Rich Ross

Fresh from my body and onto your plate

Real discussion? Not on Social Media

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.

Two species of Ghost Pipefish spawn and produce larvae

Hybrid Ornate Ghost Pipefish (Solenostomus paradoxus) and the Robust Ghostpipefish (Solenostomus cyanopterus) larvae at day 1

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.

Fascinating Flamboyants

From Advanced Aquarist

We shot this video last week, and even though the footage is shaky, and made slightly more so in the 60’s editing style, it still shows some pretty amazing behaviors of one of the most fascinating of all the fascinating cuttlefish, Metasepia sp. This female balances on arm tips, walks on all fours (the rear legs being articulated fleshy appendages) and, most exciting to me, hunts by aiming its two feeding tentacles in different directions. This female, and two males, are currently on display at the Steinhart Aquarium in the California Academy of Sciences, where they are mating and laying eggs regularly.

In the wild these animals are often found ‘walking’ across sand flats or much habitats away from any cover, where it has been thought they live most of their lives protected from predation by their apparently toxic flesh, flashing their flamboyant colors as a warning – don’t eat me, I am bad for your digestion. However, some recent observations lead me to want to question where these animals may actually be spending their time. Atlantis Marine World in New York has been incredibly successful at raising these animals and recently shipped 10 juveniles to the Steinhart aquarium where they are being kept behind the scenes. In their holding tank, and in the holding tank of one adult male, there is a literal wall of rock against the sides of the tanks for biological filtration, and the cuttles spend most of their time in, around, and on this rock and not on the large area of open sand. This behavior is more consistent in the adult male, who over the past month, has rarely been seen on the sand. Last summer while on an Academy expedition in the Philippines, we saw only one Metasepia on the sand, but that sand was in the surrounded by rocky reef, so it just might be the case that these hard to find animals are actually hiding in and around the reefscape. It is important to make clear that this is speculation and that hopefully more observation of these animals both in captivity and in the wild will help to yield more information about these amazing animals.

The lone male Metasepia in this tank ignores the open sand and prefers to stay on the rock, often perched near the top of the stack.

Even experienced ceph keepers with mature tanks should think long and hard before obtaining this species. Their needs are resource intensive, specific, and not yet fully understood. Perhaps more importantly, the size and health of their wild populations is unknown.

Even the sharing of information, photos and video of these animals can be controversial. Some fear that detailed information and attractive photos may encourage inexperienced saltwater aquarists to obtain specimens. Personally, I believe that knowledge should be freely available, rather than hidden from view. I also believe that the admiration of a species can be of benefit to its preservation in the wild rather than its detriment. Furthermore, it is my hope that the information on the site will empower aquarists to make sound, rational decisions regarding the advisability of keeping these very difficult animals.

For more information check out this article, this article, and of course the site for all things cephy

Commensal fish and Mimic Octopus? Science in action!

From Advanced Aquarist blog and TONMO

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!

Indonesian Reef Fishes by Kuiter, R.H. & T. Tonozuka. (2001).

Ornate Ghost Pipefish mating, releasing larvae caught on video

Text by Matt Wandell, Video by Rich Ross – Posted Jun 20, 2011 04:00 PM on Advanced Aquarist’s blog
Since our last update we’ve been able to observe mating several times, and Academy biologist Rich Ross has captured it on video.

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.