Mostly Open Ocean

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Mostly I write about the biology and evolution of life in the sea.

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  • July 12, 2013
  • 03:45 AM
  • 319 views

Squid family planning

by Mostly Open Ocean in Mostly Open Ocean

Female southern bottletail squid may be able to influence the paternity and quality of their offspring by eating the sperm of males. This behaviour is likely to be the result of the conflict that arises between males and females because of their competing evolutionary interests in reproduction. Both sexes use a variety of tactics to manipulate the outcome of mating into their favour. In southern bottletail squid, Sepiadarium austrinum, males use aggression to coerce females into copulation........ Read more »

Wegener, B. J., Stuart-Fox, D, Norman, M. D., & Wong, B. B. M. (2013) Spermatophore consumption in a cephalopod. Biology Letters, 9(4). DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2013.0192  

  • June 10, 2013
  • 01:58 AM
  • 690 views

Living fossils can evolve quickly

by Mostly Open Ocean in Mostly Open Ocean

The evolution of living fossils is not unusual. The odd thing about them is that they have ancient origins and are, today, not very diverse groups. Sturgeon are ray-finned fishes in the family Acipenseridae, which are known from almost 200 million year old fossils. Fossils that are recognisably similar to modern sturgeons appear about 100 million years ago. There are 23 (but maybe a few more) modern species in the Acipenseridae, which is probably fairly similar to their historical diversity. A s........ Read more »

  • May 29, 2013
  • 09:29 AM
  • 360 views

Worm sperm

by Mostly Open Ocean in Mostly Open Ocean

You may have never thought about what feature distinguishes males from females. After all, in mammals the differences are often clear to us. In other groups too, the differences between male and female traits are often conspicuous. But, there are many species where male and female reproductive organs are both present in the same individual. Even in these species we can tell male parts from female parts.To distinguish male from female we look at the relative size of the sex cells or gametes. Male........ Read more »

  • May 9, 2013
  • 08:17 AM
  • 520 views

Living fossils are evolving.

by Mostly Open Ocean in Mostly Open Ocean

Charles Darwin coined the term living fossil in On the Origin of Species. He didn’t use it the same way that it has come to be used. He suggested that living fossils are modern species that can be used to link to groups in the same way that fossils can. One of the examples he gave was the platypus, which lactates and lays eggs, which is evidence that mammals and reptiles share a common ancestor. I don't think he meant it to mean an unchanged relict, as some people interpret his words.Today, a ........ Read more »

  • April 14, 2013
  • 08:26 PM
  • 590 views

The resilience of coral reefs

by Mostly Open Ocean in Mostly Open Ocean

Many people are justifiably concerned with the potential impacts of climate change and ocean acidification on coral reefs. But, coral reefs have been declining for at least the last 25 years and probably much longer, overwhelmingly due to threats that are unrelated to climate change. If we do not address these impacts we will continue to lose coral cover and reefs will be more vulnerable to climate change and ocean acidification.A coral outcrop on the Great Barrier Reef (photo Wikipedia)A new pa........ Read more »

Gilmour, J., Smith, L., Heyward, A., Baird, A., & Pratchett, M. (2013) Recovery of an Isolated Coral Reef System Following Severe Disturbance. Science, 340(6128), 69-71. DOI: 10.1126/science.1232310  

  • April 11, 2013
  • 10:53 PM
  • 571 views

In the cave of the blind, the no-eyed crab is king

by Mostly Open Ocean in Mostly Open Ocean

Cave dwelling creatures are often blind. The prevailing view is that, in such species, mutations in the visual system have little or no effect on fitness and vision is lost as these mutations gradually accumulate. There are several other types of characters that we can be reasonably confident are adaptations to life in caves, such as elaboration of structures for touch or smell. However, it is often hard identify which population cave adapted species are descended from and, therefore, how long a........ Read more »

  • March 27, 2013
  • 09:25 PM
  • 575 views

Are there really plenty of fish in the sea?

by Mostly Open Ocean in Mostly Open Ocean

We started trying to manage fisheries using science-based principles more than 150 years ago. Today, despite great improvements, we are still struggling to manage fisheries well. Perhaps the greatest missing piece in our understanding is an ability to accurately link the number of spawning adult fish with the number of their offspring that survive to replenish the population. Recognition that individual differences play a role in the dynamics of natural populations promises to greatly improve fi........ Read more »

Beaugrand, G., Brander, K., Alistair Lindley, J., Souissi, S., & Reid, P. (2003) Plankton effect on cod recruitment in the North Sea. Nature, 426(6967), 661-664. DOI: 10.1038/nature02164  

Beldade, R., Holbrook, S., Schmitt, R., Planes, S., Malone, D., & Bernardi, G. (2012) Larger female fish contribute disproportionately more to self-replenishment. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 279(1736), 2116-2121. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2011.2433  

Platt, T., Fuentes-Yaco, C., & Frank, K. (2003) Spring algal bloom and larval fish survival. Nature, 423(6938), 398-399. DOI: 10.1038/423398b  

Hjort, J. (1914) Fluctuations in the great fisheries of northern Europe viewed in the light of biological research. Reun. Cons. Int. Explor. Mer, 1-228. info:/

  • March 21, 2013
  • 12:36 AM
  • 283 views

Giant squid have a giant distribution

by Mostly Open Ocean in Mostly Open Ocean

As many as twenty one species of giant squid have been identified, but most of these were controversial. The general consensus was that there could be one with three subspecies or up to eight distinct species. Now, research shows that there is only one species with no subspecies. This is remarkable given that giant squid are found in nearly every part of the deep sea and their populations are probably large.Winkelmann et al. (2013) sequenced the mitochondrial genome of 43 giant squid that covere........ Read more »

Winkelmann, I., Campos, P., Strugnell, J., Cherel, Y., Smith, P., Kubodera, T., Allcock, L., Kampmann, M., Schroeder, H., Guerra, A.... (2013) Mitochondrial genome diversity and population structure of the giant squid Architeuthis: genetics sheds new light on one of the most enigmatic marine species. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 280(1759), 20130273-20130273. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2013.0273  

  • March 8, 2013
  • 08:01 PM
  • 693 views

It's allometric, my dear Watson

by Mostly Open Ocean in Mostly Open Ocean

Giant and colossal squid have the largest eyes of any living animals. Eyes are expensive organs to build and maintain, which led some researchers to suggest that there must be a strong evolutionary advantage for large eyes in giant squid. Using a mathematical model they found that giant squid eyes were best suited for detecting large dimly lit objects. They argued that the only stimulus that was both large enough and important enough for giant and colossal squid to detect was the light prod........ Read more »

Schmitz, L., Motani, R., Oufiero, C., Martin, C., McGee, M., Gamarra, A., Lee, J., & Wainwright, P. (2013) Allometry indicates giant eyes of giant squid are not exceptional. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 13(1), 45. DOI: 10.1186/1471-2148-13-45  

Nilsson, D., Warrant, E., Johnsen, S., Hanlon, R., & Shashar, N. (2012) A Unique Advantage for Giant Eyes in Giant Squid. Current Biology, 22(8), 683-688. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2012.02.031  

  • February 26, 2013
  • 06:27 AM
  • 614 views

Fish get wasted on wastewater

by Mostly Open Ocean in Mostly Open Ocean

In most cities sewage is treated to remove most of the things that we don't want going into the environment. But, some things get through and out to sea. The Western Treatment Plant in Melbourne, which treats over 50% of Melbourne's wastewater (including my contribution), releases large amounts of nitrogen into Port Phillip Bay. Indeed, a 1996 report from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation recommended that nitrogen released from the Western Treatment Plant be reduce........ Read more »

Kidd, K., Blanchfield, P., Mills, K., Palace, V., Evans, R., Lazorchak, J., & Flick, R. (2007) Collapse of a fish population after exposure to a synthetic estrogen. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 104(21), 8897-8901. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0609568104  

Rodriguez del Rey, Z., Granek, E., & Sylvester, S. (2012) Occurrence and concentration of caffeine in Oregon coastal waters. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 64(7), 1417-1424. DOI: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2012.04.015  

  • February 16, 2013
  • 10:38 PM
  • 792 views

Flying squid really fly

by Mostly Open Ocean in Mostly Open Ocean

Many pelagic squid are able to launch themselves into the air using jets of water expelled through a funnel beneath their head. There are a number of photos online that show squid out of the water and holding their fins and tentacles in a gliding position. But it has been unclear whether the squid where using simple gliding, like a paper plane, or actively controlling the flight.The neon flying squid, Ommastrephes bartramii, holding its fins and tentacles for flight (photo Geoff Jones).Now resea........ Read more »

Muramatsu, K., Yamamoto, J., Abe, T., Sekiguchi, K., Hoshi, N., & Sakurai, Y. (2013) Oceanic squid do fly. Marine Biology. DOI: 10.1007/s00227-013-2169-9  

  • February 16, 2013
  • 03:00 AM
  • 758 views

A stepping stone of rotting wood

by Mostly Open Ocean in Mostly Open Ocean

Many of the animals living at hydrothermal vents and cold seeps carry chemosynthetic bacterial symbionts in their body, which convert methane or hydrogen sulfide into food. Some have lost the ability to feed on anything other than what the bacteria living inside their tissues provide them. Almost all cannot survive without a sufficient supply of methane or hydrogen sulfide. One hypothesis is that decomposing organic matter that has sunk from the surface, like whale carcasses, seaweed, and wood c........ Read more »

SMITH, C., KUKERT, H., WHEATCROFT, R., JUMARS, P., & DEMING, J. (1989) Vent fauna on whale remains. Nature, 341(6237), 27-28. DOI: 10.1038/341027a0  

Bienhold, C., Pop Ristova, P., Wenzhöfer, F., Dittmar, T., & Boetius, A. (2013) How Deep-Sea Wood Falls Sustain Chemosynthetic Life. PLoS ONE, 8(1). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0053590  

  • February 2, 2013
  • 07:34 AM
  • 909 views

Attack of the jellyfish swarm

by Mostly Open Ocean in Mostly Open Ocean

Jellyfish are not as charismatic as some marine species and consequently they have not received much research attention. Recently though, there has been increasing interest in them because their numbers appear to be on the rise worldwide. There are a few hypotheses about why this might be the case floating around in the literature.The beautiful and under appreciated jellyfish, Cyanea capillata. Perhaps the World's biggest (photo Wikipedia).Corals, which are in the same phylum (Cnidaria) as........ Read more »

Condon, R., Duarte, C., Pitt, K., Robinson, K., Lucas, C., Sutherland, K., Mianzan, H., Bogeberg, M., Purcell, J., Decker, M.... (2013) Recurrent jellyfish blooms are a consequence of global oscillations. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110(3), 1000-1005. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1210920110  

  • January 30, 2013
  • 10:54 PM
  • 507 views

Evolution, climate change and coral

by Mostly Open Ocean in Mostly Open Ocean

Increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere poses several problems for organisms living in the marine environment. Increases in temperature and ocean acidification are the two best known and most worrying. In order to predict how climate change and ocean acidification will affect marine species, we need to know how they respond to these conditions. The effect of climate change on corals has attracted a lot of attention because of their importance for biodiversity.We can't just expose corals to pr........ Read more »

Hoegh-Guldberg, O., Mumby, P., Hooten, A., Steneck, R., Greenfield, P., Gomez, E., Harvell, C., Sale, P., Edwards, A., Caldeira, K.... (2007) Coral Reefs Under Rapid Climate Change and Ocean Acidification. Science, 318(5857), 1737-1742. DOI: 10.1126/science.1152509  

Bradshaw, W., & Holzapfel, C. (2001) Genetic shift in photoperiodic response correlated with global warming. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 98(25), 14509-14511. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.241391498  

Umina, P., Weeks, A. R., Kearney, M. R., McKechnie, S. W., & Hoffmann, A. A. (2005) A Rapid Shift in a Classic Clinal Pattern in Drosophila Reflecting Climate Change. Science, 308(5722), 691-693. DOI: 10.1126/science.1109523  

Kiessling, W., Simpson, C., Beck, B., Mewis, H., & Pandolfi, J. (2012) Equatorial decline of reef corals during the last Pleistocene interglacial. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109(52), 21378-21383. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1214037110  

  • January 14, 2013
  • 05:58 AM
  • 280 views

A wrinkly hypothesis

by Mostly Open Ocean in Mostly Open Ocean

The aquatic ape hypothesis was first proposed 70 years ago by German pathologist Max Westenhöfer. The hypothesis has more recently championed by Elaine Morgan, most notably in her book The Aquatic Ape. But the hypothesis has not drawn a lot of attention in the literature and has been dismantled in various places (here's one that's pretty good). Essentially the hypothesis interprets certain features, such as human hairlessness, as adaptations to an aquatic environment.In 2011 Changizi et al. pub........ Read more »

Kareklas, K., Nettle, D., & Smulders, T. (2013) Water-induced finger wrinkles improve handling of wet objects. Biology Letters, 9(2), 20120999-20120999. DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2012.0999  

Changizi, M., Weber, R., Kotecha, R., & Palazzo, J. (2011) Are Wet-Induced Wrinkled Fingers Primate Rain Treads?. Brain, Behavior and Evolution, 77(4), 286-290. DOI: 10.1159/000328223  

Wilder-Smith, E. (2004) Water immersion wrinkling. Clinical Autonomic Research, 14(2), 125-131. DOI: 10.1007/s10286-004-0172-4  

  • January 7, 2013
  • 01:26 AM
  • 445 views

Waterfall climbing fish

by Mostly Open Ocean in Mostly Open Ocean

Diadromous fish are those that live part of their lives at sea and part of their lives if freshwater. Some of these fish reproduce in the upper parts of rivers above barriers like waterfalls, which they must scale in order to make it to the breeding sites. A newly published paper looks at how the Nopili goby, Sicyopterus stimpsoni, manages to climb waterfalls. The researchers found that the way the goby feeds and the way it climbs are very similar.The Nopili goby, Sicyopterus stimpsoni (photo Ta........ Read more »

Cullen J. A., Maie T., Schoenfuss H. L., & Blob R. W. (2013) Evolutionary Novelty versus Exaptation: Oral Kinematics in Feeding versus Climbing in the Waterfall-Climbing Hawaiian Goby Sicyopterus stimpsoni. PLOS One, 8(1). info:/10.1371/journal.pone.0053274

  • December 17, 2012
  • 04:44 AM
  • 431 views

Shifting baselines in coral cover

by Mostly Open Ocean in Mostly Open Ocean

A great problem for conserving marine ecosystems is that we rarely have a good data on what things were like before human impacts started. In my last post, I wrote about a study that showed that coral cover had declined on the Great Barrier Reef by 50.7% since 1985. At the start of the study coral cover was at 28%, but pristine coral reefs can have over 70% coral cover. This suggests that impacts on the Great Barrier Reef predate the time monitoring started by many years.A coral outcrop on........ Read more »

Roff, G., Clark, T., Reymond, C., Zhao, J., Feng, Y., McCook, L., Done, T., & Pandolfi, J. (2012) Palaeoecological evidence of a historical collapse of corals at Pelorus Island, inshore Great Barrier Reef, following European settlement. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 280(1750), 20122100-20122100. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2012.2100  

  • December 2, 2012
  • 07:55 PM
  • 449 views

Conservation priorities on the Great Barrier Reef

by Mostly Open Ocean in Mostly Open Ocean

A recently published paper on the decline of coral cover on the Great Barrier Reef serves to illustrate an important point; even without climate change we are doing a great deal of damage to some ecosystems. The study by De'ath et al. and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, finds that coral cover has declined by 50.7% since 1985. They partitioned the losses into 48% tropical cyclones, 42% predation by crown of thorns starfish and 10% to coral bleaching.The crown of t........ Read more »

De'ath, G., Fabricius, K., Sweatman, H., & Puotinen, M. (2012) The 27-year decline of coral cover on the Great Barrier Reef and its causes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109(44), 17995-17999. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1208909109  

  • October 15, 2012
  • 04:03 AM
  • 506 views

It's Yoda, but not as you know him

by Mostly Open Ocean in Mostly Open Ocean

A new species of acorn worm has been named after Jedi Master Yoda, the best character in the Star Wars trilogy*. Acorn worms are not true worms. They are more closely related to echinoderms (starfish, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, etc.) than they are to worms. They were once placed as a subphylum of the chordata (i.e. our own phylum), but are now placed within their own phylum, the hemichordata.Yoda purpurata, the newly described species of acorn wormThe paper described three new species of deep-s........ Read more »

  • October 13, 2012
  • 09:14 AM
  • 1,005 views

Human-induced evolution

by Mostly Open Ocean in Mostly Open Ocean

Human activities have influenced that evolution of many species and not just through artificial selection. Our impacts on ecosystems, use of drugs and pesticides and our harvesting of wild populations is all having an effect on the rate and direction of evolution in many organisms. In fact, many of the frequently cited examples of 'evolution in action' are also examples of evolution human-induced evolution, such as mosquito resistance to DDT and drug resistant bacteria.The detailed studies on&nb........ Read more »

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