From Reefbuilders

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. More »

From Reefbuilders

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. More »

From TONMO and Reefbuilders

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.

by Jake Adams, video by Richard Ross

From Reefbuilders

There’s truly no better way to start the week than by transporting yourself to an imaginary place by watching an awesome reef video. Last week we had the Cozumel Dive video on an actual Caribbean reef and this week we have another great clip, this time by Richard Ross of the Steinhart Aquarium. Having seen and visited this exhibit many times, this video taken from the other side of the glass is by far the clearest view of the awesome fish population of this large reef exhibit. It’s particularly fascinating to see how the whole population of reef fish schooling together, regardless of species. Rich’s choice of music helps to set the tone for this super chill look at Steinhart’s awesome collection of reef fish, we’re really loving that one male Lamarck’s angelfish which appears multiple times in plain view.

From Reefbuilders

 

Reefbuilderss has asked contributors to recount their MACNA 2010 experience – its my turn, so here goes! My MACNA 2010 really started when I arrived at the hotel at 11:55 pm on Thursday night. I expected to go to the room, go over my talk and get some much needed sleep (the day had started out at 5 am and involved sitting on an alligator, but that is a different story). When I got to the hotel, I was pulled over to a large group of reefers before I even got to check in. Then I got pulled to the hotel bar where there was an even larger group of reefers. When I finally got to my room at 3:30 am, I knew this MACNA was going to be great and as I drifted off to sleep I dreamed of friends, the Saturday night Manhattan Reefs’ party, and the fabulous reef related info that was going to be coming my way over the next few days. There was a lot to get to, and I didn’t have time to get to everything or everyone I wanted to, but here is a smattering of my highlights of the show.

Probably the biggest excitement for me was the in-person updates on the PNG SEASMART program. I have been lucky enough to dive in the area where the program is taking place, and was excited when I first heard about it because the area is really chock full of diversity. At the same time I was worried because the program was using some of the same sounding green/local/sustainable rhetoric that seems to come with start-up collecting stations but that rarely pans out.

But it seems like PNG SEASMART is really making a go of being successful by sticking to its initial promises. Educate and train the locals in sustainable Total Allowable Catch limits and non destructive collection methods. Less volume, more value (to quote a recent meme). Local ownership and management. Involving PNG government in every aspect of the project so it can be built intelligently for the long term. Provide transparency and information to the hobbyist so everyone can see the reality of the project. The local PNG-ers at the show were fun, approachable and enthusiastic. David Vossler was eager to engage in conversation about how to do things better. They even invited anyone who wants to get over to PNG to come see what they are doing. The program isn’t perfect yet, but from what I have seen so far, PNG SEASMART has a real shot at getting it right.

The standout talk for me was FIJI: TEN YEARS AFTER THE CORAL APOCALYPSE, by Dr. Bruce Carlson. This talk chronicled several areas of reef in Fiji that were hit hard by the 1998 bleaching event. Video of 30 meter line transects year after year showing the damage to reefs by bleaching events and their astounding ability to recover in 10 years or so was really informative and inspiring. Not only video, but data! I love data! Data about how many coral species and what area they cover and how those ratios change over time after bleaching was some amazing work and great documentation (early in recovery there are more coral species with less overall coverage, later in the recovery there are fewer coral species with great overall coverage).  Most interesting was seeing the damage that storms can do to these reefs. Seeing a thriving area of reef one year, and a desolate plain the next after a storm really drove home for me how dynamic natural reef systems are. The upshot of the talk is that reefs can recover from storms and bleaching events, but if these kinds of events occur too often, there could be real problems.

The Marine Breeders Initiative (MBI) held the first ever roundtable discussion about captive breeding and getting animals to market. The event was well attended, interesting and informative. While it wasn’t long enough to really get into the meat of the discussion, it was a wonderful was to set the stage for this kind of important, ongoing in person discussion – which is very different from the equally important continuing online discussion.

A highlight for me on a purely personal note was both the attendance and reaction to my talk on Cephalopods. It was well attended (something I was trepidatious about given the talks that were going on at the same time) which is very exciting to me – a hard core ceph fanatic. What got me through, was getting a completely unexpected round of applause for showing captive mating and a captive Flamboyant hatchling. I was honored to be speaking at MACNA in the first place, and even more humbled that people were excited about my recent work.

If you are luckily like me, you live in an area with a thriving reefing community. Local clubs bring people together, share ideas and get everyone involved going in a good direction. However, after a time, that direction can get a little unidirectional and we can forget that other approaches are really important, that perspectives different from our own, or our locality, have merit. Attending a MACNA with attendees from across the country and around can really give you a reality check and open your eyes to possibilities. MACNA 2010 had everything I could have wanted. Did I get to see everything and talk to everyone? No, but there’s always Des Moines next year.

Thanks to everyone involved in making the show happen, vendors, speakers, attendees, photo bombers, party hosts – especially the hosting club ORCA. I hope you are all lying around recovering bathed in the glow of a job well done and in the appreciation of the greater reef keeping community.