectful reasonable responses that are discussing the issues raised in a public discussion. If a position is so fragile that opposition must be hidden and eliminated it seems that the position is weak enough to be ignored, that the advocate of that position is hiding something, or that the advocate is not interested in actual motion on the issue and instead is trying to change others opinions not with reason but with hyperbole, emotion and demagoguery.
There is a lot to talk about, and the discussion is good. There is always room for reform and change and many see room and need for improvement in the aquarium fishery. Sadly, these anti aquarium trade groups don’t seem to want to have discussion, they seem to want to control the discussion so they can feel like they are winning or even worse, give others in print media or in politics, the perception they are winning.
I would suggest that the aquarium community not directly engage with groups that behave in such censorship because each time we engage we make them seem more relevant while the truth is they aren’t…at least in social media. They have large followings in the real world, but in social media they don’t have much going on and it seems better to keep it that why so I won’t name or link their Facebook pages. If these groups were open to real discussion, I would advocate working with them in all media to find reasonable solutions to everyones issues regarding the aquarium trade.
If you do decide to engage them directly, I urge you be incredibly respectful and careful that you don’t give them any ammunition they can use out of context to support their agenda. I also suggest that you keep a copy of whatever you write along with a log of what you wrote and when they deleted it. I can imagine a time where that kind of information could go a long way in showing that the aquarium community has tried to engage in productive discussion, even though the anti aquarium advocates have not and has in fact purposefully stifled productive discussion.
In the mean time, https://www.facebook.com/HawaiiBanFactCheck is doing a great job of countering the odd positions of the anti trade advocates and has gone out of their way not to exclude anyone or any opinion from the discussion (interestingly, the way Facbook works, people that the anti trade groups have blocked cannot even see what those anti trade people are saying anywhere on Facebook which makes some of the discussion on HawaiiBanFactCheck seem disjointed to the growing number of blocked participants). Instead of engaging the anti trade people directly, support HawaiiBanFactCheck with positive vibes and posts. Harnessing social media in a positive way can only lead to a better future than squelching discussion.
I hope that this situation changes. I hope that honest discussion of the situation can be had because if people really are for the fishes and really want to save the sea, everyone has to work together and that can only truly start with honest discussion.
Last December when Koji Wada of the renowned Blue Harbor visited the Steinhart Aquarium he was kind enough to bring us two stunning Halcuriascarlgreni anemones. From Japans deeper, cooler waters, these anemones are jaw droppingly bright and colorful. Currently, they are being kept at 66 degrees in our Nautilus exhibit and both animals seem to be getting along just fine with each other. The Halcurias are being fed thawed frozen mysis via ‘Julians Thing’ every other day, and we hope they will be so happy and full of food that we will have more of them in the near future.Scridb filter
I took a chance on a Live Aquaria Divers Den Juvie Regal Angel (Pygoplites diacanthus) about 2 months ago. As beautiful as this fish is, it ended up getting an appetite for some of my favorite SPS corals as well as a voracious appetite for my growing Zoanthid collection, so it’s got to go. Easier said than done right?
Catching a fish in a fully stocked, mature reef tank is often a hassle.A net is not going to work because there is too much coral growth in the way. Trying to remove the fish while it’s sleeping is not going to work (unless you are very lucky) because sleeping spots are so numerous and, invariably, the fish picks a spot at the bottom middle back of the tank. Removing rocks isn’t practical because, since the tank is mature, removing rocks probably means destroying the coral that you have worked to hard to grow. Since the reef is mature, it’s probably fully stocked with fish, so any attempt to use a fish hook isn’t going to work because other fish are going to get the food off the hook before the fish you are trying to catch even knows there is something to strike. Knock-out drugs won’t work either because not only are they hard to get, but even if you are able to squirt it in the face of the fish, the knocked-out fish can sink to the bottom where it is impossible to remove before it wakes up, swims away and laughs at you.
To the best of my knowledge, that leaves one option - the fish trap. 5 days ago, I pulled out my trusty acrylic trap, the kind with the weighted door that is held open by a piece of monofilament with a suction cup on the end. This particular trap also has another piece of monofilament that you can pull on to slam the door closed quickly instead of simply relying on gravity to trap the fish. I used some electrical tape to affix an old algae magnet to the trap so I can rest the trap on the glass instead of on coral. The magnet also allows me to leave the trap in place over time without it getting blown around by the current. This is very important because unless you are very lucky and the fish goes right in (I am not lucky), the trap needs to be left in place over time so the fish gets comfortable enough with the trap to actually go in the trap. Of course, the most important part of trapping a fish with this method is patience – and man can that patience be annoying.
Every night, I bait the trap with some Reef Nutrition Mysis Feast and watch patiently as almost every other fish in the tank-Orange-spotted rabbitfish (Siganus guttatus), Radiant Wrasse (Halichores iridis), Multicolor angel (Centropyge multicolor), Potter’s Angelfish (Centropyge potteri), Margined butterfly (Chelmon marginatus), Yellow Tang (Zebrasoma flavescens), orchid dottyback (Pseudochromis friedmani), Mimic Saddle Puffer (Paraluterus prionurus) and even green chromis (Chromis viridis) hang out in the trap and chow down – often all at the same time- while the Regal hangs out near the trap entrance waiting for scraps. Every night the Regal gets a little closer to the trap, but doesn’t go in. I may need to catch every other fish that goes into the trap to make the Regal feel comfortable, but not yet. Tonight I moved some Zoanthids into the trap to make it even more enticing. I hope.
It’s really frustrating, but I keep calming myself down reminding myself that patience is the key and it works. Just a month ago, I had to catch two big lunare wrasses out of the 212,000 gallon reef tank at work. It took two weeks of baiting the trap for the fish to be comfortable enough to go in, and when the finally did, I was able to catch both of them in less than 10 minutes. But it took patience. Patience.
Some corals have fallen over, but I am going to leave them for now as not to disturb the Regal. Algae is growing all over the front glass, but I am going to leave it as not to disturb the Regal. So, here I sit, most of the pumps off to keep the food in the trap waiting…and waiting…and waiting…because thats what I have to do.
From Advanced Aquarist
On 2011 Philippine Biodiversity Expedition, biologists from the Steinhart Aquarium in the California Academy of Sciences collected two species of Ghost pipefish, the Ornate Ghost Pipefish (Solenostomus paradoxus) and the Robust Ghostpipefish (Solenostomus cyanopterus). In June 2011 we reportedon the spawning and rearing attempts of the Ornate Ghostpipefish and were proud to get the larvae to day 7, after which we unfortunately lost the female due to the end of these fishes short lifespan. However, we did have a female Robust Ghost pipefish and decided to display her in the same tank as the male Ornate Ghost Pipefish, and though we thought spawning between the two was possible we were surprised that courtship began on the very first day of co-habitation. It is unknown if these fish hybridize in the wild, and we are excited to present video of the first documentation of the hybridization.
We watched excitedly as the eggs that were held in the females fins began to develop eyes, and were even more excited to hatch the eggs and get the hybrid larvae to day 22 using different methodology than was used on the Ornate Ghostpipefish larvae. Currently, the female Robust is carrying more eggs fertilized by the male Ornate Ghost Pipefish, and Steinhart Staff is looking forward to another oppurtunity to raise another batch of hybrid larvae.Scridb filter
This week Amblyglyphidodon ternatensis eggs and larvae collected at the Steinhart Aquarium in the California Academy of Sciences were shipped to Florida as part of the Rising Tide Conservation project.
Rising Tide Conservation was started by SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment to make breeding and rearing of marine tropical fish economically viable so that there are alternatives to collection. It quickly expanded from a program focused on breeding and rearing fish in display facilities to one focused on integrating efforts of display aquaria, the hobbyist industry, and academia to create a platform for the promotion and dissemination of information related to marine tropical fish aquaculture. Large scale tropical marine fish aquaculture has been held back by four specific hurdles: difficulty in egg production, difficulty in larval rearing, use and production of an appropriate live feed, and most importantly, the difficulty in clearing these hurdles in an economically viable manner. Transfer of capabilities identified in this program to commercial producers is critical for the success of this initiative.
Rising Tide Conservation is an effort to reduce commercial collecting of reef fish by promoting captive breeding. This program provides a lifeline for reef populations by providing source alternatives. Many attempts to raise marine tropical fish have resulted in small successes. Rising Tide is an effort to move these advances to more widespread use.
For more images of the eggs and larvae please scroll down.
For the last week or so, the popular science press has been gushing over the announcement that a giant Triassic Kraken not only killed and ate giant ichthyosaurs, not only arranged their bones, but even arranged their bones in what may be the very first ‘self portrait’. How exciting! A huge, intelligent, self aware cephalopod lived in the Triassic and actively hunted and ate 45 foot long ichthyosaurs – its a ceph lovers fantasy come true! There is of course, one small catch – there is no evidence that this Triassic Kraken actually existed.
The story in a nutshell: at Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park in Nevada the remains of nine 45-foot ichthyosaurs, Shonisaurus popularis have been confusing researchers since at least the 1950′s, partially due to the close proximity of the nine ichtyosaurs to each other and the odd arrangement of their fossilized vertebrae. Recently, Mark McMenamin spent some time at the site and came up with the idea that press has been running with this week – a giant, ichthyosaur eating cephalopod that arranges bones of its meals in self portraits. Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence to back up this idea.
The reasoning that spring boarded these conclusions into the public eye goes something like this (from the press release) :
1) A weird arrangement of the fossils made McMenamin think they bones had been purposefully arranged, and that modern octopus are known for the “intelligent manipulation of bones”.
It doesn’t seem that there is much evidence for modern cephalopods intelligently manipulating the remains of their meals. Sure, octopus tend to get rid of remains, but there appears to be no purpose to the arrangement beyond moving them away from the den. Other cephalopods like squid, do not seem to manipulate remains at all. Also, just because McMenamin thinks the bones were purposefully arranged doesn’t mean that they were – he has got to show that he has more than just his thought about the matter.
2) ”The proposed Triassic kraken, which could have been the most intelligent invertebrate ever, arranged the vertebral discs in double line patterns, with individual pieces nesting in a fitted fashion as if they were part of a puzzle.
There is no evidence of this Kracken. None. Its a cool idea, but there are lots of cool ideas. The argument that Aliens arranged the bones seems just as likely as an ancient undiscovered sea monster did arranged them
3) “The arranged vertebrae resemble the pattern of sucker discs on a cephalopod tentacle” and “the vertebral disc “pavement” seen at the state park may represent the earliest known self portrait”.
The arranged vertebrae also resemble red blood cells, pelletized fish food, teeth and any number of other things. You can see purpose in just about anything, as PZ Myers says “a line of discs is being seen as a picture of a cephalopod tentacle, classic pareidolia. This is trivial: dump a pile of Necco wafers on a table, and I’ll see a picture of squid suckers.” Why it should be thought of as a self portrait seems to be more fantastical hoping.
The end of the press release states “… the evidence for the murderous Kraken is circumstantial, which may leave some scientists rather skeptical. But McMenamin is not worried. “We’re ready for this,” he said. “We have a very good case.”” However, nothing besides the press release has been forthcoming which seems to mean that the case that McMenamin has is really only circumstantial. I hope I am wrong and fantastic, compelling evidence arises (but I am not holding my breath). Until then, the idea of this Kraken resides next to the idea of Sasquatch, Unicorns, Gandalf an Magneto in my mind as things I wish actually existed, but don’t.
This is a video of a big aquarium – doesn’t a little information about how its run and how the animals are cared for make it more exciting?
Like many of us, I have been thinking about the new television show TANKED. The great discussion so far about the show has been really illuminating and taken the reefkeeping community beyond issues like ‘This coral is cool’ or ‘what’s the newest product’ or ‘where do I get the cheapest…’. I think this kind of big picture discussion has been relegated to dusty, quasi philosophical forums with low readership and I think getting some of this discussion out in the open can do nothing but befefit the hobby in the long run by forcing more of us to think about issues on the broader stage. The critical thinker in me (ah the Philosophy degree is worth something – see mom and dad!) is also thrilled that hardly any of the discussion I have seen has not degenerated into ad hominem attacks, and that people have been genuinely playing with the ideas rather than trying to score points. In these respects, I think TANKED has been great for the hobby.
In other respects, I am on the fence about the show. The actual health requirements of the animals used in the episodes get glossed over, and am worried that this glossing may help increase the amount of ‘cut flower mentality’ that many aquarists feel about the animals in their charge. For the most part, fish are cheap and easy to get, so if they die you just get another one. They are semi disposable. This mindset is not just adopted by newbies or the uneducated hobbyist – we are all guilty of it to some degree, and it may even be an inescapable part of our hobby. Mistakes, bad/outdated advice, poor animal handeling, crashes, and dumb luck, almost ensure that we are going to have to replace dead animals unless we leave the hobby completely. Many in the hobby work very hard to minimize those events for themselves and for others. Its an uphill battle, and a television show like TANKED, which gives the impression that ’insta filled, insta populated’ are normal and accepted, can make those minimization efforts harder.
Some of the discussion about TANKED compares it to other ‘build’ reality shows like American Chopper, where the building exciting and creative projects are the background for family drama. Since motorcycle enthusiasts seem to not worry too much that American Chopper is not mechanically educational, perhaps it is unrealistic to think TANKED should be thought of as biologically educational. This line of reasoning highlights the problem mentioned above – living animals are not equal to mechanical components. A television show giving the impression that a motorcycle can be built in a few days is fine because the worst that happens if someone tries it is that they cant do it, and they end up with a bunch of parts in their garage. However, a television show giving the impression that a saltwater aquarium can be set up in a day is less fine because the worst that happens if someone tries it is that a lot of animals end up dead.
I do understand that TANKED is entertainment, and that its goal not to educate people about keeping animals in glass boxes of water. At the same time many of us worry about a widely seen television program adding any fuel to the fire that people who are anti marine ornamentals keep trying to start. Our hobby is very visible, and its easy for opponents to point to it and say ‘they are killing animals and hurting natural environments’ even if there are other, more impactful and pressing activities that are killing animals and damaging natural environments. It would be very easy TANKED to make a nod towards education. It doesn’t have to be long, and could mimicthe 15-30 second Mythbusters ‘Warning; Science Content’ segments – quick educational stuff on husbandry, filtration, the state of the areas the animals come from, and then back to the reality show drama. Such a token educational segment would go a long way to give the impression that the animals involved matter.
I am glad ATM has a show and I wish them much success. I wish also that the show evolves to include a little bit of educational reality about keeping marine animals instead of just cool builds and drama.
In the three months since we put an Amphiocotpus marginatus we collected in the Philippines on display at the Steinhart Aquarium, the octopus, named Fontenelle, has been engaging visitors to the aquarium. Fontenelle is in plain sight 95% of the time, often in interesting ‘lookout’ poses, playing with toy squid and toy octopus, or moving its den from jars to bottles to clay pots while keeping an eye on the people watching its antics. This species is one of the boldest cephalopods I have worked with, hunting with startling speed and latching onto my arm with that same unnerving speed anytime I have to put my hand in the tank. The growth rate on this animal is amazing, and since we decided not to be invasive with gathering data with this animal because we don’t want to stress it as we learn its husbandry needs (this may be the first time this species has been on public display) the two pictures below show the growth of the octopus in just a few months.
Even more exciting, Fontenelle has learned how to open jars by unscrewing the jars lid, one of the more captivating behaviors that octopus can learn (another being squirting me in the eye when I bring shrimp). The octopus has been opening jars for a couple of weeks already, and actually learned within a couple of days, but I have been unable to capture the opening on video. Either the jar is open before I get to the front of the tank, or the jar gets opened when I leave to attend to other animals. Today I set up the tripod before putting the jar in the tank and was able to catch the act on video. Its hard to see the actual unscrewing of the lid, and the final opening of the jar looks like the octopus simply pulls the lid up, but trust me, to get to that point the lid had to be unscrewed. Now, its time to start with other jars with more threads on the lid, tightening the lid much more, and finding other objects in which to hide food.Scridb filter
Last week Godehard Kopp posted the video above of a Mimic Octopus, Thaumoctopus mimicus, and an un identifiable fish swimming amongst its arms at the divesite Jahir in the famous muck diving area of Lembeh Strait, Sulawesi Indonesia (the video of the octopus and fish starts at about. :44). Kopp followed the one octopus and fish for 15 minutes filming what appeared to be a previously unknown fish/octopus comensal relationship – a relationship in which one organism derives a benefit while the other is unaffected. Flurries of emails lit up the interwebs as fish and cephalopod and fish enthusiasts tried to determine what was actually going on in the video. Is this a commensal relationship or is something else going on?
The colors of the fish were so matched to the arms of the octopus, that it could easily be thought that this fish must have a previously un-described commensal relationship with the octopus. On the other hand, there are small fishes that swim around foraging octopus arms in search of an easy meal, so it could be that this was simply taking advantage of a possible easy meal as the octopus made its way across the muck. On the third hand, these octopus have been photographed and filmed so much in this area of the world that it might be hard to believe that this behavior had never been seen before. Perhaps the fish happened to be in the wrong place and got scared as the Kopp moved to film in, and was trying to hide in the frist thing it found – the octopus.
Initially, the fish was thought to be some kind of Blenny, but quickly the tide turned and it was thought to be some kind of Jawfish. Soon a more positive ID was soon made: Black Marble Jawfish, Stalix histrio (or another fish in the Stalix genus) shown below from Indonesian Reef Fishes by Kuiter, R.H. & T. Tonozuka. (2001). Since both the fish and the octopus live in, and are trying to blend in with, the same muck background, it makes some kind of sense that the two should share the same kinds markings and color patterns. Of course, there could still be some relationship between the fish and the octopus, more study is needed, but even if this isn’t commensal, it seems to be a brand new behavior for the fish (and possibly a new fish species!)
It was great to watch science in action in regards to this video. Observation, hypothesis, evidence, discussion, new hypothesis changing minds – science rules!Scridb filter
Doors at 7:30, show at 8
Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St @ Van Ness
Here in San Francisco, July is NOT the month for chasing ice cream trucks, running around in sprinklers, and wearing cut-offs and tank tops. No, it is the month of advection fog. And we like it that way! But don’t let the fog roll into your brain; come check out three talks that are guaranteed to get you hot, a little bothered, and a lot smarter! A history buff recounts all the good stuff your teacher left out of the ancient Rome lesson, an aquatic biologist talks “ceph sex,” and a pest-control pundit explains how not to let the bed bugs bite. Be there and be square at your friendly, neighborhood nerdy-lecture-series-in-a-bar!
“Hail Caesar!: The DOs and DON’Ts of Roman Dictatorship” by Caleb Bushner
Take a tour of the history, customs, and culture of the ancient Romans: who they were, what they accomplished, and how they shaped our modern world. And, of course, their murderous and dysfunctional political system that somehow endured for several centuries. There WILL be an assassination drinking game!
Caleb is an amateur Roman history buff and a professional nerd. He’s spent the past two years studying Rome, geeking out on primary source material and peer-reviewed scholarship, and wants to share the exciting stuff, while sparing you the trouble of all those paper cuts from old books.
“Boneless Sex: How Cephalopods Make Sweet, Sweet Love” by Richard Ross
Octopus, cuttlefish, nautilus, and squid are not just smart, not just masters of camouflage, but also masters of reproduction! This talk, which amounts to ceph porn, is packed with dirty pictures and dirty video of your favorite 8-armed animals in various stages of dirty relations, from the deed itself to “birth.”
Richard works as an aquatic biologist at the Steinhart Aquarium in the California Academy of Sciences, maintaining many exhibits – including the 212,000-gallon Philippine Coral Reef – and caring for many cephalopods. An avid underwater videographer who has scuba dived all over the world, he enjoys spending time with his patient wife, his incredible daughter, and their menagerie of animals, both wet and dry.
“Do You Know Who You’re Going to Bed With? Protecting Yourself From Bed Bugs in the Modern Era” by Brittany Clark
It’s the dead of night. You’re curled up snug in your bed, sound asleep. But wait! Dramatic music swells and an ominous figure appears at your bedside. The audience screams, but you slumber on, blissfully unaware as this creature leans in to consume your blood. Even in the recesses of sleep, you feel something. You stir and waken. The beast quickly retreats, but you don’t have to see it to know the horror that has come to you. You have just been bitten…by a bed bug! Despite the fact that we have lived with bed bugs since the first caveman threw down some animal hides and curled up for a nap, most of us have only ever heard of them in nursery rhymes and media horror stories. What are the real dangers of bed bugs and how can we protect ourselves?
Brittany is a licensed field representative and bed bug specialist for Pestec Integrated Pest Management company in San Francisco. She has a B.S. in psychobiology from the University of New England. She’s a Leo who likes long walks on the beach, dogs, and protecting her bed from parasites.
Plus: DJ Alpha Bravo wielding slabs of vinyl and tweeting all about it. Alpha Bravo is VP of left-field pop label, Radio Khartoum, and was one of the forces behind legendary SF pop-club nights, Anisette and Schokolade.
And a new fake magazine unveiled!
The Sepia latimanus, the broad club cuttlefish, at the Steinhart Aquarium in the California Academy of Sciences are six months old and are really starting to show the behaviors of adults. Sometimes known as the Giant Cuttlefish, S. latimanus is reported to reach 50cm in length and weigh up to 10kg (though I have never seen one in the wild that size). With a lifespan of 1-2 years and such large size, it makes sense that a hatchling about 1 cm long in February could be almost 18cm long in July. Like all cephalopods, these guys are eating machines, able to completely eat a silverside in under 2 minutes – with no leftovers at all. They are being fed at least 3 times a day with different feeds including live crabs, live bait shrimp, thawed prawns and thawed silversides. With the fast growth, some issues have started to appear including minor ‘butt burn’, damage to the tip of the mantle caused by the animal jetting into the sides quickly (a big animal is a strong animal!) and inking events due to adolescent competition blackening the tank water. To help alleviate these issues, the population has been split into two groups, 2 animals on display and 4 animals in holding. The other adult behaviors are way more exciting.
In the video above (oh, blue lights and video – why do you hate each other) you can see a lot of color pulsing on the skin of the cuttles as they hunt for food. It is thought that this striking pattern and color show somehow helps in hunting, perhaps confusing prey into motionlessness. However, unlike wild adults, the color patterns have not yet reached down the two wide arms that are often stretched out horizontally during hunting – which incidentally help give this cuttle their ‘broadclub’ common name. The patterns also seem to originate at the back of the mantle, while wild adults seem to pulse more on the head and arms (as shown in the video from NOVA’s ‘Kings of Camouflage’ linked below). The other interesting behavior in the video above is the ‘banding-of-the-eyes-darkening-of-two-arm-tips-while-gesticulating-madly’ behavior (rolls off the tongue eh?), which only seems to occur when the animals are hunting silversides, perhaps this is another distraction technique.
As you can tell, I am over the moon with excitement over these behaviors, and even more excited that they are happening with the animals on display. If you are any kind of ceph-head and are in the SF area, I urge you to get down to the academy and take a look as these amazing animals while they are on display.Scridb filter
Ornate Ghost Pipefish spawning and ‘birthing’ at the California Academy of Sciences, June 2011.
As reported earlier on Advanced Aquarist, the California Academy of Sciences’ Steinhart Aquarium has a pair of Ornate Ghost Pipefish (Solenostomus paradoxus) on display which have released larvae in captivity. Since our last update we’ve been able to observe mating several times, and Academy biologist Rich Ross has captured it on video.
Check out the video below to see the entire process of ghost pipefish reproduction–from mating, to a close up look inside the female’s pelvic fins where she holds the developing eggs, to larval release. So far we have seen the female release between 20-50 larvae every morning for the last 8 days, followed by mating with the male as soon as we place them back together. Is this typical behavior for the species, or an artifact of captivity? Does she hold eggs and larvae of different age in her pelvic fins at the same time in the wild?
Before you go rushing out to obtain a ghost pipefish or two, you should be aware that the vast majority of these amazing animals collected for the aquarium trade die before ever reaching their intended destination. Those that do make it are often extremely weak from the journey. The individuals described here were carefully collected and shipped by Steinhart Aquarium staff from a shallow seagrass bed in a small Philippine bay to a display tank in San Francisco within less than 36 hours. Along the journey, they received several water changes and were always held in enormous containers. It is our firm belief that this extraordinary level of care during shipping is necessary for these fishes to arrive alive and in good health.
A video update of some cephalopods at the California Academy of Sciences including: hunting Coconut Octopus, mating Dwarf Cuttlefish, hunting hatchling Flamboyant Cuttlefish and feeding Broadclub cuttlefish.
Things have been hopping at work with cephs! It is remarkable to work at a place with such diversity. Things are mating, hatching, eating and above all growing. I am amazed that the Sepia latimanus hatched in February this year are now almost 7 inches long. The Amphioctopus marginatus are growing almost visibly day by day. The Metasepia sp hatchlings are almost doing the same. Anyway, a video is worth a thousand words, so here is a bit of a long one featuring the A. marginatus on display moving faster than I thought possible, the Sepia bandensis on display (mating), the Metasepia eating and the S. latimanus eating and being burly!Scridb filter
http://vimeo.com/24524860As far as we can tell, on June 1st the Steinhart Aquarium became the first aquarium to display Amphioctopus marginatus, the Coconut Octopus or Veined Octopus. This small robust octopus has gotten a lot of attention over the past few yeas first as one of the documented octopuses capable of bipedal locomotionhttp://www.sciencemag.org/content/307/5717/1927.full and as an octopus possibly capable of tool usehttp://www.guardian.co.uk/science/pu…/2011/jan/20/1.
The animal on display was collected by Steinhart Biologists in Anilao, Philippines, as part of the 2011 Philippine Biodiversity Expedition http://www.calacademy.org/blogs/expedition/?p=800, just a week before going on display.
Needless to say, I am very excited to have the opportunity not only to have seen these animals in the wild, but also to be able to work with them in captivity. So much so that I am posting the above video shot on my iphone. In the video you can see the octopus flashing colors, a bit of a limb that is re growing, hunting and catching a ghost shrimp, and returning to its glass jar den.
As some of you may remember from my previous article ‘The anatomy of a disaster” http://www.reefsmagazine.com/forum/reefs-magazine/66910-epic-fail-anatomy-disaster.html I have a penchant for not keeping up on float switch maintenance and ending up with kalk overdoses. Regardless of the failsafes I put in place, I continue to OD on kalk, and guess what, I did it again recently, and I humbly present to you the newest of precautions I have put in place to possibly save my lazy butt from yet another disaster.
The most current kalk issue was not nearly as bad as the previous one. Last time I lost 95% of my SPS corals, where this time I only lost 2 – though some of them are going to take a month of so to recover completely.
When I caught it, the pH in the tank was 9.7, bad but not immediately kill everything bad. My sump is essentially a 180 gallon tank so when the primary float switch failed about 15 gallons of yummy kalk water was pumped into the tank until the secondary float switch, located about 3 inches above the primary clicked into action.
This time, instead of dumping gallons of vinegar in the system to lower the pH, I tee’d off of the CO2 feed to my calcium reactor and bubbled CO2 directly into the display tank. CO2 is better for a couple of reasons, the most important being the lack of bacterial bloom that results from gallons of vinegar being dumped into a saltwater system. Since the system wasn’t totally crashed, this was very important to me. Another good thing about the CO2 addition is that its effect of lowering pH is very fast and its hard to overdose – just take line out of the tank. Getting the pH down to 8.2 took less than 10 minutes, and the change was startling. Fish that were clearly stressing and hiding came right out and ate. A Linkia starfish that looked to be dead, perked right up. LPS corals started opening up within 30 minutes. I like the CO2 much better than vinegar. Of course, it should be obvious that CO2 can be dangerous for both your tank and you, so be careful and I wouldn’t even think of doing it without a calibrated electronic pH meter.
So what did I do to avoid this avoidable problem in the future. First, I further slowed the amount of water pumping into the system via the Auto Top Off. I also put the ATO on a timer with an on/off cycle of 30 minutes. The system can still move enough water to keep up with top off, but it takes time to fill it up, and that less time means more time before the problem becomes critical.
The second thing I did was reconfigure the sump equipment so it was all easier to get to and maintain. Easier and neater means faster and better regular maintenance. Now, the switches are right up front, in a dark space and soaking them in vinegar takes a matter of minutes. Easy peasy. I also modified the way the float switches were laid out. Now, instead of 3 inches between primary and secondary float switches, resulting in a 15 gallon addition, there is about .5 inches, resulting in a 3ish gallon addition before the secondary kicks in. Its such an obvious modification that I marvel at my lack of making it immediately upon receiving the float switches.
The third and most important think I did was set up a 4 month recurring calendar event on my computer to remind me to do the regular cleaning.
Will this work? Will I avoid disaster in the future? Only time will tell…Scridb filter
After a 14 hour plane flight and a 3 hour drive, Steinhart Aquarium biologists Bart Shepherd, Rich Ross and Matt Wandell arrived at Club Ocellaris and were treated to a breakfast of garlic rice, eggs and French toast. After filling our bellies, we suited up, went diving and have been on the move ever since. The first night, after a spectacular sunset,we dove on a stony coral dominated site called “Dead Palm” (apparently there used to be a dead palm tree under water). At the end of the dive we encountered something that we never imagined we would run into, never mind on the first night – Acropora sp. corals spawning. Thousands of egg/sperm bundles released into the water by branching corals filled the ocean with a peach colored ‘snowstorm’ rising towards the surface. Many screams of excitement could be heard under water. We collected some of the spawn, and after email discussions with friends from project SECORE (SExual COral REproduction - http://www.secore.org/ ), we tried to mix the gametes to harvest and settle ‘baby’ corals. The effort was not completely successful because Acropora corals cannot self-fertilize and we couldn’t collect material from multiple corals. Regardless, the experience was worth the effort, and sets the stage for future work.
The collection of coral fragments has been moving along well, and we are getting ready to pack up the first shipment back to the Academy. We have been collecting fragments that have naturally detached from mother colonies, or harvesting small fragments from the growing edge of large colonies. The parent colony should quickly heal and show no sign of disturbance within a week or so.
Traditionally coral fragments are collected and either glued to something (rock, a concrete disk, or a plastic plug) or left loose and stored in some kind of rack land in a holding tank. This presents a a couple of problems with water flow and water quality. It also can cause shipping problems, as the coral either sits unsupported in the shipping bag, or is rubber banded to some Styrofoam (both of which can stress the coral and involve additional handling). Inspired by the work Ken Nedimyer is doing in Florida at the CRF (Coral Restoration Foundation -http://www.coralrestoration.org/ ), and after prototyping the system in the Philippine Coral Reef at the aquarium, we placed our coral strings about 50 meters off shore.
This system keep the fragments up in the water column with good water, flow and light until we are ready to ship them. For shipping, we simply snip the middle of the zip tie chain ( leaving the rest in place for future use) and attach the coral to another zip tie looped through some Styrofoam. This way the fragment is suspended in the shipping bag, and it will be hard for it to bump the sides or bottom, which can cause damage. The lines themselves are silicone airline tubing strung between repurposed plastic water bottles (floats) and dive weights (sinkers). Additional lines can be added to an existing float to quickly and simply extend the system. It seems to be working well and we are anxious to hear how the corals arrive at their new home in San Francisco.
Last night we spent two hours muck diving collecting cephalopods and seeing amazing and bizarre creatures, but we are out of time so that will have to be covered in a future blog as we are off to Manila for meetings and shipping.
Richard Ross, Bart Shepherd and Matt Wandell.